Hatha yoga is a science in which two systems in the body are united, are connected. These two systems are known as sun and moon, mind and prana, vital and mental energy. These are the two energy systems which are responsible for our physical existence. These energies are functioning in each and every part of our body. Hence, we have life force, which is dynamic, and consciousness, which is static. Whenever there is any imbalance in these two energy levels, then sickness or disease results.
Prana means vital energy. It is responsible for all the physiological functions of the body, for mobility, body temperature, digestion, excretion, circulation, respiration, etc. For all the activities that are taking place in the body, prana, the life force, is responsible. That is one force in you. If that force leaves your body, you will die. Without prana, there is no metabolism, no anabolism, no catabolism. When there is no prana in your body, that is called death.
The other force in the body is mind or consciousness, through which you think and feel. That force is responsible for knowledge or awareness, and if you do not have that, then you may be alive, but you will not know it. In front of you there may be beautiful flowers with a sweet fragrance, or something rotten and stinking, but you will not know the difference. You are just alive. There is no consciousness, no perception. So, in the science of hatha yoga, a balance between the life principle and the mental principle is effected. When the mental principle is unbalanced, then you have mental diseases born out of the mind. And when the pranic principle is unbalanced, then you have diseases belonging to the body. The diseases of the mind are known as psychic diseases and those of the body as somatic diseases.
The way yoga works
Some years ago the teachers used to say that when you do asanas your body gets massaged. For example, in dhanurasana (bow pose), there is a massage of the abdomen and so digestive disorders are removed. I did not really agree with this theory because it is not completely true. Yoga therapy, according to the scientific understanding, takes place on account of the balancing effect which is created by the yoga postures in the nervous system. And by creating a balance in the nervous system, regulation of the endocrines is effected. This is a very simple theory.
Another important point which is misinterpreted in many books concerns the practice of pranayama. They say you store up more oxygen in order to maintain a higher energy level. However, this is not true scientifically. You can store carbon in the body, but you can't store oxygen, because oxygen is a combustible gas. It will create the process of catabolism, and burn away all the tissues of the body. Other researchers and yogis have found in sirshasana the rate of ventilation in the brain is increased three to four times, while the overall consumption of oxygen in the body is reduced to a minimum. So when you do sirshasana you are taught to assimilate maximum oxygen from minimum intake.
In meditation you also consume very little oxygen. When the mind slows and external awareness is diminished, the body becomes quiet and thought vibrations stop. At this time the consumption of oxygen falls very low; that is why they say in yoga you increase the lifespan because you do not exhaust the oxygen stock, the vital capacity, within you.
Another important thing they found was that during sirshasana all the organs and lower limbs of the body were relieved of tension. Ordinarily they are under tension because of their weight. Anything that has weight is pulled down by gravity. However, when you are in sirshasana, the centre of gravity is shifted and there is a counterbalance. The uterus which was pulling downward, pulls the other way. The same applies to the intestines and all other abdominal organs. Of course, if you remain in sirshasana for all the twenty four hours, it is not going to be of any help. But it is relaxing for the whole system if performed for a period of five, six or seven minutes.
I have been teaching headstand pose to quite a number of people on an experimental basis. Once I tried it on a girl who had fibroids. In fibroids, you get several days of profuse menstrual flow. Through the practice of sirshasana you can influence the menstrual flow by rebalancing the pituitary, which is considered to be the master gland. Twenty two groups of hormones are produced by the posterior pituitary alone; I am not talking about the anterior pituitary. These hormones, if not carefully balanced, can create any negative symptom in the body. The regulation and health of the pituitary can be maintained by the practice of sirshasana, because during headstand pose, the circulation of blood to the brain is greatly increased. When you maintain proper circulation in the pituitary gland, it remains healthy.
When I was teaching sirshasana to the lady with fibroids, I knew very well that I was not trying to remove her problem by some miracle. If a type of hormonal imbalance was responsible for changing the structure of her uterus, a rebalance of hormone could eliminate it. This is the way yoga works.
RAJA YOGA (MEDITATION )
By Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Meditation for what? The question comes in our minds. There are those people who feel and they have been proclaiming that meditation is a way to self realization and for fusion of individual awareness with the highest awareness. But in my humble opinion I feel that this aim for meditation is to high and I think that this is an outcome of the psychological error in human minds. Meditation is for self-realization but I think very few people can teach, and very few people can learn and much less can practice. Until the mind is sound and healthy the subliminal inhibitions, the errors of personality are completely remedied, it is not at all advisable for one to take to the practices for the expansion of Cosmic Consciousness. Otherwise it tends to what I should call self hypnotism.
When I discuss this evening about Yoga it is in relation to individual welfare the human welfare. I do not know anything about the Divine Awareness nor do I care for it and if at all I do, not at least in your midst. The spiritual awareness may be the Sumum Bonum of life but it is too early for us to think because we are not keeping healthy, our minds are ill, we art suffering from chronic illness and only the physical diseases but also the mental. There are people in our unfortunate world who are suffering from physical maladies but at tie same time there are people in our so called fortunate world, our so called prosperous and advanced world who are also suffering from chronic mental illness about which they are as ignorant as the people of the poor countries are. We are not aware, what are the psychological errors, what are the deep rooted tensions and afflictions which are guiding our destiny and which are guiding what we call human behaviour. The individual affliction, the tortures and the pains, subliminal pains that are in our life, are guiding the destiny of the world. The restlessness throughout the world is an outcome of the sickness in man's mind. In order to cure this sickness there should be some way. In order to develop a healthy environment in the society and community and family and also is the mind of the individual, there should be some method. Religions have failed, the economic programs have also failed to give peace to mankind and to solve the problems of the individual, the community and the society because the problem starts with the individual and the problems can be dissolved with the individual. Individual is the nucleus of most of the problems that are before us. It is with this background that I have for you meditation.
In case you agree that meditation is a science of mind and not a science of God. If you agree that meditation is a system for the reorientation of human personality as a whole and not a met physics. And if you agree that meditation is a system through which we can root out the individual plan, the unseen afflictions; the tensions that are around us, in muscular body, mental body and emotional body then let us go ahead with the subject. You know very well that our behaviour, our thinking, our action and our reactions are guided by the soul, by the consciousness. And this consciousness is not pure, it works in association with atmosphere, environment, conditions and so on, as a result top of that, tensions pile up in the different spheres of our personality and we do not know and as a result of that we suffer from insomnia, inhibitions, juvenile delinquencies, sexual anarchies, hatred, restlessness, anxiety, worry and what not, even amidst the sexes on account of coronary thrombosis. And then we look for tranquility and then we look for peace but the peace does not come from outside and the tranquility can not be introduced, it is unfoldment but we do not know the real unfoldment.
Meditation is a system by which we are able to get rid of the tensions and at the same time we are able to analyse the deep root psychological error by different processes. I am so sorry to tell you, after surveying the movement of meditation throughout the world, that people do not know what meditation is for the human life. People think that the concentration of mind on a particular point is meditation, it is not. People feel that to develop the awareness inward it is meditation, it is not that. Classically and scientifically meditation is classified into two parts, and meditation has got everything to do with consciousness, the consciousness that is empirical and the consciousness that is internal, the consciousness that perceives the world and the consciousness that is Unable to perceive world. This consciousness in man is the subject of meditation. And if the meditation is to be achieved, the first process in meditation is relaxation and remember the word, meditation begins with relaxation again is not the relaxation which we think that to lie down quietly, close your eyes and feel that you are becoming lighter and happier and so on, not this method of auto-suggestions, this is the hypnotic method. Find out the method of Yoga and that is called relaxation.
In Yoga a process of withdrawal is the process of relaxation. What Patanjali calls Pratyahara or withdrawal of external consciousness or an act of withdrawal of external consciousness or an act of disassociation of your consciousness from the objects outside that is relaxation but then this relaxation can not be complete unless you have the relaxation in the system. Now let us discuss before you proceed with the topic relaxation. What to you mean by tensions? They are physical and they are mental and at the same time they are emotional. Faulty secretions in the endocrinal system they can cause tensions, not necessarily the psychological problems of your society and family, not necessarily the economic pressure, not necessarily the emotional-adjustment in your family, there can be nervous disorders, there can be problems in your body on account of faulty endocrinal systems and those faulty endocrinal secretions caused by faulty living, faulty breathing and so on and therefore in the scheme of Yoga first comes Asanas and Pranayama. In order to get rid of the muscular, the physical tension, to eliminate the toxins from your body and at the same time to neutralize the faulty secretions that take place, for instance hypo-thyroids or hyper-thyroids, or over-secretion of the pituitary or deficiency in the pancreatic gland all these mean a great influence on our behaviour, on our thinking. As such this muscular tension which causes a lot of trouble and which bars the experience of peace in our day to day life can be greatly solved by the practice of Asanas and Pranayama and Hath Yoga.
Here again people think that Asanas, and Pranayama the yogic exercises are just exercises, they are not exercises and they should not be practiced as exercises and they should be practiced with great care. The scientific investigations that have been carried out in different parts of the world, in Russia, in Poland, in India, in France and also in Germany have proved that during the practice of Asanas the whole endocrinal system is greatly influenced and as a result of that the toxins are eliminated, the energy blocks are made clear and so the practice of Asanas and pranayama removes muscular tensions, then go later on to mental tensions and these mental tensions are the greatest tensions which we have to take into consideration. Over thinking, wrong thinking and vicious thinking which we have got to do in our day to day life that causes these mental tensions and therefore, for these mental tendons is the practice of relaxation in which we withdraw our consciousness and when the withdrawal of consciousness takes place when the negation of consciousness has taken place, then starts next what we call, expansion of consciousness So the whole thing is divided into two, negation and expansion.
In the process of negation, you have different techniques are those techniques which with draw or which calm down the tensions created by internal functional deficiencies and all that is done during the practice of relaxation. So in these practices of relaxation we have some of the most important techniques and those techniques should be practiced in a way about which we shall have the classes from tomorrow on and I will just introduce how the meditation has to be practiced. When we practice meditation or when we start the practice of relaxation first of all we must have a method and we must have a technique. Every technique is not useful for everybody but at the same time there are practices which can be taken up without any difficulty, without any risk. Easiest one is what we know as Ajapa Japa. spontaneous awareness and in this spontaneous awareness you concentrate on the breath and when you concentrate on the breath you try to formulate an ascending process then the consciousness is diminished, the area of experience is eliminated, the consciousness functions in a limited area and thereafter you start with a symbol. You have an image, you have a centre and you try to develop a clear-cut psychic, internal, non-sensuous and mental awareness of that symbol and that symbol must become clear to you. You should be able to see it consciously because it is necessary in order to effect a complete relaxation to be able to see your unconscious it is not enough, if you are able to visualize your subconscious mind.
Yoga believes and in meditation it is a science that you should be able to see your conscious mind, you should be able to see your subconscious mind, and you should be able to unconscious mind, which is very difficult and the moment the experience the moment the perception of unconscious personality takes place, complete relaxation comes to man and therefore you will find there are moment in an individuals life that during deep sleep he becomes aware of unconscious and after that he feels that he was completely relaxed. So in the technique of Yoga it is believed that when the consciousness is detached from consciousness, from subconscious and also from unconscious and when your individual awareness functions independent of these three dimensions of consciousness relaxation takes place and meditation begins.
Meditation can never begin before relaxation and the greatest thing and the most difficult thing is relaxation. You may think that meditation is difficult, no it is not. Meditation is accomplished spontaneously. Meditation comes to you and it does not take time but in order to develop meditation it is necessary that the whole process of relaxation has got to be gone through. In Yoga they call it Pratyahara and Dharana. Pratyahara means withdrawal of consciousness and Dharana means conception of consciousness in a particular way. You see your consciousness, you see your awareness but it is internal perception-It may be a round stone, it may be a triangle. It may be a triangle, it may be a flower, it may be anything but you should be able to see and that which you see inside is not imagination, that which you see inside is a form of your consciousness. If you see a flower inside you see your own consciousness in the pattern of a flower. If you see a triangle, you do not see a triangle as in imagination it is your consciousness which you perceive in the from of a triangle and the triangle which you see inside is made up of your consciousness through which you are understanding me it is the same consciousness through which I am able to speak to you something on Yoga. And it is the same consciousness through which you know right. It is the same consciousness through your intelligence or intellect functions. It is the same consciousness which manifests in the day life in the from of memory principle and it is the same consciousness through which you understand hatred and through which you understand love The same consciousness which functions in the world and is not imagination and which it not a hypo-thesis but it is a force, no, which is awareness or an instrument of knowledge or a medium of understanding, or the substratum of perception. It is that consciousness that is withdrawn from the objects which is withdrawn from intellectual knowledge which is withdrawn from experience and memory of the past and which is withdrawn from right knowledge and wrong knowledge and when it has been disassociated from different bases of the perception but when at the same time it becomes clear to you in the from of a triangle in the form of a flower, or in the form of a stone, or in the form of a light, or in the from of an animal, then it means that you are seeing your own consciousness and this is the fundamental secret about Yoga. Meditation therefore is the process in which you see your own consciousness, consciousness sees itself through self without any intervening medium and without any support and without any agency.
And to repeat it again. In Meditation you undergo a process of not self analysis but self perception. It is here that meditation overcomes the psycho-analysis of the modern psychology. You not only analyse yourself, you see yourself and now how do you see. You see in the form of a triangle, no you try to see yourself in the form of a triangle. And when you try to see yourself in the farm of a triangle, the triangle vanishes, it disappears and it is replaced by the images of your psychological personality. Images come up in hundred and thousands, like the film reel. you see not the real pictures, you see not what you have experienced. Perhaps you don't even see the people you know in this life. You will see those images which represent your consciousness. You will see those Images which represent your instincts. You will see those images which have been causing trouble in your life and you will see those images which have been the various the basis of tension in your life and you will see those images which represent the cause of hatred, the cause of insomnia the cause of anxiety and the cause of all sorts of psychosomatic troubles. Then you again try to bring bark the triangle, it goes off. Again it is replaced by deeper psychological images because subconscious mind also there are depths and layers and you will have to realize those subconscious layers, one after the other, and there is a moment in meditation when you'll see the visions, good and bad both. And unfortunately in the absence of this knowledge, you take them to be what you call astral traveling, and as if it were objective traveling You will think that ghosts have come or you will think that an angel has come. Nothing has come from outside everything has emerged from within and everything has exploded from inside.
Nothing comes from outside, your consciousness is everything. There is nothing beyond your consciousness and anything that you see in the deeper states of meditation, is a manifestation of your personality, is a manifestation of different, complicated, unseen, unknown, invisible layers of your personality, perhaps which you will never know through any method of psychoanalysis you could see the experience of your life when you were a child and which you have forgotten and which are insignificant but which was causing trouble. This comes up in the form of an explosion, in the form of evil pictures, in the form of divine expressions. So these are the subliminal images, these are the Samskaras as they call then in Yoga, the past impressions. They come up, they exhaust themselves, one after the other, but it is possible only if try to bring about a concentration or a consolidation or crystallization of your consciousness. It is therefore in meditation when you concentrate on the breath, natural breath, you not only concentrate on the natural breath but you try to find out a psychic passage for the natural breath.
Breath is breath you know, it is something physical but the idea that I am breathing is not physical, it is psychic. When I breathe, it is physical. The breath goes to the lungs and supplys oxygen purifies the blood. Well it is a scientific fact but when you know that I am breathing that is not physical that is psychic. And when you think I am breathing, I am breathing, you create a psychic idea and this psychic idea is the gateway to meditation, it is the gateway to relaxation, it is the gateway to concentration or rather it is the gateway to psycho-analysis. Then you create a passage. In Yoga there are hundreds of passages, but I have got to introduce only two of them. One passage is in between the navel and the throat for the beginners and the second passage is the vertebral column, the spinal cord The idea I am breathing, the consciousness I am breathing should be felt in one of these two passages, Either you have to feel I am breathing in the frontal passage or you have to feel it in the spinal cord. If you felt in the spinal cord it is much better because concentration on the spinal cord takes you to unconscious direct. I am not talking about the frightening Kundalini Yoga, please remember, and I also do not believe that Kundalini Yoga is so frightening, because as a student of psychology and as a student of Yoga I believe, Kundalini Yoga is a way to go to unconscious and I know that gate into unconsciousness is the way of perfect peace and complete power. So, I do not prohibit people from practicing Kundalini Yoga but I don't mean that Kundalini Yogain which you break your body or in which you break your bones, no, you take your consciousness to the spinal cord, right from the bottom and up to the top in the form of I am breathing in and I am breathing out.
Now, the idea, I am breathing in and I am breathing out should create an ascending and descending order in your passage. If you breath in, you must feel that you are ascending and if you breath but, you must feel that you are descending. Who is ascending and who is descending? Find out. Consciousness is ascending and consciousness is descending. But then why do you synchronize it with the breath? The point is, when you synchronize it with the breath, first of all it becomes possible, it becomes easier to feel the ascending and descending order but at the same time it you breathe in and breath out you create more oxygen in the system and as a result of that relaxation is taking place. You exhale carbon and you accelerate metabolism in the system and when you accelerate metabolism in the system by creating oxygen by oxygenation, then also the relaxation is accelerated up. And therefore in this Ajapa-Japa when you are breathing in and breathing out, it becomes necessary that you should be aware of the fact that you are breathing in and breathing out by the process of counting. So that you do not fall into deeper un-coconsciousness, so that your consciousness does not suspend because sometimes it happens in meditation when concentration takes place.
Now the purpose of Yoga is not to become unconscious, the purpose of meditation is not to become unconscious and if you are trying to become unconscious in meditation, you are not doing the right Yoga. The purpose of meditation is to develop awareness when there is absolute unconsciousness. I am not talking about Samadhi I am not talking about cosmic awareness, I am not talking about divine experiences, please do not confuse it. I talk that Yoga or meditation is a system, a process, a method by which you can see your own unconsciousness. At night yon go to bed to sleep, you become unconsciousness. You go to unconscious every night but you do not see it, you do not experience it. And therefore what happens, partial relaxation takes place. Complete relaxation does not take place. Here in Yoga they have developed a method by which you go into unconscious and you can see unconscious, you can investigate your unconscious, you can visualize your unconscious you can come back. So that when you comeback, you can come back with energy. You will come back with power, you will come back with power, you will come back with confidence and absolute equilibrium. This if the bases of Yoga.
Now, this process of inhalation and exhalation, this process of ascending and descending consciousness in the spinal cord or in the frontal passage is not meditation. It is an act of negation of consciousness, it is an act of withdraw of empirical, external, objective consciousness but there is a moment in meditation when the consciousness to one point, the circle is reduced to one point and it is that moment that you have to stop relaxation. A student of Yoga should know how far he should continue relaxation. If you continue your relaxation further, you will enter into unconsciousness, and yon will never become aware and that is the death of Yoga and that is the death of a Yogi. You must know the point where you have to stop the process of negative of conscious and it is for that every student of meditation must have a symbol for himself He can have a small green leaf, a flower a star or a triangle, or a human figure anything for the matter of that but he must have it. There is no use of having an abstract idea. I have practiced it for years and years together and they call it abstract meditation and concrete meditation.
Abstract meditation leads one to unconscious and concrete meditation leads one to unconscious with consciousness. And what is the proof that you have been able to perceive unconscious, what is the symptoms, what is the indication that you have visualized your subconscious what is the indication that you have visualized your unconscious and I am not talking about super conscious because it is not nay subject and I am not going to go beyond unconscious. This is not my subject and I believe you will not expect this super conscious subject from me at least this night. When you are able to see, when you are able to visualize the object of your meditation as clearly as you see me and you see your brethren everyday, you have seen your unconscious and you will come back. It is not conscious dream, it is not at all a conscious dream, if the dream is a conscious dream, if you see figures moving, if you see a rose flower but at the same time you are not aware that you are seeing a rose flower, then it is subconscious. And the indication of the manifestation of subconscious personality is, you see, psychic vision, one after the other, good and bad both. But when you go into unconscious all the visions stop. No angels come and no hosts come. You do not see heaven and you do not see hell. You see only that particular object upon which you are trying to crystallize in your consciousness. You will see the lotus flower, or you will see the elephant or you will see the serpent or you will see the flame of fire. That is all because that was your object of meditation. But then when you sec internally the object off your meditation, it is so clear, it is so true that sometimes when you come out there is a doubt whether this is true or whether that is the truth. And when unconscious is perceived the distinction between conscious experience and the distinction between unconscious experience is dissolved.
The experience in unconscious, I have to tell you once more, the experience in unconscious of the object is as real as the experience of the object in the conscious plane. If you happen to see me in unconscious perhaps you will see me as you see me now. It is only when you withdraw yourself back from unconscious and come down to conscious plane that you will I know, oh, yes, I saw Swamiji as real as this.. And this particular state of experience is known in Yoga philosophy as Darshan.
Darshan means unconscious visualization or perception of the object in all its dimensions. When your consciousness has become completely free from limitations. When your consciousness has become completely free from sense consciousness, intellectual consciousness and all other modes of empirical consciousness. In this state, the peace is achieved, it is at this moment you become a Yogi. It is at this moment that you say that the tensions, the afflictions, the troubles, the shocks, the after effects, the reactions of day to day life are completely resolved. So the topic of meditation is not at all difficult. And you will see for your self when you come from tomorrow to attend the class. The whole thing will be divided into two. First will be the negation and second I will be what I call expansion of awareness and in this process will come many experiences, a lot of mental turmoil, the subconscious will come in front of you and all the past memories will be known to you and of course, if you believe in reincarnation you may even go back. Of course it is not possible for all. And this is how through Yoga and through meditation you go to different rooms of your life and try to clean all of them one by one.
Once you have cleaned yourself you should take to the spiritual path, then you should go to a Guru and ask him Give me initiation and perhaps at that moment if he touches your forehead or if he touches your head you might get into Samadhi. I do not say that Samadhi is not there, there is a spiritual state also, there is super consciousness well. One can attain Samadhi, one can have higher experiences than this but for that we must qualify ourselves and in order to qualify ourselves we have to practice Yoga.
Yoga is not the end, it is the means and Yoga is a process and it is said in ancient scriptures, an art or a method of purification of the self. By medicines you cure the diseases, by food you purify the body, but by Yoga you purify the body, you purify the mind, mind in all its dimensions, conscious, subconscious, and unconscious dimensions. All the three stages of personality, all the three rooms are cleared and then when everything is calm and quite, the samskaras, or as you say in the west, the Karma has been exhausted, afflictions are no more then you should go for the higher spiritual path and not before that although the aim of your life should be to have spiritual realization but you should never seek for that higher spiritual path unless the mental health has been attained and the trammels, the errors, the confusions and the pandemonium in the personality has been completely calmed down.
As for this that the meditation of Dhyana, and they call it Dhyana Yoga or meditation comes. Now, coming to the point again, meditation by itself does not help entirely because through meditation you clean your body, you clean your mind, you clean your conscious but again your karmas accumulate impressions. Your emotional personality gets confused again and your method of thinking again becomes erroneous. It is something like cleaning the room and I then again putting the dirt in the room. In the same manner you are trying to clear up your personality of the dross, off tensions, of afflictions but at the same time what is happening to the Karmas, on one side you are clearing up the tensions and from the other side the tensions are coming in. On one side you are trying to exhaust you Karma, Samskaras but from the other side the Samskaras are being introduced and again the same thing and it is for this purpose that a Yogi who practices meditation must take care of Karma Yoga, must take, care of Bhakti Yoga, must take care of Gnani Yoga also. Because it is through Karma Yoga you stop the Samskaras, you top the effect of Karma going into the deepest cores of your personality. You stop them and there is an art and the art is in the Bhagavad Gita. Go through it.
Then the practice of Gnani. You have to understand that I am consciousness, the light is in me, I am not this body. I am not the senses. This kind of understanding, right thinking should be there so that the mind does not get attached to things from time to time and that again you try to nip Samskaras in the bud by correct thinking. This way the emotional tensions, the tensions born of Karma, the tendons born of wrong thinking should be stopped side by side with meditation. And you will find there are hundreds and thousands of people throughout the world who are practicing meditation but who are not happy because they think that meditation itself if going to help them. It does, there is no doubt about it, it is a great thing. So, when I will be teaching you meditation, the different techniques, please, remember that my personal opinion is this, side by side the other method should be practiced for which I will not have time to tell you. You should never think that Swami has come here to teach meditation only. He does not talk of Vedanta, he does not talk of Bhakti he does not talk of Karma. I completely agree and I understand that these things are very necessary things but because the subject is meditation today, I talk only about meditation. I do not have to talk a lot because I feel that meditation should be practiced. Hari Om Tat Sat
Traditional Teacher Training in Yoga
After accepting the yoga on International day of yoga-2015 by more than 175 countries indicates the global acceptance of yoga, which has generated two important phenomena. First, there is a rapid emergence and proliferation of different types and styles of yoga likes of doga (dog yoga), aerial yoga, etc. These fads of yoga are based on Asanas(Posture), used randomly, without any traditional or classical basis or understanding. The general trend in society is teaching and practicing Half Hatha yoga and labeling it as Yoga.
Second, there is an unprecedented demand for yoga teachers, which has resulted in short-cut courses that are preparing yoga teachers in a week even a month training is too long, with such a fragmented and disjointed practice of yoga, with no knowledge and awareness of yoga, people aspire for mental peace and spiritual illumination. It is a paradox, and that is the situation today.
It indicates that people teaching and learning fads of yoga only to satisfy their curiosity, and not with the intention or interest to make it a part of life or sadhana. In this manner, everybody has focused on practices and not on stabilizing their understanding and experience of yoga. If you look at what you do and what you believe in, there is a gap of miles, and that distance has to be bridged. As a yoga aspirant, let your life not be a paradox, but take the opportunity to explore the true depth of yoga.
By assessing the actual needs for yoga in society now the one common need found that they had come to a point of stagnation, a block, in their yoga practice. There is no deepening of the yoga experience, as it is limited to the physical experience. This led to new ideas on how to explain yogic precepts in a manner that people can understand yet go deeper into the yogic experience.
The pool of yogic knowledge is immense people are only tapping the surface at present, but in the course of time this effort will develop into something sustaining and creative. They have all been path-making events that have revealed new aspects of yoga and a new, deeper understanding. By developing all this and consolidating the thoughts put forward by our Guru Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda, a picture has emerged that shows the progression of yoga in relation to human life and its creative expression.
In order to honour the true intention of the ancient spiritual science of yoga, Our focus and aim of to inspire people to adopt yoga, not as a physical culture, but as a lifestyle. When yoga becomes a lifestyle, there is enhancement of physical health and stamina, development of mental clarity and inner creativity, and an experience of peace and fulfillment from life.
If the knowledge of yoga is being imparted, then the purpose is to empower you to become responsible for your own efforts, sadhanas, successes and failures, and make the effort to rise up. Personal responsibility is the outcome of imparting knowledge and becoming dependent is the outcome of withholding knowledge. That is how it should be, however, it is seen that in spiritual life people tend to become dependent on gurus instructions, and that also for convenience, not with any real intention of believing or performing. That defeats the whole purpose of teaching.
With this in mind It will be a our objective towards the creation of a more positive, joyous, uplifting, inspiring, cooperative and supportive atmosphere in the lives of those who follow this path and in society at large. It will mean that one must imbibe the teachings with discrimination, understanding, faith and conviction, accept responsibility for ones actions, interactions and behaviour, make every effort to live the disciplines of yoga, strive for positive spiritual development, and connect with Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram, with truth, auspiciousness and beauty in life.
The process of Yoga
This process of yoga and kundalini yoga may seem very lengthy and complicated, but remember that the journey always begins with a small step and you need to take that first step some time. If you simply make an effort to maintain the health of the body and mind and to develop the sense of well-being, that itself is one of the greatest forms of sadhana. If you become aware of your need to feel wholeness, to have physical and mental health, then you will be able to overcome much distress and conflict in relation to your nature and your aspirations. Therefore, it makes no difference whether you begin your journey with the practice of asana and pranayama, meditation and concentration, the process of relaxation, or the practices of mantra and kundalini yoga, because ultimately you will develop total health and experience completeness.
In order to understand the intricate nature of the mind and personality, you need to have willpower, conviction, faith and a vision that your life is not limited only to the expression of senses or the mental faculties. There are possibilities of awakening your consciousness. The system is a lengthy one, but without intellectualizing too much, just begin with awareness, begin with the simple practices, and that is enough. Ultimately the whole key to individual evolution lies in awareness, in understanding and realizing where we are at present in our life.
We suffer when we are not able to fulfill our aspirations. We try to find happiness and deny suffering, but this concept has to change if we want to live the life of a true human being. In the life of a true human being there is adjustment with suffering and no expectation of happiness and joy. Happiness and joy become permanent only when you have adjusted with your suffering.
Therefore, everyone must have the basic philosophy of joyously confronting suffering, of not running away from pain, because the more you deny suffering, the more it gains in intensity. The more you try to avoid it, the stronger its grip becomes on the mind. How much are you going to struggle in search of something which can be had instantaneously if you simply adjust and learn to live with the present situation? Happiness is a temporary companion and suffering is a permanent one. If you can learn to live harmoniously with the permanent companion, suffering will not be recognized as suffering, and you will experience happiness, contentment and peace. Even this much tranforms the craving, desiring, ambitious consciousness into a sattwic consciousness where you can experience luminosity. That light is the light of consciousness, the light of the Self.
People have different inclinations and tendencies different degrees of evolution, different mentalities, samskaras and karmas. Therefore, one path cannot be suitable for everyone. The path is there, but how you walk it depends on you. We cannot follow each other's footsteps. Of course, it is said that we follow the footprints of great men who have left their imprints in the sands of time. But donkeys also leave their footprints in the sands of time. Do you have viveka, the faculty of discrimination, which enables you to decide which footprint is a saint's and which is a donkey's? It is better not to have faith in external circumstances which change continually. You need to have faith in your own inner conviction that you are going to perfect the path on which you have started walking.
Yoga says that the practices are there as guidelines, but along with the practices of meditation, observation of the senses, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, kundalini kriyas, chakra awareness and mantra, you can also develop simplicity of awareness and faith in yourself. Have faith in the direction that is given to you. That direction is always the same. The application may change from time to time depending on the changing scenario, but the guidelines have always existed. You only have to recognize and understand what they are.
It is our nature to complicate things by intellectualization and rationalization, and by becoming aware of shortcomings and conflicting situations and environments in which we live. Therefore, another simple solution is just to consider that you need to learn how to focus your attention, how to experience as a drashta, a witness, the changes that happen inside your own nature, how to develop clarity of thought, faith and simplicity. If you just concentrate on these, yoga will become the blueprint of your life. It will not remain a mere concept or practice but will become your life. Living from moment to moment in a balanced way is known as yoga. Take a sankalpa, a positive resolution, to follow the path of yoga and thus experience completeness and wholeness in your own life.
Reference Yoga Panorama Vol. Three, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
Yoga is a Vidya
This has been the teaching of Swami Sivananda, later furthered by our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda. For them yoga is a vidya.
Vidya means knowledge and this knowledge is not only physical or how to get rid of ones physical problems or mental, psychological disturbances. The purpose of vidya is to connect one with wisdom so that human thinking, human interaction, human behaviour can be harmonized. That is the purpose of vidya. Through learning, knowledge, understanding and by applying the principles of positivity in ones life one comes to a state of harmony, peace and contentment. That has been the focus of yoga. In society 80% of people practise the physical yoga yet that is a miniscule part. The classical literatures of yoga speak of chitta vritti nirodha, the psychological management which was the thrust of Sage Patanjali.
Sage Patanjali never taught asana and pranayama. Patanjali was never the master or propagator of hatha yoga. His main concern was psychological and the improvement of human psychology. The main concern of Swatmarama and Gheranda and others was improvement of and harmony in the physical body. These are different trends in yoga which people have not yet explored.
In the hype of yoga people have latched on to the physical component and there is nothing wrong with that. However, as a teacher you have to know that there is something beyond the physical component that yoga is aiming to help you understand. There is something beyond the mind and beyond the human psyche that yoga is trying to help you understand.
That understanding is your understanding, it is not the yogic understanding for the path of yoga is defined already. You have to grow on that path, build up your own experience, and have the right attitude to make your life a quality life, and therefore, in the ashram environment there is training where certain disciplines are to be adhered to.
People see discipline as bondage but I dont. People see discipline as restriction but I dont. I see discipline as a way to prepare ourselves to become more free, more creative, more understanding and more aware. That is the purpose of discipline for me. Not to restrict your creativity but to give a direction to that creativity, the mind has to be prepared.
Ultimately all reactions and responses in your life are from your own mind, from your likes and dislikes, from your attachments, attractions, detachments and repulsions. These are the only reasons why you face conflict, struggle, stress and tension in life. If you are able to keep your mind in your grip, there is no reason for anybody to suffer and struggle. That has been the philosophy of yoga.
You have to go into yoga with the understanding that it will make you more free from your limitations. By removing your inabilities it will make you more able. With that idea of self-improvement you have to go into yoga. If the idea of self-improvement is not there, yoga has no meaning. It only becomes an exercise, a gymnastic or aerobic practice the way thousands of studios around the world teach yoga.
Remain a student
As a final message, please remember to remain a student always. Never consider yourself to be a teacher. As long as you are a student, your mind will be keen to learn and absorb. If you feel that you have concluded your studies, your mind will shut down. So, make the effort to remain a student all the time so that you are able to imbibe, learn and absorb from your interactions, your sadhana, your teaching and your practice the best that yoga can offer you.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
Yoga and dis-ease
What we call disease is actually the disturbed ease of the body dis-ease. To experience well-being, the body must be at ease. How many times have you looked carefully at the state of your body and what it is feeling? We become aware of the body only when there is a problem like backache or high blood pressure. We great any symtom that manifests with medicine, but we do not try to treat the cause of the problem. The cause can often be understood once we begin to internalize our attention and become aware of the tension we have accumulated over time.
In the 1960s Dr K.K. Datey carried out an experiment at K. E. M. Hospital in Bombay on the management of hypertension, utilizing shavasana, the pose of deep relaxation. Most of the patients had been under observation for two years while their drug therapy was being stabilized. Any attempts at reducing the drug dosage had led to an increase in blood pressure. After practising shavasana for one month, more than half the patients showed a significant reduction in drug dosage and blood pressure. In the other half, those with evidence of hardening of the arteries showed no response, demonstrating the importance of early treatment. A significant proportion of the remainder had not practised shavasana properly and when they did, they also showed improvement. So the majority showed an improvement in symptoms and a sense of well-being, indicating that the use of relaxation techniques such as shavasana can stabilize high blood pressure and reduce or eliminate drug requirements.
Shavasana is a very simple practice in which you lie down, become aware of the breath, the movement of the abdomen and relax each and every part, joint and musle of the body. Nervous, emotional and muscular tensions are reduced. There are four types of stress: nervous, muscular, cerebral and emotional. Nervous stress is very subtle. We accumulate muscular stress while we are sitting, without realizing there is tension in the shoulders or back. Sometimes the postural condition creates stress. Become aware of it and let it go.
Cerebral stress is overworking of the brain and there is no relaxation of this activity. Emotional stress occurs due to an underlying thought. Dr Datey found that all four kinds of stress were balanced by practising shavasana. This example shows that many problems can be eliminated or avoided by simply deepening awareness of the body.
Source: Yoga Sadhana Panorama- Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
From Pratyahara to Dharana
- Swami Satyadharma Saraswati
Antar darshan is a practice of pratyahara. Pratya comes from the word pratyaya. Pratyaya are the internal seeds, the basic tendencies in our nature which are there from birth to death. They are the basis of our personality. The word ahara means food or nutrition. Normally in our day-to-day lives, we are concentrated and extroverted in the outside world, so the mind, the senses and the pratyaya, these internal tendencies and seeds of consciousness, are receiving nutrition from outside, from objects, events, situations and interactions in the external world. So, pratyahara means a practice which internalizes the senses and the mind so that the mind begins to receive its nutrition from within. The pratyaya begin to receive nutrition from within. This is said to be the first stage in mental training, when we can learn to internalize the senses and the mind at will.
When we can master this process then we will have developed this stage of meditation. It is a very important stage. Here we are dealing mainly with the thoughts and emotions which arise from our interactions in daily life. There is a kind of digestive process that must go on when we have interactions, especially strong ones. We have to mull over them, we have to bring them up inside, we have to release certain emotions and things which were created by those interactions. If we do not get time to internalize these interactions, to go over them mentally and work them out internally, they will build up inside, becoming a source of tension, anxiety and internal disease, and we will not feel comfortable inside ourselves.
Pratyahara is not just one practice but a series of practices which aid the mind to complete this process and to be able to internalize at will. Perhaps at some point we will be able to internalize and externalize at the same time. This is total perfection of this stage, where we are aware internally and externally at the same time. Right now, however, we are only aware outside, and when we are aware outside then we are not aware inside. Sometimes we shut it all off, we go into a room and put on some music, or we sit in a chair, close our eyes, relax and go inside. Then we become aware inside, depending on the degree to which we have developed. That is how we have been living and practising until now.
Pratyahara means to go inside but to keep the awareness at the conscious level, around the level of manas. In the stage of pratyahara we are not attempting to go deep. Only when we have mastered pratyahara will we begin to dip into chitta, the subconscious mind. Dipping into the subconscious mind while we are still awake is actually an achievement. Normally we go into the subconscious mind when we sleep, or at best when we daydream or fantasize. Usually we are not aware of exactly what we are daydreaming or fantasizing about; it is just occurring on the periphery and we are not really conscious of it.
When we practise meditation techniques, beginning with pratyahara, we gain the ability to go into this subconscious dimension consciously. This will come only in the last stages of pratyahara, not in the beginning. In the early stages we try to work on developing our internal conscious state and becoming aware of what is happening in manas. Watching the thoughts, watching the emotions, seeing how they interrelate, how a thought engenders an emotion and how that emotion engenders another emotion.
This is the stage where the practice of antar darshan comes in. Antar darshan is not a kind of rebirthing technique where you go very deep into your subconscious and unconscious emotions and try to bring them up. That practice comes later when we have mastered and understood exactly what is happening at the conscious level. We have to clean out the area where we live our bedroom, the living room, the sadhana room, the workplace. We do not try to clean out the attic or the cellar first; we have to start where we are. This all takes place within the area of manas, through the practices of pratyahara.
In the practice of antar darshan we can expect to look at the more conscious feelings and emotions. We should not try to have intense experiences during this practice. If an intense experience arises, that is fine and we can just experience it, but that is not the aim of this practice. It is important to understand the development of the process. It is like learning to swim. First you go to the beach, enter the water and stay in the shallows. You walk in up to your knees, then up to your waist, then up to your shoulders and then you submerge yourself in the water. You submerge in the mind, and you start to swim in this shallow area. If at any time you feel a bit uneasy or unsafe, you can just put your feet down and touch the bottom and find your stability there.
When we go out of pratyahara and into the next stages of dharana and dhyana, it is like going out of the shallow water into the depths. Dharana is like the first depths where you go in maybe ten to twelve feet over your head. When you go into dhyana you go deeper, maybe twenty-five or thirty feet. In order to swim in the depths you must be a good swimmer, you must be confident that you can swim, otherwise it is not safe.
Training the mind
The same thing applies to the mind. You must first train your mind in the different stages and practices of pratyahara. You must develop a strong mind. A strong mind is a mind that is not afraid of itself, that can face the experiences that arise within without becoming unbalanced. In this way it is a mind which remains serene and balanced in all situations in life. If you are suddenly faced with a death in the family, the loss of a job, or a tremendous rejection from somebody that you love, what will happen to your mind then? What often happens is that we go out of control and we become weak suddenly because we are not able to face that situation. We are not able to face those emotions with equanimity. A strong mind is a mind that has been trained for years, or even a lifetime, to face itself in every situation. As the mind gets stronger this happens by itself, and even without practising concentration the mind becomes concentrated. As the mind becomes concentrated we become able to swim out into deep water and we are able to have more intense experiences in meditation.
If intense experiences arise with a weak and untrained mind then mental problems arise. Sometimes psychiatric treatment becomes necessary. That is what happens when people who are not prepared have a spiritual awakening. We call it the 'kundalini crack-up syndrome'. It is very difficult to help such people because they have gone out into the depths without knowing how to swim and they have not been strong enough to cope with the currents and whirls, which keep pulling them under. Somehow they manage to surface and ask for help, but nobody is strong enough to swim out and rescue them. If I try to swim out there and rescue them I will drown, because I am not strong enough. It requires somebody of great strength, but these people do not wait to get a guide of great strength before they go dashing out into the depths. That is why it is necessary to start at the beginning. Stay in the shallow waters until you have become a good swimmer, until you are strong and you have some knowledge of the depths and currents out there and how to manage in them. This is the process of internal training, in-depth meditation.
Understanding our emotions
The practice of antar darshan is not an in-depth practice. It is a practice of pratyahara where we are learners, we are in the shallows. We need to take a better look at our emotions, the feelings we have about ourselves. If you decide to practise this meditation, this should be one of the first points of focus. Try to spend a session where you just experience the different feelings that you have engendered from your early life about yourself, which were engendered by your family, by your friends, by your education. How do you feel about yourself and how do you feel with yourself? These are important emotions to understand. This will help us to understand ourselves much better and also to deal with many of our personal problems. Many personal problems arise because we do not understand the emotions and we do not understand our reactions, which are often very emotional. Therefore, we are not able to behave in a balanced way and that creates problems in life.
The next thing we have to deal with is our feelings about our peers. How do we feel about the people with whom we associate, the people with whom we live, the people with whom we work? We need to sort out these feelings, then we need to take further sessions in this practice on our feelings in relation to our work and our workplace. How do we feel about the work we are doing? Some people are extremely satisfied, fulfilled, happy and inspired by their work. Some people are not. We need to sort these things out to get our life straight.
Last of all we need to sort out the feelings we have in relation to our ideals, our aspirations and our goals in life. We need to look at how we feel we are progressing, as sometimes we do not feel good about our progress and at other times we feel very happy with it. We have to look at all these areas in which we live. We can then consider that we have started to get our life and what is around us in order. At that time we can think about proceeding further.
The development of this practice of antar darshan is the practice of hridayakasha dharana. Although hridayakasha dharana has been taught in the past, it is not the first practice that we need to do. The first practice is antar darshan. The perfection of antar darshan will lead us to hridaya-kasha dharana. Hridayakasha dharana comes when the mind and the emotions have become stable and steady, and when we have attained some degree of mastery within and without ourselves.
We need to look at the meaning of dharana to understand the practice better. Dharana means 'to bind, to focus, to hold the mind at one point'. It comes from the word dhri, which means 'foundation' or 'basis'. The foundation of the mind must be stable. Right now none of us has that stable base. Just as the earth shakes during an earthquake, in the same way we are also shaking like that much of the time. The practice of dharana comes when we have become steady, stable and unshakeable. We are unshakeable because we understand ourselves. We understand our mind, our emotions and our thoughts. We have come to terms with them so we are unshakeable. Whatever faces us and whatever situation arises we can manage it without being affected. Dharana is a higher stage, not just in meditation but in life.
The word akasha means space. The practice of hriday-akasha implies that we are going to find a steady base within the element of space. We can think of space like the sky, like the openness in a room. There is space and then there are things within the space. Mentally this space symbolizes the aspect of consciousness. Within the consciousness the mind exists and the emotions exist. The different aspects of the mind exist, the ego exists, all the experiences in life exist, but they are not the space. The space is just space like the sky is open.
Hridayakasha dharana means that we are going to become stable. We are going to practise steadiness within this space and we are going to localize that space within the heart. Hridaya means heart. Hridayakasha dharana means to find a stable base within the space of the heart. When we are able to find a stable base, when the mind is able to function in a focused, one-pointed manner within this space, then we will begin to have intense emotional experiences and we will be able to handle them. Things will come with great intensity but because our mind is trained and we are focused and have developed strength of mind, we can face them without becoming unbalanced and unhinged. This is the development of and the result of antar darshan. Antar darshan will lead to the further stage of hridayakasha dharana.
How can problems be avoided?
Path of solutions
Problems can't be avoided because we don't want to avoid them. If we didn't care about problems, they wouldn't exist. We like to take on problems, for we are guided by our self-image. Our self-image says one has to be good, considerate and kind, and that is the front we always try to project. As long as we are consciously or unconsciously following the dictates of our self-image, we will never be free from problems.
What is a problem? A problem is something you take upon yourself which is not your natural inclination or expression. Other people imposing their difficulties can become a problem. Somebody offering to help can also be a problem if the help is not expressed in the right manner. Even musing over things can become a problem. Encountering situations that can affect, change and alter our self-perception can become a problem. A sudden influx of negative thoughts can become a problem. An influx of good thoughts is never a problem, but negative thoughts can always become problems. Desires can become problems.
The main reason why we are unable to cope with problems is that although our logic says, "Don't have problems", our nature says, "Keep on attracting problems." Just as light will attract moths, similarly, this body and this mind will attract difficulties and problems. You have to remember Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." However, you also have to remember that motion comes because of friction. If one wishes to have a pleasant, peaceful, quiet life, you may enjoy the silence for a month, but there will come a time when you will reject that peace and silence for some dynamism, some activity, some motivation in life. Therefore, friction, problems, difficulties and conflicts are to be accepted rather than shunned.
The right solution has to be found and to do this one needs to cultivate the faculty of viveka, discrimination. Discrimination becomes powerful and real only when it is combined with far-sightedness; otherwise, discrimination is simply a word. Discrimination plus far-sightedness equals wisdom. Friction, conflicts, difficulties, fights and disagreements are not impediments to your development towards peace and growth; rather, they bring to the surface a condition of mind, a condition of belief, a condition of life that is actually becoming a barrier to your growth. A mental thought that becomes a block is recognized as a problem, so why not work to remove it?
The best way to handle problems is to know beforehand whether or not you wish to involve yourself in the problem. If you can tackle that problem efficiently, effectively and creatively, then that opens the door of logic, intellect, intuition and emotion by making your search for the solution. If you feel a problem to be burden, then it closes the mind and stops the creativity of the mind from discovering the right solution to the problem. Therefore, never avoid problems. If they come let them come; just try not to attract them.