The Crown of Life


Yog Vidya and Yog Sadhna

The Path of Yoga in Theory and Practice

I. The Basis of Ancient Yoga

Origin and technique of the yoga system

    From the Yajnavalkya Smriti, we learn that Hiranyagarbha (Brahma) was the original teacher of yoga. But the yoga system, as a system, was first expounded by Patanjali, the great thinker and philosopher, in his Yoga Sutras, sometime before the Christian era. The yogic system is one of the six schools of Indian philosophy (Khat Shastras) that were systematized and developed to set in order Indian thought concerning the cosmos, the individual soul, and their interrelation. These philosophies resulted from an attempt at reformation and restoration of the ancient and time-honored concepts on psychological and metaphysical matters.
    The word yoga in common parlance means "method." In its technical sense, it connotes "yoking" or "union" of the individual soul with the Oversoul or God. The English word "yoke" signifies "to unite" or "join together" and "to place oneself under yoke" (discipline). In this context, the yoga system denotes a "methodical discipline," which aims on the one hand at viyog (unyoking), or separation of the individualized soul from mind and matter, and on the other hand, yog, or yoking it with Brahman. It, therefore, means and implies the search for the transcendental and the divine in man, or to find the "noumenal" in the "phenomenal" by reducing the physical and metaphysical states to their most essential common factor, the basis and the substratum of all that exists, whether visible or invisible. As such, yogic methods imply a system of mighty effort, most strenuous endeavour and hard striving to attain perfection through the control of the physical body, the ever-active mind, the self-assertive ego or will, the searching and questioning intellect, the pranic vibrations, the restless faculties and powerful senses. Allegorically, the present state of the individualized soul is described as riding in the chariot of the body, with dazed intellect as the charioteer, the infatuated mind as the reins, and the senses as the powerful steeds rushing headlong into the field of sense objects and sense pleasures. All this goes to show that a student of yoga discipline has to undertake a course of an extremely strict and ordered activity as may help to depersonalize the soul and free it from all the limiting adjuncts of life, physical, mental and supra-mental, and then to contact it with the power of God and achieve union with God.
    The word yoga is however not to be confused with yog-maya and "yogic powers" which denote respectively, the supreme Power of God per se (creating, controlling and sus-taining the entire creation), and the psychic powers (Ridhis and Siddhis) that one may acquire on the path of yoga. Again, yog vidya or the science of yoga has a two-fold aspect; the physical as well as the spiritual. In the former sense, it has come to mean a yogic system of physical culture aiming at an all-around development of the various component parts of the human body. But we are concerned here with the spiritual aspect of yoga that aims at the well-being of the spirit or soul, the real life-principle in man, at present neglected and ignored. The term yoga in this context is, therefore, to be strictly confined to one of the systems of philosophic thought as derived from the Vedas, and is concerned with the sole object of regaining the soul (through spiritual discipline), now lost in the activity of mind and matter, with which it has come to identify itself by long and constant association for aeons upon aeons. Yoga, in brief, stands for a technique of reorientation and reintegration of the spirit in man, the lost continent of his true self.

Fundamental concepts

    Yoga presupposes two factors that account for the creation of the world: (1) lshwar or God and (2) Avidya or Maya. While the former is all intelligent, the latter is altogether unintelligent. Man too is a combination of these two basic principles. Jiva or the individual soul though intrinsically of the same essence as that of God, is encased in mind and matter. The soul, conditioned as it is in the time-space-cause world, has but an imperfect perception and cannot see the reality, the atman or the Divine Ground, in which it rests and from where it gets its luminosity. While antahkaran, or the mind, is the reflector, the atman is the illuminator, the light of which is reflected through the senses that perceive the world. The world then is the conjunction of the "seer" and the "seen." The detachment of this conjunction is the escape, and perfect insight is the means of escape. Salvation therefore lies in the isolation of the seer from the seen, the complete detachment of the subjective from all that is objective: physical, mental, and causal, so that the "Self" which is the seer, may see itself in its own luminosity or "Light of the Void," as it is called.
    To free the individual soul from the shackles of mind and matter, yoga insists on (1) concentration, (2) active effort or striving, which involves the performance of devotional exercises and mental discipline. The highest form of matter is chit, the unfathomable lake of subliminal impressions, and yoga aims at freeing the inner man or spirit from these fetters. It is the finest and rarefied principle in matter that constitutes chit or the little self (ego) in man. Though in itself, it is essentially unconscious, it is subject to modifications by the operation of the three-fold gunas. It has also the capacity to contract and expand according to the nature of the body in which it is lodged from time to time, or according to the surrounding circumstances.
    This chit or mind, though apparently bounded in each individual, is in fact a part of the all-pervading universal mind. The yoga systems aim at transforming the limited and conditioned mind into limitless and unconditioned Universal mind, by developing the satva (pure) and by subduing the rajas (active) and tamas (dense) gunas. In this state, yogins acquire omniscience, being one with the Universal mind (Brahmandi or Nij manas). Chit is the reflecting mirror for the soul, and exists for chaitanmaya, or matter quickened by soul, which is self-luminous and in whose spiritual light takes place all perception, including the light of knowledge, mental and supramental. The subliminal impressions in the chit cause desires and interest, which in turn produce potencies, and these lead to personality, thus setting the wheel of the world in perpetual motion. When once the soul is freed from the chit, manas, budhi, and ahankar, it comes into its own, and becomes passionless and depersonalized. This is the great deliverance which yoga promises to yogins. At this severance from the four-fold fetters of the mind, the embodied soul (jiva) becomes a freed soul (atman), unindividualized, self-luminous, and attains realization as such. "Self-realization" then is the highest aim of yoga.

2. The Path and the Branches of Ashtang Yoga

    The yogic art is long, tortuous and arduous. The reality of the self lies buried under the debris of the mind, consisting of mal, avaran and vikshep, viz., filth or impurities, ignorance of the true values of life, and constant vacillations or modulations in the chit. The mental stratum has therefore to be cleared of all these and then to be pierced through and penetrated to find the divine nature of the self or atman. To achieve this, one has to conquer desires, to develop steadiness of thought, to cultivate virtues like continence, abstinence, temperance, righteousness, etc., and to develop vairagya, or detachment.
    To overcome the hindrances and to realize the self, Patanjali gives an elaborate account of what he terms Ashtang Yoga, prescribing an eight-fold method consisting of: (1) Yama, (2) Niyama, (3) Asana, (4) Pranayam, (5) Pratyahara, (6) Dharna, (7) Dhyan and (8) Samadhi.


    Yama: The term yama literally means to expel, to eject, to throw out or to eliminate. It denotes abstention from vices and from entertaining any evil thoughts, or accepting any negative impressions which may tend to weaken the mind and the will.
    Niyama: The term niyama on the contrary, signifies acceptance, cultivation, observance and development of positive virtues, harboring good feelings, and absorbing these virtues into one's system.
    Thus, these two words connote the simultaneous rejection of evil, and the assiduous cultivation and acceptance of good, respectively. Patanjali enumerates these abstinences and observances as ahimsa (non-injury), satya (non-lying), asteya (non-stealing), brahmcharya (non-sexuality) and aprigreha (non-covetousness or non-possessiveness).

Some Yamas and Niyamas

         YAMAS                                                 NIYAMAS

     Abstention from                             Acceptance and observance of

1 Negation of God.                               Faith in God and Godly power.

2 Self-indulgence.                                Self-control and chastity
                                                             (Brahmcharya or purity in
                                                             thoughts, words and deeds).

3 Dishonest and fraudulent                  Earning a living by honest
   livelihood.                                          and truthful means.

 4 Unhygienic and impure                    Cleanliness: inner, by water
  conditions of life both within               irrigation within and oxygenation,
  and without.                                        etc., and outer, by regular
                                                             skin-baths, hip-baths, sun and
                                                             air-baths, etc., and hygienic living
                                                             conditions in sanitary surroundings.

5 Injuring others by thoughts,              Non-injury by thoughts,
   words and deeds (himsa)                 words and deeds (ahimsa).

6 Practicing falsehood, deceit             Cultivating truth, sincerity
 and covetousness,                             and charity.

7 Impatience, avarice and                  Patience, contentment and
 selfishness.                                       selfless service.

8 Self-assertion and egocentricity.     Humility and self-surrender.

    In respect of abstinences, it is said:

(i) One who is rooted in ahimsa, has no enemies.
(ii) One who is anchored in satya, his words cannot but come true and bear fruit.
(iii) One who is established in asteya, is a true friend of nature, and nature lays
      bare unto him all her riches.
(iv) One who practices brahmcharya comes to acquire absolute power.
(v) One who practices aprigreha, solves the enigma of life, and to him the past,
     the present, and the future appear like an open book.
    The five observances are: Shaucha (purity of body and mind ), Santosh (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (scriptural study including japa, etc.) and Prasadhna or Ishvara Pranidhana (thoughts attuned with, and absolute dependence on, God).
(a) Shaucha brings in cleanliness and dislike for Sparsha (contact with
      another's body).
(b) Santosh makes one contented and thus mentally rich.
(c) Tapas rids one of all impurities and confers supernatural powers (e.g., to atomize
      oneself, to lose all weight, to become all speed, to gain instantaneous access
      to any place, to have all wishes fulfilled, to become all-pervasive, to acquire divine
      powers, to control all beings and elements in nature, etc.). All these come of
      themselves by contemplating and concentrating on the opposite of what one
      actually desires.
(d) Svadhyaya personifies the deity worshipped.
(e) Ishvara Pranidhana brings in satiety and desirelessness.
    In the Upanishads, however, each of these lists consists of ten abstinences and observances. Thus aprigreha in the first category has given place to kindness, rectitude, forgiveness, endurance, temperance and purity. Similarly, in the second list, shattcha has been replaced by faith, charity, modesty, intelligence, japa and fasts. However, the end in either case is sadachar or righteous living, which prepares the way for inner spiritual development. The lists of the virtues to be inculcated and the vices to be discarded may vary from teacher to teacher but the purpose is ever the same. Thus, Manu explains the principles of sadachar or dharma in terms of his own categories.
    The practice of both yamas and niyamas -- restraints and observances--make up sadachar or right conduct, which constitutes tile bedrock of all the religions of the world. Manu gives us the essence of dharma as ahimsa, satya, steyam, shaucham, indriya nigreha (harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, right living and control of senses).
    According to Sandalya Rishi, the list comprises:
(a) Shaucha (external bodily purity along with that of place and direction, and internal
      purity of thoughts, feelings and emotions).
(b) Daya (mercy and compassion for all living creatures in all circumstances).
(c) Arjava (balanced and steady mind in all actions and under all conditions).
(d) Dhriti (fortitude and endurance in all circumstances).
(e) Mit-ahara (disciplined life of temperance generally, and in foods and
     drinks in particular).
    In the Bhagavad Gita too, Lord Krishna lays great stress on the practice of yamas and niyamas.
    The compassionate Buddha also prescribed for his followers the noble Eight-fold Path of Righteousness, comprising right views (knowledge), right aspirations (determination), right speech, right conduct (behavior), right livelihood, right effort (suitable striving), right mindfulness (thinking and perception), and right contemplation (absorption) and above all he laid great stress on right association or company of the holy, "Truth-winners and arousers of faith" who, through a process of osmosis (infiltration) instill faith and devotion in the minds of the aspirants.
    Bikkhu Buddharakkita, while describing the Majjhima Patipada, the Middle Path, or the Golden Mean between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, to modern readers, gives us the Buddhistic course of development and discipline through bhava, viz.:
1. Shila Bhavna: Ethical purity.
2. Chita Bhavna: Mental purity.
3. Pragna Bhavna: Intuitional insight.
    The same author emphasizes the need of developing shila or moral purification as the basis of everything else, whether in mundane life or in spiritual advancement. Buddha declared that five benefits accrue to the truly virtuous: good fortune through diligence, fair name abroad, respect in all congregations, clear conscience till the end, and rebirth with a happy destiny.
    The basic minimum for the Buddhist layman is the five precepts, or Panch Shila, that go to make right conduct or behavior, one of the important steps in the eight-fold path as described above. These are: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and from drinking intoxicating liquor, and alongside thereof, the observance of positive virtues: maitri (friendliness to all), daan (charity), brahmcharya (chastity), adherence to truth, and temperance. In the Panch Shila of Buddha, we find an exact parallel to the yamas and niyamas as prescribed by the ancients.
    The shila, or the process of purification, rests on the two fundamentals: hiri, conscience, and ottappa, shame; for one rejects evil out of self-respect and scruple on the one hand, and observes respect for another, while the other fears blame or censure. The result is that one develops modesty along with rectitude and propriety. What is true of Buddhism is true also of Jain thought, which enjoins the five great vows of non-violence, non-stealing, non-covetousness, truthfulness and chastity,
    This two-fold stress on yamas and niyamas is not just an idiosyncrasy of ancient Indian thought. It is to be observed among all people whenever religious experience is actively sought. Thus when we examine the development of Jewish and Christian thought, we come across the same phenomenon. Moses laid down the ten commandments which pointed out the weaknesses to be avoided, namely, worship of gods and deities, engraving images to represent God, vain repetition of God's names, polluting the sabbath, dishonoring one's parents, commission of heinous crimes like killing, adultery and stealing, and lastly, social evils like bearing false witness and coveting a neighbor's house, wife or his belongings (Exodus 20: 4-17). It was left to Jesus to complete the picture when he emphasized the virtues to be developed, in his ten beatitudes: simplicity of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst after righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, peace-making, suffering persecution for the sake of righteousness and calmly bearing all manner of reviling and slander (Matthew 5:1-11 ). It was not without justice that he claimed, "I have come not to destroy the law but to fulfill the law." The teachings of Islam lay stress on shariat (moral injunction), tauba (repentance), faqr (renunciation), tazkiya-i-nafs (subjugation of the senses), tawakal (trust in God), tawhid (unity) and zikr (spiritual discipline), while the Sikh Gurus (prescribing cultivation of essential virtues like chastity, patience, understanding, knowledge, fear of God, austerity, love and compassion), coming much later, reveal a similar pattern. Guru Nanak, in a nutshell, placed true living above everything else:
Truth is higher than everything,
But higher still is true living.  SRI RAG
    Why this should be so is not difficult to understand. To be able to progress spiritually, peace and harmony of mind is an absolute necessity. So long as one is the slave of this desire or that, such harmony is impossible. Therefore, one must root out all desires that lead the self away from this harmony. But nature abhors a vacuum; and what is true of physical phenomena is also true of the psychological. The only way to clear the mind of its negative and disintegrating impulses is to replace them by positive and integrating ones. However, while cultivating sadachar, the seeker after truth must remember that it is only a means, not an end, and knowing this, go beyond it to his spiritual goal. Swami Vivekananda, who has analysed the process with great ludicity in The Secret of Work, puts the matter thus:
You must remember that the freedom of the soul is the goal of all yogas . . . A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one. There is a thorn in my finger, and I use another to take the first out; and when I have taken it out, I throw both of them aside ... so the bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, and the bad impressions on the mind should be removed by fresh waves of good ones, until all that is evil disappears, or is subdued. Thus the "attached" becomes the "unattached."


    The term asana denotes the seat and the pose, position or posture, in the performance of yogic discipline. It is another external aid in yogic practice. The asana should be steady, firm, pleasant and comfortable, so as to keep the body quiescent but alert during the yogic discipline.
    In the Svetasvetara Upanishad II:8 it is said:

Keep the upper parts: the chest, the neck, and the head, erect, and subdue within the heart, the senses together with the mind. The wise with the raft of Brahman cross over all the powerful torrents of the world.
    Similarly, in the Bhagavad Gita VI: 11-14 the procedure is laid down as follows:
    On a pure spot, he shall set for himself a seat, neither over-high nor over-low, and having over it a cloth, a deer's skin, and kusha grass.
    On this couch, he shall seat himself with thought intent and workings of mind and sense instruments restrained, and shall for purification of spirit labor on the Rule.
    Firmly, holding the body, head and neck in unmoving equipoise, gazing on the end of his nose and looking not round about him,
    Calm of spirit, void of fear, abiding under the vow of chastity, with mind restrained and thought set on me, so shall he sit, who is under the Rule and given over to me.
    The term asana literally means easy and comfortable. Patanjali enjoined a posture both simple and pleasant (Yoga Darshana II:46). That posture is the best which may enable a student of yoga to remain motionless for a long time--two to three hours at a stretch--with an effortless ease, the object being to eliminate bodily reactions and to dissolve the mind into contemplation. Steadiness in asana gives steadiness to the body, and in its turn, to the mind. Theoretically speaking, tradition tells us that there are as many asanas as there are species in the world and as such they run into 8,400,000, but out of these only 84 are important and four are generally accepted as basic and of great value:
    (i) Sukh Asana: It means easy and comfortable, as it is pleasant to practice. It consists in simply sitting cross-legged, by tucking the left foot under the thigh of the right leg and with open hands resting on the knees, making a circle wit the tips of the thumb and the forefinger.
    (ii) Sidh Asana: This term connotes a disciplined posture or pose of perfection or attainment. It consists in sitting cross-legged and, in addition to the above, to place the right foot on the left foreleg with heels resting against the pubic bone without exerting any pressure on the genitals, and palms resting one above the other. It is very useful for attaining siddhis, or yogic powers and hence the name sidh asana. It purifies veins and arteries by supplying fresh blood. It strengthens the heart and lungs, makes breathing deep and slow, regulates the digestive system, and cures diseases like colds, fevers and heart disorders.
    (iii) Padam Asana: It is a lotus-pose as the name itself implies. In this position, the feet form the petals of a lotus they cross one over the other. It is rather a difficult pose for persons with stiff joints, but it is very essential for the practice of Hatha Yoga. It is also known as Anand Asana for it gives a foretaste of peace and bliss and inclines one to contemplation. It cures the man who practices it of all diseases and ailments, and frees the system from disorders of poisoning toxins. It rids a person of laziness and languor and mental weakness.
    (iv) Swastika Asana (the lucky or auspicious pose): It has all the virtues of its name.
    For purposes of spiritual advancement, Sukha or Sid Asana is admirably suited.
    Besides these, some of the well-known asanas are: Gaoo asana (the cow pose), Simha asana (the lion pose), Vajra asana (the thunderbolt pose), Hal asana (the plough posture), Sheersh asana (the head-stand pose), Sarvang asana (the shoulder-stand pose), Dhanur asana (the bow pose), Sharva asana (the corpse pose), Markat asana (the monkey pose),  Mayur asana (the peacock pose), Kukata asana (cock pose), Garud asana (the eagle posture), Ushtr asana (the camel pose), Vatyan asana (the horse pose), Bhujang asana (the cobra pose), Salabh asana (the locust pose), Padahast asana, Trikon asana and Virksh asana (the tree pose), etc. This shows the catholicity of the human mind to learn things even from animals and other objects.

Asana as a form of yoga

    Some consider asanas as constituting a yoga by themselves and have given them the name of asana yoga. But it is not to be used simply for the display of physical feats and skill as some gymnasts do, or as a means of earning a livelihood. It is yoga in the sense that without a disciplined asana, one cannot watch, weed out, and eliminate the vritis or the mental currents that keep rising in the mind-stuff or the unfathomable lake of the mind (chit). The yoga system is generally divided into two parts: Pran-kala or the Path of the Pranas and Chit-kala or the Path of the Chit. While Hatha Yoga deals with the Pran-kala, Raja Yoga is concerned with Chit-kala. Asanas form an integral part in both these yogic systems and in fact, are an essential sadhna in every form of yoga whatever it be. Asanas have, on account of their importance, been categorized as a yoga system per se, just as Dharna and Dhyan, because of their important role in the practice of yoga, have often been described as Dharna Yoga and Dhyan Yoga. The body has of necessity to be set in one posture or position for a considerable time--i.e., three hours--because by continual shifting of posture, one cannot successfully engage in the yogic practice, for with every change of posture the vritis are set in motion and the mind never grows steady and still. Hence the need for a firm and steady pose, but one characterized by ease and comfort, so that the practicer may not feel fatigued and tired during the time he sits for chit-vriti-nirodha (elimination of the mental modulations).

Advantages of asanas

    Besides being an aid in controlling the mind, the steady asana confers many advantages and these may be classified as follows:

    1. Physical advantages:
        (a) The muscular and arterial systems get into proper order.
        (b) The entire body is charged with health, strength and radiant vitality.
        (c) The navel center in the body is fully supplied with heat, which helps in digestion.
        (d) The pranas, or the vital airs in the body, begin to function with a regular
             and rhythmic motion.
        (e) Fearlessness, fortitude and will power come of themselves.
        (f) One gains control over the body and never feels tired, depressed and downcast.
        (g) As one feels inner joy and buoyancy of spirits, his face manifests a healthy radiance.
    2. Mental advantages:
        (a) Mind gets steady and well-directed, and one acquires the habit of working
             with fixed attention.
        (b) Mental freshness.
        (c) Quick understanding and clarity of vision.
        (d) It develops imagination and helps in focusing one's attention or dhyan.
        (c) It brings in the habit of deep and concentrated thinking on the otherwise abstruse
             spiritual problems.
    3. Spiritual advantages:
        (a) One, through the recession of physical consciousness due to bodily stability,
              gradually rises above the pairs of opposites or state of duality, i.e., hunger
              and thirst, heat and cold, attachment and detachment, etc.
        (b) One easily crosses over the state of tamogun (inertia) and rajogun (restlessness)
              and acquires that of satogun (peace and equipoise).
        (c) One steadily progresses in his sadhna, or spiritual practice, without any fatigue.

    Some precautions are generally recommended to secure the sadhak from possible ill effects or obstacles. He should practice the asanas in solitude so that they never become for him a means of exhibiting his virtuosity to the applauding public. It is also advisable that he should avoid proximity to fire, the company of women, undesirable friends, or anything similar that may carry a risk to his body or his mental equilibrium. He must also eschew over-indulgence in food and drink as well as fasting, for the one burdens the body and distracts one's energies, while the other undermines one's vitality. Hence it was that Buddha taught his disciples the middle path, for as he said in his first sermon:

Sensuality is enervating; the self-indulgent man is a slave to his passions, and pleasure-seeking is degrading and vulgar.
And --
by suffering, the emaciated devotee produces confusion and sickly thoughts in his mind. Mortification is not conducive even to worldly knowledge, how much less to a triumph over the senses.
    The rule of the golden mean, which applies to everything, applies also to exercise. The understanding sadhak will neither dissipate his energies in over-strenuous exercise like weight-lifting, racing, high or long jumps, nor will he deaden them through lethargy. In short, temperance and simplicity must the watchwords of his life. Those who specialize in Hatha Yoga or Prana Yoga even go on to lay down the following condition for their day-to-day living:

        (a) A place of solitude on a moderate level.
        (b) A thatched cottage, preferably square in form, in the midst of natural scenery
             and verdure.
        (c) It should be furnished with a bricked or wooden takhat (a raised platfom) to squat upon.
        (d) The seat should be covered with palm leaves or dry grass, woollen cover,
             or a deer-skin.
        (e) The site should be so selected as to have a uniformly temperate and even climate
              all the year round.

    All these things should be taken into consideration if ( were to choose even a cave (mountain or underground) spiritual sadhna.

        (f) One must exercise scrupulous moderation in his diet and drinks, preferably
            one helping of porridge in day.
        (g) No outsider should be permitted to haunt the sanctuary.

    Gheranda Samhita, a well-known treatise on yoga, gives detailed account of asanas and the practices allied thereto, viz., mudras and bandhas. While the mudras are locked postures, the bandhas are fixed postures. The former being psychophysical in nature are generally termed as "gestures,": the latter being purely physical in nature are but "muscular contractions" and are used as catches for holding the pranas at particular places.
    While there is quite a large number of mudras, the bandhas are just a few. The well-known mudras or gestures are the Maha Mudra (the great gesture), (2) Maha Bandha (3) Maha Vetha, (4) Urgyan (Udlyam), (5) Khechari (moving in the void), (6) Vajroli, (7) Jalandhar, (8) Mulvant, (9) Viprit karna (sauwang), (10) Shakti shalana, or Prithvi, Ambhavi, Vaishuanari, Vayavi, and Akashi corresponding respectively to the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether, in addition to these there are still others like the Nabho Mudra, the Yoni, the Manduki, the Kaki, the Matangi, the Bhujangini, the Asvini, etc. Others not enumerated are taken to be modifications of these.
    We may make a passing reference to some of them:
    (i) Asvini Mudra: As the name indicates, it consists in expansion outward and contraction inward of the muscles of the rectum alternately by deep inhalation and exhalation as the asvini or mare does after discharging the feces. It helps in cleansing the intestines, coIon and walls, and in expelling the poisonous gases.
    (ii) Vajroli Mudra: It consists in internal cleanliness of the genitalia by irrigating the general passages in the first instance by oxygenation or air-bath by means of a catheter and then by irrigating them with water mixed with a mild antiseptic. It is performed by nauli process, or with the aid of a sprayer or a douche. In its highest technique, one has to withhold the ejaculation of the sex secretions and to reabsorb them into the system.
    (iii) Khechari Mudra (movement in the void): It consists in retroverting the tongue and pressing it deep into the throat. The practicer gets his tongue split in the form of a fork, as the serpents have. These forked tongues are then washed with a mixed lotion of milk, clarified butter and ashes; and then with the pranic exercise he closes or plugs the two holes of the posterior nostrils by each end of the two-forked tongue and remains absorbed in this condition for days on end and, like a serpent or a tortoise, he may continue in an unconscious state to such an extent that he cannot of himself remain consciousness without the outer aid of others. The whole process is a very complicated one and cannot be practiced bv a layman with impunity without the aid of a perfect yogin. As the name indicates, the mind remains absorbed in the khe or void, does the tongue in the void of the pharynx.
    But this type of samadhi is not a real samadhi with awakening in cosmic order and a superconscious state, but a kind of trance in which one altogether loses consciousness itself. This is not the object of true yoga, which aims at Chaitanya Samadhi as distinguished from Jar Samadhi. A Hatha Yogin through the practice of this mudra can, while drawing his pranas into Sahasrar, shut himself in a box, which may buried underground for months. This kind of Jar Samadhi does not bring in any supersensuous knowledge, wisdom awareness such as characterizes the fully awakened or Chaitanya Samadhi, which is achieved when the power of consciousness gets established in its own true nature, and which can be terminated at will. That is Kaivalya or a state of perfect unison with cosmic and super-cosmic life as contradistinguished from a stone-like, inert state.
    For developing concentration, one may practice the following:
    (i) Agochari Mudra (the imperceptible gesture): Herein one is to sit in his asana with
        concentration fixed on the nose tip.
    (ii) Bhochari Mudra (the gesture of the void): Herein attention is to be fixed on the void,
         a space four fingers down from the nose tip up to which the breath flows.
    (iii) Chachari Mudra: It is called the gesture of the black bee, for in it the mind is to be fixed
          at the black spot behind the eyes.
    While engaged in breath control or pranayama, one may praxes Unmani Mudra or Kavala Kumbhak. The latter state of dazed intoxication and the other is of peaceful repose.
    Again, in the performance of some of the asanas, one to practice certain muscular contractions or ties, with a view to controlling the vital energy. These contractions or ties are technically called bandhas. They are particularly necessary while engaged in pranayama. The most important of these are:
    (a) Mula Bandha (contraction of the basal plexus): By it the Apana Vayu, or the excretory energy, is locked up and drawn in and upwards to the region of the prana and thus effects, or brings about, a union of the prana with apana, the respiratory with the excretory energies. It is done by pressing the rectum with the heel and a strong inward pull of the breath.
    (b) Jalandhara Bandha: contraction of the neck plexus where all the arteries met. It is performed by pressing the chin against the hollow of the collar bones in the chest. It prevents the nectar coming down from Sahasrar from being consumed in the fire within the navel region.
    (c) Uddiyana Bandha: It consists in contracting the navel muscles so as to give support to the lungs and stomach, during inhalation and exhalation. It also causes the life-breath to flow through the subtle nerve, and hence it also goes by the name of flying contraction.

Perfection in asanas (Asana Siddhi)

    There are three signs of perfection in Asana Siddhi:
    1. During the time of asana, the body should be in a state of perfect repose and relaxation,
        with no movement in any part thereof.
    2. Again, one should rise above body-consciousness, and have no knowledge even of
       sensory and motor currents, which are to be left to themselves with no thought about them.
    3. Last, but not the least, one should feel and actually enjoy happiness and bliss within him.
    One can acquire Asana Siddhi or discipline in a year by practicing it regularly for one to six hours every day.
    However, before proceeding further in our survey of Patanjali's Ashtang Yoga, we must remind ourselves that a mastery of the asanas and temperance in living are to be looked upon as a means and not as the end. The sadhak must not forget that physical culture is a preparation. Just as he used ethics with its yamas and niyamas to purify his mind for the inner journey, so too he must discipline his body and daily living, and then work toward his ultimate goal: at-one-ment with Brahman. This point needs emphasizing because human nature is such that in pursuing an arduous course, it often forgets the final end, setting up the means as the goal. Many a yogin takes to the development of physical culture as though that were the be-all and end-all of yoga. In such cases, success in practice of asanas and in moderation of needs, instead of preparing the way for further progress, brings with it a sense of pride and vanity resulting in complacency and spiritual inertia. The discriminating sadhak will learn the basic essentials from this branch of yoga--the secret of health and the best posture for meditation--but he will not attempt to specialize in it or to master all its refinements, for he will know that to get absorbed in the means is to forget the end.


    "As is the food, so is the mind," is an ancient saying, and in it lies an incontrovertible truth, for it is food that goes to make the body and the brain.
    Satvic food plays an important part in the perfection of the body as envisaged by Hatha Yoga, and helps in carrying or any sadhna or yogic discipline without fatigue, languor, lassitude or drowsiness. The chart below lists some of the foods which help or retard the yogic sadhna.

Hatha Yoga Foods

 Foods conducive to the yogic sadhna        Foods that retard the yogic sadhna

1 Barley, black gram,                                     Moth, mash, musur (lentils)
 whole mung (green                                       peas, unhusked gram,
 gram), rice, til (gingelly                                  wheat, oils and fats, sour
 seeds), shakar (jaggery)                               milk and sour curd, spoiled
 milk and milk ghee,                                        meat in all forms,
 products, butter and                                      fish, fowl and eggs, etc.
 clarified butter
 - all in moderation.

2 Black pepper, almonds,                             Pineapple, red radishes.
 ginger, currants, lime--
 in moderation.

3 Mangoes, grapes, guavas                          Watermelon and kakari.
   apples, oranges, figs,
   gooseberries, dates
   and peaches, etc.
   - in moderation.

4 Melon, cucumber -- in                                 Turi (snake gourd), kashiphal
 small quantities,                                             (red pumpkin), brinjal
                                                                        (eggplant), lady's finger
                                                                        and chulai (amaranth or
                                                                        spinach-like plant).

5 Pumpkin, plain turi                                       Spices, condiments, chilies,
 (ridge gourd), ghia turi                                   pepper, sauces and other
 (plain gourd), spinach,                                   acid producing stimulants
 parwal (coecinia indica)                                 and things pungent, bitter
 and swaran leaves                                        and sour.
 -  in small quantities.

    In brief, fresh and green vegetables, leafy vegetables, fruit: and nuts, milk, butter and ghee constitute an ideal diet for any man. Three meals a day are considered more than sufficient. We may note that foods that are stale, highly seasoned, half-cooked or over-cooked, and fruits that are over-ripe, under-ripe, or lying cut; also sweets and sweetmeats, are to avoided. Likewise, aerated drinks, stimulants like tea and coffee, and intoxicants of all descriptions are not to be brought into use.


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