Yoga

ESSENCE OF YOGA

By: SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA

 A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY PUBLICATION

 Thirteenth Edition: 1988

https://www.dlshq.org/download/essence_yoga.htm


Chapter I

Yoga


Yoga is a perfect practical system of self-culture. Yoga is an exact science. It aims at the harmonious development of the body, the mind and the soul. Yoga is the turning away of the senses from the objective universe and the concentration of the mind within. Yoga is eternal life in the soul or spirit. Yoga aims at controlling the mind and its modifications. The path of Yoga is an inner path whose gateway is your heart.

Yoga is the discipline of the mind, senses and physical body. Yoga helps in the co-ordination and control of the subtle forces within the body. Yoga brings in perfection, peace and everlasting happiness. Yoga can help you in your business and in your daily life. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. You can have restful sleep. You can have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. Yoga transmutes animal nature into divine nature and raises you to the pinnacle of divine glory and splendour.

The practice of Yoga will help you to control the emotions and passions and will give you power to resist temptations and to remove the disturbing elements form mind. It will enable you to keep a balanced mind always and remove fatigue. It will confer on you serenity, calmness and wonderful concentration. It will enable you to hold communion with the Lord and thus attain the summum bonum of existence.

If you want to attain success in Yoga, you will have to abandon all worldly enjoyments and practise Tapas and Brahmacharya. You will have to control the mind skilfully and tactfully. You will have to use judicious and intelligent methods to curb it. If you use force, it will become more turbulent and mischievous. It cannot be controlled by force. It will jump and drift away more and more. Those who attempt to control the mind by force are like those who endeavour to bind a furious elephant with a thin silken thread.

A Guru or preceptor is indispensable for the practice of Yoga. The aspirant in the path of Yoga should be humble, simple, gentle, refined, tolerant, merciful and kind. If you have a curiosity to get psychic powers, you cannot have success in Yoga. Yoga does not consist in sitting cross-legged for six hours or stopping the pulse or beatings of the heart or getting oneself buried underneath the ground for a week or a month.

Self-sufficiency, impertinence, pride, luxury, name, fame, self-assertive nature, obstinacy, idea of superiority, sensual desires, evil company, laziness, overeating, overwork, too much mixing and too much talking are some of the obstacles in the path of Yoga. Admit your faults freely. When you are free from all these evil traits, Samadhi or union will come by itself.

Practise Yama and Niyama. Sit comfortably in Padma or Siddhasana. Restrain the breath. Withdraw the senses. Control the thoughts. Concentrate. Meditate and attain Asamprajnata or Nirvikalpa Samadhi (union with the Supreme Self).

May you shine as a brilliant Yogi by the practice of Yoga! May you enjoy the bliss of the Eternal!

Essence of Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is selfless service unto humanity. "Your duty is to work incessantly but not to expect the fruits thereof." This is the central teaching of the Gita.

Repeat your Ishta mantra mentally even when you work in office. God is the Inner Ruler. He directs the body, mind and senses to work. Become an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Do not expect thanks or appreciation for your work. Do actions as your duty and offer them and their fruits to the Lord. You will be freed from the bonds of Karma. It is not the Karma but the selfish motive that binds the man.

Never, never say, "I have helped that man." Feel and think, "That man gave me an opportunity to serve. This piece of service has helped me to purify my mind. I am extremely grateful to him." If you see a poor man clad in rags standing in front of your door, feel that the Lord is before you in the form of a poor man. Serve him with Narayana Bhava.

Never grumble when you do service to others. Take delight in service. Watch for opportunities, to serve. Never miss even a single opportunity. Work is worship of the Lord.

A Karma Yogi should have an amiable, loving, social nature. He should have sympathy, adaptability, self-restraint, tolerance, love and mercy. He should adjust himself to the ways and habits of others. He should be able to bear insult, harsh words, criticism, pleasure and pain, heat and cold.

You can do selfless service according to your ability and station in life. An advocate can plead for poor people without accepting fees. A doctor can treat the poor free of charge. A teacher or professor can give free tution to poor boys. He can supply them books for study.

Have a medicine-chest of 12 tissue remedies or some allopathic medicines or homoeopathic medicines. Serve the poor and sick with Atma Bhava. Give one-tenth of your income in charity. This is the highest Yoga.

Do not make any difference between menial and respectable work. If any one is suffering from acute-pain in any part of the body, at once shampoo the affected part very gently. Feel that you are serving the Lord in the body of the patient. Repeat your Ishta mantra also. If you see a man or animal bleeding on the roadside, never hesitate to tear your upper cloth or shirt and use it for bandaging, in the absence of any other means of bandage. Do not bargain with the poor porters at the railway station. Be liberal and generous. Keep always some small coins in your pocket and distribute them to the poor and the decrepit.

Karma Yoga prepares the mind for the reception of light and knowledge. It expands the heart and breaks all barriers that stand in the way of oneness or unity. Karma Yoga is an effective Sadhana for Chitta Suddhi or purity of heart. Therefore, do selfless service constantly.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga relates to the restraint of breath (Pranayama), Asanas, Bandhas and Mudras. 'Ha' and 'tha' mean the union of the sun and the moon, union of Prana and Apana Vayus. 'Hatha' means any tenacious practice till the object or end is achieved. Trataka, standing on one leg, (a kind of Tapas) and similar poses are all Hatha Yoga practices. Hatha Yoga is inseparable from Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga begins where Hatha Yoga ends. Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga are interdependent. Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga are the necessary counterparts of each other. No one can become a perfect Yogi without a knowledge and practice of both the Yogas. Hatha Yoga prepares the student to take up Raja Yoga.

A Hatha Yogi starts his Sadhana with body and Prana; a Raja Yogi starts his Sadhana with his mind; a Jnana Yogi starts his Sadhana with Buddhi or intellect and will.

A Hatha Yogi gets Siddhis (psychic powers) by uniting Prana and Apana and by taking the united Prana-Apana through the six Chakras (centres of spiritual energy) to Sahasrara at the crown of the head. A Raja Yogi gets Siddhis by Samyama, i.e., combined practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi at one time. A Jnana Yogi exhibits Siddhis through pure will or Sat-Sankalpa. A Bhakta gets Siddhis through self-surrender and the consequent descent of grace. Kriyas, viz., Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti, Tratak and Kapalabhati belong to Hatha Yoga. All need not practise these Kriyas. Those who have got much phlegm in the body should practise these Kriyas. Learn these under an expert Hatha Yogi. Hatha Yoga is not the goal. It is only a means to an end. Take to Raja Yoga after possessing good health.

Do Asana, Kumbhaka, Mudra and shake the Kundalini. Then take it to Sahasrara through Chakras in the Sushumna. O children of light! Will you drink not, will you drink not, the nectar of immortality?

Brother! Attain good health. Without health how can you live? Without health, how can you earn? Without health how can you get success in Yoga or any undertaking? Possess wonderful health through the practice of Hatha Yoga. Drink the nectar in Sahasrara and live in the immortal abode of Siva.

Yoga Asanas

Health is wealth. Health is indeed a covetable possession. Good health is a valuable asset to one and all. It can be achieved by the regular practice of Yoga Asanas.

The practice of Asanas controls the emotions, produces mental peace, distributes Prana evenly throughout the body and different systems, helps in maintaining healthy functioning of the internal organs, gives internal massage to the various abdominal organs. Physical exercises draw the Prana (energy) out but the Asanas send the Prana in. The practice of Asanas cures many diseases and awakens Kundalini Sakti. These are the chief advantages in the Yogic system of exercises which no other systems have.

Practise a few Asanas daily at least for a period of fifteen minutes. You will possess wonderful health. Be regular in your practice. Regularity is of paramount importance. Practise Bhujang, Salabh, Dhanur, Sarvang, Hala and Paschimottasan Asanas. Bhujang, Salabh and Dhanur will remove constipation and muscular pain of the back. Sirsh, Sarvang and Hala will help you in maintaining Brahmacharya, rendering the spine elastic and curing all diseases. Paschimottasan will reduce fat in the belly and help digestion. Relax all muscles in Savasana in the end.

Asanas should be done on empty stomach in the morning or at least three hours after food. Morning time is best for doing Asanas. Do not wear spectacles when you do Asanas. Wear a singlet if necessary and a Langotee. Be moderate in your diet. Practice of Brahmacharya is very important for success in Yoga Asanas. Start with minimum time for each Asana and then gradually increase the period. Answer the calls of nature before you start the practice. Boys and girls over ten years of age as well as women can practise Asanas.

The world needs good, healthy, strong boys and girls. What do we find in these days in India? India, the land of Rishis and sages, the land which produced Bhishma, Bhima, Arjuna, Drona, Asvatthama, Kripa, Parasurama and countless other chivalrous warriors, the soil which contained numberless Rajput chiefs of undaunted courage and matchless strength, now abounds in weak and timid persons. Children beget children. The laws of health are ignored and neglected. The nation is suffering and dying. The world requires numberless brave, moral, Adhyatmic soldiers who are equipped with the five virtues, viz., Ahimsa, Satyam, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.

Pranayama

Pranayama is an exact science. It is the fourth Anga or limb of Ashtanga Yoga. It is the regulation of breath or control of Prana.

Pranayama steadies the mind, augments the gastric fire, energises digestion, invigorates the nerves, destroys the Rajas, destroys all diseases, removes all laziness, makes the body light and healthy and awakens Kundalini.

Pranayama should be practised when the stomach is empty. Be regular in your practice. Do not take bath immediately after the practice. Do not practise Kumbhaka or retention of breath in the beginning. Have only slow and mild Puraka (inhalation) and Rechaka (exhalation). Do not strain the breath beyond your capacity. Keep the ratio for Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka as 1:4:2. Exhale very very slowly.

Sit on Padma, Siddha or Sukha Asana. Keep the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Inhale slowly through the left nostril and retain the breath according to the ratio, then exhale slowly through the right nostril. This is half process of Pranayama. Then inhale through the right nostril, retain and exhale through the left nostril. Do not retain the breath for more than one or two minutes.

Do ten or twenty Pranayamas according to your capacity. Do not fatigue yourself. Increase the number gradually. You can go up to 16:64:32. This is Sukhapurvaka or easy comfortable Pranayama.

Practise Sitali in summer. This will purify your blood and cool the system too. Practise Bhastrika in winter. This will cure asthma and consumption. Repeat 'Om' or 'Rama' mentally during the practice. Observe Brahmacharya and diet-control. You will derive maximum benefits and will quickly purify the Nadis or nerves.

Prana and mind are intimately related to each other. If you control Prana, the mind will also be controlled. If you control the mind, the Prana will be automatically controlled. Prana is related to mind, and through it to will and through will to the individual soul and through individual soul to the Supreme Soul.

Start the practice this very second in right earnest. Control the breath and calm the mind. Steady the breath and enter Samadhi. Restrain the breath and lengthen the life. Subdue the breath and become a Yogi, a dynamo of power, peace, bliss and happiness.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Sakti is the coiled-up, dormant, cosmic power that underlies all organic as well as inorganic matter. It is the primordial energy that lies at the basal Muladhara Chakra in a dormant, potential state. Kundalini Yoga is that Yoga which treats of Kundalini Sakti, the seven Chakras or centres of spiritual energy, the arousing of the sleeping Kundalini Sakti and its union with Lord Siva in Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the head. The seven Chakras are pierced by the passing of Kundalini Sakti to the top of the head.

The seven Chakras are: Muladhara (at the anus), Svadhishthana (at the root of the organ of generation), Manipura (at the navel), Anahata (in the heart), Visuddha (in the neck), Ajna (in the space between the two eyebrows) and Sahasrara (at the crown of the head).

Nadis are the astral tubes that carry Pranic currents. They cannot be seen by naked eyes. They are not the ordinary nerves, arteries and veins. There are 72,000 Nadis. Among them three are important. They are Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Sushumna is the most important one, because Kundalini passes through this Nadi only. The first step in Kundalini Yoga is the purification of Nadis. When Sushumna is pure then only Kundalini will pass through it. Purification of Nadis is done by the practice of Pranayama.

The Yogi opens the mouth of Sushumna Nadi through Pranayama, Bandhas and Mudras and awakens the sleeping Kundalini and takes Her to Sahasrara at the crown of the head through the lower six Chakras. Kundalini sleeps in the Muladhara in 31/2 coils. The three coils represent the three Gunas and half coil represents the Vikritis.

Kundalini is awakened through Pranayama, Asanas and Mudras by Hatha Yogins, through concentration by Raja Yogins, through devotion and perfect self-surrender by Bhaktas or devotees; through analytical will, by the Jnanis; by Japa of Mantra and by the grace of the Guru.

If you are pure and free from all desires, Kundalini will awaken by itself and you will be benefited. If you awaken Kundalini by violent methods, forcibly, when your heart is impure, when desires lurk in your mind, you will come across temptations of various sorts, when you move from plane to plane, you will have a downfall. You will have no strength of will to resist these temptations.

That aspirant who has firm faith in Yogic Sastras, who is courageous, devotional, humble, generous, merciful, pure and dispassionate, can easily awaken Kundalini and attain success in Samadhi. He should also be equipped with right conduct and self-restraint; he should constantly engage himself in the service of his Guru and be free from lust, anger, Moha, greed and vanity.

When Kundalini is taken to the Sahasrara, when She is united with Lord Siva, perfect Samadhi (super-conscious blissful state) ensues. The Yogi drinks the nectar of immortality.

May Mother Kundalini guide you all in your Yogic practices ! May Her blessings be upon you all!

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is an exact science. It aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications. It concerns with the mind, its purification and control. Hence it is called Raja Yoga, i.e., king of all Yogas. It is otherwise known as Ashtanga Yoga i.e., Yoga with eight limbs.

The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are: Yama (self-restraint), Niyama (religious observances), Asana (posture), Pranayama (restraint of breath), Pratyahara (abstraction of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (super-conscious state). Yama is practice of Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness) in thought, word and deed. This is the foundation of Yoga. Niyama is observance of the five canons viz., Saucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity). Svadhyaya (study of religious books and repetition of Mantras) and Ishvara-Pranidhana (worship of God and self-surrender). Cultivate Maitri (friendship with equals), Karuna (mercy towards inferiors), Mudita (complaisancy towards superiors), Upeksha (indifference towards wicked people). You can eradicate jealousy and hatred and attain peace of mind. Ascend the ladder of Yoga patiently through its different rungs and attain the highest summit of the ladder, i.e., Asamprajnata Samadhi, wherein all Samskaras (impressions) which bring about successive births are absolutely fried up.

If you really aspire to unfold the lurking divinity within, if you really want to get rid of the meshes of this Samsara, you must know the technique of thought-control which is embodied in the system of Raja Yoga. You must know the ways of right living, right thinking, right speaking and right acting. You must practise the five rules of Yama or right conduct or Sadachara. You must know how to withdraw the mind from external objects and fix it on one point. You must know the right method of concentration and meditation. Then alone you can be really happy. Then and then alone, you will have power, independence and suzerainty. Then and then alone, you will attain immortality, freedom and perfection. A knowledge of the ways and habits of the mind, its operations, the laws of the mind and the methods of mind-control and mental discipline is very necessary if you want to enjoy real happiness and peace of an unruffled and abiding nature.

Practise Raja Yoga, control the thoughts, discipline the mind, meditate regularly and attain independence, immortality, freedom and perfection.

Control of Mind

Mind is Atma Sakti. It is through mind only that Brahman or the Supreme Self manifests as the differentiated universe with heterogeneous objects.

Mind is nothing but a collection of Samskaras or impressions. It is nothing but a bundle of habits. The true nature of the mind consists in the Vasanas or subtle desires. The idea of 'I' or egoism is the seed of the tree of mind. The sprout which springs up from this seed egoism is Buddhi or intellect. From this sprout the ramifying branches called Sankalpas take their origin.

Mind is made up of subtle Sattvic matter. According to Chhandogya Upanishad, mind is formed out of the subtlest portion of food.

Mind is of two kinds, viz., the Asuddha or impure mind and the Suddha or pure mind. The former leads to bondage while the latter helps the aspirant to attain liberation.

Manolaya or temporary absorption of the mind in the object of meditation will not help you to attain liberation. Manonasa or annihilation of the mind only will enable you to achieve the final emancipation or Moksha.

Have no longing for objects. Reduce your wants. Cultivate Vairagya or dispassion. Vairagya thins out the mind.

Do not mix much. Do not talk much. Do not walk much. Do not eat much. Do not sleep much.

Control your emotion. Abandon desires and Vasanas. Control irritability and lust. Slay the impure mind through the pure mind and transcend the pure mind through meditation. Practise perfect Brahmacharya. There is no half measure in the spiritual path.

Never wrestle with the mind. Do not use any violent effort in concentration. When the mind is jumping and wandering much, make no violent effort to control it but rather allow it to run along for a while and exhaust its efforts. It will take advantage of the opportunity and will jump around like an unchained monkey at first. Then it will gradually become quiet and look to you for orders.

If evil thoughts enter your mind, do not use your will-force in driving them. You will lose energy. You will tax your will. You will fatigue yourself. The greater the efforts you make, the more the evil thoughts will return with redoubled force. They will return more quickly also. The thoughts will become more powerful. Be indifferent. Keep quiet. Become a silent witness of those thoughts. Do not identify yourself with them. They will vanish soon. Substitute good thoughts. Pray and sing the Lord's name.

Never miss for a day your meditation. Regularity is of paramount importance. When the mind is tired do not concentrate. Give a little rest. Do not take heavy food at night. This will interfere with your morning meditation.

Japa, Kirtan, Pranayama, Satsanga (association with the sages), practice of Sama (serenity), Dama (self-restraint), Yama (right conduct), Sattvic or pure food, study of scriptures, meditation, Vichara or Atmic enquiry-all these will help you to control the mind and attain eternal bliss and immortality.