Asana is a fundamental aspect of yoga practice, and it is designed to help us develop physical, mental, and spiritual strength and flexibility. The practice of asana involves holding specific postures or poses, with the aim of promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are some key features of asana that make it such an important tool for self-improvement:
1. Stable and comfortable
One of the key features of asana is that it encourages us to find a state of stability and comfort within each posture. This is achieved through proper alignment, engagement of the core muscles, and a focus on deep breathing. Stability helps us to maintain the posture for a longer period, allowing us to benefit fully from the practice. By finding a sense of stability and comfort within each posture, we can learn to stay grounded and centered even in challenging situations.
2. Stimulation and Relaxation
Another key feature of asana is that it stimulates and relaxes different parts of the body and mind. Each posture can be thought of as a specific tool for targeting different areas of the body, such as the spine, hips, shoulders, and legs. Asana first help to stimulate all such different parts of our body, by gentle stretch, improving blood circulation or by massaging effect.
At the same time, asana also encourages us to cultivate a state of relaxation and surrender, reducing tension and stress. This is achieved through conscious breathing and withdrawal of stimulation, at the same time maintaining an internal awareness. By learning to let go of tension and resistance, we can create a sense of ease and openness in our bodies and minds.
3. Merging with Infinity
Another key feature of asana is that it encourages us to connect with the infinite nature of the universe. Each posture is designed to help us access a deeper level of consciousness and awareness, where we can experience a sense of merging with the universe. As we practice different postures, we become more aware of our body and breath, and our mind becomes more focused and still. This helps us to connect with our inner self and the universal consciousness, leading to a deeper sense of peace and harmony.
Through this merging with infinity, we can tap into a source of infinite wisdom, love, and compassion. This can help us to overcome feelings of fear, doubt, and anxiety, and to cultivate a sense of peace, joy, and gratitude.
4. Dual Free
Finally, asana is designed to help us break free from the limitations of duality. In yoga philosophy, duality refers to the idea that we see ourselves as separate from the universe and from other people, as well as the concept of opposites, such as hot and cold, light and dark, or good and bad. This sense of separation can lead to feelings of loneliness, fear, and insecurity.
Through the practice of asana, we can learn to see ourselves as interconnected with the universe and with all living beings. This can help us to cultivate a sense of oneness, compassion, and empathy. By breaking free from the limitations of duality, we can create a sense of freedom and liberation in our lives. As we practice asanas, we learn to be in the present moment and accept things as they are, without getting attached to any particular outcome or judgment. This helps us to transcend duality and achieve a state of oneness and unity.
In conclusion, asana is a powerful tool for self-improvement, offering us a wide range of benefits for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, incorporating asana into your daily routine can help you to find stability, relaxation, connection, and freedom.
Hatha yoga is a practice that helps to unlock the power of your solar and lunar energies within. By balancing the opposite energies, you can open yourself up to a science of purification and energy channelization. This practice is believed to be able to transmute cells from gross to subtle and accelerate evolution by compressing life into few minutes of bodily existence. This blog post will break down what hatha yoga is, how it works, and why it is such an effective system for unlocking your body’s power.
What Is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha yoga is an ancient system of physical movement that originated in India hundreds of years ago. It was designed as a way to balance physical, mental, and spiritual energies within the body through conscious breathing patterns, posture work, meditation, and relaxation techniques. It has been used for centuries by yogis (practitioners) as a way to achieve higher levels of consciousness and self-realization.
Hatha yoga helps us to tap into our inner solar and lunar energies, which are said to be opposite forces. The idea is that when we bring these forces together, we can create perfect harmony between mind, body and spirit – a state known as “samadhi”. At its core, hatha yoga seeks to make changes at the cellular level by transmuting cells from gross matter into subtle matter. This shift helps us gain access to our inner wisdom which can lead us towards higher consciousness and spiritual enlightenment. By compressing lifetimes worth of knowledge into a few minutes of bodily existence, we can rapidly accelerate our own evolution.
How Does Hatha Yoga Work?
Hatha yoga works by activating the body’s subtle energies (prana) which are believed to be responsible for our overall health and wellbeing. Through conscious breathing patterns (pranayama), postures (asanas), meditation, and relaxation techniques (shavasana), we can tap into these hidden powers within us. By using these tools in combination with each other, hatha yoga can help us access our own inner wisdom and intuition while providing us with tools to manage modern day stress more effectively. In addition to this, hatha yoga also helps strengthen muscles throughout the entire body while improving overall flexibility.
Transforming Our Bodies Through Hatha Yoga
The chief benefit associated with the practice of Hatha yoga is its capacity for transforming our bodies from gross matter into subtle matter. As we practice asanas and pranayama regularly, we begin to notice changes in our physical form as well as mental clarity and emotional stability. We also become more aware of how certain postures affect us differently than others – some may make us feel energized while others may make us feel relaxed. By becoming familiar with these sensations, we can learn how best to tailor each session according to our needs at any given time.
Why Is Hatha Yoga So Effective?
Hatha yoga has been proven time and time again to have numerous benefits for practitioners both physically and mentally. Physically speaking, it increases circulation throughout the whole body while stimulating organs like the heart, lungs, digestive system, etc., leading to improved overall health. Mentally speaking, it helps improve focus and concentration while reducing stress levels through its calming effects on both mind and body. In addition, research has also shown that practicing this form of yoga can have an impact on brain plasticity – meaning it can help improve cognitive functioning such as memory recall and emotion regulation over time. Improved brain plasticity also help reduce symptoms associated with neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia in elderly individuals or those suffering from traumatic brain injury or stroke recovery.
Hatha yoga is an incredibly powerful practice that can lead us down a path towards accelerated evolution. By creating balance between solar and lunar energies within us, we are able to purify and channel energy which leads to higher levels of consciousness. Through this practice, we are also able take advantage of brain plasticity by creating new neural pathways or strengthening existing ones in order to gain greater insight into ourselves and achieve spiritual enlightenment faster than ever before! If you’re looking for a way to increase your personal growth rate exponentially, look no further—hatha yoga could be exactly what you need!
Surya means sun and namaskara means salutations. Surya namaskara is a series of twelve physical postures which is practiced as an offering to sun, which symbolizes spiritual consciousness. The twelve postures are woven in a manner which gives complete movement to spinal column and other joints and limbs of body. All postures are practiced with breath rhythm which makes practice more complete and profound.
What is Surya Namaskara
Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation has a special place in all yogic traditions. This is because yoga understands life processes as an intimate interconnection with the cosmos. The sun that we see in the distant sky is not a separate entity but forms a cohesive unit of total life that flourish on Earth. Without sun life will be impossible on Earth. This mutual dependence of life was clearly understood by the ancient yogis who developed this powerful system of Surya Namaskara.
There is ample evidence about the periodic changes on the surface of sun and its correlation with terrestrial phenomena. With this integrated practice of Surya Namaskara we become aware of the effects of the sun on our lives and can attune ourselves with the cosmic nature and revitalize our lives.
Surya Namaskara is a series of 12 physical postures which combines the effects of Yogasana and Pranayama. Surya Namaskara is practiced at sunrise facing the sun. It can also be practiced during sunset. Surya Namaskara flexes and stretches the spinal column and limbs through their maximum range. The series of asanas in Surya Namakara gives such a profound stretch to the whole of body that it becomes a complete form of exercise. In yoga the sun is represented by pingala or surya nadi, the pranic channel which carries the vital, life-giving force. Hence Surya namaskar is an excellent practice of activating prana (life force) in our system.
Surya Namaskara warms-up our body and brings about the general flexibility in the body preparing it for Asana and Pranayama. It helps to revitalize and refresh our body and mind at the dawn so that we can productively utilized the day till dusk. It can be practiced in three different phases. Each phase has its own distinct benefits.
1. Slow pace helps to make body flexible
2. Medium pace helps to tone the muscles
3. Fast pace is excellent cardiovascular workout and also helps in weight loss
The seven Chakras are also known as the psychic centers of our personality. According to Rishis (sage) they are situated in our subtle body. Although there is not a scientific explanation yet regarding these psychic centers, the Rishis had experienced them while they had been in deep meditative states. There are myriads of chakras in every person, but as mentioned by the Tantrik texts of Hatha Yoga, there are around thirty-two chakras out of which seven are the most important. These seven main psychic centers of our personality will be analyzed in this blog.
Defining the Chakras
The information that we have regarding the psychic centers of our personality are mostly from the Tantra Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Literally the Sanskrit word chakra means wheel or circle, but as explained by the Rishis it means whirlpool.
Chakras are considered as spinning disks of energy in our subtle body. They sent vibrations at specific areas in the subtle body and they control the flow and the direction of prana within it (for prana click here: the-energy-that-gives-material-form-to-everything/ ). Although the psychic centers of our personality are located in our subtle body, yogis had realized that the chakras are very much related to our anatomical regions and our physiological functions as well, especially to our endocrine glands. Hence, they affect our physical and emotional well being.
Chakras had been experienced by the yogis in the form of lotus (padma). Lotus is a beautiful flower with very deep meaning, it is a concept and it has become an archetype. The lotus flower has to pass through three stages until it blooms: mud, water, blooming. These stages are related to a person’s spiritual path. For instance in the spiritual path a person has to pass through three phases: ignorance (darkness, mud), aspiration and endeavor (endeavor of lotus to pass through water to surface), illumination (blooming). Additionaly the lotus flower is regarded as a symbol of detachment because although lotus needs water to survive it is detached by it because its leaves are waterproofed.
The ‘anatomy’ of the psychic centers
The yogis under deep meditative states have experienced that the seven chakras are located along the merudanda, which in the physical level is our spinal column. Each of the psychic centers corresponds to a network of very subtle nadis. Nadi means flow, thus nadis are pranic channels for the flow of prana. In our physical body these nadis can be related to the arteries or nerves. According to Tantra Yoga there are approximately 72,000 nadis in our body out of which three are the most important. That is Ida nadi, Pigala nadi and Sushumna nadi, which circulate the mental, vital and spiritual energies respectively within our subtle body. The principal nadi is the Sushumna Nadi, which is considered to be inside our merudanda. As per the Rishis, in the physical body Sushumna nadi extends from the region of our genitals to the crown of the head. Ida and Pigala nadis – which are also in the merudanda– lie respectively on left and right side of the Sushumna base, that is at our genitals. They ascend together in a coiled manner around the Sushumna nadi by creating ‘meeting’ junctions in certain points of the Sushumna. Each ‘meeting’ junction created on the Sushumna nadi by Ida and Pingala originates one of the seven main Chakras that will be analyzed here.
It is important to understand that the above correlations of nadis in our physical body are not tangible, they are just a projection on it. For instance we cannot feel the nadis by putting our fingers on our spine, neither they can be seen through an X-ray nor through a body operation nor with any other medical approach because they are in our subtle body, which can only be experienced. As you know the subject of modern anatomical science is the physical body rather than the subtle body. Subtle body is still controversial subject in most of the modern medicine fields. Hence, these correlations are meant only to help the modern mind to understand the concept of nadis and the psychic centers.
The theory around the chakras – the psychic centers
According to the Rishis there are many chakras in our subtle body out of which seven are the most important and which in our physical body reflected in our spine. Each one of the seven chakras is pictured in the form of lotus having a certain number of petals and a characteristic color. Each chakra is reflected in a specific part on the spine, it is related with a certain gland, it is associated with one of the five elements of nature, a particular sense – organ, an organ of action, a vayu, a seed-syllable, a male deity and his consort and a representative animal. When one chakra does not function properly, there is imbalance of the flow of energy in our subtle body, which is manifested in the form of disease in the physical body. It is considered that there are certain diseases that are caused by a certain chakra which is not in balance. Equilibrium of chakras functions means health and to maintain this health in the physical level there are specific groups of asanas for chakra balancing. These theories are part of the evolution of chakra theory and not the base. These theories have emerged because the psychic centers have stimulated enormously the interest of many other traditions around the world which have tried to analyze them. Thus, although the source of the chakras are the Kundalini Yoga, Tantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga, the latest information that we have regarding the psychoanalysis, the diseases and the group of asana related to the chakras is a mixture of Indian tradition, western approach and Chinese medicine.
The ‘meeting’ pointof the three main nadis where they merge into one stream of consciousness up to Sahashrara.
Number of Petals
Group of Asana
Trataka, meditation, Shambavi mudra, kaki mudra, jala neti, sutra neti
Higher states of awareness, clairvoyance, strong will power
7. Sahashrara – Crown Chakra
Sahasrara = One Thousand
The union of Shiva & Shakti
Number of Petals
The above information of the chakras’ features come mostly from the Tantric and Hatha Yogic books. In our attempt to study the chakras deeply from different sources we might find some slight differences. This is because there are many interpretations of the chakra analysis by different traditions which give their own point of view.
Once again, it should be remembered that the description of chakras is directly derived from visualizations, and not from imaginative reflection, which means that the concept of chakras is essentially esoteric. Therefore, attempts at discovering the physiological correlates are bound to be misleading.
When we talk about ancient Indian philosophy we mean the Indian systems of thoughts which through scientific study have shown, in their own ways, the path to self-realization. In like manner when we listen about psychoanalysis our mind relates it mostly to the western method of psyche treatment and to its founder Sigmund Freud. But what could be the potential relation between these two apparently different approaches for self-development that East & West suggest? In this article we will explain that the base of the techniques/theories of Indian philosophy and of psychoanalysis, which have helped many people to overcome their mental barriers, has a very important similarity.
The Sanskrit word that is used for philosophy is Darshana which literally means ‘to see’. To see not only what is seen by the organ of sight, but to see-realize-experience the highest truth. Indian philosophy has been intensely spiritual and has always emphasized the realization of truth which is the ultimate reality. The term Darshana mostly refers to the six Indian orthodox philosophical systems (shad darshan): Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedanta. They are considered orthodox because they accept the “Vedas” as their guiding light. Apart from them there are some other indian philosophical systems which are considered heterodox because they have not accepted the Vedas as the supreme authority. The teachings of Gautama the Buddha is regarded as one of the heterodox systems of Indian philosophy. Among all these philosophical/spiritual streams (orthodox & heterodox) Vedanta, Yoga Darshana and the teachings of Gautama the Buddha are regarded as the most influential paths to self-realization, until nowadays.
The gift of Meditation
Gautama the Buddha had discovered his own unique way of liberating mankind from all the miseries. He initiated an exceptional practice of meditation which he called Vipassana. Vipassana literally means to observe thoroughly, to see clearly. The purpose of this meditation technique is to guide people to reach into their unconscious level of mind so that they find their deep-rooted impressions and to remove them. According to the Buddha the cause of all our sufferings is found in these deeply rooted samskaras (impressions) which lie on the unconscious mind. Once we realize them we come out of all our bondages. Vipassana meditation technique is a deep “surgical operation” of the mind and so are the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (Yoga Darshana). Yoga Darshana is regarded as the path of meditation and the influence of Maharishi Patanjali by Gautama the Buddha is very much visible in the ‘Yoga Sutra’. Maharishi Patanjali is counted to be the traditional founder of Yoga Darshana. He collected, combined and systematized the knowledge of yoga that was already existed and compiled it in his masterpiece manual “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali”, which is divided into 4 chapters. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a manual in which there is deep and detailed analysis of the deepest levels of human mind. From the ‘Yoga Sutra’ we can assume that Maharishi Patanjali considers meditation as the ultimate way to liberation.
Indian Scriptures meet Psychoanalysis
The similarities between these teachings and the theories of Sigmund Freud (founder of psychoanalysis) and Carl Jung (founder of analytical psychology) regarding the importance of conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind in a person’s life are very interesting. The foundation of psychoanalysis is based on these three states of mind (conscious, subconscious, unconscious). Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung hold the same theory that our experiences are stored in our subconscious mind and they are unconsciously redirected or transferred to our conscious state influencing our present life. In simple terms through psychoanalysis the person is guided to look inwards to find the impressions that have been imprinted to the person’s unconscious mind by the experiences of the past. According to the founders of psychoanalysis most of our pains, our fears and mental barriers have their roots in our unconscious mind. This is something that has been highlighted by Gautama the Buddha, Yoga Darshana and Mandukhya upanishad as well. In Mandukhya upanishad these states of mind are called avasthatraya (Jagarat, Swapna, Sushupti) (you can see more details here: what-is-the-meaning-of-mantra-aum-or-om/ ), in Vipassana technique they are defined as chetan, avachetan, achetan and in Patanjali ‘Yoga Sutra’ they are indirectly meant, especially in the first chapter of ‘Samadhi Pada’.
The Importance of Introspection
Many people cannot look within that is why they will always blame others of their sufferings. They have relationship issues, career difficulties, panic attack crises, mental disorders, yet they keep accusing others of their condition. It is difficult to look inwards, because there is darkness, pain and fear from the past impressions that were imprinted in our mind, mostly during our childhood or even more back. Our behavior patterns, acts, hesitations, arguing are controlled by these deep-rooted impressions, which by Gautama the Buddha and Yoga Darshana are called samskaras. Some of them are rooted in the subconscious mind and most of them are in the unconscious mind. Until unless we realize it, we will be PUPPETS in the hands of the states of mind which will have the role of a puppeteer. If you want to liberate yourself from the strings of puppeteer now is the time for change. You know the way; you just have to choose the path.
Wisdom arises in the moments of pure relaxation. Wisdom is to see the things as they are and not as they appear. But to ‘see’ things are they are, cannot be accomplished from the surface layers of mind which are always agitated and disturbed and from where we normally operate. A deeply calm, subtle and penetrating mind has to be cultivated to see things and events in their real nature and not their deceptive form. The moment we transcend the activity of superficial thinking mind, we start moving towards deeper awareness and we experience both wisdom and state of inner relaxation.
Obtaining the right wisdom and carrying it within has been the focal point of all spiritual tradition. From schools of Yoga and Vedanta to the Buddha, search was on for pure knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom for what? For complete eradication of stresses and sufferings.
It was known that gathered knowledge and skill are insufficient means for termination of stresses and states of bondage. People had the knowledge of stars and planets and skills to focus their minds but still there seems to be no end for stress. Stress is not just a modern day phenomena. Stress represents imbalance and imbalances were there in the past too. Patanjali has described stress as klesha and Buddha as dukha. Every action and effort was falling short to deal with the problem of stress or misery. Misery existed beyond doubt and the methods for its eradication were limited and uncertain. There was the need of a completely new way to reach out complete solution to the problem of stress. A discovery had to be made. If there is a problem, then solution has to be there.
Knowledge and skill are part of action and effort. Every time an action is made, something new emerges. With action there is new result, a new building up, a new becoming and a new variant of stress. Action, knowledge and skill howsoever precise and sublime may be, were proving insufficient. Something was missing. What exists beyond human action, knowledge and skill may be the solution. But that is the unknown realm full of speculation and without any perceptual reality or evidence. What if we start observing the action? All kinds of action, those which proceed from body and also those intrinsic to the body like breath, if put under awareness? Actions are endless and flowing with the actions has the potency to propel us endlessly in this present state of imbalance or stress. Therefore, observing action and witnessing it is the new discovery. With this discovery the search came to an end and there is dawn of wisdom.
Thus, the wisdom is in witnessing. Witnessing dissolves ego. Earlier action was building up knowledge and skill, which is feeding the ego. Ego is imbalance and hence stress and misery. Action-knowledge-skill-ego-bondage-stress-misery. A great vicious circle. Now the only way out is to witness. Witness the action of breath, witness the action of mind, and witness the action of body is the way formard. For the first time rather than working for action, witnessing of action happened and that made all the difference. Action is still present, but its ‘doer’ is absent since the doer is witnessing. Now the action is not mere action. Action is transformed and so the individual. Now the action is in ‘relaxation’. Refinement of action is not its outward execution but inner intention, freedom and let-go.
Therefore, the wisdom that emerges from witnessing says that it is not the amount or magnitude of action that is important. Important is how much of it is done under the state of witnessing. Under witnessing there is no ‘doer of action’ or sense of doer-ship. Once the sense of doer-ship subsides there is no ego. There is a great release within and deep sense of ease, comfort, relaxation and letting-go. There is instant awakening to the nature of stress, its cause and the means to liberate from it.
Pranayama is a vast field of yoga, which utilizes certain breathing techniques to help us understand the essence of prana. The Rishis (sages) have linked prana with the breath in its gross form, hence they initiated a complete system of breathing techniques, that initially would help them to understand their breath at the physical level and then to realize the essence of prana. Each technique has its own benefits but there are at least five common benefits for all pranayama i.e. breathing techniques.
Breath is the most vital process of the body. It is the closest thing to us and yet the most forgotten. No matter what we eat, how much we exercise, how resilient our genes are, how skinny or young or wise we are—none of it will matter unless we’re breathing correctly. Yet, the truth is that our capacity to breathe has been deteriorating through the years and the main reason is the stressful lifestyle. Research have clearly shown that more than the average of people is breathing incorrectly, which lead them to a list of many chronic diseases.
In ancient times, the hatha yoga masters had understood that our life span is depended on the rhythm of the respiration. By observing the animals, they noticed that animals with slow breath rate such as tortoise have longer life span than those animals with high breath rate, such as dogs. For this reason they started to begin aware of their breath and focused on their breathing patterns. After long observation and realization the Hatha Yogis introduced a complete system of breathing techniques, which at the gross level is related to the breath and at the subtle level is related to higher level of consciousness through the expansion of prana. This system is called ‘Pranayama’
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the classical texts and the most influential on hatha yoga, mentions eight pranayama. That is Suryabheda, Ujjai, Seetkari, Sheetali, Plavini, Moorcha, Brahmari, Bhastrika. Each one of them has certain benefits and certain contraindictions. Some benefits are common for all pranayama – breathing techniques.
All pranayama techniques increase lungs’ capacity
Pranayama ‘trains’ the muscles of respiration and the respiratory organs. It strengthens the respiratory muscles and it helps the lungs to become more elastic, resulting in a healthier process of breathing. The techniques of pranayama draw sufficient air to the lungs and allow more time for the oxygen to mix with the blood flow. The oxygenated blood will be transported to the cells, which are nourished by it.
All pranayama techniques alleviate heart diseases & hypertension:
The breathing techniques of pranayama minimize the stress on the cardiac system by slowing down the breath. When the breath is slow it gives rest to the heart. Coronary muscles are relaxed without reducing the supply of oxygen to the brain and the other body parts, resulting in a balanced blood pressure and healthy heart.
All pranayama techniques harmonize the endocrine system
During breathing techniques the circulation of the blood is very active and its quality very rich, because of the oxygen supply. The rich supply is brought to the endocrine glands, it enhances their function and along with the regulated breathing helps to balance the system.
All pranayama techniques harmonize the autonomic nervous system
All the major structures of the respiratory system have nerves related to the autonomic nervous system. Inhalation brings in oxygen and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Exhalation brings out the carbon dioxide and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Hence, both hemispheres of the nervous system are stimulated, which results to their balance.
By understanding pranayama we understand how the billions of molecules we bring in with each breath have built our bones, sheaths of muscle, blood, etc. By understanding pranayama we realize that breathing techniques are a very powerful medicine, because breathing in different patterns can really influence our overall health.
AUM is the mystical utterance that stems from the sacred language of the Vedic revelations. The meaning of mantra AUM or Om is understood as an expression ‘of the totality of creation’, it is considered as the sound of the universe and it seems to have an allusion to the Triple deity of Hinduism as well.
Generally the mantras are hymns to the powers of nature, which is seen as kind, tolerant and merciful, yet mighty, severe, and unrelenting deity. The Mantra is the language of nature in which cosmic intelligence reverberates as the laws of nature. They are expressions of joy, ecstasy and wonderment for nature’s beauty. The rishis (sages) worshiped the dignity of mountains, the majesty of the sunrise, the beauty of moon, the grandeur of ocean. All the Mantra together form the structure of pure knowledge.
A logical explanation on how the mantra had been revealed can be given by taking the example of physics:
The formula E=mc2 was given by Einstein and it is the expression of matter in energy, which we cannot see.
Like the formula used in science there are Mantra (sounds) and Yantra (symbols) used in yoga. Just as a scientist gives an expression to the principle of energy he sees or experiences through research and intuition, similarly the Rishis (sages) have given an expression, a designation of the supreme consciousness that may be in the form of Mantra or Yantra. In the form of mantra it means that supreme consciousness is designated by a sound formula, while in the form of Yantra means that it is designated as a psychic symbol.
The Mantra AUM is both Mantra and Yantra. It is the universal cosmic Mantra that – according to MandukyaUpanishad represents the four stages of consciousness and it is an aid to the ascertainment of the reality of the self.
Analysis of Letters (AUM) Sound
For the sake of the analysis we divide the self into four quarters, that mean the four steps to the knowledge of Self.
A- sound (A-Kara): Stands for the first quarter of the self, that represents the sphere of the awaking state (Jagrat). The A – sound is related to our conscious mind, to our physical body, to the external things of the gross cosmic world and to the objective experience. It signifies the creation – the Brahma.
U- sound (U-Kara): Stands for the second quarter of the self, that represents the sphere of the dreaming state (Swapna). The U – sound is related with our subconscious and with our subtle body. During this state the mind projects the impressions that have been accumulated throughout the awaking state. The person becomes a witness of subjective experiences. It indicates the preservation – the Vishnu.
M- sound (M-Kara): Stands for the third quarter of the self, that represents the sphere of the deep sleep state (Sushupti). The M – sound is related with our unconscious and with our blissful body. During this state everything becomes undifferentiated, the person abounds in bliss, without any experience, but the person is not the bliss itself yet. It personifies the Mahesh – the destruction.
The Silence following the pronunciation of the three, A, U, and M, is the fourth quarter of the self. That is the ultimate un-manifest, wherein perfected supra-consciousness (Turiya) totally reflects and merges with the pure, transcendental essence of Divine Reality. The person becomes bliss itself.
If the meaning of mantra AUM is understood in relation to the state of consciousness, the aspirant transcends the three states of manifested consciousness and ultimately reaches to the fourth state, that is Turiya (supra – consciousness), the unmanifested, unexpressed and unheard state of true self.
Brainwaves & their Relationship with AUM
But how can the aspirant reach to these levels mentioned above? The answer is simple: with the help of meditation. The Rishis were able to reveal the AUM “formula” through profound internal research, while being in deep meditation. Modern science has shed light on the states of consciousness by verifying that each state has certain brain frequencies, same in all human brains, irrelevant of age, sex or origin. Research have shown that the brain is an electrochemical organ which can generate some power which is displayed in the form of brainwaves. There are five categories of these brainwaves, ranging from the most activity to the least activity. The four of them are mentioned bellow and they are related to the mantra AUM.
When the brain is active & engaged in mental activities (awaking state, jagrat, the A sound) it generates beta waves. These beta waves are of relatively low amplitude and are the fastest of the four different brainwaves. A person in active conversation would be in beta, a person making a speech, or a teacher taking a class would all be in beta waves.
When the mind is in a dreaming state (Swapna, the U sound) it is typically of a great amplitude and slower frequency and it generates theta waves. This can happen either while the person is sleeping or in daytime while running outdoors and being in the state of mental relaxation or even while shaving or in shower or anytime the person is mentally disengaged.
During the deep sleep (sushupti, the M sound) the brainwave state is delta. Here the brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency and the person abounds in bliss.
Higher brain functions and higher states of awareness (Turiya – silence) that are generated during meditation produce gamma brainwaves, which are very beneficial for a continuous mindfulness state.
The mantra AUM, therefore, together with its surrounding silence, is a sound-symbol of the whole of consciousness existence and awareness. The meaning of mantra AUM is difficult to be understood by logic or intelligence, until unless it will be experienced and realized through the meditation. This is a good reason for integrating-yoga-in-our-life/
Life has become body. We work, we enjoy, we earn, and we sleep and relax all for our body. Because of this body-centric life and the apparent involvement of body in asana, we often consider asana as an alternate form of exercise. In this article we have kept asana and exercise side-by-side to make you understand that asana is a feeling of inner comfort and not an outside accomplishment of body position. In other words life is not all body and asana is about forgetting the body.
Yogasanas are often mistaken as a form of exercise. They are not exercises, but techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation. They allow us to reach our higher nature through different postures. You must have noticed that when we are happy we sit in a certain posture; if depressed, we sit in another posture. The converse of this is the science of asana, where we consciously get our body into certain postures to elevate our awareness and relaxation.
We must also understand that unlike exercise, asana is always comfortable and blissful. Without comfort we cannot forget our body and without forgetting our body we cannot proceed for inner journey.
Some of the key differences between asana and exercise are:
Non-Yogic Physical Practices
Parasympathetic nervous system predominant
Sympathetic nervous system predominant
Static positions and slow relaxed movements
Rapid forceful movements
Normalization of muscle tone
Increased muscle tone
Low risk of injuring bones, joints, muscle and ligaments
High risk of injury
Low to very low caloric consumption
High caloric consumption
Effort is minimized, relaxed
Effort is maximized
Respiration and metabolic rate slows down
The breath and metabolic rate speed up
Energizing (breathing is natural or balanced)
Fatiguing (breathing is taxed)
Balanced activity of opposing muscle groups
Unbalanced activity of opposing muscle groups
Non-competitive, process-oriented and more of feeling part
Competitive, goal oriented and more of doing part
Limitless possibilities for growth in internally related self-awareness
Scope of growth in externally related self-awareness
By looking at the two columns we can understand on which side there is more comfort, steadiness and relaxation. Thus, ‘steady and comfortable is asana’ (yogasutra 2.46). How do we achieve this steadiness and feeling of comfort? By witnessing our body. If you are lifting your hand in asana witness it, when you are dropping your hand witness it again. Similarly any body movement that is happening anywhere in the body i.e. arms, leg, spine, neck, wrist, fingers, abdomen, chest etc., make sure you are witnessing it. Witnessing implies that there is a conscious act.
Slowly you start feeling comfort within your body. There is deep rest, relaxation and ease surrounding your body and that is the stage of asana. Now you want to remain in that steadiness and ease. You don’t want to change or move your body and this is the beginning of yoga. The more you feel comfortable and stable in your body, the more you move closer to yourself.
For long health has been discussed in a limited sense of proper physiological functioning. Similarly, ill health used to be understood as physiological dysfunction. Today the meaning of health is changing and is moving beyond one’s physical dimension. Health is now discussed in a holistic sense of wellness which includes mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social dimension as well. Health is a part of wellness which is a balanced and continuous evolution of man’s total personality.
What is Health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the state of Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual well being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. WHO also suggests a fourth dimension i.e. “spiritual well being”. It is clear from this definition that health and ill-health are not two discrete entities as commonly understood but it is conceived as a continuous function indicating the state of well being.
Health and Wellness
Yoga understands health and wellness as a dynamic continuum of human nature and not a mere ‘state’ to be attained and maintained. The lowest point on the continuum with the lowest speed of vibration is that of death whereas the highest point with the highest vibration is that of immortality; in between these two extremes lays the states of normal health and disease.
In the above diagram, the 3rd quadrant, ‘the region of ill health’, represents what we normally designate as ‘sickness’. Below this level, man acts instinctively and is akin to an animal. The 1st quadrant, the region marked as ‘normal man’, indicates the state of normal health. As he moves along the line further up, he becomes healthier featured by many dormant faculties of mind and intellect expressing more vividly. This is shown as the region of ‘positive health’, the next region after the human spectrum. In this stage, the limitations of normal man, namely, the strong urges of thirst, hunger, fear are reduced greatly and are fully under control. According to the concept of Sri Aurobindo, the new faculties of deeper perceptions of the world beyond the five senses emerge in this phase of superhuman existence. Further, growth leads man to unfold the deeper layers of consciousness and widen the spectrum of his knowledge to move towards divinity or perfection.
Yoga is a systematic and conscious process for accelerating the growth of a human being from his animal level towards the ultimate state of divinity said Swami Vivekananda. It must be understood that divinity is a symbolic state of unified and perfectly balanced personality which is a rare occurrence. Yoga is a systematic methodology for an all-round personality development – physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual components of man. Thus, yoga in its general methodology for the growth of man to divine heights includes techniques useful for therapeutic applications in making man healthier.