AOH :: WHATISYG.TXT|
A Brief Introduction to Yoga
WHAT IS YOGA -
Extracts from the Book: "Beginners Integral Yoga - 8 Week Course"
Written by: Swami Bhavchaitanya Saraswati.
Published by: Nunyara Yoga Ashram
Wisemans Ferry, NSW, 2775. Australia.
Within the original text, the book contained drawings and specific
practise instructions, and came with 2 audio cassette tapes of the
practice techniques mentioned. Re-printed below are only the theory
pages of the book. For those interested, complete copies of the book and
tapes are available by writing to the author at the address above or by
contacting Compuserve 100251,1525.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO YOGA
What is Yoga?
In just one short phrase, Yoga is an ancient spiritual science. It has
been known and preserved for thousands of years in many countries all
over the world and in the last few decades, it has become well known
and popular in the western world due to an emergence of interest in the
mystical eastern paths as well as for its practical relevance for the
stresses and illnesses of modern day life.
Yoga is both a philosophy and a practical science. It is a tried and true
method of attaining better physical health, mental clarity and psycho-
emotional balance, as well as a system of total personality integration,
that is spiritual growth. Through Yoga, one can speed up the
development of both personal as well as social spiritual consciousness,
thereby helping to promote a greater harmony within ourselves, our
family and our planet.
The word "Yoga" literally means union or to bring together. It is
generally used to describe a range of psycho-biological techniques of
personal transformation which lead ultimately to that state known as
"self-realisation". Therefore, any technique or method which
encourages concentration, inner awareness and union is, in essence, a
There are many well known forms of yoga practised and taught
throughout the world today such as: Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Raja
Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Dhyana Yoga,
Nada Yoga, Karma Yoga, Sannyas Yoga and many more.
What is Integral Yoga?
Integral Yoga is, in a way, a combination of all of these. Like having a
well balanced diet, a person needs a careful synthesis of many elements
for all round well being, and this is the basic principle of Integral
Yoga. However, in this Beginners Book we will be concerned only with
the following 4 categories of yoga practice which are considered of
primary importance for the beginner to yoga. Each of these will be
dealt with in greater theoretical detail in later chapters. Yoga Nidra *
Yoga Asanas * Pranayama * Mantra Meditation
ADVICE AND PRECAUTIONS FOR WHEN PRACTISING YOGA
The following advice should be studied thoroughly before commencing
to practise Yoga and Meditation. These suggestions are to help the
practitioner gain the greatest possible benefits as well as to protect
Time of Practice
For the four aspects of Yoga encompassed in this book - Asanas,
Pranayama, Yoga Nidra and Meditation - there are ideal times in the
day that each of them will give the greatest benefits. However, when
practising at home, these ideals must necessarily be compromised
within the activities and timing of your own life.
The format of a weekly Integral Yoga Class of one and a half hours
allows for all these four aspects. However, given the time allowable in
most people's lives at home, there is often a need to separate the
techniques. To cater for this, the following general guidelines should be
followed as closely as possible.
The very best time to practice Yoga is first thing in the morning before
breakfast. Upon waking, empty the bowels, shower if you wish, then
commence the day with your regime of Yoga practices. The second
most conducive time is early evening, around sunset. Thirdly, just
before bed is a good time for some aspects of Yoga. But it is of course
far better to do something at a time of the day which suits one, rather
than to miss out by being too rigid or idealistic.
- In general, Asanas may be practised at any time of day except within
2-3 hours of having eaten. You can do postures when the body feels
stiff, tense, tired or hyped-up. Be aware not to do too many over-
stimulating postures just before bed time. Asanas are best practised first
in your yoga routine, followed by Pranayama then Meditation. You will
find the body is stiffest first thing in the day, and even though it may be
a little harder, it is most beneficial to release this tension at the start of
your day's activities. Asanas are a necessary pre-requisite for successful
- In general, Pranayama may be practised at any time of day except 2-3
hours after meals. It may be done when tense or tired or when space
does not allow room for postures. Be careful not to do too much
dynamic Pranayama in the late evening. Pranayama is best practised
straight after asanas without breaking the flow of awareness.
Pranayama is a necessary pre-requisite for successful Meditation.
- In general, Meditation may be done at any time of day when you feel
both awake and relaxed. For best results don't do Meditation within 2-3
hours of eating, when sleepy, nor when mentally "hyped-up".
Meditation practice is best practised straight after Pranayama, without
breaking the flow of awareness.
- In general, Yoga Nidra can be done at any time of day, even directly
after meals so long as you do not fall asleep in the practice. Don't do
Yoga Nidra when you feel tired or sleepy. At that time it is better to do
some yogasanas. More will be gained when you are both awake and
relaxed, or awake and over stimulated. Before bed if you can't get to
sleep, or first thing in the morning if you didn't sleep well, is
beneficial. The best times to practise Yoga Nidra are either: before
asanas if you are tense and over stimulated; or after asanas and before
Pranayama if there is a need for relaxation then.
Always remember Integral Yoga is a balanced recipe which maintains:
That to get the best from your yoga practice, you should whenever
possible, mix and match the necessary elements of practise which will
improve and enhance your spiritual growth and awareness.
Place of Practice
- It is best is to have fresh air in a quiet and clean place that suits the
concentration and awareness Yoga will create.
- Keep away from furniture, fires, ceiling fans.
- Do not practise Yoga in direct sunlight or after sun-bathing. Outdoors
is OK but avoid cold wind and insects.
- Use a small amount of padding under the body on hard or cold
surfaces. Use a blanket to cover yourself during Yoga Nidra.
- Wear loose comfortable clothing. No restrictions around the waist or
limbs. Keep warm enough, especially during Yoga Nidra.
- Remove spectacles, watch and any cumbersome jewellery or
- Throughout all yoga practices, try to keep your awareness on what
you are doing. Don't be concerned with others in the class or outside
- Proceed slowly and carefully. Follow the instructions exactly.
- Never force or strain. Relax briefly between each practice.
- Always breathe through the nose, both in and out, unless specified
- Remember: "Nose for breathing - Mouth for eating".
- If you do have trouble breathing through your nose, practise "Neti"
(Nasal Cleansing) or visit a doctor for medical inspection.
Restrictions & Precautions
There are no age limits either young or old for the practice of Yoga.
However the application of the techniques will vary according to the
abilities of the practitioner. Keep in mind the following.
- Never practise any yoga techniques under the influence of alcohol or
mind altering drugs.
- Those with disabilities, severe, acute or chronic medical conditions
should consult both with their medical practitioner and their yoga
teacher to assess any dangers or difficulties which may arise.
- There are no hard and fast dietary rules necessary to begin the
practise of Yoga. One does not have to give up smoking, become
vegetarian, or be a purist to learn Yoga.
Yoga During Pregnancy
There is no reason that expectant mothers may not continue to practice
Yoga right up to the time of birth, and in fact it is most advised that
regular practice of all aspects of Integral Yoga should be employed for
the well being of mother and baby. There has been a long standing
belief amongst many doctors, mothers and even some yoga teachers,
that Yoga should not be performed during pregnancy. This attitude
comes more from ignorance of Yoga than from proper understanding
The primary techniques of Integral Yoga, namely the gentle
Yogasanas, Pranayamas, Yoga Nidra and Mantra Japa have always
been taught, and are presented here, as totally suitable for a mother and
her child. Throughout this book, references are often made to the
benefits and the precautions that are relevant to pre and post natal
Yoga. There is absolutely no danger if care and awareness is used
along with guidance from a teacher knowledgeable in these practices.
With all the yoga practices during pregnancy, the golden rule is: "IF IT
IS UNCOMFORTABLE - DON'T". You will develop a knowing for
what is beneficial and what is not. This will depend on several factors
such as: your previous experience with Yoga; your stage of pregnancy;
your own level of health, fitness and flexibility. The regular practice of
postures, relaxation, breathing and meditation will help in no small
way to prepare the body, mind, emotions and psyche for the times of
labour and birth, and as well, they will help fortify the family for the
trying times to follow.
The physical benefits of the recommended asanas, work on opening up
the whole pelvic area, and give the body stamina. They relax past and
present tensions to allow an easier passage for the baby.
The yoga breathing techniques help with management of the emotional
energy needed to sustain labour and teach one how to use the forces of
birth for best advantage rather than to resist and fight. Pranayama is a
tool to assist in going beyond the obvious physical discomforts of
birthing, and gain a better appreciation of the psycho-emotional
Yoga Nidra during pregnancy definitely helps to allay the future fears
and past traumas of birthing. After the birth, Yoga Nidra will become a
necessity when much sleep is lost and the rest of ones life has to be
held together as well!
Meditation practice, if included, will help put you in touch with the
nature of your baby before birth. The vibrations of Mantra create the
deepest harmony between you and the unborn child. But it is not only
beneficial for the mother to be practicing yoga, for if your partner joins
in as well, that creates one meditative unit - all in tune with each other
for the birth and the ongoing family life.
Yoga during pregnancy is in fact one of the most beautiful times that a
woman can explore herself and discover the deepest truths about her
existence. You can gain understanding about the nature of conception
and creation; about sustaining and nurturing; about revealing and
delivering. It's like a 9 month Meditation on life itself - if you choose to
make it so. Practising Yoga during pregnancy, apart from the obvious
physical benefits, gives you the added concept of the whole process
becoming one of spiritual midwifery, where you as the mother, are also
guiding an emerging Buddha into the world. Yoga as a spiritual
science is capable of accelerating the evolution of an individual -
physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This will happen to
both you and the child whether you are aware of it or not, and as you
are giving the baby the best possible start to life by forging an intra-
uterine bond with Yoga, you are helping to raise the consciousness not
just of one or two individuals, but of the whole planet itself.
THE THEORY AND PRINCIPLES OF YOGA ASANAS
Yoga today has the reputation with most people that it is a form of
exercise. This is because, in the earliest days of its migration into the
west, it was promoted as part of the "body beautiful" and "fitness
craze". Also, the bodily postures and contortions of skinny little Indians
were seen as the most photogenic and outrageous aspects of yoga.
Hence, only the flexible ever took it up! Sadly, there is still a lot of this
attitude about. Many people often say "I could never do yoga, I'm too
fat", or "I'm too stiff". They are missing the point, but also, many
exponents of yoga are actually misrepresenting the point. There is often
an attractive student with a fine body holding an advanced yoga asana
shown on the cover of yoga books and magazines.
So what is the point? There is some disagreement amongst
practitioners as to where the yoga asanas fit into the greater yoga
system. Some say the word "asana" means steady and comfortable pose,
which would therefore seem to exclude movements or exercises. Some
say asanas are any form of spontaneous body gesture including flowing
exercises. Some say asana means "to sit" and that the classical full
lotus is the only true asana meant in the yogic scriptures. Some say that
the asanas are the main part of the Hatha Yoga branch of yoga. Others
say that asanas are part of Ashtanga Yoga, Raja Yoga or Kriya Yoga.
But this is not important for the beginner. What is important, is the
attitude towards them and the execution of them on a day to day basis.
There are many forces at work when practising yoga asanas. They
obviously work on the physical systems of the body such as muscular-
skeletal, nervous system, cardio-vascular, respiratory, digestive,
reproductive and others. But also they have psycho-emotional effects
which can definitely be experienced IF you've got your mind on the job
and IF you are open to that level of change. Yoga asanas may be
exercises, BUT they are not JUST exercises.
- Point number 1. Start at the beginning. Do not just pick up any old
book and do what you see, or what you might like to achieve, or
whatever you read that might be good for your particular ailment or
condition. Like medicines, many yoga asanas can be very potent and
can have strong side effects if performed incorrectly. Conversely, they
can also have absolutely no benefits at all if performed incorrectly. So
for both safety and effectiveness, the golden rule applies - when in
doubt, find a good teacher and learn the basics.
- Point 2. Remember asanas are not just exercises for the "beautiful
body". Anyone can start and everyone can succeed. There are 2
elements to the yoga asanas - mind and body. No matter what level of
physical ability you may have, the quality of mind is always important.
For example, should you be in a very advanced and difficult pose,
looking around the room to observe others admiring you- then you are
not doing yoga. You are posing as if in the gymnasium. That is where
you should go. Alternatively, you may be old and infirm (or even young
and infirm) and you are sitting there, relaxing gently into your
elementary posture with full awareness, and concentration, oblivious to
the outside sounds and activities. In that case you are doing yoga. Yoga
is an internal state of consciousness, not an outward showing. This is
one of the most badly taught lessons of yoga the world over.
- Point 3. Practice to your capacity regularly. Little and often is the
motto for good and safe progress in yoga asanas.
- Point 4. Don't be competitive. Never compare yourself with anybody
else. Always keep your eyes closed (unless watching a demonstration).
- Point 5. Always do a balanced set in each day. Don't just do the ones
you are good at, nor don't just do the ones you are bad at. If you had a
tense right arm, would you just do stretches for that side only? No. You
should do an equal amount for each side and then an equal amount for
both sides together. This is the method of balance and equilibrium
which yoga espouses. So, for the spinal column, the abdomen, the neck,
the legs, for all areas in fact, each area must be individually balanced
in terms of both strength and flexibility and then ALL areas together
must be integrated for all-over balance.
- Point 6. Precede asanas with a brief relaxation to prepare mind and
body for your session. And afterwards, follow asanas with a brief
relaxation to allow the body to stabilise from the session. Asanas are
best followed by pranayama, then meditation.
There are many other finer points which you will pick up as you
practise and when you take up instruction by a competent teacher.
When searching for a good teacher don't be impressed by their body or
the prowess of the other students. Ask about how, as a beginner, you
will be instructed. Always inform a teacher about ALL your ailments,
old and present so that they can work with you from an informed
perspective. Most damage to yoga students in conjunction with asanas
is the fault of ignorance and over-zealousness on the part of the
student. Sometimes teachers are incompetent too, so keep a watch out
for both your own and their shortcomings.
THE THEORY AND PRINCIPLES OF YOGA NIDRA
Yoga Nidra is the technique of Psychic Sleep, or the Sleep of
Awareness, also known as the Yogi's Sleep. It is an age old practice
from the Tantras which has been re-discovered and developed for
modern people and is now being taught all over the world in many
different spiritual and non-spiritual guises. Originally it was discovered
and developed by the Yogis as a way of transcending sleep. A way of
gaining the greatest benefits of relaxation during the time allotted for
sleep without actually going unconscious or losing awareness.
Nowadays, it is used as a method of freeing the conscious, subconscious
and unconscious layers of mind from the accumulations of daily
tension, which once learned and perfected, enabled the practitioner to
enter the trance states of Samadhi and Self-Realisation. It has been
evaluated that 1 hour of Yoga Nidra gives the equivalent rest of 4 hours
Although as modern people today, we may be over-loaded with the
hassles of daily life and feel very far from spiritual enlightenment,
never-the-less, Yoga Nidra still is a sublime method of dealing with the
states of mind which actually create and sustain those patterns of inner
tension and conflict. Therefore, within the framework of your weekly
Yoga Class, let us not forget the true nature and purpose of Yoga
Nidra. Try not to think of it as just a "nice lie down" or "that bit of
relaxation at the beginning" but please give it that respect it deserves as
a highly evolved technique of self-transcendence.
It cannot be mentioned too many times that the purpose of Yoga Nidra
is not to sleep. If you make a brief commitment to yourself at the
beginning of each practice "I will not sleep", then you will find your
awareness remains much more awake throughout. Only in the fully
conscious state will the full benefits of Yoga Nidra be gained.
If you are practising Yoga Nidra at home, choose a place which is
clean and quiet and ensure that you will not be disturbed. Take the
phone off the hook, close the door, protect against draughts, insects and
wind, close any curtains to exclude bright light, clear a space on the
floor so that you will not be touching any furniture. Remove your
shoes, loosen tight clothing, remove restrictive jewellery, remove
glasses if you wear them. Lie down on the floor on your back and,
when using a tape recorder, position the crown of the head towards the
voice of the instructor. Cover yourself with a blanket. Close your eyes,
then position the body as instructed to do so.
Lying Down - The Body Position
The best posture for Yoga Nidra is Shavasana. Under certain
conditions such as later pregnancy, other positions may be used. Learn
to take up Shavasana whenever Yoga Nidra commences. There will be
a brief reminder of the posture, and once you set the body in the best
position, you should remain perfectly still until the end of the Yoga
Nidra practice. Any movement that you make will disturb the ever
increasing relaxation of the body. Even a slight scratch will break the
absolute stillness and the process of sense withdrawal which you are
trying to develop. If at all possible, try to lie still through all passing
discomforts. They will disappear as you focus back into the technique.
Check through the body into any parts where you know you hold
tension, any parts that are weak or need healing. Relax them
Sankalpa - The Resolution
At the beginning of Yoga Nidra, and just before the end, you will be
reminded to repeat your Sankalpa - your resolution. The word Sankalpa
means "determination". It is not a wish, or a prayer, or a promise, or an
airy-fairy sort of affirmation that you will lose interest in several weeks
hence. It is a profound realisation of something in your life which you
are going to do. It is not something you want to come true tomorrow, or
something in the future you hope might come true, or a loosely worded
projection of fantasy and desire. It is a sincere practice of exercising the
will-power. Its purpose is not to make desires come true, or to gain
profit from mental powers, but to help develop a new force of
transformation from within yourself. For this reason it is not something
that someone else can decide for you. It should be phrased in a very
direct, short and positive statement. Not something negative that you
wish to give up, but rather something positive that you will do. "I will
................". It may not come to you on the first day. Don't just make
one up to fill the time. Wait and watch for a realisation of something
which is extremely important to you at this point in your life.
You may only start with a small but important thing in your
personality, or you may have a long term goal to work on. Either way,
once you have chosen/realised your Sankalpa, do not change it until it
comes true in your life. Do not reveal it to anyone. Don't pin it up on
the kitchen notice board or on the back of the toilet door! You don't
need to think about it at any other time in the day except within the
practice of Yoga Nidra. Don't be fickle and change it often because it
doesn't seem to be working. Give it time, and most importantly, give it
practice. With regular use in Yoga Nidra, it will surely begin to
manifest in reality.
Many people can testify to the unbelievable power and effectiveness of
the Sankalpa made in Yoga Nidra. Many who thought that such a goal
was far off, have been amazed at just how quickly the resolution made
in Yoga Nidra can come true. This is because:- at the beginning of the
practice when you are fully awake and full of worldly thoughts, the
resolution comes through your waking consciousness but in fact it has
come from deeper in the mind before that. At this stage it is part of
your mundane existence, just a worldly desire that you have and that
you want to come true. But then later, just before the end of Yoga
Nidra when you are reminded by the instructor to repeat the Sankalpa
again, that same thought or suggestion which is consciously
remembered is then plunged strongly into the subconscious again, the
state at which your mind rests just before coming out of Yoga Nidra. So
a circuit of consciousness has been established. It is not like a normally
repeated intellectual suggestion, but it is more effective because it is
planted in a truly open and receptive mind.
This process has been likened to a seed, planted deep in the
subconscious soil, where it lays dormant until watered and fed. Each
time you repeat your resolution, even though you can't see it working,
you stimulate its growth deep down below your conscious
understanding and this continues to increase its power until it actually
breaks through into the light of day and becomes a part of your waking
life. Then you know you have made a great link between conscious
desires, the will-power, the subconscious, and the unconscious mind.
This is the true purpose of Sankalpa and Yoga Nidra.
Rotation of Sound Awareness
The next aspect of Yoga Nidra is to start the involution of the senses.
That is to disconnect outside awareness and begin to relax inside, at the
mental level. Initially when you close your eyes and try to focus
inwardly, the mind behaves like a naughty child. It does the direct
opposite to what you instruct it to do! So we use this mischievous
tendency to overcome itself. You will be asked to listen to all the
different sounds that you can hear and to rotate your awareness from
one sound to the next, and on to another different sound, and so on.
This may not be easy at first. You may want to listen and analyse the
sounds. They may trigger lots of thoughts from within your memory.
Just keep on with the practice, moving and moving and moving
restlessly from sound to sound, with the attitude of a witness. You
should try not to be affected by any auditory information that you hear.
This is continued for some time until the mind becomes very bored
with this stupid game and it automatically switches off from outside
sounds. This is the desired effect, but you may not achieve this for
several sessions. It takes practise. After the sense of sound has been
disconnected in this way, you should not have any further distraction
from sounds for the remainder of the Yoga Nidra time.
Rotation of Body Awareness
The next phase of the practice is very important. It involves two things.
One is to disconnect the tactile senses, and the other is to develop the
link of mental/physical awareness. Just as we disconnect the sense of
sound with rotation of sound awareness, now we disconnect the sense
of touch. In a similar way, the instructor will guide you through a
particular pathway of internal body awareness. Naming each part as
you feel it, you move from part to part with awareness and detachment.
Just naming, feeling and moving on, without stopping, all around the
As each part is encountered, there is mental repetition of its name and
there is a brief moment of tactile awareness of each part. This creates
an energetic and psychic pathway between the brain and that part of
the body. For a brief moment, there is a complete relaxation and
healing connection to that part, but then it is left alone and the
awareness is detached from it as you move onto the next part. This part
of Yoga Nidra will become quite spontaneous after some time.
Eventually, with practise, you will notice that you cannot feel your body
any more physically. It doesn't seem to be there. And again, this is the
desired effect. But this will only happen if: you stay awake to follow the
technique; you lie perfectly still and do not move; you keep your
awareness moving in the prescribed way. But many people are actually
afraid of such an experience and protect themselves from having it by
continually moving their body for one reason or another. It reminds
them of death. Why do you think it is called the Corpse Pose! That is
precisely the aim of disconnecting from body awareness, at least
temporarily. To experience ourselves as much more than this physical
body. To realise that we do have a consciousness which transcends this
gross physical form. But perhaps you don't want to know this, so either
you fall asleep or wriggle.
As well as sense withdrawal, rotation of body awareness stimulates
different parts of our brain which control each and every body nerve.
When you are aware of each part on the body, you are actually
psychically massaging the corresponding part in the brain and as well.
You establish a connection between that part of the body and the brain.
This can be evidenced by the many people with disabilities or lack of
feeling in the limbs who give testament to experiencing a part of the
body for the first time during this technique of Yoga Nidra.
Rotation of Body Awareness terminates with "Whole Body
Awareness". Awareness of no particular parts, but just the whole body
together. An holistic appreciation of physical oneness. And for many
people with disjointed physical consciousness, this can be a profound
From the physical and mental experience of body awareness, next in
Yoga Nidra one progresses to yet another more subtle level of
experience - that of the elements of breath and Prana. When the body
remains perfectly still for some time, there is a definite slowing down
of the metabolic rates of breath and heart rate. By lying still and
watching the natural processes of breath in Yoga Nidra, greater
relaxation of body and mind is achieved, as well as deep understanding
of the nature of breath and its ramifications upon the body/mind
Always in Yoga Nidra practice, we do not interfere with anything. The
whole technique is nothing but a process of witnessing, of unaffected
observance. It is not concentration. The aim is never to force the mind
to concentrate. This would create mental tension - the opposite of the
So when practising breath awareness in Yoga Nidra, there is not to be
any wilful change or effort imposed upon the natural breath as
occurring at any moment. We watch - we just observe how the body
breathes in its natural state of relaxation. You will learn; how, when
first lying down, there is a rushed feeling in the energy of breath; and
how, after some time of relaxing, there is a far more regular and
peaceful experience of breathing.
Your awareness may be watching in a general way, being aware of the
speed, the rhythm, the depth, the regularity, or the evenness of the
natural breath. Or you may be instructed to focus breath awareness in a
particular part of the body, a particular breathing or energy centre, or
within one of the many energy channels through which the psychic
breath flows. All these patterns of awareness are simply methods by
which we can develop our consciousness to understand what is really
going on inside - which aspects of our personality are the causes and
which are the effects of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
The breath is like a bridge between the body aspect and the mental
aspect of our existence. Not only physical in its substance, and not fully
mental in nature, the breath is a psycho-biological link between
conscious thinking, the feelings, and the mental or psychic imagery
stored in the brain and the mind. Often during sessions of breath work
such as Pranayama, and in Yoga Nidra as well, repressed material from
the subconscious and unconscious layers of the mind surfaces. It
bubbles up to the surface because the blocks and psychological barriers
have been removed through the safety of relaxation. It is at this time we
can look at things, observe them more clearly and see solutions to those
inner conflicts. And this is why many people arise from Yoga Nidra
feeling like a great weight has been removed from within. But all this
can only occur if there still remains awareness, in other words - NO
Use of Mantra
Beyond breath awareness, tools such as Mantra and visualisation are
used to work directly on the unconscious levels on the mind. These are
the normally untapped and unreachable areas of experience which only
Yoga Nidra and Meditation can influence successfully. Use of a Mantra
in Yoga Nidra is going completely beyond the rational, intellectual
arena of experience. You cannot understand what it is doing with your
normal thinking abilities. It is re-patterning, re-programming the very
vibratory structure of ones inner mental make up. It is working on the
inter-connections between thought, feeling and action. It is working on
the archetypes or universal symbols, called "Samskaras".
Samskaras are like seeds, small compact forms which hold vast
amounts of genetic information or mental impressions. These imprints
may be stored in potential/latent form, or they may be just sprouting, or
they may already be well growing. It is like how a computer uses inner
symbolic language to represent and deliver its information to the
screen. What you type on the surface at the keyboard, is far different
from the way in which that information is stored and processed inside
the actual electronic workings of the computer's memory banks. Some
instructions or programmes are asleep; some are just waiting to be
activated; and some are already in action.
Mantra is a subtle vibration of sound which gets into these mental
forms and triggers their release. It wakes them up bit by bit so that you
can see and appreciate that these things do actually still exist deep
down. Mantra works effectively whether you understand it or not;
whether you want it to or not; whether you believe in it or not. That's
because the ancient Yogis discovered these secrets of the mind's
workings and perfected effective ways to work within it from outside.
In Yoga Nidra a Mantra is repeated mentally, sometimes in time with
the breath or the heart beat or just at a spontaneous frequency. Just try
to follow the instructions as best you can, and true understanding about
Mantra will come as you experience the practice and its effects. When
a mantra is used in a deep state of relaxation, its effects are enhanced
many-fold. More about Mantra is explained within the section dealing
with Mantra Japa Meditation.
The final guided aspect of Yoga Nidra that you will be introduced to in
an Integral Yoga Beginners Course involves the use of visualisation.
Initially the purpose of visualisation in Yoga Nidra is just to practise
psychic visual recall and disposal. You may not be very good at it, but
that doesn't matter. Just keep trying to do the best you can. One type of
visual projection involves the use of archetypes. Simple, single images
of symbolic meaning which when presented to the mind in deep
relaxation, will trigger the release of psychic tension and realisations of
spiritual significance. These may be religious symbols, nature symbols,
geometric symbols or others. In essence, psychic symbols all have the
same basic function, and that is to trigger direct perception of the
object in focus and reveal the true nature of inner experience.
Eventually this ability will lead on to the faculty used in the method of
Raja Yoga Dharana, or concentration upon a symbol. Visualisation
practise develops the faculty of inner creativity - a great help to artists
and creators of visual forms.
Another type of visualisation which is popular nowadays, is the
"guided story" approach. For example you are taken on a journey to a
secret place, or to a beautiful land of dreams, or into a tunnel, where
certain events occur in your mind, and these projections trigger past,
present and/or future experiences. Although they may be either
relaxing or stimulating, these types of visualisations do not work at
such a fundamental level of mental transformation as the single image
visualisations. They deal predominantly with experiences of an
emotional and "feel good" nature and this practice can be fraught with
danger for the inexperienced teacher and student. There may be a great
inner catharsis on one level but not quite a full resolution at another.
There are therapeutic methods of properly releasing deep traumas
through the techniques of Yoga Nidra but these take many years of
practice and understanding. So it is wiser to stay with the simple forms
of visualisation and not get carried away with images of fantasy unless
properly used for therapeutic purposes under qualified guidance.
Chidakash and Hridayakash
Near the end of Yoga Nidra, after all the guided parts of sounds, body,
breath, mantra, visualisation, there will be a time of watching "the
inner space" called Chidakash. Chidakash means "the space of mind
consciousness". Some people experience it as the area inside the
forehead. Others experience it as the space behind the closed eyes.
There is also a space called Hridayakash which is the "space of heart
consciousness" inside the centre of the chest. It can be felt as a large
cave, both within you and surrounding you. Chidakash and
Hridayakash are both used for brief periods of contemplation at the end
of Mantra Japa Meditations.
Which ever space you are watching, or wherever you perceive it to be,
the principle is the same. It is to be observed like watching a T.V.
screen; as though you are a viewer to the movie of your own mind, or
as though you are a member of the audience to a stage play. If there are
pictures - fine. If there are thoughts - fine. If there are feelings - fine. If
there is nothing - that's fine too. It is a time to let go completely of all
efforts, of all impressions, of all functions of the mind and just to be in
the space - but watching with detachment. The irony of the experience
is that you are in the space, and yet the space is within you. You cannot
objectify a difference between you and it. This is the final experience of
Yoga Nidra. To have awareness; to know that you are aware, without
substance, without object or subject; just to be in the space but also to
be a perceiver of your own self in the space. But don't worry if you
don't get that experience immediately. Your mind may still be busy
with mundane thoughts, or you may be afraid to have a completely
empty mind, or you may still be caught up in some previous
experience, or you may well be asleep or semi-conscious. It does not
matter. It can only happen in its own time.
The true experience of Chidakash and Hridayakash can not be created
nor manipulated in any way or you lose it. It is very subtle and tricky,
but with practice you may experience what is written here. Even for a
fleeting moment, or perhaps a long uninterrupted stretch, it is an
experience which leads to the absolute depths of your being. At this
stage Yoga Nidra has taken you as far as it can. With regular practise
you will be able to go more directly to this experience, both within
Yoga Nidra practice and within your daily waking life. What exists
beyond that is a transcendental experience beyond even individual ego
awareness. A complete merging. And that is what is known by the
Yogis as "Samadhi".
What has been outlined here is only a brief summary of some aspects
on the subject of Yoga Nidra. Further reading and study may be gained
from the texts recommended near the back of the book and are
available from the outlets listed there.
THE THEORY AND PRINCIPLES OF PRANAYAMA
The subject of Pranayama is a vast aspect of Yoga which could hardly
be explained fully in these few pages. It is a complete and
comprehensive science in its own right, which needs years of dedicated
practise to perfect. However there are a few elementary pranayama
techniques which should be included in every yoga class and these will
be outlined within the course.
The Sanscrit word "Prana" means life force, vital force or universal
energy. The word "Yama" means to control, to direct, to develop.
Therefore, "Pranayama" can be described as a series of techniques
which are designed to increase, control, direct and enhance that
function of human personality which is based on the principle of
energy or life force. The oriental spiritual sciences call this Chi, Qi or
Ki. Modern western science calls it Bio-plasma. It is known to exist as
a non-physical force which works within the laws of nature but which
as yet, has not yet been sufficiently studied by the scientists to reveal its
true nature and psycho-physiological effects as known already by the
The Physical and the Subtle Breath
Although the actual pranayama techniques involve manipulation of the
breathing process, Pranayama should not be thought of as just
breathing exercises, nor should it be assumed that we are only dealing
with something physical or respiratory in nature. Prana exists in all
living things, in every creature. It is that element of existence which
keeps things alive. By learning to understand and experience this truth,
one can improve not only their physical structure, but as well the
mental, emotional, psychic and overall spiritual evolution of the
The four pranayama techniques which are always included in a
Beginners Integral Yoga Course, cover the most basic elements of the
physiological breathing processes as well as the more subtle aspects of
meditative energy control. There exist many more specific practices
which can be learned in time, but a solid grounding and competence of
these basic four are required before anything more advanced is
At first, you may experience resistance to Pranayama. A physical
resistance, due to a lifetime's bad breathing habits; a mental resistance
to the necessary concentration needed; an emotional resistance to the
feelings which can be triggered when locked emotions begin stirring; a
psychic resistance to perceptions and states of Meditation which may
be unusual for you at this present stage. However, all these initial
impressions will be overcome with regular practice, and the changes
experienced will astound you, as the quantity and quality of your own
life force is enhanced.
It must be mentioned at this stage the importance of breathing through
the nose. Although it may seem an obvious truth to many people, it
often needs re-stating that: "The nose is for breathing - The mouth is
Yes, it may be necessary to breathe through the mouth in times of
extreme exertion, emergency or nasal restriction, and it is a true sign of
good design that we have a back-up orifice for air intake. But the
mouth is only that. A reserve or emergency apparatus for breathing.
The nose is the proper receptor for healthy respiration.
There are very many gross and subtle reasons that the design of the
human body was included with the facility of breathing through the
nostrils, and in the modern world today, it must be the singular most
ignored and abused aspect of human function. Without a proper
function of breath through the nostrils, no proper state of physical
health can be achieved and maintained. There will not be correct body
temperature regulation; there will not be correct sensory function; there
will not be correct mental function or perception of the internal realms.
There will not be correct cardio-vascular function; there will not be
correct digestive and eliminatory function. There can not be
progressive improvement in Yoga; there can never be Meditation; there
can never be Enlightenment.
For many people today, mouth breathing is just a chronic and
unconscious habit, due to both lack of education about the importance
of breathing through the nose, as well as a result of poor eating and
excessive mucus secretion. Modern pollution also plays a part in
irritating the natural breathing functions but that is all the more reason
to be using the proper filtering system of the nose. Of course smoking
is a foolish habit which only encourages the reversal of proper
breathing by drawing the smoke and toxins in through the mouth.
Think about it - how many activities of the day are encouraging mouth
breathing? Eating, drinking, talking, running, smoking, swimming,
snoring, and at many other times the jaw is just left hanging open for
There is also a school of health educators who actually still teach the
popular myth that we should inhale through the nose, but exhale
through the mouth! This is also taught for pre-natal breath training in
many places. According to both common sense and the Yogis, this is
When one first commences to study yoga breathing techniques, there
becomes a sudden awareness of just how perpetually blocked or
restricted ones nostrils are. This makes many people want to give up.
The problem may be a simple one such as dirt, or it may be mucus,
cartilage, or can even be a bone deformity from a previous injury. In
any case, the cause should definitely be investigated. The simple
methods of relieving the airways should be tried first such as salt water
cleansing and strong breathing. If this fails to clear them, a
professional examination should be made. Even to go through the
necessary surgical procedure to open blocked airways will be well
worth the difference that full nostril breathing can make to ones
physical and mental health.
Within the class, the teacher will constantly and consistently be
reminding you to breathe only through the nose; in and out; with the
exception of a few special practices designed to utilise the mouth.
So what solution does the science of Yoga have for this all pervasive
modern dysfunction? Three things. Firstly a new awareness, secondly
the technique of Jala Neti, and thirdly the practices of Pranayama.
The Cycles of Breathing
The relationship of acting, feeling, thinking and intuiting is intimately
linked to the breathing process. Each breath we take is just an aspect of
ourselves in miniature. There are four parts to each breath cycle which
relate to our life force as well as our mode of daily expression. The
physical and meta-physical correspondences are as follows.
Inhalation represents that time of inspiring, drawing in, imbibing new
and fresh life force, consuming, filling up. It is easy and pleasant. That
which we always look forward to. Creating.
Internal retention represents being able to hold that energy, to
assimilate, to compress, pressurise, exchange bad for good, expand the
storage capacity, maintain without loss, "chew over" and inwardly
distribute that goodness which inhalation has brought in. Perseverance
Exhalation means expiring, letting go, passing out the staleness, the
tiredness, the tension, tossing off that which is no longer needed,
renouncing, self-depletion, approaching emptiness, contracting towards
the end, exhausting, winding down. That which we tend to like the
External retention (the hardest of all for most people) is representative
of holding out, forcing more life from nothing, going beyond the
present limits, starving past exhaustion, giving more than we think we
can, not yet letting in again, suppressing even below empty. It is the
most powerful aspect of transformation existing. It is the darkest
moment before the new life force rushes in to explode us again into the
beginnings of a fresh awakening.
Each and all of these four breathing phases, accurately expresses our
different personality strengths and weaknesses. They are like the four
seasons. A miniature personal cycle of development and change. So by
way of breath exploration and expansion, Pranayama can transform the
whole of the human make up.
But there is also one last state of breathing (actually non-breathing)
that exists, but this is not a practice or something that can be "done". It
is called Kevalya or Turiya Pranayama. It is complete and total
cessation of the breath. Suspension of the life force, not by effort or
force or doing anything, but it just happens. When the forces are right;
when the mind and body are perfectly balanced; when the quantity and
quality of Prana are complementary; true equilibrium and "homeo-
stasis" occurs. This final state of Prana is what must be attained by the
practitioner before the deeper states of Meditation can be entered into.
The true purpose of Pranayama is not just for physical, mental,
emotional, psychic health. It is an integral part of Hatha Yoga, Swara
Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga and many other Yogas,
all of which are to assist us with preparation to enter into deeper states
of Meditation by transcending the processes of thought which impede
The 4 Breath Centres
In the human body there are different parts to our breathing system.
There are also different layers of awareness; different intensities of
experience. In Yoga and Pranayama we explore these functions, their
meanings and their effects. In the classes you will be instructed on
finding the four primary breath or energy centres. Many of the
relaxation techniques, postural techniques, breathing techniques and
meditation techniques revolve around these energy centres.
The 5 Primary Nadis
Also in the relaxation and meditation techniques you will be instructed
to follow the breath awareness in the different subtle energy channels
or Nadis. There are many thousands of subtle nerve currents and
energy pathways in the psychic physiology of the body but here we are
concerned with only five. Initially you may find these concepts a bit
hard to understand, discover and actually experience, but certainly with
practise as your abilities at Pranayama improve, you will discover the
ever flowing life force within your own internal energy channels.
In Hatha Yoga, there are described two opposing forces, two
complementary poles of our human existence. These are called Ida and
Pingala or Manas Shakti and Prana Shakti; the Mental force and the
Action force; the Lunar force and Solar force respectively. As shown
above, these two aspects of energy also flow in energy channels or
In a pranic and energy sense, when the two opposite poles of energy are
balanced, when these two Nadis are cleared of blockages and are fully
flowing, and when this occurs for an extended period of time, a 3rd or
neutral force begins to flow. This force is known as Kundalini Shakti
and flows in a third energy channel called Sushumna. This is the spinal
passage as shown above.
The most fundamental technique for inducing this state of balance and
harmony is called Nadi Shodhan Pranayama which you will be doing
every week in the classes. The different polarities of psycho-human
energy, sense and control many different functions in the physical and
non-physical universe. According to the science of Swara Yoga the
following table applies.
LEFT NOSTRIL BOTH NOSTRILS RIGHT NOSTRIL
Right Brain Whole Brain Left Brain
Ida Nadi Sushumna Nadi Pingala Nadi
Manas Shakti Kundalini Shakti Prana Shakti
mental supramental vital
negative neutral positive
feminine androgynous masculine
yin Tao yang
moon light sun
cold temperate hot
intuition wisdom logic
desire knowledge action
subconscious unconscious conscious
internal centred external
night dawn/dusk day
passive balanced dynamic
subjective awareness objective
parasympathetic cerebrospinal sympathetic
Although you may at first only appreciate the physical nature of
Pranayama breathing techniques, with time and practice you will be
able to experience the more subtle psychological effects of Pranic
energy control and you will discover the practical benefits within your
meditation practice as well as daily life.
When learning the Pranayama techniques, practice regularly the first
stages of each until competent, and only then progress onto the next
stage. If you have any difficulties or side effects, discuss this with your
teacher before continuing with your practices.
THE THEORY AND PRINCIPLES OF MEDITATION
What is Meditation?
Meditation is becoming more and more popular these days amongst all
different types of people. Not so many years ago it was considered
something too "far out" as to be relevant for modern people in everyday
western life. But the published scientific and medical evidence, as well
as the experiences of many practitioners, has now given Meditation a
wider public acceptance and understanding. But still there is very much
misunderstanding about exactly what Meditation is and how and why it
is done. On a world tour in the 1960's, Swami Satyananda said: "Yoga
is Meditation and Meditation is Yoga - Never forget it".
The sanscrit word Yoga means; "to join together or to yoke". Used with
a capital Y, it describes a highly evolved state of unitive consciousness,
union or oneness where the mind is free from patterns and
differentiation and where the observer or the witness of the mind still
remains. These days, it is commonly misunderstood and often used to
mean only those practices such as body postures, which are actually
just a small part of the branch called Hatha Yoga.
The English word Meditation, coming from the Latin means; "to think,
to dwell upon, to exercise the mind". Its Sanscrit derivation is Medha
meaning Wisdom. But these days it is commonly understood to mean
some form of spiritual practice where one sits down with the eyes
closed and empties the mind to attain inner peace, relaxation or even
an experience of God. Some people use the term meditation in the
context of a relaxing and absorbing activity such as "my gardening is
my meditation", or walking, or jogging or art or music. So with these
many differing uses of the word it is not surprising that there is some
confusion and misunderstanding.
Yoga and Meditation both can be seen as both processes and goals. The
state of Yoga (capital Y) is one of complete union and absorption with
the cosmic reality. The science of Yoga or the yoga techniques, are the
means and methods to help us transform our perceptions to
experiencing that pure and sublime state known as Yoga. The state of
Meditation (capital M) is none other than that same experience called
the state of Yoga. It is the attainment of true Wisdom (Medha) through
internalised concentration, leading to contemplation, leading to
absorption or Oneness/Yoga. The practise of Meditation or the
meditation techniques employed, are forms or branches of yoga science
which are used to attain that state called Meditation. So the perceived
difference between Yoga and Meditation comes not from true
understanding but from a simple difference in languages.
For example, many people who practise the famous T.M. or
Transcendental Meditation, are in fact doing the ancient technique of
Mantra Japa Yoga - the Yoga technique of continual repetition of a
Mantra. It is not something that was invented by Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi in 1968. But if you ask many of them do they practise Yoga, they
will tell you "Oh no, we do not do yoga, we are meditating." Many
people have this misunderstanding that Yoga is just physical and that
Meditation is mental. Another example of misconception is made by
those who practice "just sitting and being". This is actually a part of the
system of Raja Yoga called Dhyana Yoga. These people believe that
they should just go straight for the ultimate goal of union or absorption
and shun techniques and practices. But they soon find that it is not
really that simple and the mind just wanders off, spaces out, gets
caught in delusions of fantasy or just falls asleep.
However in a broader context, the Yogasanas, (when performed
correctly with awareness and concentration) are in fact a meditation
upon the body rather than one upon the nature of the mind or a mantra
such as in T.M. Therefore, there is no difference in actual experience
between that attained by Mantra Japa Meditation and that gained
through Hatha Yoga Asanas. This is the equality of Yoga and
Meditation to which Swami Satyananda was referring.
Traditionally, in the classical yoga texts, there are described several
stages that one must go through to attain the true states of Yoga and
Meditation. After the necessary preparations of personal & social
codes, physical position, breath control, and relaxation (or sense
withdrawal) - come the more advanced stages of concentration,
contemplation and then ultimately absorption. But that doesn't mean to
say that you must perfect any one stage before moving onto the next.
The Integral Yoga approach is simultaneous application of a little of all
the stages together.
Commonly today, people can mean any one or more of these stages
when they refer to the term Meditation. Some schools only teach
concentration under the banner of Meditation. Some teach basically
relaxation techniques, and others teach free form contemplative
activities like just sitting and awaiting absorption. Others may mix a bit
of each, and some schools teach all 8 steps. Some offer the "ultimate
experience" and promise a taste of enlightenment in just one lesson!
And of course many of these call it Meditation without giving credence
to the Yoga they are teaching, for fear of being branded "eastern". But
Yoga is not something eastern or western. As is evidenced by the
international adoption of the yoga and meditation sciences, it can be
concluded that it is universal in its approach and application. The fact
that these ways and methods have existed for so long, shows that it is
truly a time tested, systematic and scientific process of self exploration
So in summary, we see that true Meditation (and Yoga) is the state of
union, oneness, absorption or cosmic consciousness that we are aiming
for, and it is through the practise of the techniques of Yoga that we can
gain that experience.
Research into Meditation
Yoga is an ancient spiritual science. It is universal in its approach and
universal in its application. It proposes that with regular practice of a
balanced series of techniques, the energy of the body and mind can be
liberated and the quality of consciousness can be expanded.
This is not just a wild subjective claim but is now being investigated by
the scientists and being shown to be empirical fact. This true story
indicates an irony in that situation.
A Tibetan Lama was being monitored on a brain scan machine by a
scientist wishing to test physiological functions during deep
Meditation. The scientist said - "Very good Sir. The machine shows
that you are able to go very deep in brain relaxation, and that validates
your Meditation". "No" said the Lama. "This (pointing to his brain)
validates the machine"!
Modern science doesn't actually prove Meditation. It only validates its
own methods and directions of research in these matters. There are
thousands of lay people, and thousands of years of spiritual texts to
evidence the truth of the experience of Meditation. But what is most
valuable and interesting from the efforts of scientists and medical
practitioners practising Meditation in their own personal lives, is the
applications to which Yoga is being put.
The yoga and meditation techniques are being implemented in
management of life threatening diseases; in transformation of
molecular and genetic structure; in reversal of mental illnesses; in
accelerated learning programmes; in perceptions and communications
beyond the physical; in solving problems of atomic and nuclear
physics; in gaining better ecological understanding; in management of
lifestyle and future world problems.
Many of the great thinkers and politicians of the next generation will
be meditators. They will have a more compassionate perspective of
humankind. Their revelations, although perhaps not enlightened, will
certainly help to create a better environment for us to live in.
There are many texts on the research being done on Yoga and
Meditation. There are now many major research foundations all over
the world working specifically on these issues. Once while speaking to
group of scientists and doctors, Swami Satyananda said - "You are the
scientist, your body is the laboratory, your mind is the laboratory. You
experiment upon yourself and you will discover the truth". This is true
for everyone as well, that we are the self exploring spiritual scientists.
Yoga gives us the tools to conduct our own experiments within the
context of our own lives, each day. When you have a sore back, do
some of the recommended asanas and see what happens. When you
have a cold, try the nasal cleansing several times a day and see what
happens. When your mind is scattered, do the Nadi Shodhan
Pranayama and see how you feel after 15 minutes. When you are tense
or upset, practise Yoga Nidra and then re-assess the situation. When
you want to go closer to that Oneness, repeat your Mantra for some
time and see if that works. This is all the proof you will need. The
wisdom you will gain will be from within yourself whilst the
transformation from negativity to positivity will already have occurred.
Readiness for Meditation.
Many people have the experience of sitting down to meditate and their
mind goes haywire, their body becomes restless, their back becomes
sore and no peace and no gain is achieved. Why is this? It is due to
unrealistic expectations and lack of proper preparation.
If you think that meditating means instant peace - forget it. If you think
that practising meditation is clearing the mind and being in a solitary
nothingness, you will definitely be mistaken. Please never imagine that
the state of Meditation is a warm fuzzy feeling with a mind full of
loving thoughts for the whole of humanity. Or that it's just spacing out
not being aware of anything. If you hope that meditating will heal
incurable diseases in several weeks, you will get a big surprise. The
first thing about this process called meditation is that you should have
no expectations! You just have to start doing it and see what happens.
Everyone is different. Everyone comes to a yoga and meditation class
with a different set of mental and physical parameters. So when you
begin, you just have to discover where you're at, and go from there.
One person may be close to inner peace, another may be years from
basic relaxation. And remember that there will always be good days
and bad days. This will modify the quality of your experience in a
meditation practice. There will be great highs and lows, periods of
apparent progress and periods of apparent stagnation. There will be
doubts, confusions, fears etc. And why is this? Because these things are
all within us and during a meditation session they must surface and be
appreciated, and eventually transcended. But this will take time and
practice and dedication.
The proper preparation recommended by Integral Yoga teachers is the
balanced integration of Asanas, Yoga Nidra, and Pranayama
techniques before one sits down to go fully inwards in a formal
meditation technique. This is because - to meditate is not just a mental
experience. There is the body to prepare, so if your back gets sore after
2 minutes, it's more asanas needed. There is the mental energy to
prepare, so if your mind wanders off, more Pranayama needed. If there
is emotional anxiety, do Yoga Nidra everyday until it is resolved. All of
them should be embraced simultaneously in your daily practice for the
best results in each aspect and ultimately for success in Meditation.
Mantra Meditation - What is a Mantra?
There are many thousands of different types of meditation practices
around today but we believe it is best to start with the simplest and
easiest. Mantra literally means "that which liberates the mind". It is a
vibratory pattern of sound, which is universal in its effects and
application. The yogis discovered certain ways of controlling and
developing the mind by using sounds, both aloud and mental. When
one repeats a mantra, whether you understand it or not, it is having a
subtle effect on your consciousness. The effect varies according to the
mantra and the application of it.
There are many mantras from all over the world and in many spiritual
cultures. There are Yogic mantras, Christian mantras, Aboriginal
mantras, South and North American Indian mantras, African tribal
mantras, Tibetan mantras and others. They are all effective in
transforming the structure of human consciousness in any cultural
context because they are all a part of a life science called Mantra Yoga.
How does this happen?
Each part of a human being, and all those parts together, are vibrating
at certain frequencies. This is known by the esoteric and orthodox
sciences alike. Some of these frequencies can be monitored by scientific
devices as in the preceding example of the Lama and the brain
machine. Another proof is that when the mind is disturbed, a
harmonious pattern of though can be re-established by listening to
beautiful music or repetition of a harmonious sound pattern such as a
particular mantra. According to the yogis (and modern science is now
also discovering the same), even a thought is a vibration of sound and
even some states of consciousness beyond thought are subtle vibrations
of sound. Through the practice of Meditation, certain patterns of supra-
mental vibration are able to change the quality and vibrations of our
thought patterns. This is the essence of Mantra Yoga.
But mantras are not all designed to give instant and perfect harmony to
the mind. The science of Yoga maintains that to truly achieve lasting
inner peace and supreme consciousness, the necessary process is to
clear the blockages, release the energy and expand consciousness until
true Meditation (a state beyond thought) exists. Along the way there
will be times of both war and peace within yourself. This is perhaps not
what a lot of people are expecting or wanting from Meditation. Many
think that we should just throw a cloak of suppression over all the
nasties in the cupboard, paint a nice face on the front and hope that
everything will be alright. But this is not Yoga nor is it true
Meditation. They are much more than this.
The vibrations created during the practise of Mantra Yoga will slowly
and gently loosen the blockages of thought and feeling, relaxing that
suppressed energy, allowing it to flow for better health and more life
energy. It will also expand the perimeters of your consciousness into a
new state of perception and awareness. But you have to give it time
and practice. You have to hang in there.
The Process of Mantra Meditation
The Body. First find a sitting position on the floor that will be
comfortable for the duration of your session. The relevance of sitting on
the floor is explained following.
The classical postures are the most preferred traditional ways of sitting
for formal meditation practice. They have been tried and proven over
thousands of years by the yogis, and have been found to give the
greatest assistance for the physical stability, spinal energy flow, and
mental equilibrium necessary for successful Meditation to occur. The
student should only attempt and use a posture which is not unduly
uncomfortable. To advance in sitting ability for longer periods of time,
regular practice of the preliminary Pawanmuktasana Exercises is
recommended, with a gradual increase in time spent in the formal
meditation position. Remember - progress will be gained by careful and
systematic practice, but damage can be done by over-stretching ones
When you begin the practice of Meditation, the body will become the
first distraction or hurdle to overcome. Only continue a meditation
practice up to the point where physical sensations can no longer be
transcended. Forcing the body or mind beyond this limit will only
induce more tension into the practice.
Some key points to remember about sitting for Meditation.
- It is definitely preferred that you are sitting on the floor. Furniture
should not be used if you're able to sit on the floor. Lying down is not
considered proper and prohibits the full benefits of most meditation
techniques. By sitting on the floor with the legs crossed or folded, you
are creating a spiritual gesture. That is - to being grounded, with
buttocks as the base, with legs (the organs of action) disabled. The
spinal column is the connecting rod of consciousness between the
grounded root chakra and the most elevated crown chakra, the opening
towards the heavens.
- The spine should be straight. The spinal column is the conductor of
inner spiritual force which will keep the consciousness on a high level
needed for concentration and Meditation. Initially it may not be
straight, due to physical tension, but with practise of other postures, in
time it will become so. Initially there may be blockages of Prana or
energy in different areas of the spine, but again, with practice of
Asanas and Pranayama, these will gradually be removed.
- It is best for the hands to be placed on the knees. Firstly to remove
them as a sensory distraction, and secondly to create an energy circle,
within the body. The thumb and first finger of each hand should be
touching in a circle. With palms placed upwards on the knees, this is
called Chin Mudra. With palms placed downwards, this is called
Gyana Mudra. These Mudras symbolise the Union or Oneness that can
be attained through Yoga and Meditation.
- To help straighten the spine and relieve back tension, place a small
cushion just under the rear of the buttocks to elevate the hips slightly
and tilt the pelvis forward. Ideally this should be reduced and discarded
after some months of improved posture.
In the beginning, it is not necessary to sit in a classical meditation
pose, in rock solid stillness. It is beneficial if you can, but don't force or
strain yourself into any posture. The straighter the spine the better, but
it should also be relaxed. If leaning against a wall is necessary, do this
initially, but also remember to practise those asanas which will help to
strengthen your back to one day achieve its own support. If the legs
become uncomfortable during the practice, by all means move them,
and then get back to awareness of the practice, but also remember to
practise some relevant asanas to improve the flexibility of the legs.
During the meditation practice the breath is not altered in any way. It
should always be natural. Assuming that you have done some
Pranayama before sitting to meditate, your breath should be reasonably
relaxed. Remember at all times to just watch the breath, and if it
changes, don't interfere.
The mantra is the object of focus within the practice. It is like an
anchor for a boat floating on a stormy sea. It is the stable object for the
awareness to keep coming back to, if and when the mind swims away.
It is there for several reasons. One is to give you a form to hold onto
when the mind's tricks become very subtle and the other is to stop you
drifting prematurely into formlessness. Whatever happens, the
technique is to keep repeating the mantra, that's your job, that's what
your doing, all the time. Don't stop for any reason until the allotted
time is up.
Your mind - that is your intellect, your memory, your thoughts,
feelings, images, resistances, distractions - will come and go, test your
patience and frustrate your efforts at inner peace. It is like a naughty
child that will not behave. But we are not trying to make it behave. We
are not trying to push it, nor pull it, nor force it in any way. And this is
where many people completely miss the point of Meditation. We are
only trying to repeat the mantra mindfully. You are not trying to
wrestle with the problem mind, you just let it go, but keep on repeating
the mantra and keep on gently bringing your attention back to the
mantra. This may seem frustrating at first but it does get easier and
better with practise.
This is the key element to the whole process. It is the awareness or the
consciousness that we are trying to identify with. That which is called
Mind and that which is called Awareness are 2 distinctly different
entities. The mind is just the inner vehicle for the movement of energy.
Its nature is the ever-changing, the fluctuating, the restless, subtle
mental impressions which come in the forms of manifested
consciousness. But the awareness is something different. It is that
which never changes. It remains always the silent observer. It is the
true part of you which knows that the mind has run off again. It is the
guide that brings you back to the practice when you forget. It is
unmanifest consciousness itself. Just keep on practising and you will
experience that one day.
There can be side effects from the process of a meditation practice.
Some seem good, some seem not so good. Depending on the inherent
psychological balance (or imbalance) of the practitioner to start with,
the amount of practice being done, and the type of lifestyle being led,
the sorts of things that can occur as a by product include: getting sick,
feelings of great sexual activity, boundless energy, increased sensitivity
and subtle perception, psychic abilities, religious experience, lack of
hunger, insatiable appetite, questioning your own sanity, questioning
society's sanity, relationship hassles, and basically any symptom of
cleansing and change from within oneself. But none of the above need
happen to an inconvenient level if there is proper preparation, a
balanced lifestyle, a balanced set of Yoga practices, and guidance by a
teacher. Don't now be worried about possible side effects or refrain
from commencing meditation sadhana because you now suspect it
won't be plain sailing! There will be pleasant experiences as well as
unpleasant, but the true purpose is to go beyond the affectations of
either - to experience the non-duality of the state of Meditation itself.
So we see that Yoga = Meditation. That Meditation is both a goal and a
process. That the different stages should all be balanced into one
spiritual practice. That the gains of meditative experience can and
should be applicable in everyday life. That we can validate our own
meditation experiences upon ourselves. That expectations and
preparations both have their place. That the process of meditation is
from the gross towards the subtle. That side effects may be part of our
healing and growing process. That the job of a mantra is to help
loosen the inner tensions and not just wallpaper them over. That the
results of proper meditation work will eventually be higher energy and
If all this sounds like what you're after, then Meditation may be for
you. Yoga and Meditation pre-supposes a need and desire for change
within oneself. If you don't want to change, then please do not take up
Yoga/Meditation. You will only get a big surprise!
THE PRINCIPLES OF INTEGRAL YOGA THERAPY
Many people these days are looking for methods of natural health cures
and health maintenance. The oriental and eastern methods of healing
are becoming more and more popular. There is a growing commitment
to "healing thyself" without need or dependency on other persons or
medicines. It is here that Yoga can really be utilised due to its
philosophy that within us we have all that we need to heal ourselves,
given the right methods and attitudes. But please do not misunderstand
that Yoga is for healing. The practices of Yoga are for growth, self
awareness and the progression of a more spiritual life. In amongst this
process, many have found that there is a "healing". This healing is an
inevitable outcome of personal growth. So within that context, healing
is growth, and Yoga promotes growth, therefore Yoga can help with
Many seekers have discovered the ancient methods of Yoga and
Meditation for management of stress and illness to their great benefit,
both physical and mental. Relaxation is known to reduce the incidence
of stress related diseases and Meditation is known to be effective in
reversing so called "incurable diseases" such as cancer. But the
application of Integral Yoga is not so well known as a very powerful
Within the broad range of techniques that are encompassed by Integral
Yoga, these following aspects are used most often in the treatment and
management of common illness.
YOGA ASANAS - postures and exercises
PRANAYAMAS - breath and energy control techniques
SHATKARMAS - salt water cleansing techniques
YOGA NIDRA - psychic sleep or deep relaxation
MANTRA YOGA - meditation practices involving Mantras
PRANA VIDYA - subtle breath/energy and visualisation techniques
DIET - management of food and eating habits
ASHRAM RETREAT - for lifestyle management
STUDENT & TEACHER RELATIONSHIP - a 2 way commitment
Each of these aspects of Yoga is a complex and comprehensive
component in its own right and cannot be dealt with fully here. In
Integral Yoga Therapy, they are all blended to give a balanced
approach to ailments of both a somo-psychic and psycho-somatic
nature. Whether one is recovering from a simple physical ailment such
as constipation or a complicated mental condition such as
schizophrenia, the approach by the Integral Yoga Therapist is similar,
in that a range of each of these branches is included in the treatment.
Always the main perspective of Yoga Therapy is that it is not the
illness that needs treatment, it is the person. For example, one child
with an asthmatic condition will require a different application to that
of an elderly asthmatic. One must always consider the personal
attributes of the patient/student. So in diagnosing and treating any
illness, one can't just fit a magic formula of Yoga into a known or
suspected disease. Before embarking on a major course of self healing
with Yoga Therapy, you should consult a qualified Integral Yoga
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