Yoga is the perfect practical system for the relaxation of tensions. Modern psychology defines three types of tension: muscular, mental and emotional, and they create all the agonies in human life. Tensions cause different troubles, diseases, inhibitions, complexes and neuroses. Anxiety and many other states that are associated with suffering are also due to these three tensions. Without tension, there is no suffering, and nobody can help but suffer if he has got one of these tensions. Many people think that tensions mean fatigue or a blocking process of energy in the system. They think the word ‘tension’ means a kind of muscular or mental blockage.
This topic can be discussed scientifically in relation to the case history of one patient suffering from mental troubles. This case was studied by a team of scientists. Electroencephalogram investigations revealed that he had no tensions in his brain, yet the man said that he could not sleep at night and that he had no appetite whatsoever. As a result of the investigations, the scientists felt he had no trouble, yet the man felt that he had trouble.
Then he was taken to the psychologists. His whole personality was analysed. In the ultimate analysis of his personality, it was found that an incident in his life, when he was a baby, had gone deeply into his mind; at the age of 35, he had begun to suffer because of that emotional tension. This is an unconscious emotional disorder. Ultimately, the patient was taken to the psychologist and he could not be cured. Emotional tensions are terrible tensions and they are tensions which no man can remove. This emotional tension cannot be removed by any method, not through pranayama or through asanas; neither by meditation nor through reading. These emotional tensions cannot be cured unless a person undergoes a process of reorientation.
Suppose a person receives a telegram saying that his wife or son has been killed. He is shocked and cannot resist the shock. He cannot contain the shock. He cannot understand it. It keeps creating tension from one part of the body to the other. Effects are on the nervous system, breathing process, the brain, respiration and oxygen consumption. Different kinds of pain are felt throughout the body. Loss of appetite and other troubles take place. The change is made through wisdom. The word ‘wisdom’ is known as jnana and in yoga, it is called jnana yoga, the yoga of understanding, of analytical understanding, not intellectual understanding but understanding through a changed mind.
When one has understanding with a changed mind, death, failure, insult, any complication in life, family disaster, payment of heavy bills which one cannot pay, will have no effect. To make it more clear, the individual is sensitive. He has a magnifying glass in his hand. It is only through a magnifying glass that man sees the events of life. He dreams of them, he thinks about them and any particular thought becomes an obsession. One can be obsessed by the idea of suffering, by the idea of want, by the idea of friendship. Therefore, the mind, personality, or consciousness, receives all that happens and, like a camera, develops it inside and enlarges it according to its capacity. In this way a person suffers agonies.
What is the way to relax the person? To make him free from the effects of nature is the subject matter of yoga. Real yoga, higher yoga, makes one free from these great shocks, these blows, these effects. When the person becomes free from it, he is not called a relaxed man, but a liberated man. Such a man is known as jivanmukta, the liberated, the free man, the senseless man who is not dejected by pain or failure. One may criticize or praise him, pay him money or make money of him, he understands, but he does not take it inside. This way of liberation, this way of relaxation from the emotional tensions, is the most difficult subject that has been dealt with in yoga.
How does yoga try to help the person? A yogi does not say to do asanas and pranayama. He does not treat the person locally or individually, he does not treat the symptoms because he knows the mind of the person is weak. If the patient is given peace through hypnotic methods, the benefit will only be temporary. Life is a series of ups and downs, pains and pleasures, births and deaths, the wanted and unwanted. In that case, if one is given peace for one month through hypnotic methods, what will happen after one month if something new occurs?
The patient has been able to get rid of one shock and the second shock follows. Again, the yogi says to get peace of mind through these hypnotic methods or some other process. But then a third shock follows.
How long can he treat the symptoms? Why not give a strong mind instead? Why not give a strong personality? The yogi gives a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of accepting the situations in life. One can go wherever one likes, face everything in life and live like a hero. This yoga is known as jnana yoga which has different methods of practice. A jnana yogi tries to develop the right understanding and make the mind strong.
First of all, he analyses all that happens in life. He does not understand death as death, birth as birth, pain as pain, pleasure as pleasure, defeat as defeat, or victory as victory. He says, “Victory, defeat, loss, gain, prosperity, poverty, health, wealth, birth – these changing conditions are the perceptions of the mind. This is how the mind looks at them, this is how the mind appreciates and assimilates them.” Happiness and sadness are caused by a way of thinking. The relationship to the object, the way of thinking or looking at objects, procures pain or happiness. Therefore, the yogi of right and true understanding tries to analyse the mental effects impartially. The yogi corrects his mind first. He is in touch with everybody day-to-day. It is at this point that tensions are accumulated and it is at this point where tensions are relaxed, and one becomes a jivanmukta, liberated.
The threefold tensions are the root cause of all suffering in life. You have a brain, a mind, an intellect, you can think. Are you unhappy? Ask yourself this one question daily: “Am I happy or unhappy?” Do not try to cheat yourself. If you are unhappy, accept it, if you are happy, boldly declare it.
How do you know that you are happy or unhappy? A person who is completely contented, is happy. A person who complains can never be happy. He may say he is happy, but complaints are equal to dissatisfaction and discontentment, which are the symptoms of unhappiness.
If you think that you are unhappy, and want to find an answer, find out what the cause of your unhappiness is. Is it your wrong attitude about your children, or is it the wrong attitude about society? Is it a wrong notion, wrong understanding about yourself? Is it too much humility, too much arrogance, too much inferiority, too much superiority or too much obstinacy? Like this you have to seek the answer. You have to analyse your personality, not the physical personality which can be analysed by looking in a mirror, but the emotional personality of feelings, the personality of thoughts, the personality of sensitivity, the personality which undergoes pain, which loves and hates.
The person who appreciates beauty and the person who hates ugliness may be sick, suffering from a physical disorder like leprosy, cancer or tuberculosis. In spite of his prosperity, in spite of comforts, in spite of the best education, in spite of everything material that modern society has to offer, emotionally the person is poor. On the emotional level there is illness, disorganization and derangement. By the development of the whole personality, the whole being becomes strong so that nothing in life can influence him. The person feels that he has become completely free from all kinds of tensions and sufferings.
In yoga, there are different methods for different kinds of tensions. For instance, for the exhaustion and sublimation of emotional complexes, one tries to develop the personality. To bring about a reintegration in the system, there is karma yoga, and to bring about mental discipline, there is raja yoga. In order to understand one’s personality for self-analysis and self-realization, there is jnana yoga.
What is the purpose of bhakti yoga? The philosophy of bhakti is that every person is emotional, and has been distributing this emotional treasure to the people in the world: mother, father, husband, wife, friends, and the nation. But every person has so much love that even after giving love to all he still has an excess.
He is unable to love anybody, but he always wants to love somebody. He wants to love more and more people, but it happens that there is a kind of slump or dullness in love. People do not receive love properly and they do not respond properly to it. It is like a river that is flowing to fill up a big pond but, when the pond is full, it overflows. In the same way, one gives love to all, but they are unable to receive so much love, so love overflows, and this overflow of love brings emotional disorder and anarchy in the system.
Therefore, it has been suggested in bhakti yoga, that all surplus love should go to God, because God is infinite. When one loves God and tries to channel all emotions towards Him, one finds that the whole emotional personality and one’s entire love can be consumed and assimilated by that infinite Being. As such, people who loved somebody other than God have always been unhappy. In psychology this is called the love complex, or the emotional complex, in human life.
So all the four yogas have to be practised: karma, bhakti, raja and jnana yoga. With the four yogas in life, one is free from the threefold tension. The physical tensions are removed by asanas and pranayama. It has been proved scientifically that asanas and pranayama bring about a complete relaxation in the system.
Scientific research has brought one fundamental development into the limelight which is the discovery of the behaviour and reaction of the endocrine glands on the human mind, behaviour and emotions. The thyroid, pancreas, pituitary gland, pineal, thymus, adrenals, sex-hormones, are called ‘ductless glands’. They are the endocrine glands. Scientists have come to the conclusion that if a person is angry by nature, then there is something wrong with his glands. If a person thinks too much, it could be possible that some of his glands are over-developed. Endocrine glands have an effect on human action, behaviour, and thinking. For example, if you are always angry, too emotional, or if you think too much or sleep too much, worry too much, or are too self-conscious, it may be possible that it is due to some kind of fault in the glands of the endocrine system.
In India, in order to control the population, they began giving a particular operation called a vasectomy in which the male hormones are extracted from the lower part of the abdomen. As a result, the men became incapable of causing pregnancy. This was done for about two to three years, and immediately a change in the behaviour of men was seen. The growth of moustaches in some cases stopped. Some became entirely submissive. Some began to develop heart palpitation. Their behaviour became unmanly. Doctors were very upset by this reaction as it clearly showed how hormones had a direct effect on thinking and behaviour.
There are six or seven basic asanas which control the endocrine secretions. Siddhasana controls hormonal secretions, sarvangasana controls the thyroid glands, halasana controls the pancreatic and adrenal secretions. For mental tensions, meditation can help. When one thinks too much, the brain is over-worked and, at that moment, the brain shakes. Meditation controls the activity of the brain. At that moment, the brain becomes still, but when it is thinking, it makes movement of contraction and expansion. The moment one begins meditation, the brain becomes quiet, modulation stops, and one conserves a lot of energy that is usually spent in thinking.
The brain is like an electronic battery which loses its charge, and runs down in unnecessary thinking. However, it can be recharged through meditation. When the brain stops during the time of meditation, the electronic charging takes place. It has been seen that when a yogi practises concentration, his brain stops sending out brain waves. The temperature of the brain also increases, and it is charged with energy. There is a sound in the brain which is like humming. This kind of sound is constantly ringing, but it also becomes calm and quiet. At the same time, it can be seen that the different nerves of the body, the channels which carry feeling or sensation, are cut off. Various centres become completely disassociated from the brain and one feels refreshed.
Yoga is a very comprehensive term which includes asanas, pranayama, mysticism, meditation, selfless activity, surrender unto the Supreme power, experience of the super consciousness and awakening of mental powers and capacities. The cause of the suffering that humanity is undergoing is tension, and every person is suffering consciously or unconsciously. This suffering can come to an end but only when one is free from tensions. The way to make oneself free from tensions is to take the course of yoga. Through asana and pranayama, one maintains sound health and through selfless service, one exhausts vasanas, impressions. Through devotion and self-surrender, one stabilizes the emotions. Through mental control, one increases mental efficiency, through self-analysis and enquiry one sharpens the discriminative faculty and, through meditation, one expands one’s consciousness. All layers of the personality are properly developed and one becomes an integrated personality. This is the main task of yoga.
—printed in YOGA, Vol. 14, No. 11 (Nov–Dec 1976)