The focus of Bihar Yoga is not only on asana in hatha yoga; it is on all aspects of hatha yoga. The emphasis is not the physical aspects only; there is more emphasis on the pranic, since the physical is a representation of the pranic condition. If you are sick physically, the pranas are depleted. In hatha yoga, the Satyananda Yoga tradition looks to balancing, awakening and activating prana with the use of yogasanas. Similarly, in raja yoga this tradition looks at the components of yama and niyama, along with pratyahara, dharana and dhyana; and the asana and prana yama are used as tools to internalize. There is a definite effort to discover one's mind, and that is where people find the biggest challenge, whether they be the modern sannyasins or yoga practitioners.
Swami Sivananda, Swami Satyananda and Bihar Yoga are clear that if you want happiness, completeness and wholeness in life, this mind has to be managed properly. Sri Swamiji says, 'If you have a fight with your wife or children in your home, you can sleep in separate rooms and have a good night's sleep. However, if you fight with your mind, where will you put your mind? You can't put your mind in a separate room; it will sleep with you! It will wake with you! It will talk to you. It will create problems for you. It will keep you awake the whole night. So it is better to keep this mind happy. If this mind is happy, you can live your life in a happy manner.'
In all the teachings of Sri Swamiji, he has placed emphasis on the mind. In all the teachings of Swami Sivananda, he has placed emphasis on developing the positive qualities of the mind and eradicating the negative and restrictive qualities of the mind. That has been the teaching, for through the mind you can experience your awakened nature.
Many exponents of yoga say the experiences of the mind are unreal, whereas many exponents of yoga say the experiences of the mind are real. Who to believe? If the experiences of the mind are unreal, then even the idea of shanti, peace, that you experience in your mind is unreal. The happiness that you experience in your mind is unreal.
If all the experiences of the mind are real, then there is no negation of anything and there cannot be any change, as it is the same pattern of suffering, happiness, struggle, behaviour, expectation and desire. The patterns of behaviour, expectation, needs and desires do not change. In childhood you play with little toy cars. When you get some money you play with real cars and get a new car every six months or every year. When you are young you play with little dolls, little he-dolls and she-dolls, and when you grow up you play with bigger he-dolls and she-dolls. You also change them many times according to your likes, fights and choices. Maybe you have lived a life like this, too.
In relation to the mind, what is reality and what is illusion? When you begin to think of yourself as a reality or illusion you miss the point. Swami Sivananda says: 'improve your present by learning from the past, and develop strength and hope for the future. You live in the present; your body, brain and mind are in the present. Yet your mind is always lost in the past, and your fears and insecurities are always about the future. You never enjoy the present, as you live in your memories of the past, are fearful of your future and ignore your present. In this situation any experience of the mind is false; it is unreal, as it does not ground you in the present condition and present reality. When you use the learning from the past to improve and excel in the present, and to be optimistic about the future, then that experience of the mind becomes real. This is how the tantras and the Upanishads describe the experience of the real and the unreal in life.
It is not a question of intellectual, philosophical analysis or understanding. It is simply a realization that when you use the learning from the past to excel in the present then that expression, that life, that state of being is the real you. Whatever you experience at that moment is real.