Yoga needs teaching. Yoga needs practice and more than that yoga needs a teacher who can understand the need of the student. Yoga is a very age-old science. We have ancient references about it in India, and we have historical evidences about yoga in other countries as well. I visit many countries of the world every year. I have been as far as Latin American countries, and in remote corners of those countries once upon a time, the great civilizations of the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans, the sun worshippers, flourished. Now, they are no more, but in the villages they have left stone carvings. There are historical evidences of a yogic past which the people of that country do not even know of today. I have taken thousands of photographs of those stone monuments which depict asanas, pranayama, shatkarmas, meditation, kundalini, padmasana, yantras, mantras and mandalas. In the YOGA magazine from Munger, those photographs are reproduced on the front page.
Yoga is a very old science, but we forgot it for some reason or the other, maybe due to some political accidents or some natural calamities that must have taken place. We know of a very big tragedy about the Atlantis civilization which completely changed the order of civilization all over the world; however, we really do not know much about it. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a passing reference to it by Krishna when he tells Arjuna: ‘That yoga became extinct for some time and I am teaching you the same yoga’.
Yoga has always fascinated mankind. It has been a mystery, a philosophy, it has been used as black magic, as a means to develop extrasensory perceptions, siddhis. It has created sects after sects throughout the world. It created Buddha, Mahavira, Christ, Mohammed and Zoroaster. It has created prophets, saints and thinkers, by some practice or other. In the context of our times today, we are just witnessing the revival of yoga.
The masses throughout the world are still ignorant. They still have peculiar notions about yoga and yogis. Usually they think that yoga is meant for the people who are pure and who have practised some sort of yama and niyama, are very disciplined and vegetarian, do not smoke and drink and who are brahmachari. This is the belief which still is in the mind of people. Many times you are interested in practising yoga, and the idea does come in your mind, can I practise yoga? Because I am not a good man. First of all, I am old, I have got my own habits of eating and sleeping.
There is a great psychologist, Dr Sigmund Freud, who I respect. He said that with the advancement of the technological culture and the new type of world that is emerging, with growing needs of comfort and luxury, with growing ambitions and desires, mankind is entering into another dimension of sickness, a different quality of sickness and diseases. That is what he has predicted. Now we find that the type of sufferings and sickness we are undergoing are of a different type. A time might come when medical science may find it quite difficult to handle them.
Of course, ninety per cent of the diseases in the western countries are still difficult to handle by medical science. They are finding it very difficult, and therefore they tried psychology, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and so on. With due respect to all, it is not my intention to criticize any profession. But they have not worked. So much so now, that doctors and psychiatrists just load their patients with drugs. Pychology is a science of mind. The problem created by the mind, and the problem in the mind, must be corrected through the mind, not by drugs.
In the last seventy or eighty years, doctors of medical sciences tried their level best, but ultimately they have failed. Religion has failed in the West. Finally, yoga came in, and we did not really push yoga, we did not introduce yoga; people came and discovered yoga from India. As they have discovered many things in the past in India, they discovered yoga. When they took yoga from India it was a raw material. Even Indians could not use it. In the West, they found it difficult to teach pranayama, but they tried to find out whether yoga really works. They conducted many researches on the brain, nervous system, acidity, heart, the effects of yoga on each and every organ of the body. The researches have advanced and become so sophisticated, that in bhastrika or any pranayama, the electrical charges in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system can be recorded.
Formally they did research on asanas like bhujangasana, shalabhasana. These are not exercises; asanas are postures. Scientists did research on asana first. The research was done first in Poland and Czechoslovakia, it was extended further in America and then it went on. Now, there are more than nine hundred research centres which are engaged in this research. Poland and Czechoslovakia have done a lot on the effects of asanas on the physical systems, blood pressure, respiratory system, alpha, theta, beta, gamma waves and skin resistance, called GSR. When you practise asanas what is the rate of consumption of oxygen in the body? Is it more or less? Do you conserve oxygen or do you waste oxygen? What is the rate of respiration? Does it fall or does it go up? What is the reaction of the coronary system during asana practice? How does the brain behave? This research was done even on sirshasana.
The next research was on muscular, mental, emotional tension. Mental tension can only be measured through the brain waves. Otherwise you cannot measure the mental tension, because you cannot see mental tension. Muscular tension can be measured by instruments and you will be surprised to hear that in yoga postures tensions come down.
I can give you a very short example of one experiment. An instrument was attached to different muscles of the body and the instrument showed the tension 20, 30, or 40. Then the person was told to practise bhujangasana, the serpent pose. Bhujangasana seems to be an asana causing more tension. But the instrument showed that the tension came down. It was surprising! When you are sleeping on the floor your tensions are high, when you are practising a posture like bhujangasana, where there seems to be tension at least in the spinal region, the instrument shows there is no tension.
Then what is the definition of tension? The definition of tension should change completely. When a person is lying down, his tension levels are measured and they are very high. He comes back from his office and his tension is very high and he practises shashankasana. He sits in vajrasana and bends forward and the instrument shows the tension is reducing. Muscular tensions are those tensions which are caused due to lack of certain energy. It is not the exercise, the activities of the muscles or ligaments that are responsible for bringing down the tension. Tension is a condition when the particular part of the body is starving for want of certain energy. That energy in the body is twofold: ida and pingala, or mental and pranic energy.
Mind is energy, mind is not thought, it is not psychological stuff. You have energy in an electrical cable and two or three copper wires which carry a certain type of current, positive and negative. In the same way the individual body has two types of currents. One is called the mind, chitta, the other is called prana or life. Prana is not this air or the activity of the heart or lungs. It is not oxygen. Prana is completely different from oxygen. Prana is the energy, vitality, which you inherited when your mother conceived you in the womb. From that time, you have prana and it continues to serve your body as long as you are alive.
In yoga, that prana is called shakti, energy. Mind in yoga is conceived as energy not as a psychological stuff. Anger is not mind, passion is not mind, desires are not mind, the thinking process is not mind. They are the manifestations of the mind, not the mind. The fan is not electricity, the mike is not electricity, it is the electric current which flows in both. The same electric current flows in the bulb and in the fan. The manifestations are different – that does not mean that there is different electricity. These fans, mikes, lights cannot be the definitions of electricity. In the same way, anger, passion, desire, and so on are the functions of the mind, not the mind. This mind should be considered as prana, energy, like electricity. It can be measured and it has been measured. Alpha, theta, beta and delta waves have been measured in terms of voltage, amperes, frequency. Do not consider your body merely as bones, flesh and marrow. In yoga, it is more than that.
When you practise asana you are clearing certain energy blocks. These energy blocks are cleared by a process of shodhana which means purification, such as in nadi shodhana, chakra shodhana, bhoota shuddhi, prana shuddhi, atma shuddhi. This shuddhi, purity, does not mean religious purity. It means much more than that. There is religious purity, physical purity and purity of the nervous system. Purity should never be considered as a religious word, it is a scientific term.
In your physical body there are six main distributing centres for this twofold energy situated in the spinal column. In yoga they are known as chakras through which the energy is distributed to every part of the body, both forms of energy, prana and the mind, life and consciousness. Apart from the main six distributing centres, there are 72,000 distributing nadis, according to yoga texts. First there are six distributing centres, then there are ten distributing centres, then there are 72,000 distributing nadis in every part of the body for both mind and prana. Mind is known as the cold nadi, and prana is known as the hot nadi.
An energy block can take place anywhere, due to mental and emotional tension, toxic food and air, and even thinking. There could be more than one thousand reasons. The energy is blocked, like when the fans, lights and the microphone do not work, because of an energy block.
When you practise asanas, this blocked energy is released. At once the tension drops. Therefore, in spite of stretching, pulling, turning, twisting and bending your body you have no tension, and when you are sitting on an easy chair and thinking, you still have tension. Tension has nothing to do with muscles, ligaments, the quality of blood. It is due to the improper distribution of the pranic energy.
There is another channel in the body which is responsible for conducting circulation of mental energy called manas, consciousness, through which you think. If there is a block in that system, you have mental tension. Mental tension could be due to too much thinking, or even if you do not think at all, you can still have mental tension. There are many lazy people who sit the whole day, reading novels, magazines and newspapers, they too have a lot of tension. Mental tension is caused on account of improper distribution of mental energy throughout the body.
There are three types of tensions: mental, emotional and muscular. These three things are called adhyatmic, adidaivik and adhibhautik. I read a book which is dedicated to people suffering from tension and hypertension. The author dedicated the book to those who face epidemics and famine, who face war, disaster, who move from place to place as refugees, who are divorced, who have no work to do, who have no money, as also those who have a lot of work and a lot of money. I mean life is full of tensions, you cannot escape. And the best thing therefore is to find some time to practise just a few asanas and pranayama.
Apart from research on asanas and pranayama, there is a new idea springing up in recent years – kundalini yoga and the awakening of kundalini. Scientists are coming to the conclusion that religion is not enough to transform the quality of the human mind. Religion is necessary, because everybody must have a religion, but religion will not do everything. We have been telling you to be good, charitable, and kind, but nobody cares.
Scientists say that there is a process called metamorphosis, transformation. The transformation in the quality of consciousness must take place. This means that some centres in the brain must stop, and certain centres in the brain must start to function. One tenth of the brain is functioning and participating, and nine parts of the brain are not functioning and not participating. They say you have to awaken kundalini whereby you supply a new kind of energy to the whole body, awaken the silent areas of the brain and block certain areas of the brain. I think it is possible, because I am one of those examples.
I am not going to say much about myself, but I have lost some areas of my brain. They do not function anymore and therefore I cannot be a victim of the activities, reactions or influences of those centres of the brain. For this purpose, awakening of kundalini must take place.
Awakening of kundalini is the awakening of a higher quantum of prana in the body. Just as you have a generator and you run your complex, after some time you will find that the generator is not sufficient because you need more energy. What do you do? You switch off the generator and connect to the main hydro-electric power station. In Munger we do not have regular electricity; ten times a day, it goes off and on. So we have installed a generator and run the whole ashram with the help of the generator, because the energy supplied by the state electricity board does not really serve us and we know that sometimes there is no electricity.
In the same way, many times this prana and this mind do not really help us, because its supply is very short. Its supply is so short that if the whole brain was to awaken and participate actively, this energy that is manufactured by your system, would not be sufficient. Therefore, you have to generate an extra quantum of energy – and that is called kundalini.
The seat of kundalini is at the bottom, a small granthi, a small gland, which is awakened by many practices, such as pranayama, but the most important is kriya yoga, and the easiest method is the practice of mantra. Scientists have been working on mantras, because for many years, westerners and modern people, even in India, thought that a mantra is the name of a particular god of a tribe. If you are a Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta, you have a tribal god, and you gave a name to it. Or once upon a time, he may have been your hero, and he might have died and you make him your God. That was the concept most people had, and as a result of this, they were very unsure about chanting mantras.
Twenty years ago, if I told anybody whether a Christian, a Mussalman, or even a Hindu, ‘Why don’t you practise Om Namo Narayanaya’, they said, ‘I don’t believe in God, so why should I practise Om Namo Narayana?’ Now people, even if they do not believe in God, want mantra because they have come to understand that mantra is a sound force; it is not religious. What is that sound force?
I am going to tell you about an experiment I am still involved in and which is not yet complete. In the medical university of Barcelona, with the help of doctors, we are conducting research on the overall effect of three sounds. The three sounds which we have chosen for the time being are: A–U–M, the combination of which is Om. It is a simple sound A-U-M. When you chant A, for some time, what happens? What happens to the brain? If anything happens to the brain, what happens to the nervous system? If something happens to the nervous system, what happens to the inner temperature of the body? If anything happens to the inner temperatures of the body, what happens to the general condition of the metabolism? In the last five years, we have made five thousand sheets of data.
The three sounds A-U-M, represent three stages of man’s awareness. That is written in the Mandukya Upanishad, which deals with A-U-M. The Mandukya Upanishad is one of the 108 Upanishads and deals with the nature of these three sounds. Our research is showing the same thing: M represents theta waves; U represents alpha waves; and A represents beta waves. That means when you are chanting your brain begins to develop beta waves. When you chant U it develops alpha waves. When you say M it develops theta waves. If it is true that a sound can change the wave patterns of your brain and nervous system and the general metabolism of the body, it is also possible for the sound to awaken kundalini.
I have a very good friend in Japan, Dr Hiroshimo Motoyama, who is working on kundalini research. He is a very keen student, and he has called many sadhus from India. He has done research and investigated the influence of bhastrika pranayama which is considered to be kundalini pranayama – supposed to affect kundalini. He inserts electrodes and the net result he has found is, that when we practise pranayama, the centres in the spine release special electrical charges which otherwise would not happen. These special electrical charges have also been measured. The electrical impulses have been registered in mooladhara chakra.
Now, I am coming to the main point. Asanas definitely help you, there is no doubt about it. It is necessary that all of you must try to think about it for your children and yourself. Asanas not only treat your sickness, they even treat you, the patient. They do not only treat a disease but they treat the patient, his psychology, his mind. How long shall we remain bound to this limited area of consciousness? Why not make a little change? When you change from a small flat to a bigger flat, or from an ordinary job to a higher job, why not change and replace this limited area of consciousness for a higher area of consciousness?
Even if you do not practise the actual kriyas for kundalini awakening, at least you should be able to practise pranayama and mantra. If, in the course of a few years, the transformation begins to take place, your attitude to tension and the general trends of life will change. In this way, yoga can at once fulfil your worldly and materialistic needs and give you an idea of spiritual life too.
We ask you to practise meditation and live a spiritual life in order to become aware of a greater personality that you have. We are only aware of our limited personality and that is the problem. If our vision changes through sadhana and dhyana yoga, and if we can realize within us the greater personality, which has more confidence, courage and control, then we will be able to live a happier life. Your personality does not mean the physical appearance; it means the total behaviour.
3 February 1982, BHEL Township, Trichy, Tamil Nadu