Practical Yoga

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I am going to talk a little bit about yoga and you should not get a shock. For many years it was thought that yoga was meant for a recluse, a sannyasin, or one who has nothing to do with day-to-day life. I am going to talk to you about that yoga which has very much to do with your life. Not necessarily if you are suffering from some disease, but to open the doors of intelligence. The yoga which I have in my mind to introduce to you this morning is meant to open the doors of intelligence and improve the quality of understanding, improve the quality of mind and emotion. I am talking about a subject which is relevant to the 20th century and more to the 21st century.

Yoga today is a subject which has caught the attention of the greatest thinkers of our times, scientists, doctors, philosophers and administrators, not only in India, but all over the world, not only by people who believe in Hindu religion, but who believe in other religions, and maybe do not believe in any religion at all. What is there in yoga which has impressed the world much more than anything else? Why do you talk about yoga? Why do the preachers from India go to different countries and teach yoga? Why should your management and your principal have thought it necessary to introduce yoga to you?

The first point, scientists have found that through the practices of yoga the quality of health can be improved, general health, positive health, and also the sicknesses that we suffer from.

Secondly, they have said the power of concentration that yoga bestows is superb. There is no other science which will give such fantastic and powerful concentration. Yoga is based on the principles of concentration. When the mind focuses on one object, or when the mind focuses on only one idea, within one area, and does not go beyond that, that is called concentration. When you achieve concentration, you have clarity about the subject, whether it is God, mathematics, philosophy, geography, history or languages. When the mind is clear, you can have proficiency in that subject. When the mind is clouded, you are not able to have clarity about it.

The practice of yoga which you will learn will bestow the quality of concentration upon you and the quality of concentration does not only improve the clarity and quality of understanding, but it gives you a creative intelligence which many people sadly lack.

Besides concentration, I want to point out another important aspect – discipline. I do not mean social discipline. There is an internal discipline, the inner discipline of the mind, emotions and philosophy. A disciplined mind is a mind which can rule, create and influence. All the great people in history were people who had mastered discipline. It is very important to imbibe discipline. This discipline need not be taught by your elders. If they teach you, well and good. Even if your elders, parents, teachers or society do not teach you discipline, through the practice of yoga a sense of discipline emerges from within yourself. When your parents and teachers and elders teach you to discipline yourself, sometimes it is very suffocating and unpleasant. When the practice of yoga brings that discipline from within yourself, it is a joy. You cannot understand this joy of the discipline which you develop from within yourself.

In your study, your life, family and society, discipline is the most important aspect without which a nation cannot exist as a nation. If there is anything in a nation that destroys and kills a nation and all its great chances, it is lack of discipline. It is not merely the education in schools and colleges, the prosperity that you have at home, a good parliament, assembly or government, or the buildings that make a nation. It is the people and discipline that make a nation. A disciplined nation can be ruled but cannot be destroyed. This discipline is not the discipline which is taught in the military academy. It is an understanding which comes from within yourself. You know how you have to rule yourself, conduct yourself, and how to adjust yourself in day-to-day life, in relation to your tasks, duties and obligations.

The next point is emotional balance. For a healthy life, emotional balance is of utmost necessity. Those who do not have emotional balance have a lot of psychological problems. They have problems in their behaviour and personality. These problems interfere with success in academic life. Why do children not get on well with studies? They have the brain. Why do you not get on well with your studies? You have the brain. You are not a dunce. Your emotional problems cloud your intellect, understanding and memory, and that is why, in spite of the fact that you read well, work hard, still you do not get the result that you want.

For this you have to have regular practice of four items: yogasana, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation. Asanas are postures; pranayama is control in the practice of breath, breathing; yoga nidra is a system of relaxation of the body, mind and muscles; meditation is practising one-pointedness on one object every day at an appointed time for five to fifteen minutes.

I believe the seed I am sowing will stay in your mind. In times to come you will remember that in your school days a swami came here. My name is Swami Satyananda Saraswati, my guru was Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh. I come from Bihar. My ashram is situated in the same place where the great Karna, the eldest son of Kunti, of Mahabharata fame, had his palace. That is where I have my ashram. I teach yoga all over the world. You may even call me a self-appointed ambassador of yoga, for I have been around the world many times to ashrams, schools and teaching centres.

2 February 1982, Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu