Yoga Practices - Positions, Postures, Asana (The Best Practice to Perfect Health)

The rules to be followed by a sadhaka in case of self are given by way of Niyam. The following are the five Niyam :

Shouchasantoshtapah swadhyaeshwarpranidhanani niyamh | P Y S 2.32

We will consider each one separately.

Shoucha (Purity) -

This means the purity. Like ahimsa, this purity is also physical, oral and mental. Physical purity is again divided into two parts, outer and inner. Yoga has considered all types of purity and given directions as to how to achieve it. However, Patanjal Yoga does not give detailed description of this. But it is stated in detail in Hatha yoga.

While considering outer purity, Hathayoga describes many processes right from brushing the teeth. The specific powder (churna) that should be used for cleaning the teeth is also mentioned under Shuddhikriya in Hatha yoga.

There are six types of shuddhikriyas for the internal purity. Dhouti, Basti, Neti, Tratak, Nouli and Kapalbhati. We will study in detail all these six shuddhikriyas. Hence, they are not discussed further over here. Just the statement that internal purity has been considered in the minutest detail by yoga is enough.

For oral purity, yoga has given the message that one should not talk too much. Unnecessary use of the tongue is to be avoided and following the yam should purify the tongue.

Yoga has accepted the inseparable relation of the body and the mind. Hence, each and every yogic process affects the body as well as the mind.

Also, for purifying the mind, there is a process known as Trataka. We will consider it in detail afterwards.

The following aphorism states the result of the shoucha :

Shouchatswangjugupsa parairsansargh | P Y S 2.40

After purity is achieved by this process, sadhaka loses the feeling of the importance of the body and does not wish to interact with the other bodies.

When the sadhaka starts purifying the body, he feels that the body is full of impurities and he feels disgusted about it. When such feelings arise, he tries to avoid even the touch of the other and engages himself in his own mental bliss. Patanjali has stated in another aphorism that :

Satvashuddhisoumansyekagredriyajayatmadarshan yogyatwani cha | P Y S 2.41

From the purification process, satvashuddhi, mental happiness, calm mind, victory over the organs, and the plan to view the self (atma) are achieved.

Santosh (Contentment) -

Contentment is also an important virtue. When we observe the never-ending efforts of all creatures in their day-to-day lives, and think of the purpose behind it, we realise that all these efforts are to gain mental contentment and peace. We try to derive the contentment from outside matters. However, none is aware of the fact that the contentment does not depend upon these outside matters. It is a state of mind. It is not a reaction of the mind on any incident. Hence, it can be controlled irrespective of the incidents. Yoga with the use of this word intends the hidden meaning that one should learn to be happy in what one gets. This attitude will reduce pain and suffering in life. However, there should be mental preparation for this. When this tendency to feel contented is adopted by the mind, the perpetual happiness is not far behind. In fact the root of happiness lies in this tendency of the mind. And the root cause of suffering is in Trishna (thirst). This trishna has been defined in one Sanskrit shloka as under :

Asha nam manushyanamkachitdashwaryashrunkhala |
Yaya baddha pradhavanti muktastishathatipanguvat ||

Hope is such a chain that when tied with it, the creature starts running and when released from it, the creature stands peacefully.

Running behind the hope will lead to only pain and suffering.

Patanjali has given the following aphorism while describing the results of the contentment :

Santoshdanuttamsukhlabhah | P Y S 2.42

One who constantly learns to be contented, all his thirst gets weakened and the satva is heightened. He gets the maximum happiness and feels that pleasures from heavens or even the place of the God Indra is also nothing as compared to his own bliss.

Tapa (Endurance) -

Tapa means to bear some trouble with a good intention. Even if there is some physical or mental trouble, one should not discontinue his actions, but should continue them. This is known as Tapa. While studying Yoga or practising some yogic process, there may be some physical trouble. One should bear it happily and should pursue his studies. This is tapa.

The seventeenth chapter of Bhagwad Gita has described Tapa. There are three types of tapa: Satwik, Rajas and Tamas. Tapa done with faith and without hoping for the fruits is Satwik. That which is done for the expectation of status, felicitation etc is known as rajas tapa. And tapa arising out of folly, with some trouble to the body and with the intention of creating trouble for the others is tamas tapa. Patanjali has stated the results of the tapa in the following aphorism :

Kayendriyasiddhirashuddhikshayatapas | P Y S 2.43

Ashuddhi is adharma. It is a tamas guna. It is impurity, which veils the siddhis such as Anima. The daily practice and study of tapa , after its completion, removes all such impurities. When ashuddhi or impurities are removed, then siddhis such as Anima, Mahima, Lachima etc are obtained.

Swadhyaya (Self Study) -

Ishwar gita while describing swadhyaya has stated that japa is swadhyaya. It includes both shrawan and manan (listening and contemplation). Japa is of two types, oral and mental. Again oral japa is of two types, audible - with loud chanting which can be heard by the others and inaudible - whispers which cannot be heard by others. Mental japa is also of two types - without dhyana and with dhyana. In all these japas, japa without dhyana is considered as the best.

In daily life of commoners, swadhyaya can be said to mean revision of what is taught.

The results of swadhyaya are as under :

Swadhyayadishtadevtasamprayogah | P Y S 2.44

While doing japa of a particular mantra, when an anushtan is completed, the goddess for whom the japa is made becomes pleased with the sadhaka and appears before him. (known as darshan)

Ishwar Pranidhan (Worship with Complete Faith) -

It means while believing in the existence of God and having faith in his greatness, completely devoting oneself to Him without any expectations in return.

There is some divine strength at the root of this universe, which is beyond our imagination. To identify the divine strength and to surrender one completely to it is ishwarpranidhan. There are nine types of devotions for God

Shrawanam Kirtanam Vishnoh smaranat padsevanam |
Archanam Vandanam dasyam sakhyam atmanivedanam |

At times, even after our persistent efforts, we are unable to succeed. At such a time, if we have compassion of the God, the problem gets solved.

Samadhisiddhirishwarpranidhanat | P Y S 2.45

With Ishwarpranidhan, the siddhi of samadhi can be obtained.

There are five niyam in Patanjal Yoga. However, Hathapradeepika states ten niyam.

Tapahsantosh aastikyaam danamishwar poojanam |
Siddhantavakyashravanam hrimatich japo hutam ||
Niyama dash samprokta yogashastra vishardai || H P

The ten Niyama are Tapa, Santosh, Aastikya, Dan, Ishwarpujan, Siddhanta- Vakya shravan, Lajja, Mati, Japa and Hom. We have considered Tapa, Santosh, Ishwarpujan and Japa. We will consider the remaining six.

Aastikya (Theism) -

The firm belief in the existence of God is Aastikya. Everything in this unlimited universe makes us realise the existence of God. But the need of the today is to understand this realisation. The sloping tops of the hills, the giant trees seemingly point to the God. The sounds of the flowing rivers from the mountains to the sea, the falling waterfalls, the thunderous sound of the clouds in the rainy season all try to convey the existence of God with their noise. The perfect order of this unlimited universe and the regulated motions of the tiniest atoms, molecules, all these movements remind us of his existence. He has created the provision of feeding the fetus in the womb and He has also created the provision of milk for the newborn baby. To deny His existence is a way of showing one's ignorance. He is all pervading. To perceive His all pervasion and existence is aastikya.

Dan (Donation) -

Dan means to donate a thing owned by self to others on our own and with love and respect. To donate something, which is not needed, or donate some food item or article to others is dan on a common level. To donate leftovers to a beggar is not a great dan. Of course, it is good to give them away instead of throwing them away. But to part with something needed by us is the excellent dan. While having food, to give some of our own portion to the guest is good dan. But to donate something without satisfying own need first is the ultimate dan.

If a guest appears while we are having food, to feed him to the fullest extent possible without having food ourselves is the best dan. If we assure others of no harm, then that dan covers all sorts of virtues and that dan is incomparable.

Siddhantavakya Shravan (Listening to the ultimate truth) -

The body and this world is impermanent and ephemeral, God is eternal and indestructible. This is known as siddhanta vakya . To understand the deep meaning of this sentence is siddhatavakya shravan. With shravanbhakti (constant listening) this is possible.

Mati (Intelligence) -

To acquire the state of desirelessness, not to seek worldly pleasures and to set aside the wavering traits of the mind, to face the criticism of the world with courage and to be imaginationless - this state of intelligence is known as mati. Such a stage can be acquired with the study of aparigraha.

Lajja (Shame) -

It is expected that sadhaka should not be ashamed of the good things and should be ashamed of the bad things. Many times, due to the shame felt about good things, action is not generated. Even when there is a will, due to the shame, certain actions are not done. Hence, one must not be ashamed of good things. While studying yogic processes, there are many such incidents. The body moves in abnormal manner or some of the processes are not usual. If sadhaka is ashamed of these things, the studies will end then and there. Also, if it is not possible for us to do a certain process, but if some one else, younger than us in age can perform it, we need not be ashamed. Such a shame can stop the studies. One should continue the studies without feeling ashamed, so that the progress is made.

Hom (Sacrifice) -

The word is generated from havan. Havan means offering to the agni ( fire ). Offering something belonging to us to the fire is havan or home. Every article in this universe is made up of panchmahabhutas. Whenever anything is offered to agni, agni turns it again into panchmahabhuta. To offer something to this agni, which we have earned with due efforts, without having a feeling of ownership towards it, and with the feeling that the thing will be turned into panchmahabhuta and will not be seen by us again, thus sacrificing it totally is havan. Havan means total sacrifice. This is a higher stage than that of dan, because, in dan, the article is going to be useful to someone else. In havan, the total sacrifice of the article is expected. It is a permanent sacrifice. This of course, is a description of worldly sacrifice. In yoga, even spiritual sacrifice is expected.

For the advanced studies in Yoga, sacrifice of sensory perceptions into the sense organs and sacrifice of sense organs into the mind (antakaran) is expected. With swadhyay of yoga this can be achieved.

We have studied Yam and Niyam in detail. An attempt has been made to describe in detail what the Yoga texts state about these Yam and Niyam. In Yoga text, descriptions are made thoroughly so as to lead sadhaka towards samadhi. While viewing from a common man's angle and after starting the study of yoga, it may not be possible to follow the Yam and Niyam to the fullest possible extent. However, for us common people, the aim of the Yoga studies is not samadhi but to live happily and with contentment in our family life. Hence, we should try to follow Yam and Niyam accordingly. If we try to follow the principle of ahimsa as meant in the texts, it may not be possible for us, to stay in this world. Hence, Yam and Niyam should be followed remembering the customs of this world and to the extent possible for us. But, to follow them, we should at least have an idea of the ideal state of Yam and Niyam. It is a general experience that as the study of Yoga proceeds, the tendency to follow the Yam and Niyam increases. In any journey, one must be aware of the destination and should travel in that direction. Then one is bound to reach the destination one day. The period of the journey may be different for everyone, but one who starts travelling will definitely reach there one day or the other. Hence, to follow Yam and Niyam at least on worldly basis will suffice and be complementary to the study of Yoga.

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Yoga Vidya Gurukul

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Yoga Vidya Dham, Kaivalya Nagari,
College Road, Nashik - 422005.
Maharashtra, India.

Phone - +91-9822770727 (for courses in ENGLISH)

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Village Talwade, Trimbak, Nasik

Phone - +91-9822770727

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