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PRIOR TO MEDITATION

By RV Iyer

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is the authoritative treatise on yoga philosophy and practice, there are eight parts for realization. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

YAMA consists of right attitudes that one has to take in one's life, whereas NIYAMA are the rules to be observed in life which will influence the body as well as the mind. These will be detailed in later articles in due course. ASANA have been indicated in my previous article. I have also recommended PRANAYAMA for cleansing the body and mind.

In the present western world Yoga means Asanas, Pranayamas and Meditation and there is no emphasis on other parts. The first four parts of Ashtanga yoga as described above are interconnected and if one is practiced, others will be easy to practice. For example, if one practices Asanas and Pranayamas one will automatically gain the effects of Yamas and Niyamas. Similarly, the latter four parts are also interconnected as one leads to the other.

ASANAS: There are various Asanas that are in practice. They are all variations of basic 84 Asanas which are well described in GHERANDA SAMHITA. The present day Asanas were not part of the original Yoga practices prescribed in the earlier stages of the seers. They are part of Tantra Shastra which is actually a separate science developed on the body, mind and soul.

Those who are interested in the well-being of the body and mind and are of young age can practice all these Asanas. Many Asanas and Pranayamas combined have therapeutic value which is a separate science in itself. Those who are of normal health can practice Padmasana, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana, Paschimothanasana, Ardhamatsyendrasana, Trikonasana, Tadasana as welll as Shavasana. If interested in practicing additional asanas according to one's taste, one can add more. I am not describing these Asanas as they are already available on a host of Yoga websites with instructions and pictures.

Heavy Asanas are not recommended for those suffering chronic diseases. These Asanas are not recommended especially for those suffering from hypertension. They can practice the set of Pavanamuktasanas coupled with Marjara Asana and Akarna Dhanurasana without keeping the breath inside which is called Kumbhaka. Same principle will apply to aged ones also. Practice of Asanas is permissible for those between the ages of 12 and 60 provided they are normally healthy individuals.

There are various types of Pranayama which also originally belong to Tantra Shastra. Nadishuddhi Pranayama is the one mainly mentioned in the original Yoga sutras and other Pranayamas are Bhramari, Sheetali, Sheetkari, Ujjayi, Kapalabhati, Moorcha, Plavani, Suryabhedi, Chandrabhedi, Bastrika and others.

Such Pranayamas are recommended for advanced practitioners while for normal meditational purposes Nadisuddhi alone is sufficient. But this practice has to be improved from the way I have described in previous article by having retention of breath preferably either inside or outside or both. This retention is called Kumbhaka. It has to be practiced by taking breath inside and close both nostrils and keep the breath inside to a comfortable level so that exhaling will be smooth. In the initial stages, exhaling can be sudden. By practicing gradually one will become an expert. The initial practice of Pranayama can be started in the ratio of 4 numbers counted by fingers for inhaling, 4 numbers for retention and 4 numbers for exhaling. Then increase next week to 4 numbers of inhaling, 6 numbers of retention and 6 numbers for exhaling. Next week 4 numbers inhaling, 8 numbers retention, 6 six numbers exhaling and in this way, ultimately bring it to 4:16:8 ratio. Thereafter go for 5:20:10 and then 6:24:12. Beyond this ratio it is not necessary for normal practitioners. There is no harm if ratio is varied as per capacity. Once internal retention is practiced and perfected, external retention should be practiced. The count number should be half of the internal retention.

IN MEDITATION

Regular practice will make one perfect within six months to one year. The breath which goes like a serpent will come under control and the accompanying rash sounds will vanish; length of the breath will increase and become very minute and will not be heard even by the practitioner. Body will become more light, fat will reduce, Obesity will go, mind becomes calm. Pleasure will be felt and every action done by one will become without strain. Eyes will become bright and ears become very sensitive. Better tastes will be felt and addictions will go. Color will change and face gets uplift and there are many benefits that come from the Pranayama practice.

In addition, some Bandhas and Mudras can be practiced which will also be beneficial. Uddiyana Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha and Moola Bandha are recommended. One can refer to various available websites for details. These three are accessories to Pranayama and hasten the development of mind purity with the retention and distribution of Prana in the body.

In sitting for meditation, it is advisable to practice either Jnana Mudra or Chin Mudra. Jnana Mudra is practiced in one of the following ways:

  1. Touch thumb and forefinger together or fold the forefinger as a zero and touch the root of thumb and keep the palm downwards on the knees.

  2. In Chin Mudra Touch thumb and forefinger together or fold the forefinger as a zero and touch the root of thumb and keep the palm upwards.
     

One can also practice Bhairava Mudra by keeping right palm over the left palm on the lap. Similarly, Yoni Mudra is a varied form which can be practiced by just crossing all the fingers and keeping the two little fingers joined and kept forward.

These Mudras have their own effects on the body as the magnetic and electrical forces emanate from the tips of the fingers and when fingers are joined, an electrical circle is formed inside the body, which is very beneficial. There is an established scientific formula in yoga as follows:
 

  • 12 Pranayamas equal to one Pratyahara
  • 2 Pratyahara equal to one Dharana
  • 12 Dharanas equal to one Dhyana
  • 12 Dhyanas equal to one Samadhi.


This means, 12 x 12 x 12 x 12 = 20736 Pranayamas equals one Samadhi. This calculation is applicable to those who have already purified their yogic channels of Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Their breath has been brought to controllable levels. Their body has been purified with physical Asanas and Meditation done on regular basis. Even this Samadhi is considered as a fleeting second. To remain in continuous Samadhi, can you imagine how many pranayamas need to be practiced? (To be continued.)

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Yogacharya R Venkatachalam Iyer (mumukshuiyer) was born in 1934 at Parur, Kerala, India. He started Yoga at the age of 14 years. He received training in Suryanamaskara from S.P Iyer of Bangalore, India and Yoga from Sundaram of Bangalore, India. He received advance training at Sivanandashram, Rishikesh and Bihar Institute of Yoga, Munger. He took Karma Diksha from Brahmasri Niranjananda Saraswati Swami Maharaj


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