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Physical Exercises Yogasanas

Operation at the Annamaya Kosa level involves the use of physical movements, exercises and Yogic Postures. The first two are called Sithilikarana Vyayama.


Before we take up the practice of Asanas we have to prepare ourselves thoroughly so that, the performance becomes easy as well as effective. Asanas involve articulation and bending. Generally the joints are stiff and the muscles are tight, and the preparation is meant for loosening the joints and stretching so that the bending and articulation becomes easy.

Sithilikarana Vyayama or the stretching and loosening exercises aim at such a preparation. These exercises are physical exercises, where predominantly bendings and stretchings are involved. A breathing pattern is also suggested for effectiveness. It is generally observed that if the practice of asanas is taken up directly, there develops pain in the body. This pain is also avoided by doing the Sithilikarana Vyayama. Though this Vyayama is at the physical level if we incorporate the relaxation in action it can be made highly beneficial. They bring about

(i)    Mobility of joints & flexibility of muscles.
(ii)    Develop physical stamina.


From times Immemorial man is trying to be free from disease, to make his body handsome, to make it strong and ultimately make it immortal. The search for the fulfillment of these desires brought about the development of physical culture where various types of exercises are employed. The following is the broad classification of the various types of exercises that are in vogue today. Exercise can be broadly classified in to two types (A) Passive and (B) Active. Under Passive type we have Massage and manipulation of muscles by others, where the beneficiary is passive. Whereas in the active type we have exercises emphasizing on different characteristics, which are enumerated below.

Strength: Body building and weight lifting utilizing the implements like bar- bells, dumb-bells and also vigorous exercises like pull ups and push ups etc.

Speed: Sports and athletics, etc,

Dexterity: Acrobatics, gymnastics, archery, fencing, lathi, boxing, etc.

Endurance: Under this category there are two subdivisions, namely these for Health and Hygiene-in which there are further subdivisions namely Yogic, and Non-yogic involving practices of isometric type. The other is for Recreation in which walking, hiking, swimming, games etc.

In the above classification for the purpose of getting the benefit from the course we can get common features involved in all Non-yogic type of exercises. They involve speed, jerks and repetition. They are energy expending processes, working in the muscular and circulatory levels. The attitude of competition, showmanship and materialistic gain often develops tensions etc. Physiotherapy predominantly adopts these physical exercises and movements to treat several ailments connected with muscles, joints and nerves.

The mode of performing yogasanas differ from expert to expert. Looking at large, we can classify the systems of yogasanas into 2 categories:

(i) Dynamic Asanas.

This has transformation in the structure of the body as aim. As the name implies, the characteristics of this system of Yogasanas are speed and repetition. All the asanas involve the articulation of the spine-forward, backward lateral as well as twist. While the physical exercises (Non-Yogic) are effective on muscular and circulatory as well as respiratory systems, the Yogic exercises have an effect on nervous and glandular systems as well. The Dynamic Yogasanas stimulate the nervous and glandular systems resulting in evocation of energy. This energy combats laziness by shattering Tamas and gives rise to Rajas (activity). This particular system is recommended for children as well as people who are lethargic. The Suryanamaskar and Sithilikarana Vyayama can be included in this system of dynamic yogasanas as it is a combination of different asanas, and involves speed. The practice is accompanied by Yamas (Restraints) and Niyamas (Observations).

(ii) Yogasanas of the second type: Relaxing Asanas.

The aim of this system is to develop an inner awareness and unfold the higher levels of consciousness. Continuity in movement, that is, without jerks slowness and maintenance characterise this system. This results in strength and forbearance-Titiksa. There is also a proportionate growth of the body. The control of food and other Yamas and Niyamas are the companions of this system. While the non-yogic exercises and dynamic Yogasanas effect in expenditure of energy and perspiration, the Yogasanas based on Pantanjali's Aphorisms result in deep relaxation and energy conservation, resulting in freshness. This is basically a nerve culture as it calms down the nerves.


Most people are of the opinion that Yogasanas are meant for keeping the body fit and healthy. In other words they limit the asanas to physical exercises. It is just like going to a millonaire and asking for a rupee.

'Asanas' forms one 'anga' or limb of Pantanjali's eight limbed Yoga. This means that he has introduced it with a specific purpose of utilizing the body of which most of us are aware to develop an inner awareness and thus reach higher consciousness. We saw in the earlier discussion that Yogasanas help us to develop forbearance because of maintenance. While maintaining we go through three stages which are described below.

Initially, the posture is shaky. A beginner cannot reach the final posture immediately. After gradual practice he reaches and achieves steadiness and this stage is called 'Sthira'. In this stage, however he is not able to maintain it for the prescribed length of time due to the effort involved. When he withdraws the effort by relaxation as per the suggestion of Patanjali 22 in the first half of Aphorism. II- 47 "Prayatna-Saithilya", he reaches the stage 'Cira' in which he is able to maintain it for the prescribed length of time. The mind control begins here. In 'Sthira' the mind gets concentrated on the process of being in the final posture, but as the posture becomes effortless and natural the mind according to its nature starts wandering. To avoid this, Patanjali gives us a method in the next half of the same Sutra (11-47) "Ananta-Samapatti" or contemplation on the infinite. Here the word 'Ananta' can be interpreted as the chosen deity, or the chosen sound (Mantra) or just expansiveness. When this is done the mind calms down and as it stays in silence it starts experencing the bliss and this stage is called as 'Sukha'. Patanjali defines the nature of Asana in the previous Sutra (11-46) viz: "Sthira -Sukham asanam"-Posture(should be) steady and comfortable. The Sukha stage is comparable to Dhyana. If the posture is 'Sukha' for an appreciably long time subjectively varient the person enters 'Asana-Siddhi' which is the superconscious state or 'Samadhi'. This is given by the subsequent sutra (11- 48) "tato dvandvanabhighath". From that (mastery of the posture) no assaults from the pairs of opposites. This is how we derive infinitely more than just the physical benefits.


 All the attempts of Kamsa to kill Krishna have f ailed. He hits upon a brilliant plan of which he is sure of success. He hosts a carnival of fun and games to which he invites all people including Krishna as well as Balarama. The obstacles are cleverly spaced from the main gate onwards. A rogue elephant attacks Krsna and he kills it. Finally, the court wrestler Canura challenges Krsna and the wrestling bout is very beautif ully described in Srimad Bhagavat.

Canura is described as 'man-mountain' with very heavy body having rippling muscles exhibiting strength in every way. The gestures, facial expressions are also given. He is said to be tense, stiff, straining every muscle with an angry face. Contrary to it Krishna's body described in it as well proportioned with a balanced growth, agile, capable of great speed in movements, having good reflexes, highly flexible, Komala-petal soft but stone hard when situation arises,

naturally relaxed during action due to lack of strain. His psychology is also very congenial: his face is always smiling as if he is ready for sport, very keen observation due to tranquility of mind and clarity of thought. He keenly observes the 'man-mountain' and notes that he has a slight limp on the right leg due to an injury in a past fight. When the fight begins, Krishna fights effortlessly and wins by using the strength of Canura on himself.

This gives us the characteristics of an ideal body:

1.   Balanced and harmonious growth.
2.   Great speed in movement due to agility.
3.   Highly flexible.
4.   Komala-but stone hard when the need arises.
5.   Relaxation in action and hence conservation of energy.
6.   Tranquillity of mind and clarity of thought. That is the harmony of thought. That is, the harmony of body and mind.

These characteristics can be achieved with the persistent and regular practice of Yogasanas. We shall have to go into some physiological details to understand this.

The normal misconceptions about Prana arise due to partial understanding that Prana is the air entering in and going out; that, which governs breath; that it is nothing but nerve impulses etc. But as we have seen Prana is the basic life principle. In its dormant form, it exists in the mineral world. In the vegetable kingdom, the primary facets of Prana, we can observe, started manifesting. As Prana manifests more and more in the Animal and Human spectrums, newer faculties emerge. The structure of the body is also suitably transformed giving scope to the fuller manifestations of the higher emerging faculties, the mobile limbs and the senses in the animal world and the complex anatomy of the human body. In different parts of the body, different aspects of Prana work with proper co-ordination and organization between them. In the human system our seers have recognized 5 major facets of Prana carrying on 5 major functions.

There are five different manifestations of Prana in this system. This 'Prana' is called Mukhya Prana (the chief Prana) to distinguish it from its other five manifestations namely Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udana. They are described in Prasna Upanisat as follows:

Payupasthe Apanam Caksuh Srothre Mukha Nasikabhyam Pranah Swayam Pratisthate Madhye thu Samanah.

"The Apana is in the Organs of excretion and procreation; in the eye and the ear as well as in the mouth and the nose dwells the Prana himself; and in the middle is the Samana."

The manifestation of Chief Prana in the lower regions of the abdomen is termed as Apana. Prana acts in the upper regions-face, nose etc. which essentially corresponds to the force which activates breathing. That which keeps the balance between the upper and lower forces (Prana and Apana) is called Samana. Vyana is defined as:

" Hrdi, Hyesa Atma; Atraitadekasatam

Nadinam Tasam Satam Satamekaikasyah

Dva Saptatih Pratisakha Sahasrani Bhavantyaisu, Vyanascarati".

"In the heart dwells Atman. There are (in the heart) hundred branches in each one of the Nadis, and each of these branch Nadis again has seventy two thousand Nadis. In all these the Vyana moves".

Vyana is that aspect of Chief Prana that flows through each and every Nadi. It co-ordinates the functions of different aspects of Prana.

(D.I) Schools in Pranayama.

Normally there are 3 components of Breathing-Inhalation, Exhalation and Stoppage of breath. They are, termed Puraka, Recaka and Kumbhaka respectively. In Kumbhaka the stoppage of breath can occur in 3 ways: after inhalation (Puraka or Antarya Kumbhaka), after exhalation (Recaka or Sunya or Bahya Kumbhaka) and an automatic suspension of breath not due to a proceeding process of breathing (Kevala Kumbhaka). This last variety, Kevala Kumbhaka is the aim of all Pranayamas. In this stage there is no force inside urging us to breathe in or out. A natural suspension of breath is accomplished. This may be induced for a short time by a proceeding Kriya like Kapalabhati due to hyper oxygenation, we get a glimpse of what Kevala Kumbhaka is like. Recognition is half the solution, but it should not end there. We must learn to induce this stage of automatic cessation of breath without the proceeding Kriya. Thus, the real Kevala Kumbhaka is the goal of almost all breathing techniques we are getting acquainted with. There are various effects of this Kevala Kumbhaka- the deep relaxation, lowered metabolic rate, serene blissfulness, expansiveness and single thought, essentially the effects of Dhyana.

The ratio of Puraka, Antarya Kumbhaka, Recaka and Bahya Kumbhaka will be initially 4: 4: 4: 2 (The numbers in the ratio could be taken as Seconds) minimum number of rounds. Gradually as one progresses, the Kumbhaka portion is increased 4: 12: 8: 8, 4: 16: 8: 12, 4: 32: 8:16 etc. As the duration of Kumbhaka is increased more and more, sonic portion of the Kumbhaka will resemble Kevala Kumbhaka. Continued practice leads one to attain Kevala Kumbhaka for a longer duration.

While in the second type, emphasizing the slowness of Recaka and Puraka, no forceful stoppage of breath - Kumbhaka is used. Instead, the time taken for each inhalation and exhalation is made to increase gradually. Associated with it will be the deep relaxation. As one progresses, one finds that an automatic cessation of breath is resulting as illustrated in the figure.

At the change over regions from Recaka to Puraka and Puraka to Recaka, a smoothening takes place resulting in Kevala Kumbhaka.

Associated with the first school, there is the danger of premature energy evocation, Kundalini shooting up without proper overall purification of the system in those who start doing for long durations. It may result in a disaster; neurotics and lunatics may be the outcome. One should work with precaution. The major point, many such wrecks miss, is the use of Bandhas with Kumbhaka- the Jalandhara and Mula Bandhas. If this precaution is taken and a disciplined life is followed, one could use this school with no dangers.

We have chosen the second, safe path. Relaxation, resulting from slowing down of breath is the key. Both schools have the same aim, but the second involves lesser violent changes. It is smooth. Hence, you can notice, that in all the Pranayamas, we are not using Kumbhaka at all. But we would allow the automatic suspension of breath whenever it occurs. In fact, we should welcome it. Glimpses of Kevala Kumbhaka should be instilled in each and every Pranayama. That is the key. After prolonged practice of this method we proceed to introduce 'Kumbhaka' in the Pranayama in the follow-up Camps.

" Athaikayordhvam Udanah

Punyena Punyam lokam Nayati

papena pam, Ubabhydmeva

Manusya lokam"

And then, through one of them (Susumna) the Udana carries (the soul) to the, virtuous World by virtuous deeds, to the sinful World by the sinful acts, and by both to the world of men". And Udana is the one that follows upwards in a subtle passage called Susumna. Normally this, is not known to ordinary people. Pranayama is the science of regulating and gaining control over this Mushy Prana, allowing its fuller manifestations to emerge. But in particular we use regulation of breath to gain control over Prana. Hence, we need to understand the difference between normal breathing (which is normally haphazard, flowing randomly through one or both the nostrils),

Kriya (like Kapala-bhati 20), Yogic full breathing and Pranayama.

(D.II) Kriyas, Breathing & Pranayama

Table below depicts clearly the difference between the Kriyas, Yogic full breathing and Pranayama.

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