Chapter V

Posture or Asanas

Posture signifies sitting in a particular position and maintaining it firmly and for a certain length of time. Hatha Yoga describes numerous postures, and of these, eighty-four are well known. The practice of these postures confers many advantages because they are an aid to concentration. They help to eliminate all bodily ailments and weaknesses. The organs, veins and arteries remain healthy and vigorous. There is no loss of heat in the solar plexus. The food is well digested and the respiration is regular. By this practice the body is brought under control. Further, a number of mental advantages also accrue, such as concentration, clarity of thought, deep insight, etc.

Every human being has body, mind and soul. By the intake of food the body does its work; through the body the mind is activated and through the mind the soul functions. The main purpose of human life is to know the self and to attain God-Realization. For the control of body and mind, the practice of Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga have long been in vogue among the Hindus. Hatha Yoga deals with the principles for breath control and of different postures. In Raja Yoga, on the other hand, the mind is stilled and its power is increased through contemplation and firm resolution to create a proper attitude of mind. Both of these methods aim at collecting the soul force at the eye centre or the Third Eye.

Yoga has eight aspects:

  1. Yam - Restraint

    • Ahimsa - Non-violence or abstinence from injury in thought, word or deed.

    • Satyam or Sat - Truthfulness.

    • Asteya or Astaiya - Not stealing, or abstaining from theft.

    • Brahmacharya - Continence or Celibacy.

    • Apregreha - Freedom from greed and covetousness, or negation of desire for possessions beyond the necessities of life.

  2. Niyam - Observances

    • Suouch or Souch - Cleanliness or internal and external purity.

    • Santosh - Contentment.

    • Tapa - Self-discipline of the body, tongue and mind.

    • Swadhyaya - Study of self; also of scriptures.

    • Ishwar Pranidhan - Self-surrender to the Will of God.

  3. Asan - Posture

  4. Pranayam - Practice of inhaling, holding the breath, then exhaling, ultimately holding the breath at one of the centres in the body for a long time.

  5. Pratyahar - Control of sense organs.

  6. Dharma - Resolution or firmness for creating a proper attitude of mind for contemplation.

  7. Dhyan - Contemplation

  8. Smadhi - Super-consciousness or mystic trance.

The third aspect of yoga, viz., Asan, is relevant to the subject under consideration, namely, assuming a correct posture for meditation. If one does not remain steadfast in a particular posture but frequently changes position, the mind currents do not become concentrated. It is therefore essential that the desired posture should be maintained. Otherwise, the yogic exercises cannot be performed successfully.

In yogic practice, the blood vessels have to be first cleansed und purified. This is done by means of four types of postures:

  1. Standing

  2. sitting

  3. lying flat on the floor and

  4. standing on the head - with head on the floor and legs vertical.

These four postures have their respective advantages, but, for our present purpose, it is not necessary to give a more detailed description of them.

Yogis have performed all the eighty-four postures without gaining the ultimate goal. They do not rid the mind of erratic or vicious thoughts. They are primarily for the benefit of the physical body, and do not lead to God-Realization. Obviously, if a medicine does not cure the ailment, it is useless. These postures require sustained effort without much profit. Sant Mat, therefore, deprecates such practices.

We have first to see which is the easiest posture by means of which our soul currents can be brought to the eye centre and concentration attained, and, which a child, a young or an old person can adopt with equal ease. It is essential to be alert before starting the spiritual practice. The practitioner should take a bath to get over sloth and drowsiness. If for some reason this is not possible, one should at least wash the hands, feet and face. One should then sit cross-legged, keeping the back straight but neither stiff nor loose. It is essential that the spinal column remains erect. When doing the practice, one should sit on the floor or on a wooden cot. The practitioner should not support his back against a wall or a chair. He should be careful not to fall asleep. If one has to sit for a long period, one can use a Bairagan - arm rest - with advantage.

Whatever posture one may adopt for his spiritual practice, he must satisfy himself that it causes no restlessness and that he can easily forget the body.

The Saints have adopted a posture that is both easy and natural. They do not regard the different postures of Hatha Yoga to be essential for spiritual uplift. The posture adopted by the Saints is that by which the soul currents can be withdrawn from the nine apertures of the body to the soul’s headquaters between the two eyebrows. And the consciousness has to be separated from the body. The mind is thus rid of all its ramblings. The center between the two eyebrows is the spiritual heart centre of the Saints. To free the consciousness from the body, it is necessary to still the mind and concentrate the mind’s currents at this point. All cares of the mind are obliterated by this means.

One can obtain outstanding results by this posture, for the soul currents, which are scattered into the would through the nine apertures of the body, namely, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth and two lower outlets, can collect at the eye centre and descend upwards. The soul then contacts Naam or Truth at the Tenth Gate - Daswan Dwar -, and finally it reaches Sach Khand, where ego, attachment, greed, desire, and lust leave it, and the cycle of births and deaths is ended.

The Lord, who is formless, has His everlasting abode in the spiritual regions of Sach Khand. He is permanent and sustains the entire universe and the upper realms. His true abode is eternal and imperishable. He remains in the Sahaj state, which is attained by merging oneself into the Shabd or Sound Current - the Word or the Audible Life Stream.

His abode is free from fear. Reaching there, one transcends birth and death and the cycle of transmigration. It is beyond the three gunas or attributes, and lies in the fourth stage where there is neither sorrow nor fear. By attaining this state, the soul enters into communion with the Lord. The devotee and the Lord become one and never separate again. The cycle of birth and rebirth ceases. All doubts and suspicions come to an end.

The physical postures of the body end with death. The postures in the subtle regions above vanish with the dissolution of these regions, but the highest posture of Sahaj is not subject to dissolution. It is endless and immortal, and by attaining it, one does not fall again. This posture is regarded in Scriptures as lasting and true. It can be realized by listening to the Shabd, which is also called Panj Shabd - Five Sounds -, Guru Shabd or Naam.

Its attainment is possible only through the Grace and the Guidance of the Master.