By Shameem Akthar August 2008 Yoga uses the body to quench the soul’s fever, and to purify the mind. Quenching your thirst is a very prosaic affair, if water is available. We do not write volumes or debate endlessly on it as we would philosophical nuances. Nevertheless, it is so relevant to our daily lives. We may survive without food for a few days, but thirst needs immediate attention. Yoga in a devotee’s life plays this role of water – to quench the fever of the soul. In that sense, any sadhana or practice of discipline may be termed yoga. Quenching your thirst is a very prosaic affair, if water is available. We do not write volumes or debate endlessly on it as we would philosophical nuances. Nevertheless, it is so relevant to our daily lives. We may survive without food for a few days, but thirst needs immediate attention. Yoga in a devotee’s life plays this role of water – to quench the fever of the soul. In that sense, any sadhana or practice of discipline may be termed yoga. Those wishing to talk of the path keep on talking, even of yoga. Those who are alert to the soul’s fever, with its relentless thirst, practise yoga. It drains that fever of the spirit from the body. As sadhana intensifies, this is its physical impact. It also uses the body to reach into the mind’s cobwebbed recesses, untangling it for its destined purpose. Yoga works on both these planes because the mind as most of us experience it, continues to be a biological entity, the brain consuming 25 per cent of what we eat, with an evolutionary memory that drags us uncomfortably and often back to our animal past. We have to transcend it, rid ourselves of the fever this separation causes in us due to our biological limitations, through the quenching physicality of yoga. Swami Niranjananda of the Bihar School of Yoga in his incisive book, Yoga Darshan, observes: “Hatha yoga represents the balancing and awakening of the gross and subtle pranic vibrations – purification and synchronisation of the physical dimension as well as the mental dimension is also achieved.” The book explores the spiritual dimensions of the physical practices of yoga. Here you appreciate that an advanced pose like kurmasana or tortoise, celebrates not just super-flexibility, but also undoes the nadi knots, including the powerful granthis (psychic knots called Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma granthis) that hold us back in the path. Swami Swatmarama, author of the ancient and still-popular, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, explains why yoga is a must for the one on the path: “For those continually tempered by the heat of tapas (the three types of pain – spiritual, environmental and physical), hatha is like the hermitage giving protection from the heat. For those always united in yoga, hatha is the basic, acting like a tortoise.” Here again is what Yoga Chudamani Upanishad says about the need for yoga in the life of the spiritual aspirant, “The kundalini shakti lies above the kanda in eight coils. For the ignorant it is the form of bondage, but for the yogis it always grants liberation.” The relevance of pranayama in the aspirant is even more. Even a jnana yogi like Sri Ramana Maharishi who disapproved of the physicality of hatha yoga strongly recommended pranayama as a way to rein in the mind and still its fever, as breath and the mind have the same source. “By controlling the breath, the mind comes to rest like a bird in a net. Breath control is a means to control the mind.” We welcome your comments and suggestions on this article. Mail us at email@example.com
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