PSYCHOPHYSICAL SCIENCE OF YOGA
Ray 2009 - 2011
from India, during my 33 years of living abroad, in different countries,
it has been quite interesting for me to see how our age-old YOGA system
evolving outside India since the time Swami Vivekananda (www.sriramakrishna.org)
introduced Indian Philosophy (Vedanta and Yoga) to the USA and Europe in
the late 19th century.
purpose of my article is to explain our Yoga philosophy as a universal
system accessible to everyone irrespective of age, social status, belief
educated as a graduate mechanical engineer, was fortunate enough to come
from an environment of both Indian and Western philosophy. My great
grand father was a Pundit (Mahamohopadhaya) in Logic (Naya Shastra –
one of the six systems of Indian Philosophy); my father, who also was a
Pundit in Sanskrit literatures, was a professor of Western philosophy
and logic; and author of books on Psychology, Symbolic Logic and
Metalogic (Theory of Logic). My sister is the head of department of
logic and philosophy at a college under Calcutta University, and also an
author of a book on logic
Amit Ray at the age of 7
Initiation to Brahminism
This family background, strengthened by a
regular discourse for the last 5 years on our spiritual philosophy given
by Swami Amarananda of Vedantique Centre in Switzerland, has helped me
to develop an insight to our otherwise complex philosophy.
the west, yoga means physical postures, bending and twisting. It has
become popular as it fits into the western culture of body fitness. They
have embraced only the physical part of the Yoga system, and that is why
we hear new western names like POWER YOGA, STEAM YOGA, etc.
people have used and still are using Yoga for their own interest as a
business enterprise by giving it a physical dimension to go with the
physical culture of the west. I am not going to argue but will consider
this physical exercise good if they feel good inside even if people call
it by any name of yoga.
have been practising yoga since my childhood. To the Indians in general,
yoga in simple term means inner development, it means meditation on a
spiritual object; and practice of asanas or yogic postures and
Pranayama, the control of breath are enjoined to keep our body fit, for
the body houses the mind.
Philosophy is essentially spiritual and it is a very complicated subject
even to the Indian academicians.
Sanskrit, our philosophy is called DARSANA, literally meaning viewing OR
seeing. Darsana is divided into six schools of thoughts –
SHANKHYA, VAISESISKA, NYAYA, YOGA, MIMAMSA, and VEDANTA. Swami
Vivekananda gave a new dimension to our philosophy and today, according
to his teaching, Vedanta, meaning the end of the Vedas, became our
spiritual philosophy and religion, now commonly known as Hindu religion
combined with the Patanjali’s Yoga Philosophy.
have chosen to study Yoga Philosophy, simply because its concept is
relatively easier to comprehend. Any person, irrespective of race and
creed can practise Asanas (Yogic postures), Pranayama (The Control of
Breath), Dharana (Concentration) and Dhyana (Meditation).
I am aware that many religious institutions in the world do not advise
their followers to practise yoga. But for me, Yoga is
a psychophysical science,
a concept that I took from our philosophy, mainly The Upanisads. It is
as secular as mathematics and any people irrespective of their origin,
religion, and culture can practise Yoga. It
is a science to bring about wisdom, a sense of right proportions,
positive attitude, patience, self-restraint, and calmness.
is a methodical effort to attain perfection through the control of
different elements of human nature – both physical and psychical.
question is, can we use this Yoga system in the present day
scientifically and technologically developed world, which is
extremely fast and has become complex, stressed and tensed?
allow me to make this bold attempt to
explain Yoga that we, Indians learn from our philosophy, and how by
practising yoga we can get peace of mind, the beauty of ethically sound
society, and lead a balanced life in this stressful world.
CONCEPTS OF YOGA
BUDDHA 566 BCE-486
MAHAVIRA 500 BCE (JAINISM)
our literatures, yoga is defined as follows:
The Upanishad describes Yoga as any discipline or method that UNITES
one with the Ultimate Reality.
According to SANKHYA
one of the six systems of Indian Philosophy, YOGA is SEPARATION
or disunion of spirit from matter. This yoga is different from the
According to PATANJALI, Yoga
is the cessation of the activities of the mind – cittavrittinirodha.
When yoga is defined as cittavrittinirodha (suppression of the
modifications of the mind-stuff), it must be understood not only as the
stoppage of the flow of presentations but also as the eradication of
those potencies or latent tendencies that generate new streams of
thought and new lines of action. (CHI
Vol III, P58)
also find a very poetic description about Yoga in our literature:
a lamp in a place sheltered from the wind does not flicker – that is
the figure, employed of a yogin, who, with a subdued mind, practises
concentration of the spirit. That in which he knows the boundless joy
beyond the reach of the senses and grasped only by the understanding,
and that in which when he is established, he never departs from truth;
that on gaining which he feels there is no great gain, and that in which
he abides and is not moved even by the heaviest of afflictions – let
that be known as yoga. It is to be practised with determination and an
are four kinds of yoga
in Indian philosophy:
Karma Yoga - Yoga of action
Bhakti Yoga - Yoga of devotion
Jnana Yoga - Yoga of knowledge
Raja Yoga – Yoga of Meditation
the UPANISADS, Yoga
is union with the Ultimate Reality.
it is insight into truth.
it is the attainment of the Bodhisattva condition.
UPANISADS, written 3000 years ago, describe
METHOD in MAITRI
UPANISAD as follows:
is the rule for achieving this oneness,
OF BREATH (Pranayama)
WITHDRAWAL OF THE SENSES (Pratyaharo)
CONTEMPLATIVE INQUIRY (Tarka)
ABSORPTION OR MEDITATIVE TRANCE (Samadhi)
is said to be the SIX-FOLD YOGA.
suggested Ashtanga Yoga
(Eight Limbs Of Yoga), also called Raja Yoga, and added
two more items to the above six:
YAMA & NYAMA
(Self-restraint and Observances)
(Yogic Postures- Hatha Yoga) – control of the physical frame with a
view to facilitating the control of the mind.
(Yogic Postures- Hatha Yoga) – control of the physical frame with a
view to facilitating the control of the mind. (CHI Vol. III
says, one has to practice control & culture of the senses together
with the withdrawal of the senses.
= Moral restrictions: Ahimsa (Non violence), Satya (Truth speaking),
Asteya (Non stealing), Brahmacharya (abstention from sexual activity)
and Aparigraha (Disowning of possessions / Austerity).
= Personal discipline: Saucha (Purity), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas
(Right aspiration / Self discipline), Syadhyaya (Study of philosophic
texts / Self study), Ishvara pranidhana (Devotion to God).
aim of the above disciplines was to assist one in the ascent from the
narrow view congenial to him/her to the larger vision, which brings
freedom with it. One must
overcome the egoistic impulses in us, which are the source of so much
evil in the world. (CHI
Vol. III P49)
is a psychological exercise to discipline the mind.
simple definition of meditation by the English Oxford dictionary is to focus
one's mind for a period of time for spiritual purposes or as a method of
science of meditation
was developed in India for the purpose of supplying the mind with the
necessary nourishment and food and for giving it exercise, rest and
term Meditation comes from the Latin meditari, the root of which is
linked to mederi, meaning to heal. Here we see a connection with healing
and meditation, and, in fact, even today meditation is used in healing
both physical and mental problems. (Swami Medhasananda, Japan)
Indian philosophy since its very beginning, which goes back by 4-5000
years, has been concerned with the human nature, the inner truth and the
relation of the individual to the ultimate reality.
Upanisadic sages gave prominence to the mind as the most important
element of the human nature.
Vedic poet exclaims, “I do not know what kind of thing I am;
mysterious, bound, my mind wanders.”
realized, unless they could control the flow of thoughts, that carry
germs of craving, jealousy, anger, greed, hatred, delusion, arrogance,
unless they could stop being slaves to these troubling thoughts, unless
they could develop equanimity of the mind, they would never be able to
have peace in themselves and realize the TRUTH.
Upanisads declared, “Control of thought is liberation”.
are the victims of an unruly mind. The lowest misery is slavery, not of
the body, but of the mind, thought.
Buddha once said to his disciples, “Remember, the only way to become
victorious over wrong thoughts is to review from time to time the phases
of one’s mind, to reflect upon them, to root out all that is evil and
cultivate all that is good.”
is thus a very effective process of cleansing the mind.
helps to concentrate the mind that should remain in solitude and alone,
self controlled, free from desires and passions. The inner psychic
energy will destroy the impurities inside and will bring about health,
sanity, and wholeness of the physical and vital being. One will realize
that the slightest conquering of the mind bring comfort and happiness. (IP)
is the art of mental quiet, a fundamental practice of the inner quest.
The practice of mental quiet is not merely the retreat of attention from
the world for a few seconds. It means withdrawing with all one’s
being, with all one’s heart, with all one’s mind, deeper and deeper
until the centre is reached, felt and united with one’s real self.
PHOTO FROM ©FILM BENHUR
the driver of the chariot of the body,
by the horses of the senses,
ARE CONTROLLED BY THE REINS OF THE MIND.”
conception of Yoga derived from the root yuj to yoke, to harness, to
join is connected with the symbolism of the chariot and the team. Yoga
is the complete control of the different elements of our nature,
psychical and physical and harnessing them to the highest end.
chariot with its sensitive steeds represents the psychophysical vehicle
in which the self rides. Mind holds the reins. It may either control or
be dragged by the team of the senses. (IP)
is a technique, a psychological exercise, an effort of will, to bring
the mind to a calm state by concentrating on one thought or one object
(depending on personal tendencies – one may choose a religious symbol
– others may concentrate on an image that give them the feeling of
love and respect) by throwing away all other thoughts. When that state
is obtained, (usually after a considerable long period of practice,) one
can reflect upon their inner self.
will be like letting the mud in a muddy pool settle down. When mind
settles down, the mind becomes clear and when mind becomes clear, you
can explore and find what’s in it. You will be able to monitor your
feeling, from moment to moment. In meditation, you can find out what and
where your thoughts are and stay calm as you observe them.
the daily concentration exercises in order to meditate on one object
even for a few minutes will strengthen the mind and one will definitely
feel that strength in one’s daily life in combating the modern day
TO PRACTISE CONCENTRATION / MEDITATION
a room, which is away from the noises. Do not play any music; otherwise
your concentration will be divided. Sit down on the floor in a lotus
position, or sit on a chair, holding the body firm and steady with the
three upper parts (chest, neck and
head) erect. It is important whatever position you take, you must feel
comfortable in that position for the entire duration of the practice.
try to focus your mind on one object, an object that arouses love and
respect. You can also use a photo or a picture in front of you. Don’t
let any other thoughts come to your mind. This process of focusing the
mind is called Dharana or Concentration.
you will find an innumerable number of thoughts crowding your mind,
making it difficult to focus on the object you have chosen. It is like
water flowing into a dam causing a tremendous turbulence. But this
turbulence slowly subsides as the water rises to the desired level. Once
you are able to hold your mind fixed on the object without letting any
other thoughts into the mind, it is called Dhyana or Meditation.
will help us to eradicate the complexes in our minds, eliminate agony
that we ourselves created.
IS REJUVENATED WHEN MIND RESTS.
– HATHA YOGA
does of course need a healthy body where mind resides.
is acknowledged that the condition of the body has some hand in
determining the state of the mind, and hence instructions cover not only
the discipline of the mind, but also the care of the body.
HOUSES THE MIND. CARE OF THE BODY IS ESSENTIAL.
the autonomic system could be controlled through the slender connection
with the nervous system was a great discovery of the Yoga System and it
still retains its title to the sole possession of the technique to bring
that about. (CHI Vol. III P80)
and Pranayama are devised to secure control of the physical frame with a
view to facilitating the control of the mind.
chief processes of HATHA-YOGA
(FIXED POSTURES) AND
(THE CONTROL OF BREATH).
gives us helpful principles for mental and physical stability with the
help of the practice of asanas, mudras or postures, and Pranayamas or
the science of breathing.
its numerous postures, it cures the body of the restlessness and frees
it from its impurities; it gives to the body extraordinary health,
strength and suppleness. Asanas make the nerves and muscles stronger and
keep the spine flexible. Mudras keep glands in health and in proper
comes Pranayama – the control of breath or vital power.
we go on breathing, but when we voluntarily control breathing, it
becomes a Pranayama.
means breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy or strength. Ayama
means length, expansion, stretching or restraint.
masters said “the breath is the link between the mind and the body and
that if we can control our respiration we can control every aspect of
practising Pranayama blood is purified. Slumber, laziness, dullness and
weakness of body are removed.
One must practise Pranayama under the guidance of a Yoga teacher or as
per advice of a doctor.
BETWEEN YOGIC POSTURES AND PHYSICAL EXERCISES
is a fundamental difference between Yogic postures and other types of
common misconception is that Yogic postures are physical exercises.
exercises are repetitive movements, whereas Yogic exercises involve very
little movement and are only poses, which are to be maintained for a
period of time.
postures and breathing exercises unlike physical exercises (isotonic:
walking, cycling, swimming, running, jogging, skipping, etc as well as
isometric: weight lifting, etc.) do not strain the cardiovascular system
and improve physical fitness and endurance. Therefore, they are useful
in both health and disease.
really makes yoga different is the mental focus and attention that we
bring to bear on the body – the stream of attention we focus as we do
the posture. The result is a toning up of both the mind and the body. In
adopting and maintaining a posture there is a co-ordination between the
nervous system and the muscular system, which set up a kind of tone in
the body and influences the physical and mental behaviour.
poses when maintained for a definite period help to conserve energy and
give a feeling of relaxation and exhilaration.
yogic postures tone up both the body and the mind, physical exercises
affect mainly the body.
mind body experience is what distinguishes yoga from conventional
exercises, promoting fitness from inside out. “ (YH)
is more a work-in than a workout.
most important issue in Hatha Yoga is not flexibility and the ability to
do difficult postures, but awareness - awareness of the body and the
breath. And from this awareness comes control, and from control comes
grace and beauty.
can hold your concentration on breathing, on tissues that are being
stretched, on joints that are being stressed, on the speed of your
movements, or on the relationships between breathing and stretching.
with total attention within the body is advanced yoga, no matter how
easy the posture is; practising with your attention scattered is the
practice of a beginner, no matter how difficult the posture is.
yoga trains the body as well as the mind, so focus your attention
yoga stretches are a safe and effective way to bring about the
lengthening of the muscle and the expansion of the connective tissue
within and around the muscle.
yogic postures concentrate on a deep stretching movement. Muscles are
given a gentle, controlled stretch, without any strain. They are thus
able to extend gradually and safely.
flexible muscle is also a strong, well-toned muscle.
postures take into account the body’s natural movements. They result
in static stretching which actually is very effective in removing cramps
and preventing soreness.
common purpose of all the poses is to establish a proper tone in the
neuromuscular system as a whole.
practising yogic postures, one can experience the effects of various
poses on the body and the mind.
postures invigorate the body and keep the mind healthy and calm.
bring about a feeling of freshness and remove physical lethargy.
is a comprehensive system to keep the body fit and the mind alert.
you only have a few minutes to work out and want to burn calories, yoga
will disappoint you.
human mind functions best in a state of relaxation. Relaxation is a
breathing space in the rush of daily living. This breathing space is
necessary to prepare the body for greater energy and clearer vision. ( YH)
is the physical and mental response of the body to demands made upon it.
Stress arises when we are unable to get rid of our negative feelings
that pile up as a result of our reactions to the daily events.
things cause stress in different people. Some of the things are:
deadlines, difficulty in organizing work, poor time management, out of
control debts, noise, adjusting to life in a new environment,
difficulties with personal relationships. Very often stress results from
an accumulation of many different pressures, which build up gradually
without us noticing.
has physical, psychological and emotional effects.
Physically - through the
experience of physical symptoms like pain in the back of your neck,
tightening sensation between your shoulder blades, tension headaches,
- through negative behaviour, poor relationship at work or in your
personal life, as well as poor lifestyle choices.
is really more a psychological factor than a physical, quantifiable one.
It has nevertheless become a part of human life.
is not only bad for the body and the mind; it also causes us to bury our
true nature beneath the debris of tasks, deadlines and worries.
British psychiatrist J.A. Hadfield in his book The Psychology of Power
observes “The greater part of the fatigue, which we suffer, is of
mental origin. In fact, exhaustion of purely physical origin is rare.”
should remember that it is not hard work that drains our energy but
emotional upheaval or unnecessary excitement. It has been scientifically
proved that the activities of the brain do not cause fatigue. Mental
tiredness is mainly due to attitudes rather than hard work.
the solution to the problem of fatigue or mental tension is the ability
technique will help in calming the nervous system, controlling excessive
emotion, anxiety, impatience and frustration. It will help us in
creating a reserve of mental energy.
to relax is a key to a physical, emotional and mental health.
function best when we are in a state of relaxation. Relaxation is a
breathing space in the rush of daily living. This breathing space is
necessary to prepare the body and the mind for greater energy and
lowers blood pressure, respiration and pulse rates, releases muscle
tension and eases emotional strains.
nerve cells get invigorated because during relaxation they are relieved
of their routine burden of working.
you think that 8 to 10 hours of work a day should be followed by a
period of relaxation, just like nature has ordained that there shall be
sleep after a waking period?
who live in the Western world have neither the leisure nor the
opportunity, and frequently not even the will, to have the time for
relaxation. Our busy life seldom allows us to look inward.
is wrong to think that we cannot spare time. It is not so much the lack
of time as the feeling that there is no need for such relaxation, which
is the cause of the mad rush.
life of “RUSH RUSH” is a life of tension, nervousness and anxiety.
problem has to be tackled at the root.
must learn to relax. “
how do we MANAGE STRESS?
Russell in his book "The Conquest of Happiness" wrote:
or nervous fatigues, worries, are probably most serious in advance
are, oddly enough, most pronounced among the well to do, business-
people and brainworkers.
can be prevented by a better philosophy of life and a little more mental
can be diminished by realizing the unimportance of the matter, which is
causing the anxiety - power
of realization by Meditation.
psychologists all over the world and even the brain scientists are of
the opinion that Meditation is a most beneficial mental exercise to keep
out strain and stress of the world around us.
- consisting of Yogic postures, breathing exercises and Meditation –
one of the oldest and simplest methods to combat stress in our fast
helps relieve the stress of the daily routine and teaches us how to
relax and release tension.
is a peaceful pause in an otherwise hectic flow of life. (How
to overcome Mental tension by Swami Gokulananda).
or end the day with some meditation – yoga postures that you can do in
the morning can help energize you to start the day, or in the evening,
help calm you and allow your body and mind to be ready for a good
should breath in purity and breath out impurity, breath in tranquility
and breath out tension.
gives you the opportunity to experience calmness of mind.
Stretching the body and working with the breath engages the body's
parasympathetic nervous system - allowing the body to normalize,
gradually improving health and posture - defeating fatigue, increasing
alertness and leading to improved productivity and feelings of
helps relieve the stress of the daily routine.
meditate to beat the stress.
have shown that practicing meditation does create a calm state in the
brain that results in relaxation of the mind and the body.
therefore helps develop the powers of the mind to combat the day-to-day
tensions in our lives.
studies have shown what Yoga has known for thousands of years:
is beneficial to the body and the mind. As it is accompanied by deep
relaxation, it unstresses the body, causing a feeling of physiological
and psychological ease, rejuvenation and heightened vitality.
more advanced levels, the practitioner experiences deep peace and
tranquility, which carry over into everyday life.
will help you to relax.
don’t meditate on your office project – it will then bring the
office stress with it, which you want to get rid of.
your mind rests, it gets exercised; it gets its nourishment. Mind is
become calmer, you become patient, and you become alert.
will counteract physical and mental fatigue.
will establish emotional steadiness.
novel process like Yoga derived from the psychophysical wisdom may bring
you relief from the constant stress in this world of fast life. The
postures and the breathing exercises will help you to change the
reaction to stress and thereby minimize the ill effects of stress.
not only exercises the body, but also through the act of breathing it
calms down the nervous system, it oxygenates the blood and tissues and
it brings changes in the brain functions.
stress causes the back muscles to become tense. Gentle yoga stretches
help reduce physical tension directly.
muscles relax, the mind becomes more tranquil.
postures change the reactions of the body to the day-to-day tensions,
which are so rampant today.
most important thing is that we should learn the mental discipline that
will teach us how to be in harmony with our own selves, our own
instincts, emotions, sentiments, and ideas.
of the simplest effects of yoga is to create a sense of balance. Once we
are connected with our internal centre – an inner harmony will grow.
can create a perfect harmony between our body, our life and our mind.
can live in amity and concord with our own selves.
will help bring to our life happiness, physical poise, mental peace,
intellectual clarity, self confidence, positive self image, better
interaction with others, and emotional equanimity, if we really go for
is an investment that you will make in your life for your own
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by David Coulter (MT)
Indian Philosophy by Radhakrishnan (IP)
Cultural Heritage of India Vol. 1 - vi (CHI)
Yoga and Heart by Dr. K. K. Datey, et al. (YH)