Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)

“tad eva artha matra nirbhasam svarupa shunyam iva samadhih" - Patanjali
When only the essence of that object shines forth in the mind, devoid of its own form, that state of deep absorption is called samadhi

Samadhi can be explained in many aspects. But do understand it is all the same phenomenon explained from different perspectives.

Samadhi is the experience that is beyond the influence of nature. State of consciousness with no vritti (fluctuation). In simpler words, the individual is sitting with no vicissitudes of thoughts, like a lake in absolute stillness. With dhyana, there is still an observer, observing, the observed. When the observer, the process of observing, and the object being observed all three collapse and the only thing remaining is the object, it is the experience of samadhi. When this deep absorption happens, dhyana has evolved into samadhi.

There are four kinds of vasanas (desires) that drive mankind. They are;
1.) Dharma - desire to fulfill duties, social/ethical/moral uplift.
2.) Artha - desire to accumulate resources, knowledge, wealth.
3.) Kama - desire to gratify sensual experiences.
4.) Moksha - desire for liberation and enlightenment.

These vasanas (desires) lead to karma (action). When such actions are not totally experienced, it leaves a residue called samskara, which again leads to newer karmas (actions) abiding the laws of cause and effect. Hence every reaction is the result of previous samskara. These samskaras when not expressed or experienced again, it gets buried deep under newer samskaras and these suppressed samskaras are expressed in our dreams, behavior pattern and diseases.

Force of vasana (desire) to experience these samskaras again and again is channeled through ida nadi (left nostril) driving the chitta sakthi (mental energy) and force that leads to karma (action) is channeled through pingala nadi (right nostril) driving the prana sakthi (life energy). When these both are channeled through sushumna, the vasana (desire) -> samskara (residue) -> karma (action) chain is broken.

Once broken, no more new vasanas, samskaras and karmas are accumulated. This triggers the process of depletion and draining all the existing samskaras. When all the samskaras are totally evacuated, the individual is an enlightened being. When someone can reach this point, they have absolutely mastered the art of total experience that leaves no residue. This means, any karma (action) is absolutely a total response, leaving no residue (samskara). This is the ultimate goal of anyone embarked in pursuit of moksha (liberation).

When the energies are channeled through sushumna, he/she is experiencing the samadhi. In initial stages of deep absorption, when one is unconscious of everything, there still remains fluctuations. It is called sankalpa (thought) and vikalpa (counter-thought). These vikalpas could be often misunderstood as samadhi, but it is not. Samadhi evolves in multiple stages as listed below;
1.) SaVitarka (Identified with gross physical forms like body, face, wealth, etc)
2.) NirVitarka (Unidentified from physical forms)
3.) SaVichara (Identified with subtle forms like thoughts, knowledge, opinions, etc)
4.) NirVichara (Unidentified from such subtle forms)
5.) Ananda (Identified with the experience of bliss)
6.) Asmita (Identified with psychological imprints, samskaras)
7.) SaVikalpa (This is very very subtle, identified with the ability to stop any thought to occur)
8.) NirVikalpa (Unidentified with anything gross or subtle)

This NirVikalpa Samadhi is the ultimate samadhi. In the current times, ego is one of the most overloaded words which in general means identity of a person. This 8 stages of samadhi can also be called as gradual and total dissolving of this ego. As one can see, it is not as easy as it sounds when people say "drop your ego". Without a complete understanding, maturity and a guidance of a right guru, it is very easy to be mislead at every stage to a sense of gratification and attainment already. It becomes increasingly difficult at every successive stage.

As explained before in Yoga: 2. Where to start?Upayas (Ways) to attain grace of samadhi;
1.) anavopaya (kriyopaya) - Kriya Yoga
2.) shaktopaya (jnanopaya) - Jnana Yoga
3.) shambhavopaya (bakthopaya) - Bakthi Yoga
4.) anupaya (anandopaya) - Karma Yoga

Yoga: 7. Dhyana (Absorption in Meditation)

“tatra pratyaya ekatanata dhyanam" - Patanjali
“Uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana)”

Dhyana is often mistranslated to meditation. There is no apt single word in english to capture the whole essence of dhyana. Hence the Japanese did not even attempt to translate but just called it "zen", a malformed pronunciation of this word "dhyan(a)".

Unlike the other practices explained in the past 6 chapters, this is something that cannot be practiced explicitly, but happens as a flowering of those practices. Regardless, a sadhaka (practitioner) on the path can try certain tools to facilitate this to happen. The foundation for any such practice is a right sitting posture. Padmasana (lotus pose), Vajrasana (diamond pose), Siddhasana (perfect pose) are best suited. For details on these poses, please refer: Asanas

Vippasana is a widely practiced technique to attain dhyana and eventually, the samadhi (devoid of any thought, identity or form). Anyone in the world can sign-up in and show-up for 10 days of practice, where food and accommodation is provided free of cost. Really! There is no catch of any kind. Lookup and try it if you can afford 10 days. Uppasana means idol worship with incantations, austerities and various other religious practices, which was widely practiced during the days of Siddhartha, a.k.a. Gauthama buddha. It was overdone to a point where the bright mind as buddha's can't take it anymore and hence he invented this technique called vippasana, which is nothing but an antonym of uppasana. In vippasana, there is no idol, no chantings, no mantras, but a very simple scientific technique that needs persistence and patience. Buddha identified the weakest link in the chain of human cycles and attacks it there to help him/her to find a way out.

By no means conclude that uppasana is bad, but overdoing anything will mask its real benefits and at times turn it against its own purpose. When done rightly, uppasana is an ultimate tool. Since it is a slippery slope, it is very easy go haywire in it. Uppasana in the past had lead to colonization, sectarianism, which eventually lead to conflicts, debates and some violent outbursts in the form of genocides. Hence simpler foolproof techniques like vippasana that can't cause much harm to the civilization is emphasized here.

Zazen is another famous technique, prominent amongst zen practitioners. This technique's essence is "the middle way". Choosing a seated pose (often vajrasana), the practitioner sways side to side to find the exact middle resting point and same by swaying forward and backward and do the same to settle the neck at its center. The eyes are neither fully closed nor fully open. Hands gesturing the dhyana mudra as shown below. Mind is brought to the center (without exerting effort) every-time it starts wandering. This is a beautiful technique and the benefits are immense, which will be conspicuous in day to day life activities of the practitioner.
Dhyana Mudra

When meditation happens to the practitioner, he/she experience a crystal clear mind, which awaits for commands to pick up a thought and churn it. At this point, mind is no more a veil, but a fine tool to explore the whole range of objects that make up the universe. It can dig deep into microscopic levels to analyze an atom or expand to experience and grasp the principles of galaxies.

All these does sound quite fictional or even philosophical, but these words don't do justice or even touch the surface of what the actual experience brings to a person. Refer to any artifact that was ever published without any commercial interest but for the benefit of mankind, it'll tell you the same thing in different ways.

Next: Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)

Yoga: 6. Dharana (Concentration)

deshah bandhah chittasya dharana - Patanjali
(Concentration (dharana) is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object)
Attention leads to concentration (dharana)
Concentration leads to meditation (dhyana)
Meditation leads to absorption (samadhi)

This chapter deals with practices that hone such attention and hence the ability to concentrate. This leads to stability and clarity of mind, which is necessary for much subtler experiences of meditation and absorption.

Before we dwell into the practices, Lets dissect the need for it. During all these yogic practice seeking higher levels of experiencing the life and its manifestations, from time to time, there arise obstacles. Patanjali enlists 9 such obstacles that are to expected.

vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdha-bhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah - Patanjali
Nine kinds of distractions/obstacles are naturally encountered on the path. They are;
1.) Physical illness, 
2.) Mental Dullness
3.) Doubt - Like doubting if this all a scam to propagate something like a religion, etc. 
4.) Negligence - Lack of attention to pursue it to the fullest (to samadhi)
5.) Laziness - Both physical and mental. Watching TV is more pleasing to the mind than contemplation.
6.) Cravings - Desire for the worldly things overtaking the determination on the path
7.) Misperceptions - deriving incorrect assumptions
8.) Failure - in attaining the defined next stages in practice, like satori (glimpses of absorption)
9.) Instability - failure to maintain the levels attained. Falling back from ability of perform an asana pose.

Once we know these 9 obstacles are to occur, it provides a comfort and ability to see through it. When one succumb to these obstacles, these four consequences occur.

duhkha daurmanasya angam-ejayatva shvasa prashvasah vikshepa sahabhuva - Patanjali
From these obstacles, there arise four consequences:
1.) Pain - Physical and psychological
2.) Sorrow - Frustration, sadness, dejection, 
3.) Unsteadiness - restlessness, shakiness, or anxiety.
4.) Breath Irregularity - irregularities in the exhalation and inhalation of breath.

To tackle all these 9 obstacles and their 4 consequences, there is a single anecdote, i.e., ekagrata meaning one-pointedness of the mind.

tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah - Patanjali
(Practicing one-pointedness prevents/shatters the distractions and its companions)

Lets discuss the actual tools (practices) to sharpen the concentration.

Trataka, one of the shat-karmas (the six kriyas of purification / detoxifying) is a best tool to start with.
1.) Dark place is needed and hence it is recommended to preform before sunrise or after a couple of hours after sunset in a room with the air-flow is normal so that the flame is mostly steady.
2.) Arrange a candle or a lamp so that the flame is at eye level in height and arm-length away from the eyes.
3.) Get seated in a comfortable position, Padmasana, Vajrasana, siddhasana or sukasana; But the spine and neck needs to be erect and you should be able to hold the posture without any movements for at least 24 minutes.
4.) Steady the breath by focusing on the exhalation and the natural retention for 5-10 breaths.
5.) Start Gazing at the flame without blinking until tears are flowing over the cheeks. Start doing it for 6 minutes and increase it to 24 minutes at your comfort level.

Trataka can also be performed on contrasting dot in a wall, moon, star and with a little practice one can bring the object to focus with closed eyes.

In the beginning, it'll feel impossible, but with very little effort, in a couple of days you'll be able to do it effortlessly. First 2 minutes needs quite an effort, once tears starts flowing, it automatically lubricates the eyes and its easy to hold the gaze without blinking. Breathing and blinking are the only two external activities we humans do both intentionally and unintentionally.

The actual practice of dharana (concentration) involves contemplation on a single object. For an outsider, it might look like dhyana (meditation), but they are quite different. Dharana involves explicit contemplation on a single object, while dhyana transcends upon the person and he/she is devoid of any thought.

Such Contemplation can be practiced on 9 different things.
1.) Four attitudes in dealing with people (Friendliness, Compassion, Admiration, Neutrality). These are extroverted by nature.
2.) Five aspects to focus on (breath awareness, sensation, inner luminosity, stability of mind, stream of thoughts). These are introverted.

Many schools of meditation emphasize only one method such as meditation on kindness, breath, or an external object and some combines two like vippasana (breath awareness and sensation). It is recommended to practice all 9 for several days before finding the few that resonate with your being.

Attitudes in dealing with people, is more of a course correction in daily livelihood. Most of our response to such situation are involuntary and automatic. There is quite a bit of unawareness and the response is not mindful. In yoga, acceptable attitudes are encapsulated into these four, which helps us evolve harmoniously.

maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam - Patanjali
(The mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and equanimity towards those we perceive as wicked or evil)

1.) Maitri (Friendliness): When we come across joyous people, often we unintentionally have a negative attitude towards them. This may not be a full repulsion, but realizing there is a trace of negativity and consciously encountering it and cultivating the positiveness will generate a great sense of inner calmness. Once experienced it is delightfully contagious and has the ability to wipe away all the negative traces in a short time.

2.) Karuna (Compassion): Most believe they are compassionate until they find themselves struck in a traffic because a fellow human met with an accident. Even simple things like, when an elderly person asks you for a glass of water when you are watching your favorite sitcom, all the compassion is out the window. Just taking note of such moments even after they happened is a good start. Slowly, the moment of realization will occur early and soon you become aware of the lack of compassion during the act and once the awareness occurs before your response, you are fully compassionate.

3.) Mudita (Admiration): When we encounter a person who is virtuous or benevolent, most feel jealous or inadequate and get into a self-loathing mode. Redirecting all these negative energy into pure admiration for that person is not an easy task. A good start would be to watch the inner turmoil that happens without identifying ourselves with it. This will lead to neutrality and slowly evolve into an honest admiration and goodwill for that person.

4.) Upekshanam (Neutrality): While dealing with someone dishonest, cruel or a very evil-intent person, a strong sense of anger and aversion arise. Such response hurt oneself the most. To counteract such negative emotion, cultivation of feeling of neutrality or equanimity is suggested. This might make one feel approving the actions of the person involved. But cultivating such neutrality will open the ways to cause the necessary change.

These four attitudes are practiced in day-to-day activities involving social relationship. Constantly observing oneself and consciously being away of the attitude towards others for months and years will ensure we are devoid of all the negative traces and successfully transformed all the attitudes into one of these four prescribed attitudes.

Five aspects to focus on is a very practical tool and can be practiced in cycle when you sit down for your hourly mediation every day. As obvious it is, it is introverted and practiced in solitude.

prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama - Patanjali
(The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice)

1.) Breath awareness is one of the finest methods prescribed for mind stability. Observe the natural flow of breath. ensure the transition between inhale and exhale is smooth and not abrupt. Consciously fine tune the transition. Once this is mastered, work on elongating the exhalation. Exhale slowly for twice the time it takes to inhale the same amount of breath. Watching this exhalation and observing the natural pause that occurs before next inhalation is extremely pacifying.

vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani - Patanjali

(The inner concentration on the process of sensory experiencing, done in a way that leads towards higher, subtle sense perception; this also leads to stability and tranquility of the mind)

2.) Sensation - the process of keenly observing the sensory perceptions is the core principle of a key technique devised by Gauthama Buddha, known as vippasana. At first the practitioner might be more inclined to pursue the object of sensation. This should be consciously diverted to the process of sensation itself. Like when you feel a touch, pain, heat, cold or sweat, observe how the sensation feels like and how it arises and be gone. Quickly, move on to the next without any attachment (like/dislike) towards the sensation itself. This is one of the common practice amongst sages of the east.

vishoka va jyotishmati - Patanjali
(Or concentration on a painless inner state of lucidness and luminosity also brings stability and tranquility)

3.) Concentration on inner state - Focus on the heart charka (thymus gland) located exactly in the center between chests. Imagine a palm size luminous glow in this spot and stay focussed with every breath irrespective of thoughts and impressions arising in the mind.

yatha abhimata dhyanat va - Patanjali
(Or by contemplating or concentrating on whatever object or principle one may like, or towards which one has a predisposition, the mind becomes stable and tranquil)

4.) Stability of Mind - This is a little advanced as you are consciously tricking your mind temporarily. This is where idol worship comes into picture. Pick any objective reference of devotion and convince you mind that it is as calm and stable as that object's. With little practice you transcend into this state of tranquility with ease.

svapna nidra jnana alambanam va - Patanjali
(Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and tranquil)

5.) Consciously focussing on stream of thoughts/dreams will stabilize the mind. This method is commonly prescribed by wise, but not easily understood by a common man. Generally, one tends to start responding to a thought with judgement and influence the successive thoughts. With a little practice, this involvement can be withdrawn and one can witness the stream of thoughts as just an observer. This process has a great calming effect and helps a person to realize the pattern of mind and take control of it with ease.

These methods are very critical tools in tuning the concentration which exemplifies the sensitivity of a practitioner to develop extra-sensory perceptions to experience the intensities of dhyana and samadhi.

Next: Yoga: 7. Dhyana (Meditation)

Yoga: 5. Mudras and Bandhas

महामुद्रा महाबंधा महवेधशच केचरि
उद्दियनम मूलबंधशच बंधा जलंदरबंध 
करनी विपरीताकया वज्रोलि शक्तिचलनम
इधम ही मुद्रदशक जरामरनानशनम 

Maha mudra, Maha bandha, Maha vedha, Khechari, 
Uddiyana, Moola bandha, Jalandara bandha,
Vipareeta karani mudra, Vajroli, Sakthi chalana; 
These 10 mudras and bandhas defy cell degeneration and aging!
- Svātmārāma

The sheer purpose of mudras (gestures) and bandhas (knots) are to redirect the energy flowing through the nadis (subtle energy channels). For example, with jalandara bandha (throat lock), we lock at throat and restrict the prana vayu from flowing upward, forcing it flow back downward towards apana vayu. Similarly, with mudras like chin mudra (tips of index finger and thumb touching each other), we redirect vayu energy dissipating out through the index finger back into the body.

In ancient india, these mudras were practiced regularly in day to day life. Any form of idol worship is a mudra. The famous namaste is anjali (offering) mudra. Bringing eyeballs towards the center of eyebrow is called shambavi (tranquil) mudra, which is practiced as worship in many religion. Making a fist is called adi (hit) mudra. The classical dance forms of the east are full of mudras and the importance of perfect mudra during the dance is heavily emphasized. Any enlightened deity across the world is portrayed with index finger and thumb touching each other, which is the famous chin mudra.

Before we dwell into different mudras and their need, lets understand the basics. Mudra is any gesture using the movable body parts to direct the prana explicitly or to cleanse the nadis (energy channels) for proper channeling of the prana. Hands play the major role in them. Then comes the foot, eyes, tongue, reproductive and excretory organs.

The hand gestures (butha mudras) are build on this basic principle, that five fingers represents the five elements of the universe and controls the corresponding five elements in our body.

Using combinatons of these 5 fingers 108 mudras were defined. when the tips of fingers touch it is vardhak (increases) and when the finger to folded to touch its own base and thumb is pressing is, it is shaamak (depleting).

Thumb controls the fire element. Thumbs-up is a gesture to increase fire element in the body, often used to greet each other in cold countries. Fore-finger controls the air element. when the tips of thumb and fore-finger are touching (gently, in a way you can feel the pulse rate at the finger tips), the air element is increased. When fore-finger to bent to touch its own base and thumb is resting on it, the air element is depleted from the body. Similarly, middle finger controls space (or ether), ring finger controls the earth element and pinky controls the water element.

In general, any mudra that increases (vardhak) an element is practiced for one muhurtham (48 mins) and any mudra that depletes (shaamak) is practiced for 1/2 of a na∂i (24 mins) i.e., 14 mins. There are several websites like mudraguide and yogawiz, which dwell into explaining each hand gestures (mudras) in details. These are very helpful while practicing meditating seated poses.

We'll discuss the yoga related mudras and bandhas, which are totally different from these bhuta shuddi mudras (5 elements balancing gestures).

Bandhas (locks)
Moola bandha (perineum lock)
Sit in siddha-yoni asana, with the heal of the leg below pressing the perineum. Contract moola (the perineum) ( two finger wide region between reproductive and excretory organ). Breathing naturally with no retention. The contraction automatically falls off after a couple of breaths. Contract again and keep repeating it 20 times till mastered. In the words of svatmarama;
  • Pressing the perineum with the heel and contracting the rectum so that the apana vayu moves upward is moola bandha.
  • There is no doubt that by practicing moola bandha, prana/apana and nada/bindu are united, and total perfection attained.
  • With constant practice of moola bandha, prana and apana unite, urine and stool are decreased and even an old person becomes young.
  • Apana moves up into the region of fire (manipura chakra, the navel center), then the flames of the fire grow, being fanned by apana vayu.
Jalandara bandha (throat lock)
In any seated asana, like padmasana or sidhasana with palms cupping the knees gently. Inhale slowly, retain breath and lower chin so as to touch the collarbone (with erect spine), simultaneously, straighten elbow and raise shoulders, hold concentrating on vishudhi chakra (Thyriod gland, the soft part below throat, known as jugular notch). Release the lock slowly by lifting the head back normal while exhaling in controlled way. Relax till breath comes to normal and do it again. 5 times with anthara kumbhaka (retaining breath inside) and 5 times with kevala kumbhaka (not retaining any breath, basically lock after exhalation) till mastered. svatmarama says;
  • Contracting the throat by bringing the chin to the chest is the bandha called jalandhara. It destroys old age and death.
  • Having done jalandhara bandha by contracting the throat, the nectar does not fall into the gastric fire and the prana is not agitated.
  • Thyroid gland secretes the hormone thyroxine (T4), which is responsible for the rate of tissue metabolism.
  • By firmly contracting the throat, the two nadis, ida and pingala are paralyzed and the sixteen adharas of the middle chakra are locked.

Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock)
pre-requisite: This is done with an empty stomach and the bowels are preferably evacuated before attempting this lock.

Sit in padmasana or sidhasana with erect spine and open eyes. Inhale and exhale quickly, but not forcefully. Without any retention of breath, get into the jalandara bandha (throat lock). Pull the abdomen and stomach inward and upward toward spine. Concentrate on manipura chakra (navel) as long as you can hold. Release the jalandara bandha (throat lock) and inhale slowly with control. Repeat it 10 times till mastered.
  • Even an old person can become young when it is done regularly.
  • Of all the bandhas, uddiyana is the best. Once it is mastered, mukti or liberation occurs spontaneously.

Maha bandha (great lock)
This is applying all the 3 locks (Throat, abdomen and perineum) simultaneously. Sitting in siddha-yoni asana, padmasana, sidhasana or bhadrasana, with the palms cupping the knees gently with an erect spine. take a deep breath and exhale everything forcefully. Get into jalandara bandha (throat lock), then uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) and moola bandha (perineum lock). move awareness from moladhara (perinium) to manipura(navel) to vishuddhi (jugular notch) up an down. Release moola bandha first, then uddiyana bandha and then the jalandara bandha. Wait till normal breathing is attained before repeating it. Repeat it 5 times.
  • Best practiced along with bhastrika pranayama in between.
  • This stops the upward movement of energy in the nadis. This maha bandha is the bestower of great siddhis.
  • Maha bandha frees one from the bonds of death, makes the three nadis unite in ajna chakra and enables the mind to reach the sacred seat of shiva (universal consciousness).
Mudras (gestures to induce a certain attitude in the practitioner)

Khechari Mudra (Swallowing the tongue)
Khechari mudra is a yoga practice where the tongue is rolled up to touch the soft palate. This is an advanced practice and the yogi is said to overcome thirst, hunger, decay and death by this practice.

For most people this needs prolonged effort. The tongue can be rolled up to touch the upper palate. Initially it may be able to touch only the hard palate. With practice, it can go further behind to touch the soft palate. Later it can touch the uluva at the back of the throat. With practice, the tongue can go beyond the uluva and enters the nasal cavity to stimulate certain points inside the cavity. This may take months or years of practice.

Eventually the yogi is able to taste the nectar (or amrit) which flows from the roof of the nasal cavity. This nectar energizes the body and helps to overcome the need for thirst and food.

Maha Mudra (great attitude)

Seat the perineum on left-heal and stretch right-leg and don't bend at knee. With an erect spine, lean forward exhaling and grasp the right big-toe with fore-finger and middle finger of both the hands. Get in khechari mudra, Tilt the head back while inhaling and get into shambhavi mudra (eyes looking inward and upward towards the point between the eyebrows). Perform moola bhandha and antara kumbhaka (retention of breath). Hold breath as long as possible and release all in the reverse order. Wait till the breathing gets normal and try again with other leg. Practice it 3 times each side.
  • Simpler version for elderly is performed in siddha yoni asana and chin mudra, 5 times each side.
  • Maha mudra removes the worst afflictions (the five kleshas) and the cause of death. Therefore it is called ‘the great attitude’ by the ones of highest knowledge.
  • Maha Mudra rapidly eliminates mental depression as it removes all energy blockages which are the fundamental cause of the problem. The practice stills the mind and body and increases one’s sensitivity to subtle experiences. It is therefore a highly recommended and powerful preparatory practice for meditation.

Maha Vedha Mudra (great piercing)
Sit in padmasana or sidhasana, poraka (inhale) and antara kumbhaka (retain) breath. Steady the mind and stop movement of prana. Enter jalandara bandha set the focus on thyriod gland and with awareness in mooladhara, place palms on the ground and slowly lift the body (with folded legs grounded) and release as the gluteus gently beat on the ground, repeat it as long as you can hold the breath. Then release jalandara bandha and slowly rekshaka (exhale) completely. Wait till normal breathing is attained and repeat it for 5 times. 
  • This is the piercer that channels prana to susmana.
  • Bestows great perfections.
  • Wrinkles, grey hair and the trembling of old age are evaded.

Vipareeta karani mudra (reversing attitude)
This is the first kriya practiced in kriya yoga. From savasana, lift the legs, then lift the body so as the body is apporimately 45* to the ground. Lift the legs straight, perpendicular to the ground. This creates subtle pressure in the throat, simulating the thyroid and awakening the vishuddhi chakra. This is always done in empty stomach, at least 3 hours after a meal.

People with high blood pressure, heart troubles, enlarged thyroid and excess toxins in body should never attempt this or any other inverted asanas.

This is practiced daily increasing the duration day by day. After six months of regular practice the signs of aging reverses. When the practitioner can do this for one yama (3 hours) with ease, the perfection is attained.

Vajroli mudra (thunderbold attitude)
Vajra here denotes the vajra nadi, which governs the urogenital system. It is second innermost layer of the sushumana nadi (silver channel). Vajra nadi is the energy flow within spine which governs the sexual behavior of a person. The Oli mudras (vajroli, sahajoli and amaroli) sublimate the sexual energy into ojas (vitality) and kundalini shakthi (energy). Vajroli is practice of contraction of genital muscles, hence sucking up the liquids through them.

Over years, these practices were termed obscene, low caste tantics, unnatural and bad. This the the same crowd that has enforced celibacy in the name of god-men through repression. In yoga, celibacy is a spontaneous and natural occurrence, like in any form of art. A painter, writer or singer know this phenomena of naturally occurring celibacy. Tantric mudras like sahajoli (spontaneous) mudra and amaroli (immortal) mudra are extention of vajroli mudra.

Shakti chalana mudra (moving the energy)

This is quite advanced practice of churning and balancing the shakti (energy) in the body.

  • Seated in siddhasana, with closed eyes, inhale through right nostril (pingala) and retain breath. Perform moola bandha as tightly as possible while retaining breath as long as possible. 
  • Exhale slowly and enter into jalandara bandha and uddiyana bandha. Practice nauli, churning abdominal muscles left to right 10 times and come back to uddiyana bandha.
  • Slowly release uddiyana bandha and then jalandara bandha, rising the head upright. Then with usual composure, inhale slowly. This is one round.
Typically, it is practiced for 90 minutes by the dedicated yogis. Practicing this atleast 5 round is recommended for beginners.

Though these jargons might make them sound too advanced, always remember the only purpose of these locks and gestures are to redirect the prana (life source) and shakti (energy) explicitly as intended by the yogi. This imparts unimaginable strength, steadiness and psychological balance which are of utmost importance for further progress.

Next: Yoga: 6. Dharana (Concentration)

Yoga: 4. Pranayama: Extension of Life Force

When prana moves, chitta (the mental force) moves. When prana movement seizes, so does the movement of chitta - Svātmārāma

(previous: Yoga: 3. Asana - Strength Training)

The purpose of all pranayama practices is to create a perfectly still state of body and mind, so that inhalation and exhalation stop with the cessation of pranic movement. Before we dwell into the intrinsic details of practice, lets understand how the breath flows in our body. As we all know, breathing keeps the body and mind alive. Every breath we take simulates these five vayus, that regulate the functioning of the body and mind.
Five Vayus
Prana is upward flowing vayu from heart region to the head. It nourishes brain and controls the mental activites.
Apana is downward flowing vayu from navel region to the perinium. This is responsible for excretory functions and reproduction.
Samana is inward flowing from periphery of the body towards the pranic center (navel region). This regulates digestion.
Vyana is outward flowing from pranic center to the periphery of the body. This takes care of supplying the nourishment to all the cells of the body and hence prevails all over the body.
Udana is upward flowing energy from the throat region to head, arms and legs. This vayu is the result of right functioning of other vayus. This is responsible for growth and expression (all forms of communication).
The importance and function of these vayus are explained in detail in this five vayus section.

Pranayama is meticulously controlling these vayus to obtain mastery over the breath, hence taking control over aging of the body, mental patterns, emotions, expression and intelligence.

Raising the apana upward and bringing the prana down from the throat, yogi becomes free from old age - Svātmārāma (Pranayama - Verse 47)

In general, breath flows through left nostril (ida nadi) or right nostril (pingala nadi). Science calls it ‘alternate rhinitis.’ In yoga it is known as swara. This keeps alternating every 90 minutes in a healthy body.
Pingala Nadi Ida Nadi
When we breath through right nostril, pingala nadi is active. When the breath is flowing through the left nostril, ida nadi is predominant.
It is connected to the left brain hemisphere and it processes information logically, sequentially and functions according to time sequence.  It is connected to the right hemisphere and hence is concerned with intuition, mental creativity and orientation in space.
The body functions under dynamic masculine principle. (irrespective of actual gender, everybody oscillate between masculine and feminine principles). Mind is extroverted and body is heated. Passive feminine principle governs. This is denoted as sakthi (feminine) and shiva (for masculine) in the east. It has cooling effect on body and the mind is introverted.
During this time, sun is said to be governing the body and rajas guna (over-active temperament) is exhibited by the person. This is the right time to do physically active work like waking-up, workout, celebration, eating, etc. Moon governs the body and tamas guna (inert temperament) prevails. Apt time for subtle activities like taking a nap, desk-work, art-work, etc. Basically, physical rest and creative work.
When both nostrils operate simultaneously the energy is being transferred from one hemisphere to the other. It passes through a thin sheet of membrane between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. At this time the whole brain can function and perception will not be limited to one mode of processing. This happens naturally when the breath flow changes from left to right, but lasts just few seconds or lesser. These are the moments of higher intelligence.

With basic practice of pranayama, this balance can be obtained and retained for minutes. It takes a sustained and dedicated practice to get the lasting effect, that is when both ida and pingala get dormant and the prana flow through susumana nadi (middle channel). When a person can retain this state and can make the yoga (join) between jiva-atma (soul) and parama-atma (total conciousness), he/she is enlightened.

Pranayama does purify all the 72,000 nadis (energy channels), but that is not the sole purpose of pranayama. There is an efficient way to purify the nadis as preparation, so the real benefits of pranayama is obtained. It is called shat-karmas or shat-kriyas. These six methods of cleansing balances the three doshas (bodily humor), namely, vatha (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (mucus). When these are not balanced, it'll be a huge hinderance to practice pranayama.
Shat-karmas (or) Shat-kriyas
Dauti (esophagus and stomach cleansing). Removing the excess mucus from esophagus and stomach and thus hinderances to pranayama like, coughs, asthma, diseases of the spleen, leprosy and twenty kinds of diseases caused by excess mucus are destroyed.
Basti (yogic enema) cleanses large intestine. It is not considered a common practice as it involves sucking water through rectum and releasing. Enlargement of the glands and spleen, and all diseases arising from excess mind, bile and mucus are eliminated from the body through the practice of basti. 
Neti (nasal cleansing). Cleanses the nasal passage, between two nostrils and between the nostrils and mouth. There are two ways of doing it; sutra (thread) neti and jala (water) neti. Neti cleanses the cranium and bestows clairvoyance. It also destroys all diseases which manifest above the throat.
Trataka (concentrated gazing, no blinking). Looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed is known as trataka. Commonly practiced with candle light, it can be practiced with moon, stars, idol, dot, etc. Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue, sloth, depression, insomnia, allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration, memory and closes the doorway causing these problems.
Nauli (massaging internal abdominal organs). Lean forward, protrude the abdomen and rotate (the muscles) from right to left with speed. This is called nauli by the siddhas. Nauli kindles the digestive fire, removing indigestion, sluggish, digestion, and all disorders of the doshas.
Kapalbathi (brain frontal lobe cleansing). Perform exhalation (forced) and inhalation (not forced) rapidly 108 times. This is called kapalbhati and it destroys all mucous disorders.
These six methods are discussed in detail in the internet. By the shat-karma one is freed from excesses of the doshas. Then pranayama is practiced and success is achieved without strain.

Pranayama constitutes of 3 parts:  pooraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation), and kumbhaka (retention). Kumbhaka is again of two types: sahita (with conscious effort) and kevala (automatic). Until kevala kumbhaka is perfected, sahita kumbhaka (retention with conscious effort) has to be practiced.

General guidelines for inhale:retain:exhale is 1:4:2. i.e., if you inhale for 2 seconds, retain for 8 seconds and exhale slowly for 4 seconds.

Suryabheda (right nostril inhalation) means piercing the body with solar energy. In empty stomach, sitting comfortably in siddhasana, the yogi should become fixed in his posture and slowly breathe the air in through the right nostril. Retain until you feel the breath diffuse to the roots of the hair and tips of the nails. Then slowly exhale through the left nostril. Repeat it 10 times.

Suryabheda is excellent for purifying the cranium, destroying imbalances of the wind dosha and eliminating worms. In general, when we inhale only through left nostril, it is exhaled without retention. The retention in practiced only when we inhale through the right or both nostrils.

Bhastrika (bellows breathing). Sit in padmasana to ensure sturdy posture, neck and abdomen in alignment, inhale and exhale in like pumping a ball or a tire. First start with 20 pairs of inhalation and exhalation. Then take a deep breath with right-nostril and retain breath for a count of 40 and slowly exhale through left nostril. Gradually, in weeks, increase it to 50:50:100 (inhale:exhale and retain). Repeat it 5 times. imbalances of vatha (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (mucus) are annihilated and the digestive fire is increased.

Padmasana is emphasized here because the body is to be firmly locked so that physical movement is restricted and the spine remains straight. Nervous impulses are then able to travel directly up through the central nervous system. Bhastrika stimulates the circulation of cerebral fluid and increases the compression and decompression upon the brain, creating a rhythmic massage. The rhythmic pumping of the diaphragm and lungs stimulates the heart and blood circulation. Accelerated blood circulation and rate of gas exchange in each cell produces heat and washes out waste gases. In advanced sadhakas (practioners), bhastrika unties the three granthis (pranic knots), namely, rudra granthi, vishnu granthi and bramha granthi. These 3 knots will be discussed in detail in kundalini chapter.

Ujjayi (victorious deep breathing). Sit in siddhasana or lie down in savasana. Closing the mouth, inhale with control and concentration through both ida (left) and pingala (right), so that the breath is felt from the throat to the heart and produces a sonorous sound. Do kumbhaka (retain) as before and exhale through ida (left). Continue for as long as you can. 10 mins will be apt. This removes phlegm from the throat and stimulates the (digestive) fire.

Seetkari (hissing breath) and Sheetali (cooling breath):
Seetkari: Sit in Siddhasana, get in chin-mudra (tip of index finger and tip of thumb touching) and Inhale through the mouth, clenched teeth, making a hissing sound and exhale through the nose. repeat it 20 times.
Sheetali: Sit in Siddhasana, get in chin-mudra (tip of index finger and tip of thumb touching) and Inhale through the mouth, tongue rolled on both sides to make a passage in the middle, making a hissing sound and exhale through the nose. repeat it 20 times.

The benefits of sheetali and seetkari are basically the same. They cool the whole body and the lower energy centers, particularly those connected to the reproductive and excretory organs, is cooled down significantly. Eliminates indolence (sloth) and the need and desire to eat, drink and sleep. These are useful techniques for alleviating psychosomatic disease such as high blood pressure.

These two practices are unique because inhalation is done through the mouth. In every other yogic practice and in breathing in general, we are told to always breathe through the nose. When the breath is taken through the nose, the nose heats up and cleans the incoming air. This infringement is acceptable providing you do not practice in a dirty, polluted atmosphere or in excessively cold weather.

Bhramari (humming bee breath). In empty stomach, inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, listening to the sound of the breath. Close the ears with the index and middle fingers by pressing the middle outer part of the ear ligament into the ear hole. Keep the ears closed and exhale, making a deep soft humming sound. Concentrate on the sound, keeping it low pitched. When exhalation is complete, lower the hands to the knees and breathe in slowly. repeat it 20 times.

Bhramari awakens psychic sensitivity and awareness of subtle vibrations, therefore, it is better to practice in the early hours of the morning or late at night. The sound produced in bhramari is very soothing and thus the practice relieves mental tension and anxiety and reduces anger.

Moorchha literally means "to-faint". Sit in padmasana, hands on knees, inhale slowly and deeply through both nostrils, get into jalandara bandha (with erect spine, bend the head forward so as to chin touching collar bone) and retain breath for even longer than it is comfortable. Then relax and wait till breath is normal. Repeat it 5 times, pushing the limit of retention every time.

This pranayama clears the mind of unnecessary thoughts and reduces awareness of the senses and external world. Hence, it is an excellent preparation for meditation and enhances dharana (concentration) practices. It helps reduce anxiety and mental tension and induces relaxation and inner awareness.

Plavini means "to float". When the inner part of the abdomen is completely fitted with air, one can float like a lotus leaf on water. Sit in padmasana or siddhasana and start inhaling slowly. After inhalation the air has to be swallowed as you swallow food, retained inside and not belched out. Do it 3-5 times without expelling the air. While retaining the air inside the stomach there should be absolutely no physical movement or the air will escape. Try to retain the air in the stomach for at least thirty to ninety minutes and burp it out voluntarily.
Plavini should be practiced after asana and all other pranayama techniques, or it can be practiced during the day if you are fasting. This will keep the stomach full and prevent hunger pangs and the desire to eat. Yogis practice plavini before going into samadhi for days together so that the stomach remains full during their natural fast.

Not all these pranayamas to be practiced at the same time. Learn them all and with right practice, the need will arise automatically to perform different methods of these pranayama in different situations.

Next: Yoga: 5. Bandhas (Locks) and Mudras (Gestures)

Yoga: 3. Asana - Strength Training

(Previous: Yoga: 2. Where to start?)

"Overeating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, being in the company of common people and wavering mind are the six causes which destroy yoga." - Svātmārāma

Asana is spoken of as the first part of hatha yoga. Having done asana one gets steadiness (firmness) of body and mind; devoid of any form of disease and lightness (in terms of flexibility) of the limbs.

Hatha Yoga is preparing the body and predominantly constitutes asanas and pranayama (with kiryas, bandhas and mudras). 'Ha' (sun) and 'Tha' moon and yoga is 'to unite'. Hence, Hatha yoga's goal is to unite the hot sun energy flowing through pingala nadi connected to the right nostril and cold moon energy via ida nadi connected to the left nostril. The moon is the mental energy of chitta (pool of memory). It is the subtle force which is concerned with the mental layers. The pranic force is like the sun, dynamic and active. The two create the extremities of introversion and extroversion. It is the practice of hatha yoga which enables the fluctuations between these two energies to become harmonious and unified into one force. When it is united, the practitioner (sadhaka) attains a calm state of mind and set to progress to next level, Pratyahara (mastery over senses). With minimal practice this can be attained, but to sustain the state, a dedicated sustained practice is needed.

Yoga is a personal affair. It is not a group workout. Just like studying, painting and singing; people learn it as a group, but practice the teachings alone in solitude. Learn it from qualified people. As there is no guidelines to find the qualified teacher and everyone needs to find a teacher who resonate with them. Internet provides good lessons, but try to compare independent sources to understand the asanas clearly. 

To practice, find a room, just tall enough to jump without touching the ceiling, not wider than two to four times the width your stretched hands sideways, not longer than two to four times your height. This is to contain the vibrations in the preliminary stages. Keep it very clean as there will be rigorous breathing involved during pranayama. Ensure the room temperature at comfortable level. Since the asana's will exert heat, starting with a little cooler temperature is fine. Comfortable clothing and a floor with good grip will do. Yoga Mat and tight attire is western innovation to suit their needs. Just understanding the reason, like, the yoga studios have smooth surfaces, the mat was needed and since it has become a group activity here, the tight attire was needed to comfortably orient the body in all direction amidst others. This is as unimportant as the description of yoga hermitage (shelter) in hatha yoga pradipika.

There are 84 core asanas.  It is said that lord shiva has described eighty-four asanas, taking examples from each of the 8,400,000 kinds of creatures in the world. There have been several derivations from these 84 asanas. Since there is no place where the original 84 asanas are summarized and mentioned together, it might become a longer than expected quest to list down the original 84 asanas. We'll jump start with the main asanas and depending on the level of dedication, the practitioner can embark on the quest.

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a series of 12 asanas done in succession. Sadakas (practitioners) generally practiced this during sunrise and also solar energy is life source for everything on earth. This is by far the only complete workout system for the body, meaning, when one can just practice this for the rest of their life, all the organs of the body will stay in top notch condition for their lifetime.
Start from tadasana (mountain pose) and go clockwise till you are back to the starting point. There are several variations in the internet, don't get diverted. Minor modification doesn't hurt. This can be practiced in single breath or multiple breaths (per pose), irrespective of that, while changing the pose the breath should be flowing. General rule of thumb is; when chest expands inhale and exhale when it contracts like bending forward. Repeat it 3-7 times, based on the time dedication.

Between the lunar cycle (28 days approx.) and the solar cycle (12 years approx.), there are many other cycles that directly impact us. Some one who is not so conscious will undergo alike situations, experiences, thoughts and emotions in a cyclic way. It keeps happening in same order every month, six months, eighteen months, three years or six years. If this cycle comes once in over twelve years, that means your system is in a good state of receptivity and balance. Surya namaskar will assert that balance. The sadhana (practice) is always to break the cycle of unconscious and autonomous activities. So that there is no more compulsiveness, and you have the right kind of foundation for consciousness.

Asanas are 84 in total, Practice at least these 21 and master at least 1. When you can perform these 21 asanas mentioned below, you can consider yourself graduated the course of asanas. There is abundant details on each asana and step by step guidance in the internet. KinoYoga is one of them. She learned hatha yoga from Pattabhi Jois, who was a preliminary student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, father of modern yoga. All the Theories around each asana is explained in detail in the internet, my intention here is to emphasis on the practice and this information will serve as a stepping stone.

Standing Asanas
For these asanas, when the fingers are stretched out and in the line of sight, unwavering concentration on finger tips without blinking is necessary while sustaining the peak of the pose for 3-5 breaths.
1. Trikonasana (Traingle Pose): 'trikoṇa' literally means triangle. Practice both the poses shown below on both sides (left and right). This corrects the alignment of neck, shoulders and knees, massages pelvic organs and ligaments along with strengthening the ankles and core. concentrate on the finger tips.
2. Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose): Strengthens legs and improves balance. Impersonate the attitude of a warrior to refine the level of concentration.
3. Pada-Hasthasana (Hand-Under-Foot Pose): Stretches and strengthens the total back from head to heals.
4. Talasana (Palm-Tree Pose): Stretches spine and corrects the alignment of all 24 unfused vertebrae of the spinal column. Simultaneously inhale and stretch towards the sky, standing on toes. Pierce those finger tips with eye sight. Exhale and relax into casual stand.
5. Vriksasana (Tree Pose): As obvious as it is; increases balance, poise and concentration. Start with a weak leg and finish with a strong leg.

6. Utkatasana (Chair Pose): Increases strength, balance and stability of the lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles and calves).

Seated and lying-down Asanas
7. Bhadrasana (Cobbler Pose): Directs life force upwards, calms mental plane, and regulates the adrenal and reproductive organs. Recommended pose to treat infertility. Still in eastern countries, cobblers mend shoes in this pose and they'll often have several children.
8. Sethu-Bandhasana (Bridge Pose): Stretches legs, chest. Alleviates stress and depression. Best suited to relieve menstrual discomfort.
9. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spinal twist): It stands of half-lord of Fishes pose. Its primary purpose is restore spinal health and it is also said that it increases appetite, destroys deadly diseases, and awakens kundalini.
10. Shalabhasana (Locust Pose): Simulates svadhishthana Chakra(Gonads) and hence restoring hormonal balance. Strengthens gluteal muscles.
11. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): Strengthens arms, chest and gluteal muscles. Improves metabolism.
12. Mayurasana (Peacock Pose): Strengthens arms, wrist, tones the body and improves balance and concentration. Mayurasana should not be done at the beginning of asana practice. Do it after performing other asanas or any inverted postures. Mayurasana quickly alleviates all diseases like enlargement of the glands, dropsy and other stomach disorders. It rectifies imbalance of the five elements. It reduces to ashes all food taken indiscriminately, kindles the gastric fire and enables even destruction of kalakuta (a deadly poison).
13. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose):Stretches the front of the body; abs, quadriceps, chest and biceps.
14. Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward bend): Stretches the back of the body; spine, hamstrings and calves. Simulates manipura chakra (pancreas) and svadhishthana Chakra(Gonads).
15. Matsyasana (Fish Pose): Expands chest, relieves breathing disorders, tones pituitary and pineal glands.
16. Navasana (Boat Pose): Strengthens abs, simulates svadhishthana chakra (adrenal, reproductive glands).
17. Sarvangasana (Shoulder-stand): The pressure on vishuddhi chakra (thyroid gland), regulates the and restores metabolism to ideal state.
18. Halasana (Plow Pose): Stretches cervic spine (7 vertebae in the neck), which is often mis-aligned due to the day to day activities.
19. Sirshasana (Head-stand): It is called King of asanas and it is practiced to reverse attitudes, literally. Looks harder, but with right guidance, you'll be doing it in less than ten minutes. Head and elbows form a tripod, which supports the body much easily than it looks. Short-tempered people should compensate by cooling their head with different means while practicing this asanas. Else they might have more frequent outbursts of anger.
20. Balasana (Child/Rabbit Pose): Natural pose, restores blood flow to normal, especially after head/shoulder stands.
21. Savasana (Corpse Pose): Looks easy, but the perfection is attained when you can move you attention to any part of the body instantaneously and seize all attention out at will.
There are asanas like natarajasana, titibasana, vakrasana, vrschikasana, etc. that looks visually stunning, and does need regular practice to attain the pose. Once the sadhaka (practitioner) can perform the above 21 with ease, explore and try such asanas to keep from getting monotonous and to continuously challenging oneself.

21 Asanas: Download this image and print it for quick reference

Dhyana Asanas ( Seated Postures for Meditation)
Practice all these 4 and find one that best suits you for meditation. This will be the stepping stone for further sadhanas (practices). Once meditation transcends on the practitioner, the sense of time is shaken and one can go hours in the same pose.
1. Sukhasana (Easy Pose): Natural siting posture. However, in this pose people tend to relax on the spine and when the spine is not erect, the energy flow is not even.

2. Siddhasana (Perfect Pose): Siddhasana is purely a meditative posture. It is designed to channelize the prana (life force) or vital energy directly to ajna chakra (endocrine glands between eyebrows). Siddhasana prevents nervous depression from occurring during meditation. Siddhasana purifies all the 72,000 nadis (energy channels) in the body. It is also said that just by meditating in siddhasana for 12 years, enlightenment is attained.

3. Vajrasana (Diamond Pose): Vajrasana can be practiced even right after a meal. Its is not possible to bend the spine in this pose, hence it is one of the apt poses for meditation.

4. Padmasana (Lotus Pose): Again, this is a fool-proof method to ensure right posture. Spine will stay erect automatically.

Shat-kriyas (six cleansing methods), followed by asanas, then pranayama with bandhas and meditating in one of these poses with right mudras (hand gestures) will put the sadhaka (practitioner) on a fast-track in attaining higher goals in yoga.

Next: Yoga: 4. Pranayama: Extension of Life Force

Yoga: 2. Where to Start?

(Previous: Yoga: 1. What is Yoga?)

It is wise to choose a right path before taking the first step. Yoga sutras and all its interpretations from different times denote that there are four paths to liberation;
  • Bhakti Yoga (Path of Devotion)
  • Karma Yoga (Path of Dutifulness)
  • Gnyana Yoga (Path of Knowledge)
  • Kriya Yoga (Path of Deed) a.k.a. Raja Yoga
A basic level of all these; devotion, knowledge, dutifulness and deed is needed for all and a specialization in one. As a matter of fact, when someone specialize in one of these, other three automatically transcend on them.

Bhakti yoga is comparatively the easiest path as it doesn't take much troll on a person, especially psychologically. Since, a real devotee doesn't really take any responsibility. Anything that happens to him/her or anything they do, they dedicate it to the one they are devoted to. Hence its very common for the parents to indulge in pious upbringing of their children.

The devotion here is absolute devotion, not a feign one or a lukewarm devotion. This path is very natural for people practicing any form of art. There had been several glorified stories and shows on devotion of poets like meera, tulsidas,  alwars and nayanmars to inspire people to follow the path of devotion. It is not a coincidence that many of the top artists, authors, architects, musicians and several other fields of art of our times are from islamic culture, where the devotion is certainly at higher degree. This path is best suited for the people in the field of arts.

It is still a common practice in east for people to bow down to the elders and in india people do touch the feet of elders seeking their blessings. The genuine elders gratefully accept this gesture without any hesitation. The real reason behind their acceptance is not to glorify themselves, but to provide you an opportunity to practice this devotion. If you don't like it, don't do it. The empty gesture is absolutely meaningless and it actually does more harm by poisoning your own ego.

Karma yoga is fulfilling the duties. This is the path of kshatriya (warriors) and grihastha (householders). The vast majority of the population in the world are householders. Farmer, barber, washermen, fishermen and people of every other occupation whose key purpose is to provide for the family are categorized as householders. In the current world, we've intertwined art and occupation together. Hence to make it clear, for a author whose main purpose is to provide for the family is a householder and one who write for the pure sake of writing is an artist. Artists do acquire wealth, but that is a by-product of what they do.

This is certainly the longest path to liberation. It is obvious as they keep accumulating and dissipating several degrees of karma continuously. No deed is classified as good or bad as such. It emphasis that, anything you do will have an equivalent consequence. Before you do it, try to interpret the consequence and make the decision.

In olden days, killing a 1000 elephants will make one a glorified fearless hero. Nowadays, hunting even a single elephant will get you a lifetime imprisonment. Warning some brat child in the park with corporal punishment is a punishable crime. While the parent or the teacher can do so. The point is, how the deeds are perceived by the society changes between time and place. So yoga never enlisted good and bad acts. It insists on becoming aware. To put it in a gist, Any act of total awareness cannot go wrong and any act out of unawareness will not be right, even accidentally.

Gnyana yoga is path of knowledge. This is the path of attaining the liberation through contemplating, understanding, wisdom and practicing the understood. This path is unique in the sense, it's the only path with strong emphasis on using the mind extensively before taming it down, while all other paths directly go to work with taming the mind down. 

The knowledge in the context here is not mere physically identifiable, but also the subtle knowledge of working of the existence. Much of this knowledge and clairvoyance is attained in meditation and this path involves attaining several kinds of meditation like vipasana, zazen, samatha and so on. Buddha, Vivekananda, Adi sankara are some of the well-known Gnyana Yogis of the east. 

Vivekananda became of devotee of ramakrishna, who is a bakthi yogi. This emphasis the fact that once enlightened, no matter what path they took, they are all in the same state and will be mentor the practitioners of all paths. As obvious as it is, this the apt path for scientists and inquirers.

Kriya yoga (or) raja yoga is attaining mukti through sadhanas (austerities). This is the most direct way and this involves using the body as a vehicle and tuning it for samadhi. This type is predominantly the face of yoga in our times. This is the path of arduous stretching and bending the body into various poses, several kinds of breathing technique, uncommon way of detoxing the body and mind. All these practices are to get to state where we have absolute mastery over the senses (indriya), endocrine glands (chakra) and the energy channels (nadi). All these sadhanas (austerities) are mere preparation and they themselves are not the goal. As a result of these austerities the usual distractions of the body and mind are wiped clear and the final stages, meditation and nirvana trancends with absolute ease. 

It is uncommon to know the Kriya Yogis as they are very introverted and often live in solitude. Mahavatar babaji is allegedly the most famous kriya yogi and most respected among the yogis of himalayas. This is best suited for the sportsmen as it involves onerous training, strong physical and mental strength, patience and a resilient attitude.

Kriya yoga is what we are going to dig in deep with the forth-coming chapters.

Next: Yoga: 3. Asana: Strength Training