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Yoga - an Experience by Major S. C. Nautiyal (Retd.) 

One's nationality, religion, culture, occupation or sex does not come in the way of practising Yoga. It crosses the boundaries of religion and leads us to the path of spiritualism.

It is my endeavour, to share my personal experience of practising Yoga, with the viewers on the Internet and to explain to them the benefits of Yogic Practices. 
I was working for the State Bank Of India, Corporate Centre, Mumbai from the Year 1988 to 2002, heading their Telecommunication Network Systems.

Prior to joining the bank,I had served as an officer in the Indian Army, Corps of Signals. I opted for premature retirement from the Army, after serving for twenty and half years and I was in a perfect health condition (SHAPE 1 in Army terminology) at the time of retirement.

I was residing at the banks accommodation at LokhandWala Complex, Andheri (West) Mumbai. My office was at Nariman point, about 35 Kms away. One had to commute to office daily, by buses and local trains, which was a feat by itself, though a normal way of life in Mumbai. I developed hypertension in this type of life style.

In the month of July 1996, I noticed a swelling on my left leg, more near the calf muscles, which would increase by the evening. There was no pain, but I felt uncomfortable. After tests, it was confirmed that I had DVT (Deep Vascular thrombosis) on the left leg. The doctors advised me Compressive Elastic Stockings for the left leg along with medicines Ticlovas 250 mg. (1-0-1) and Antoxid (1-0-1) and a regular check of the blood for its thickness by  Partial thromboplastin time (PTT). This is a test that measures clotting time in plasma (the liquid portion of blood). It focuses on a specific pathway in the blood clotting process. I underwent the treatment for two months, but without any improvement. I was therefore referred to a famous specialist in a hospital on Pedder road, Mumbai, who advised me to take Warferine, as a substitute and carry out regular PTT tests. He controlled the doses after seeing the PTT reports. After a couple of days, one fine night I developed acute pain in my lower abdomen and thereafter urinated blood profusely. When the doctor was contacted at night he said that the blood had become very thin due to Warferine and there was no anti-dote for it. Nature would only subside the effect of Warferine. 

The next day, I went for a check-up at Bombay Hospital and they confirmed that it was the effect of overdose of Warferine. So the doctors at Bombay Hospital advised me to stop consuming Warferine. The swelling persisted on the left leg, a little reduced, but not completely cured. My experience with the medication prevented me from pursuing the medications any further. In May 1997, Yoga Vidya Niketan (an Institute of Yoga at Dadar, Mumbai) started a 35 days summer vacation course in Yoga at Lokhandwala garden. I joined it just out of curiosity. After completion of the course, I noticed that the swelling of the affected leg had reduced by about 90%. I continued the Yogic practice and found that the swelling had completely subsided. I also used to feel mentally disturbed and agitated earlier because of the busy and stressful life style of Mumbai, but after practising yoga I experienced complete mental peace. I am grateful to Shri Sadashiv P. Nimbalkar, Director, Yoga Vidya Niketan and especially to Mr. Tulsiani, who was my teacher and a great inspiration, even after the completion of the course. 

I am presently leading a retired life at DehraDun. I am also maintaining this web site to keep myself busy. In view of my experiences, I consider it my utmost duty to apprise the viewers of the benefits of Yoga and also clarify certain anomalies. I have compiled data from various books in a concise form to provide a fair idea to the viewers about Yoga. 

A word of caution though - Please do not practise Yoga without the help of an experienced teacher. 

Yoga in brief and Yogic Terminalogy

The scope of the word Yoga is very wide. It includes Dhyan Yoga, Bhakti
Yoga, Karm Yoga, Laya Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga and other such
Systems, basically all these are interlinked and come into existence as paths for spiritual upliftment. Different paths are followed and preached by various practitioners according to their temperament and preferences, one such path, which has become most popular in the world is Hatha Yoga.

Yogic Scriptures. There are a number of old texts on Yoga such as
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and Yog Darshan, Hathapradeepika, Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Samhita, Goraksha Samhita etc. Patanjali follows Yoga of eight limbs where as the others follow six limbs for Yoga (Shadanga Yoga). Basically all follow the same basic principles, the various limbs are described in the scriptures for understanding Yoga in the ultimate analysis. We for the sake of uniformity and ease of understanding will follow Patanjali’s Eight Limb Yoga (Ashtang Yoga).

Hatha Yoga is well defined as Ashtang (Eight Limbs) Yoga, because it follows an eight fold path viz. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharna, Dhayan and Samadi.  It is advised for the upliftment of body, mind and spirit. Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama are clubbed together as Bahiranga Yoga (Outer Yoga) and practiced for Mental and Physical Health. The practice of Bahirangi Yoga helps the aspirant attain all round health of body and mind and also enables him to achieve success in Antaranga Yoga.

Dharna, Dhyana and Samadi are considered parts of Antaranga Yoga (InnerYoga). Antaranga Yoga is also named as Raj Yoga.

Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) is taken as a bridge between Bahiraga Yoga and Antaranga Yoga, however it may also be included in Bahiranga Yoga itself.

Yama means rules to be followed by the aspirant while living in a society. There are five types of Yamas. Ahmisa (Non-killing, non-injuring, non-hurting, non-violence.), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Continence i.e. an uncontrolled and improper sex life brings about loss of both physical and mental energy. Observing continence at the physical, mental and speech level and enjoying a regulated sex life is very essential for health as well as Yogabhyas.), Aparigriha (Non-hoarding with due consideration to make any provision for future.)

Niyamas. Patanjali’s Sutras list five Niyamas. Shoucha (Purity i.e. Physical, mental and emotional purity is essential for progress in Yogabhyas.), Santosh (Contentment i.e. the satisfaction we derive while performing our duty, using our full capacity, or having a balanced mind in all circumstances.), Tapa (Penance i.e. doing hard work for long periods or pursuing some thing persistently for a long time.), Swadhyaya (Self-study i.e. repeated study, contemplation, a compulsive yearning, and application of knowledge.), Ishwara Pranidhana (Self-surrender to the Supreme i.e. assuming the basic fundamental principle of a supreme force behind the cosmic energy,  which was at the time of creation of the universe and has the power of controlling and balancing creation, giving it stability and  which is capable of destroying it. Ishwara described in Yoga is not a particular God or Image it is the supreme force as described above.).

Yogic Practices. The various postures in Yogic practices include Asana    (Pose), Kriya (Processes), Mudras (Symbols) and Bandhas (Locks). Each of these postures is specific for a particular part of the body or for a particular function of a specific part of the body.

Asana means a steady and pleasurable psychosomatic pose (i.e. one involving body and mind together). Asanas are countless. However in the old texts such as Hathapradeepika, Gheranda Samhita, Shiv Samhita, Goraksha Samhita, etc., some selected asanas are described.

Kriya (Processes). These are basically the internal cleansing of different body systems. Yogic kriyas can be classified into six broad groups (Shat Karma)- Neti (Cleanses the nasal passages with the aid of water or using friction (by means of a cotton cord or rubber catheter), Dhouti (It is the group of all those cleansing processes which clean the food pipe, the stomach and the entire alimentary canal, using water or air as medium and taking the help of a long strip of cloth or a rubber tube.), Basti (Water and air are used to clean the last portion of the large intestine (colon and the anal region), Nauli (Creation of the negative pressure in the thoracic region resulting in the “sucking in” of the diaphragm, abdominal walls, etc. followed by fast movements of the rectum muscles produced by positive pressure. These together with the play of negative and positive pressures, cleanse the abdominal region.), Kapalbhati (Cleansing of the air passage right from the nose to the bronchi as also cleaning of the cavities around the nose. The cleansing is done with the aid of air or water.) And Tratak (Stabilizes the gaze and purifies the eyes by using tears formed therein.)

Mudras(Symbols). These yogic practices are done for creating positive or negative pressure on the flow of blood in a particular part of the body.

Bandh (Locks). Bandh is constriction or control imposed on a certain part of body.

Pranayama means the lengthening of the period between inhalation and exhalation, as also disciplining the entire process of respiration. Inhalation process is called Poorak, exhalation is called Recheck and holding the breath is called Kumbhak. There are eight important types of Pranayama. Suraya Bhedan, Ujjayi, Sitkari, Shitali, Bhastirica, Bhramari, Moorcha and Plavini. In these eight types of Pranayama the difference is noticed in the method of Pooraka and Rechaka. However the method of Kumbhak and its ratio is the same in all the types.

Pratyahara means withdrawal of senses. The five human senses, viz. sight (eyes), touch (skin), taste (tongue), hearing (ears), and smell (nose), are doors of mind connecting it with the outer world. In Pratyahara all these doors are closed and mind is turned inward.

Dharna means fixation of the mind on some object. Normally the mind is restless by nature and shifts from object to object. In Dharana the mind is directed towards a single object.

Dhayana means meditation, i.e. continuation of one-pointed ness of mind on the object. When the mind is trained to fix itself on any object, i.e. performs Dharana, it gets the power to concentrate in an unbroken flow on that particular object. Once it is achieved, this is known as Dhayana.

Samadhi means self-realization or complete absorption. This is the ultimate aim of Yoga.

Misconceptions. Even today Yogic knowledge is considered a mystical discipline. People  when read and hear about the Yogis, miracles and supernatural powers, they are amazed. Even though they have respect for Yoga, they feel that Yoga is not ment for ordinary people, and therefore they themselves keep away from it. The Yogis in the past also kept the knowledge of Hatha Yoga a secret and therefore an erroneous notion has prevailed that Hatha Yoga is some thing, which is done by forcing oneself. Thus the original word Hatha was misunderstood  meaning as obstinacy. In fact Hatha can be broken as ‘Ha’ and ‘Tha’ which are symbols. ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘Tha’ means the moon. Sun and moon are indicators of the duality of the world. Since this science teaches us how to keep balance in a life full of dualities, it got the name Hatha Yoga. Many believe that for gaining success in Yoga, one has necessarily to live in a forest, shun society, have an awe-inspiring face with unkept hair, wear a special costume, etc. However all these are misgivings and do not have much of a scientific basis. With the extensive propagation of Yoga as also the scientific attitude of looking towards it, the mystification and misconception about Yoga are waning.

What is Health?  Heath is a state of well being physical, mental and social. It is not a mere absence of disease or complaints. Health and well being depends upon nourishment, activities (Physical and mental) and rest. If any one of these is excessive or meager, there is imbalance, which leads to ill health. There is no better or easier method than Yogabhyas for maintaining the health of the body and mind.

Patanjali’s Yoga Concepts in relation to Asanas.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Darshan (a compendium of aphorisms), some important interrelated principles regarding Asanas are given. Of these the first is Sthirasukhamasanam i.e. Asanas are steady postures affording pleasure. While in a Yogic Asana, one should experience pleasure – both physical as well as mental. In order to attain this Patanjali has suggested a fine method. He says that while getting in to or maintaining an asana one should minimize efforts ( Prayatnashaithilya). Asana should be performed with ease. For this, there should not be any conscious efforts. Also the mind should be fixed on the infinite One ( Ananta). Ananta is a concept. It means, the entity, which has neither a beginning nor an end. If it is not possible to keep one’s mind on Ananta, one can do Pranadharana or Maharadhnusadhana. Pranadharana means to be conscious of one’s breathing i.e. fixing one’s attention on breathing. Maharadhanusadhana means imagining that ‘ I am a droplet in a big lake ‘. 

While attaining any Asana it is imperative to practice Differential (partial) relaxation, Prandharna and Sakshibhavana.

Differential relaxation. While attaining any particular posture in an asana being performed it creates positive or negative pressure only on a particular part of the body. While on the rest of the body parts, all the muscles must be completely relaxed. For example if the posture achieved actively involves the lower part of the body from toe to waist, then the muscles on the upper parts of the body above the waist, on the back, shoulders, arms, neck and face etc. must be completely relaxed.

Prandharna (Fixation of the mind on the breath). Pranadharna is a compound world, a combination of two words – Prana and Dharna. Prana means breath and dharna means fixation of mind. While practicing Pranadharna, the Yoga aspirant has to fix his/her mind on the incoming and outgoing breath. The mind is thus trained and conditioned. Generally, the practice of Pranadharna is done in three graded steps. If the mind of any person is under the spell of strong emotion or if it is wavering in emotional imbalance or if a person is suffering from an acute disease or pain, he or she should avoid Pranadharna.

Prandharna First Step. Sit at ease in a comfortable posture. Close the eyes. Count the breaths. Count exhalation and inhalation together as one breath. Breathing natural. In case the mind has wandered away and you have forgotten the count, do not try hard to recall the last counted number. Persuade your mind to count a fresh; do not force your self. Practice one round daily of 10 to 45 breaths. Coming out of the practice: Stop counting the breaths and allow normal mental activities. Open the eyes.

Prandharna Second Step. Sit in any comfortable sitting posture. Close eyes. Start counting the breaths. Now feel the touch of incoming and out going breaths at the wall of the nose. Feel the touch continually. Attach the mind to the soft touch of the incoming and out going breaths. Engage the mind in this feeling and enjoy it. Breathing natural and normal. Practice one round daily of 15 to 60 breaths. If mind is distracted from experiencing the touch of the breath and starts thinking of other things, do not compel the mind to feel the touch. Persuade it by expressing only an ardent wish. Coming out of the practice: Get the mind away from the touch of the breath and start counting the breaths. Afterwards, allow normal mental activities. Open the eyes.

Prandharna Third Step. Sit in any comfortable posture preferably on the ground. If convenient, crossed legged (sukhasana) or on the folded legs, toes touching the ground with sole upwards, bottom resting on the heels and knee closed and touching each other in the crotched position (Vazrasana). The sitting posture should be with back resting and the spinal cord in the erect position and both hands with elbows straight, resting on the knee. Close the eyes. Start counting the breaths. Then start feeling the breaths. Feel the touch of the air for 5 to 10 breaths. Afterwards take the mind on the soft palate and think and feel the thermal sensations, which are produced there because of the touch of the incoming (cool) and the out going (warm) air. Breathing natural and normal. Keep the eyes closed. Enjoy the thermal sensation of the breath at the soft palate. Practice one round daily of 30 to 75 breaths. If the mind starts thinking of other things. If it does not perceive the sensation at the soft palate, it loses the concentration. Very gently persuade the mind to come back to the specific activity of feeling the sensation of the breath at the soft palate. Many times it is found difficult to perceive the thermal sensations at the soft palate and some times, the mind gets tired in search of the sensation. In such cases, it is advisable to practice the Pranadharna step two for longer time.Only after the regular and long practice does one succeed in mastering the Pranadharna step three. Coming out of practice: Take the mind away from the sensation at the soft palate to touch of the breaths at the walls of the nostrils. Then start counting the breaths and lastly allow normal mental activities. Open the eyes.

Benefits of Pranadharna. The mind becomes very sharp and more controllable. Capacity for concentration of the mind increases. It prepares the aspirant for meditation. 

Sakshibhavana (Passive Observation). This practice is done for soothing and purifying the mind. It is a cathartic technique to purge the mind of undesirable and anti-social emotions, urges, ambitions, wishes and aspirations. ‘Sakshi’ means witness and ‘Bhavana’ means sentiments, feelings, thoughts, urges, emotions and in fact every thing which gets stored in the mind – especially at its preconscious and unconscious levels. One has to witness all these by the conscious mind with out passing any judgment on them. While attaining this sit in a comfortable position. Close the eyes. Start witnessing the thoughts, urges and the emotions with the conscious mind without giving your own opinions or impressions. Do not try to curb them. Do not appreciate or criticize thoughts, urges, emotions or what ever comes up from various levels of the mind. Be a passive observer. Feel as if you are watching the flow of a river, sitting on its bank with out any concern for the flow of the water. Breathing natural and normal. Keep the eyes closed. Fix attention on the passive witnessing of the thoughts. Coming out of the practice: Open the eyes. Make the mind active and start thinking positively. Practice one round daily of 5 to 10 minutes. It is very difficult to make the conscious mind passive. It is advisable to attain perfection on Pranadharna before attempting Sakshibhavna.

Yogabhyas and Physical Exercises Main Differences. The objective of physical exercises is to achieve health, speed, skill, dexterity, agility, cardio-vascular efficiency, competence, entertainment etc. However the objective of Yogic practices is quite different. Daily performance of Yogic practices results into an improvement in the tone of vital organs and important muscles. It increases one’s neuro-muscular coordination and helps in achieving integration of body systems and personality. Mind is rejuvenated. The daily routine becomes easy and pleasant. In physical exercises, the stress is on maximum use of energy. In Yogabhyas, on the other hand, this is to be avoided consciously. Both are complementary to each other. If one is willing and has capacity and time, there is no harm regularly practicing both together. However a half-hour gap should be kept between the two to achieve the objectives of both and to ensure that no harm results. 

Salient Points to be considered for Yogic Practices. 

1. Place and Surroundings. Chose a place, which is quite, airy, well lighted, insect-free, clean, and not foul-smelling. There should be no continuous draught of air or direct sunrays falling on the body. The place should be cheerful. Such a place is ideal. In its absence one can practice Yogabhyas (Practice Yoga) by improving the available space to the extent possible. One can make use of fragrant flowers or perfumes to improve conditions if possible.
2. Suitable Time for conducting. It is best to perform Yogabhyas on an empty stomach. Early morning is the best time for Yogabhyas mainly because the stomach and bowels are then empty and light. However those who do not find mornings convenient can do Yogabhyas on a light stomach in the evening or any other suitable time. It is more beneficial to have the stomach and bowels cleaned up prior to Yogabhyas because in many of the Yogic practices, these parts are contracted and stretched or positive and negative pressures are created on them. However, in exceptional cases or where the bowel evacuation is not proper due to say un-healthy habits, Yogabhyas may be undertaken under the guidance of a Yoga teacher. After a full meal, allow 4 to 4 ½ hrs. to pass before doing Yogabhyas. There is no objection to undertaking Yogabhyas 2 to 2-½ hrs. Or so after a light meal or snacks and 1 hr. or so after taking a glace of beverage.
3. Bath. Take a complete or partial bath and / or cleaning the mouth, ears, tongue and nostrils or at least washing the hands, feet and face prior to Yogabhyas as it proves helpful. However, this is not being considered a must.
4. Dress. The dress should be minimum, light, soft, clean and loose. For ladies, a costume may be like pajama-shirt or salwar- kameez or any suitable dress for smooth and easy movements. In the cold weather the dress should be warm enough to protect one from the cold but should not at the same time, obstruct body movements.
5. Seat. Yogabhyas should be done on a simple and clean seat. The seat should neither be too soft nor too hard. A washed cloth-spread or a big towel, spread on a carpet or a blanket would be adequate.
6. Food, activities and rest. There should be a balanced diet, moderation in daily activities and adequate rest for undertaking Yogabhyas. Vices like drinking liquor, smoking or chewing tobacco are in deed damaging to health. Giving up such habits abruptly, impulsively or forcibly could be worse. Yogabhyas will prove helpful in loosening the hold of these bad habits and even in getting rid of them. Sex too, should not become an addiction. It is experience of many that regular and long practice of Yoga activates, develops and strengthens the discriminating power of the mind (Vivek Buddhi) which helps the Yoga aspirant get rid of his dangerous habits.
7. Physical Exercises, Sports and Yogabhyas. It is advisable to leave a gap of 20 to 30 minutes between the practice of physical exercise/sports and Yogabhyas so that objectives of both can be achieved. Both are complimentary to each other.
8. Suggested Yoga Schedule. One should perform only those practices that have been selected and taught by a Yoga teacher or under an expert advice. For those suffering from serious ailments, it is desirable to practice Yoga under the guidance of Yoga experts and doctors. Especially where the contraindications for a particular Yogic Practice have been specified. 
9. Sequence of selection of Yogic Practice. The recommended sequence for Yogic Practice in Hathayoga is, first Asana, then various Pranayams followed by Mudras and Bandhs. However it need not be followed rigidly. Keeping in to consideration the modern day life, one may make necessary changes in the Yogabhyas as regards the number of practices to be done, their sequence, duration, number of rounds, etc. taking in to account various factors such as body structure, age, capacity, ability, needs of the Yoga practices as also the season, weather, time available, etc. Women aspirants should perform only selected practices during the menstrual period and pregnancy. During these they may restrict it to only those practices that give rest and peace of mind, relieve tiredness and relax the system.
10. Duration and rounds of Practices. In the initial stages for the first few days it is better to perform more rounds of an Asana, maintaining its final stage for a brief period so as to acquire mastery over the posture. Once the mastery is achieved it is advisable to reduce the number of rounds gradually and maintain the final stage for an Asana for longer duration. Similar is the case for Mudras and Bandhas. 
11. It is best to have body at rest and the mind at peace and cheerful when one starts Yogabhyas. In the absence of such a state, it is advisable to lie in shavasana or sit in any of the meditative postures till the body and mind are refreshed and quieted and only then do one’s recommended Yogabhyas.

Rules to be followed while performing Yoga. 
12. As a beginner to learning Yoga, one should take the required rest between two practices by completely relaxing the entire body for a few moments instead of performing the Yogic practices nonstop.
13. Yogic practices should be performed with ease and without strain. One should experience physical and mental pleasure out of them. For this, one should follow four cardinal principles, viz. (i) Slackening of effort (Prayatna Shaithilya), (ii) Differential/Partial relaxation ( Bhedatmak/Anshatmak Shithilata), (iii) Normal/natural breathing (Naisargik Shwasana), and (iv) Fixation of mind on the breath (Pranadharana).
Prayatna Shaithilya : Minimising the expenditure of physical and mental energy for performing theYogic practices, i.e. slackening of efforts consciously.
Bhedatmak or Anshatmak Shithilta: Using only those parts of the body that are required to attain and maintain an asana  and consciously relaxing all others to the maximum extent possible, i.e. Differential/Partial relaxation.
Naisargik Shwasana. While performing an asana one should only breath through nose and keep breathing naturally from start to finish. However , in certain special practices like Bandhas, Mudras 
and Pranayams, the breathing is to be regulated as prescribed.
Pranadharana: In final stage of an Asana, fixing the mind (awareness) on the breathing, i.e. counting the breaths or experience the soft touch of the incoming and outgoing breath on the septum of the nose, or feeling the touch of the air on the palate.

14. All movements involved in asanas should be slow, steady, continuous, controlled, rhythmic and graceful. In these movements, one should consciously and scrupulously avoid jerks and pulls, unnecessary strain, forcible stretching or extreme contraction of muscles, deep breathing or withholding of breath.
15. One should keep the eyes open till the final stage of an Asana is attained; one should then gently close them for the period that the final stage of the Asana is maintained and again open the eyes while realizing the posture. After adequate practice, one can keep the eyes semi closed in the final stage of an Asana while keeping the mind on the breadth, i.e. doing Pranadharana. As a general rule. One should turn the gaze along with the face, turning the pupils in the same direction. However in certain Asanas especially the meditative ones it is necessary to fix the gaze between the eyebrows ( Bhrumadhya Drishti) or on the tip of the nose (Nasagra Drishti).
16. While doing Yogabhyas avoid any type of competition as it is not conducive to the study of Yoga. One should not try to attain the ideal body pattern by applying force. The ultimate posture of the Asana, which one can achieve, depends upon the various factors such as age, individual body structure, and sex. Condition of body and mind, season, time of the day, etc. Hence, one should attain the posture according to one’s capacity, i.e. the stage that one’s body structure and tone of muscles permit. Also, one should maintain the final stage of any posture only as long as one can do so steadily and deriving pleasure from it. 
Rules to be followed while performing Yoga.

Misconceptions about Yoga.

What is Health? 

Patanjali’s Yoga Concepts

Differential relaxation.

Prandharna (Fixation of the mind on the breath)

Sakshibhavana (Passive 

Yogabhyas and Physical 
Exercises Main Differences.

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