Various Vedic groups reflecting Shamanism and asceticism
In the Vedas ascetic practices are often called tapas and we can see that austerity is central to the Vedic outlook. Reading the Vedas, we can see a range of people practising all kind of strange austerities. These groups shared many common traits with the Shaman, people who were simultaneously highly respected and much feared, charged with magic and extra ordinary powers. One such groups was the Rishis who were even seen to be the source of the Vedas. In their drug induced ecstasy they were able to transmit the hymns of the gods. Some of these Shaman-like groups would smear themselves with mud and cow dung or ashes. Some would walk around naked, having special and austere diets – like only drinking milk and eating fruit. Sometimes they were solitary, living at the margins of the tribe, at other times they seemed to live in separate cults or clans.
We hear about the silent Munis (sometimes also called the Kesin – long haired) who could enter states of ecstasy. We also hear of warrior groups – Vratyas – who would for practise standing in the sun with an arm raised for very long periods. There were also the Yatis, an ascetic clan. And there was the Brahmacarin – the young Vedic student going through a rite of passage – who lived for 16 years practising celibacy and other austerities.
Stand tall, feet parallel and hip-width apart, Yoga meditation with your hands clasped behind you or your wrists inside a looped belt. Breathe in and Yoga meditation lift the front of your chest, bringing your collar bones square across horizontal even if that means lifting your shoulders up a bit. Strongly pull your upper arms back, rotate them outward, and push outward against the resistance of your hand clasp or the belt. Keeping your elbows slightly bent will help move the upper arms back correctly. The shoulder blades will move back, together, and down. If your ribs go forward, pull back through your waistline to restrain the movement. Hold the pose for a few breaths. Do so courageously, with vigor.