Balance Yoga Pose
ASHTANGA- THE MYSTIC YOGA SYSTEM
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna has described the eight-fold ashtanga-yoga process to His disciple Arjuna; however, Arjuna concluded that such a rigorous ascetic practice was too difficult for him to perform Even for the successful aspirant, there is danger on the path of ashtanga-yoga, because those who are successful yogis can also achieve siddhi or mystic powers. Some less intelligent yogis often become captivated by the various siddhis, the eight perfections (astha-siddhis) of mystic yoga, such as the ability to levitate, walk on water, achieve anything desired, or control other’s minds. The ashtanga-yoga process, which is very difficult and full of many pitfalls, is not recommended in this age of Kali-yuga. Even Lord Buddha, who began as an ashtanga-yogi, ultimately preached a moderate form of meditation, referred to as the ‘middle path’, which places less emphasis on rigorous austerity and severe penance.
To successfully practice the ashtanga-yoga system, one must live an isolated life and in a secluded place where one will not be disturbed for years together, as to achieve enlightenment by this process of ashtanga-yoga takes a lifetime. The serious yogi must also practice a life of strict brahmacharya if he wants to achieve the goal of enlightenment, therefore even if one is married, sex-desire must be controlled. In the yoga process there are many regulations (yama and niyama) to follow. When one
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has perfected the sitting posture, then one can practice the technique of controlled breathing (pranayama). The purpose of pranayama is to achieve equilibrium between incoming and outgoing breath. The apana air goes downward, and the prana air goes up and when the two currents are neutralized it is called puraka (equilibrium). Offering the exhaled breath into the inhaled breath is called recaka and when both air currents are completely stopped, one is said to be in kumbhaka-yoga, suspended animation, and thus the yogi can increase the duration of life and in just one lifespan, be able attain perfection in self-realization.
In the Shrimad Bhagavatam the following verse is found. “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Sitting on a level seat that is not too high or too low, keeping the body straight and erect yet comfortable, placing the two hands on one’s lap and focusing the eyes on the tip of one’s nose, one should purify the pathways of breathing by practicing the mechanical exercises of puraka, kumbhaka and recaka, and then one should reverse the procedure (recaka, kumbhaka, puraka). Having fully controlled the senses, one may thus practice pranayama step by step.” (SB.11.14.32-33) Pranayama is meant to stop the mind and senses from engaging in mundane thoughts centered on sense gratification and fruitive activities. Once a yogi has perfected both the sitting and breathing exercises, he can progress to the next levels of ashtanga-yoga which is called pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, dharana or concentration, and dhyana or meditation. These three more subtle aspects, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, are concerned with the training the mind in order to achieve the final stage of samadhi. As stated in the yoga-sutra. “The eyes, which generally see externally, must be turned inward, and thus the mind is steadied and fully controlled.”
After mastering both pratyahara and dharana, the next level on the eight-fold path of mystic yoga is called dhyana-yoga, or the preliminary stage of samadhi, where one engages in meditation by contemplation or focusing ones full attention on the heart in order to perceive the presence of the Supersoul, Paramatma. By contemplation on the heart the yogi concentrates on the sound vibration omkara that is generated from the core of the heart. This is the point where samadhi is achieved. The term samadhi means “fixed mind.” The Vedic dictionary called the Nirukti, says, “When the mind is fixed for understanding the self, it is said to be in samadhi.” The advanced stage of samadhi is never possible for a yogi who indulges in material sense enjoyment like illicit-sex or intoxication. This is because one who indulges in such things simply becomes bewildered by the taste of such temporary pleasure and the resolute determination to succeed in the advanced systems of yoga practice will never manifest.