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Παρασκευή, 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

Antar Mouna (Inner Silence)

                                             Antar Mouna

                               Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Talk at K.C. College, Bombay, in February 1963, originally printed in YOGA, Vol 2, No. 1, 1964.

When you concentrate and try to unify the vagrant tendencies of your mind, sometimes you feel strain. Because of that strain, you get a headache or some other complaint. Therefore, while practising concentration, you have to evolve a method by which there may be no strain. Just as a tired person goes to bed and falls asleep without struggling with restlessness or insomnia, even so there are various methods for achieving spontaneous concentration and meditation.
The best method of concentration starts with prayer. When we start concentration directly and abruptly, the influx of blood abruptly increases in the brain. Various ideas keep on haunting the mind and hamper meditation. All the impressions of the actions done during the day come rushing up to the surface of the mind. If you want to meditate on Om, you naturally desire that nothing else should come to your mind. But for various reasons your daily experiences and impressions come to you during meditation. Therefore, the best time for meditation is brahmamuhurta, between four and six in the morning.
It is also necessary that the mind should slumber partially when you start the practice of meditation. If there is controllable drowsiness, concentration will be keener and better. At night, when drowsiness overpowers you, if you meditate on your ishta devata, you will definitely succeed. You should not start concentration before you have entered into a state of partial drowsiness. It is better to meditate in the early morning hours. You are not fully conscious although you feel that you are.
Some people meditate at odd hours of the day. This is good, but you must have experienced that while practising concentration during these hours, some tension is felt by the brain. Meditation should be effortless and spontaneous. If you practise the right technique of concentration from the very beginning, you will have no difficulty. The first practice to bring about this state is inner silence, or antar mouna.

Relaxation


Inner silence has many graduated stages. In the beginning you should relax yourself mentally. If you do not understand what mental relaxation is, imagine how you feel when you return home from a hectic business round in the scorching sun and relax on a soft sofa in an air-conditioned room. You have to be aware of this type of relaxation.
Sit in any comfortable asana with your spinal cord straight. Close your eyes and try to relax yourself mentally. The technique is to feel that you are going to take a rest. Do not entertain any strenuous thought in your mind as you generally do. Experience peace and a feeling of rest, joy and comfort. The more you are able to relax, the more you will be able to practise concentration. Be aware of yourself and of your position. This is called self-awareness. Your limbs should also relax. This may take some time. Relaxation is a process which requires an effort in the beginning, but afterwards it is effortless.

Witnessing the thoughts


Try to visualize the chidakasha, the space in front of the closed eyes. Is the chidakasha changing its colour or not? Do you see a star or anything else there? What do you see in chidakasha? Some see stars, some see colours, some see light, some see only darkness. Never mind whether you see anything or not, but keep concentrating on chidakasha. Many thoughts will arise. Let them come. There may be thoughts, sounds or different feelings. You may experience an itching sensation or a tremor in your system, but try to remain a witness of all that. Do not identify yourself with any sound, sensation or thought that arises in the mind. When visualization of chidakasha is over, you should begin introspection of the thoughts.
In this process, you do not fight with your thoughts but maintain an impartial attitude towards them. Whatever thoughts come to your mind, let them do so. With closed eyes remain a witness of the various thoughts coming into your mind and do not try to consciously control the thought process. Do not get disturbed when various thoughts overwhelm you. Nor should you try to trim or eliminate the thoughts. Just become a witness and feel the thoughts passing before you slowly like a freight train. After some time this practice becomes very interesting.
In this process, you should be aware that “I am thinking.” This consciousness has to be kept alive in the mind constantly. The only caution to be taken is not to identify with the thoughts. Awareness of the thinking process should be maintained throughout. “I am thinking” should be the constant awareness.
This method works subjectively to bring about a state of cessation in the process of thinking. In case of impure thoughts, awaken an awareness that you are only witnessing them while they are passing through your mental plane. If you do not identify yourself with such thoughts, they will be suspended without any effort. You should not be disturbed by bad thoughts or elated by good thoughts. Do not think that your meditation is very nice when good thoughts only come to your mind. Thoughts of any type, shade and dimension, whether good or bad, should be merely observed without any involvement.

Thought regulation


Many thoughts arise in the mind. Sometimes they arise with compelling force and it seems as if some unseen force within us is causing their upsurge. We may be averse to certain thoughts of passion, we may not like to enter into worries and brooding, but in spite of all our sincere efforts we fail to check the waves. This is proof that we lack control over the mind and we must evolve some effective method for settling these vagrant forces in their proper place.
If this is not done, mental exhaustion will result and sedatives will have to be introduced to ease the mental tension. When thought waves are not regulated, they become part of our habits and under their hypnotic sway many years of our life are wasted. The series of thoughts assail us unawares. We wake up at the instance of nervous breakdown, mental fever, neurosis and the like, when it is too late for us to overcome them. It is beyond the power of any physician. If care is taken well before the crisis takes place and thought regulation is rendered a part of our mental habit, then we can keep away various mental ailments successfully.

What is the remedy? Yoga prescribes a method by which one can become the master of the thoughts. You need not control your thoughts. You need not kill your mind. You must only attain complete mastery over your thoughts. One who has attained mastery over the mind keeps it as a trained servant. When the mind is properly kept under control, it can help you in many ways. One of the methods to train the mind is thought regulation. This consists of creating a particular thought voluntarily and dwelling upon it for some time, then rejecting it altogether.
Here you voluntarily create any thought of your liking and after thinking over it for some minutes you set it aside by your willpower. It is much better if you begin with lower thoughts. Voluntarily create and dwell upon themes of jealousy, anger, greed and the like for some time and finally set them aside with a mental stroke. It is easier to begin in this way because the mind is used to lower thoughts and such thoughts in fact act as centres of gravity for our consciousness.
Pious thoughts are soon forgotten and the mind finds it easy to slip away from such thoughts, while it is almost a task to detach its interest from thoughts of jealousy, anger, greed, fear, passion, pride and so on. The mind seems to have a greater affinity for lower thoughts while peace, compassion, love, forgiveness and the like are usually missed by the mind during meditation. Good resolves are always forgotten while evil intentions remain in the mind for long periods of time.
Practise in this way. Pose a particular thought. Retain the same thought in the mind for some time with vivid imagination, then dispose of it. If you practise this method for some time, you will learn a technique of removing any permanent thought that haunts your mind. This method is extremely useful. You can choose any thought you like, but be careful not to identify with the thought. Be conscious throughout of what you are doing. Do not allow any thought to come without being willed. Reject such thoughts which come to you of their own accord. Do not get attached to the thought. Practise with detachment. Have a vivid imagination of what you are thinking.
Sometimes while thinking there will be confusion. You will not be able to observe what you think. When this happens, you must meditate upon your ishta devata at once. Keep a few important points for meditation on your ishta devata in view. Try to think of the particular deity through general observances. Think of the whole picture of your ishta devata, the place where it is kept and the surroundings. Have a vivid imagination of this from the general to the particular. Thereafter, the same practice of thought regulation may be repeated according to your convenience.

Thought suspension


Now let us discuss the third process of antar mouna, inner silence. Concentrate on chidakasha. You will experience various shades of light, stars, illumination and astral figures. You should remain a witness of these experiences. The chidakasha or the astral plane is before you. You can project your subconscious mind over it if you have a deep sense of meditation.
Throughout this practice you should remain conscious of the incoming thoughts and set aside every thought which comes to you. You are engaged in setting the thoughts aside. At the same time you are aware of what is taking place within the astral realms. If you can do this, you can step into meditation without any effort. Then visions of astral events will follow. You are standing at the gate. You are seeing your thoughts coming to you. Your inner chamber is open from all sides. Thoughts can enter from any side. You have to take a central position and from there have a look everywhere. From which side is the thought coming? When you see a particular thought lurking, stop it.
Have a constant awareness of chidakasha. See the astral patterns forming in it. If you observe them for some time, you will understand what is meant by astral patterns. You will experience various invisible vibrations floating across chidakasha. Gradually try to become more and more aware of chidakasha. Let your consciousness become so deep and intense that you do not feel like taking your mind away from chidakasha even for a moment.
There should be no analysis of the experience of the astral plane whatsoever. Thus, when you continue to observe the state of nothingness, you will realize various astral realities which so far have remained out of sight. There comes a state of mind when the vast fields of astral realization are left open to you and the whole stock of latent knowledge is apprehended. When astral figures start floating on chidakasha, start meditation on your ishta devata in calmness and silence.
However, if you have even a little success in this sadhana, you will have no necessity to meditate on the ishta, The form of the ishta will automatically arise from within. If you practise this faithfully, you will attain the stage of nirvichara, thoughtlessness. You can repeat the whole process again, but a beginner should never overdo this practice because it is quite different to relaxation. With this practice you complete the preliminaries and enter into the first phase of meditation. It is only after perfection of this practice that you should take up further meditations which are higher and deeper.

The problem of sleep


I wish to give a warning, however, to all those who are keen to pursue meditation to the extent of realization and samadhi. Meditation should only start after the scientific process of relaxation has been completed. If not, they will always talk of sleep, lethargy and failures that follow entering meditation abruptly.
During the practice of meditation, the main problem is sleep, which you experience as you relax. First drowsiness dawns and then deep slumber. For those who want to remove tensions, sleep is necessary, but those who seek spiritual evolution will have to find a solution for this problem. If you want to attain samadhi or to contact the astral body, the mysterious kundalini and other higher forms of meditation, it becomes all the more essential to know the technique to overcome this difficulty.
The complaint of all aspirants is that when they succeed in attaining inner silence, they fall asleep and realize it only afterwards when the awareness revives. No doubt they feel fresh, but spiritual evolution is arrested there itself. Even in the case of earnest aspirants, their spiritual progress is arrested because they enter into slumber. Householders who have to discharge various duties remain ever busy and are under continuous strain. Naturally they fall asleep even with a little concentration.
The other difficulty is that if the consciousness does not slumber partially, inner silence is difficult to achieve. So, there is difficulty in both ways. The mind has to be drowsy to a certain degree and, at the same time, one has to be careful not to sleep. Therefore, it is necessary for those who want to avoid sleep during meditation to keep a few points in mind. First, you will have to practise detachment. You will have to reject the continuity of thought by constant and persistent practice. This is the first solution.
The second solution is asana and pranayama. When you get up in the morning, have a wash and practise some asanas like sarvangasana or sirshasana. This will check the tendency to sleep. Deep breathing as in ujjayi pranayama decarbonizes the system, removing drowsiness while increasing introversion. When you feel that you are about to sleep, start nadi shodhana pranayama with kumbhaka, using the ratio 1:4:2. Practise five rounds and then concentrate. This is beneficial for those who face waves of depression due to tension and continuous thinking. If you can minimize the degree of depression, you will be able to visualize the object of your meditation very clearly.
Some people sit in padmasana and meditate for hours at a stretch, feeling themselves to be in samadhi. This is not samadhi, however, it is the after effect of the day’s strain. Of course, you can remove your mental depression by this suspension, but you cannot go forward on the spiritual path. If you practise asana and pranayama before meditation, then there will be no suspension.
Some aspirants sit for meditation, but they do not know what they are doing. Having heard about kundalini, they desire to awaken it and apply extra pressure to that point. There is bound to be depression. Therefore, it is essential to practise meditation under the guidance of a master. Meditation is a scientific process and it must be learned properly. Just as you require a map and guidance before starting any external journey, especially if you do not know the way, the same principle applies for the internal journey which is undertaken through meditation.
Along with sleep, visions are another disturbing factor in the primary phases of meditation. When you meditate with closed eyes, visions begin to appear, then there is temporary suspension of awareness. Again visions, then suspension, and once again visions. All this happens because samskaras float upon the mental surface. You want to forget many unwanted things, you reject them, and therefore they go into the background. In due course this brings about bad after effects.
If you dislike a person, it does not mean that he has gone out of your mind. Rather he is very much in your mind. His memory will disturb you in meditation. So whatever difficulties you may have, you should annihilate these impressions either by rationalizing them or sublimating them through detachment. If you want to attain higher meditation, you will have to go beyond sleep and also the expression of astral contents in the form of visions. This can be achieved by the practice of inner silence, which is a method of purging the accumulated samskaras from the mind and a first step towards actual meditation.

                                  Antar Mouna (stages)

                          Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Lectures given at Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, November 14–22, 1967, during the First International Yoga Teachers Training Course


Stages of Antar Mouna

1. Awareness of sense perception: Breath consciousness, hearing and smelling without conception of sense object
2. Awareness/visualization of spontaneous thought process or thoughtless state: First thoughts of subconscious
3. To pose and dispose of thoughts at will: Selection of theme, impartial analysis, disclosure/removal of fears
4. Awareness of spontaneous thoughts and disposal of thoughts at will: Subconscious affairs of deepest sphere, awareness of random perceptions
5. Thought freeness (pratyahara finishes): Solitary beams of unconsciousness, tendency to enter laya (non-consciousness)
6. Awareness of sleep state of consciousness


STAGE 1: AWARENESS OF SENSE PERCEPTION

Antar mouna belongs to the fifth step of raja yoga. The fifth step of raja yoga is classically and academically called pratyahara, which literally means withdrawal or retreat. It is very interesting when we realize just how unscientific we are in our approach to spiritual knowledge, when we see how most of us would like to practise dhyana (see Footnotes 1) immediately, without any proper understanding at all. We fail to understand that it is not possible to be in dhyana without the help of the senses and the mind. Unless we are able to withdraw our senses in a systematic manner without any touch of suppression, it will not be possible for us to go into dhyana. Therefore, antar mouna, being one of the practices of pratyahara, is a wonderful practice to learn.
By the practice of antar mouna you achieve mastery over a great part of your mind. Various other techniques are dangerous for some people. These people dive into concentration without having voluntary control over their mind. They have not mastered their mental functions sufficiently to be able to enter safely the state of consciousness they are not accustomed to. When they come to the point of concentration in meditation, they fall down unconscious as though struck by a peculiar kind of sickness. For example, I recall the time when I gave concentration exercises to a large gathering of people. Hundreds of them fell down unconscious. From this experience I can assure you that if you practise pratyahara first, you will be much better off. It is essential to master certain sense functions first and then certain functions of the brain up to a certain level before attempting higher practices.
Withdrawal of the senses is pratyahara. But what is withdrawal of the senses? There are five senses, five sense experiences and five sense objects. How is it possible to withdraw the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching? First you close your eyes and become aware of the remaining sense experiences around you, however disturbing they may be. For example, there may be a sound in the next room. You must try to analyze the sound, understand it and grasp its significance. You must separate the sense from the sense experience and only become aware of the experience of sound vibration. To illustrate further: a bell is ringing. First we consider the ear, second the bell, and third the sound of the bell. You must be aware of the sound which is the sense experience. The bell, the sense object, belongs to the outer world. By realizing it, you accomplish the first step of sense withdrawal.
It is very important to realize that it is not an absent-minded comprehension, but a present-minded awareness of the objective reality that you are trying to grasp. You may take one experience and analyze it fully, or you may take many, one right after the other. But sooner or later you must come to the point where you are able to analyze and understand the perception. Then the experience alone remains – devoid of the object, and later it is devoid of the subject as well. If you can achieve this, then you have perfected the first stage of antar mouna where you get rid of external experiences.
Now let us see how we practise the first stage of antar mouna. It is possible to practise the first stage anywhere. For instance, if you are a passenger in a car, you just close your eyes and try to remain outside of your experiences. Now, try to observe mentally what you feel, hear and smell. You will find that in a short time all external sounds and objects have disappeared from your mind. Your senses have become withdrawn, although of course not completely. This then is the first step of antar mouna which, as pratyahara, is the fifth limb of raja yoga. It is the first step in esoteric life and the first step to samadhi. (2)


STAGE 2: AWARENESS/VISUALIZATION OF SPONTANEOUS THOUGHT PROCESS OR THOUGHTLESS STATE

When the sense perception of which you have now become aware comes to you consciously without any feeling of disturbance, it means that you are able to understand it. If there is a disturbing sound and you practise awareness of it, it will become less and less disturbing. It will become little more than an ordinary sound. It will convey no meaning to you as to what is producing it, why, where, when, etc. Your mind will turn inward and become indifferent to the external sounds. After this, you must be aware of any spontaneous thought that may arise. You must have the awareness that you are thinking certain thoughts under compulsion and also that there are thoughts that are coming to you without your wanting them. The thoughts coming to the conscious level from the subconscious level are called samskaras (3).
If you sit for a while, a number of thoughts will come to you without any reference or context. For example, you may be eating a delicious dinner, and suddenly a thought comes to you that the previous night you did not have a good rest. This thought is irrelevant. While resting in bed various thoughts may suddenly come to you. These are called spontaneous thoughts. They are embedded in your personality and do not necessarily need any external stimuli. If you see a church and a pious or evil thought comes to you, it is not spontaneous. But if the thought of a mango comes instead, then it is a spontaneous thought, because it was not stimulated by the sight of the church. It is a voluntary expression of a certain part of your personality, which modern psychology terms subconscious. In Vedanta it is referred to as the sukshma sharira or subtle body.
Sukshma sharira, or the astral body in the doctrine of karma, is known as a samskara, the latent impression embedded in your life. Just as smoke comes out of a coal fire in a kitchen, in the same manner a few thoughts come out of all the accumulated thoughts. What we usually do the moment these thoughts come to us is take them up if they are good ones, and send them back if they are bad or painful. The bad thoughts that are sent back are not exhausted or used up unless, of course, you are a ‘jnani’ or a ‘viveki’. (4)
Practically all bad thoughts are sent back to the subconscious while most of the good ones are exhausted, the result being that the subconscious vessel is filled with bad thoughts and devoid of good ones. In the practice of antar mouna we concentrate on calming down the disturbances of the indriyas or senses (which is natural on account of your circumstances and environment) and become aware of spontaneous thoughts which arise from the subconscious. The best way to accomplish this is to make your mind aware that you are going to practise being aware of your thoughts. Say to yourself, “I am trying to be aware of my thoughts.”
Usually it is different with each individual. Here are a few examples. You feel that you are sitting in a corner of your mind and looking at the inner space or chidakasha, constantly repeating the mantra (5) “I want to see my thoughts. Which thought is passing through me? Am I thinking or am I not thinking? What am I thinking?” Sometimes even while you are aware of the entire thought process, a thought slips by without your noticing it. Only when it has passed the area of your observation do you become aware of it. For example, “I was thinking about a mango, but while I was thinking about it, I was not aware that I was thinking . . .”
Sometimes there is momentary absent-mindedness. To correct this there is another practice. If you sit down on your veranda, for example, and look down the road – and the road is clear, no one is on the road – think that it is your consciousness. Then someone appears on the road. You see shadows moving. They are the shadows of your thoughts. That is the higher state of antar mouna. This will be possible only for those who are good at visualization. Then the road disappears and the shadows remain.
The third way is to act as a witness or sakshi as it is called in Vedanta (6). We say, “I am a witness and I want to know what thoughts are in my mind.” Now, sit down and try to remain aware of your spontaneous thought process. You may experience that the whole chidakasha is empty and there is no thought. Then you should say to yourself, “Now, no thoughts are coming, and I am only aware of the empty space.” This practice becomes more and more inspiring and enlightening as you proceed further and further. If you practise this for about two months, you may even see yourself in the lap of your mother at the age of two. In this process the mind usually goes back into the past and never into the future. Women find this practice easier than men.
It is good to study Vibhooti Pada in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (7) is good to study. It is a method by which a yogi is able to go back as far as his previous life. In our practice, we are able both to analyze our psyche and uncover our subconscious mind.
So, in the second stage of antar mouna, when you are supposed to witness carefully the spontaneous flow of your thoughts, you may be able to observe your thoughts either before they come to the conscious plane or while they are on the conscious plane or after they have left the conscious plane. It all depends on the careful observation and attitude of the mind. If you are very alert, you may be able to predict a thought before it comes to the conscious plane, but if you are absent-minded, you may not be able to detect the thought until the next day. An average person is not only able to think one thought at a time, but can think of many thoughts in the fraction of a second.
Outwardly we feel that we think, but actually the thinking takes place in the subconscious plane of the mind. It is like looking out at a crowd of people where you are able to see all the faces but not any one individually. You may, however, remember them the next day. A thought does not take much time, especially if it is spontaneous. A conscious thought takes longer. While practising this, an aspirant should be constantly alert, never moving the body, never scratching, never sleeping. One should be aware of whatever one does physically, mentally, subconsciously, voluntarily, and involuntarily, at all times.
This is the path of introspection. It is not a good experience for most of us. You must always remind yourself of this in advance. In practising introspection, the impurities come up. It is only in samadhi, and not in dhyana that all the purities such as peace, bliss and light appear. The practice of antar mouna expels negative thoughts because it is a kind of self-eliminator of the negative impurities. You will either enter a state of chidakasha where there are no thoughts, a vacuum state, in which you will only remember bad acts or see all the people who caused you pain or trouble. The longer you practise, the more experiences you will see. It only becomes clear in the end. Symbolic expressions come up. Things that your conscious mind hates to remember appear. This will only happen when you have stepped into the subconscious.
If you have these subconscious explosions during antar mouna the best method of eliminating them is to write them down in a diary or to tell someone whom you trust. That is very important. The most common experiences are snakes, good food, hundreds of people moving everywhere, jungles, swimming in water, the fear of being drowned and flight in space. We now have the conscious manifestation of all the thoughts, desires and experiences that we do not want to know. They must constantly be analyzed. For example, if you have the thought of fear of drowning, it is not sufficient to say that you just have a fear complex. Rather, it may be looked upon as a symbolic manifestation of some action or actions in the past which you do not want to remember. There must be interpretation of these thoughts.
The next questions are, “When should we practise this and for how long should we continue? When should we proceed on to the next stage?” The moment you find the subconscious manifestations becoming greater and greater, then you should go on to the next stage.
When should we give up the second stage and go on to the next? Thoughts come and go; that is the second stage. Next, visions appear and you cannot understand them; you are afraid of them, and conscious thoughts become less and less. Now is the time for the yogi to go on immediately to the third stage. The reason why the yogi does not continue on and on with the second stage is because he knows that all his thoughts can never be exhausted. To a certain extent you have to manifest them and then you must check them.


STAGE 3: TO POSE AND DISPOSE OF THOUGHTS AT WILL

While you were practising the second stage of antar mouna, you visualized shadows in the form of visions or dreams. If these shadows come to you in a horrible way, that is, if they are very bad experiences, it is time to proceed to the third stage of antar mouna.
It will not be difficult for you to understand the third stage, because you do the exact opposite of the second stage. You may say that it is a counter-pose. Unlike everything being spontaneous in the second stage, in the third stage everything is done at will. You should not allow any spontaneous thought to arise unless you want it. If a spontaneous thought does come, then you should immediately try to dispose of it. Do not allow it to occupy your mind. This is very important.
How do you get rid of a spontaneous thought? Close your eyes and start thinking about some theme. It must consist of a sequence of events that were thought by you in a conscious manner. For example, you might say, “I have misplaced my notes. Now, where did I see them last? At home? No, I remember that I took them from home in the morning.” You see, you must invite a thought and then expand it in a definite way. But do not let a thought come of its own accord. If, for instance, a thought comes and says, “‘Please think about me,” you should reply, “No, I do not want you, I want only thoughts that I will think of.”
This is an exercise to develop a conscious thought and then to eliminate it. If any conscious thought or experience that has taken place in your life is not eliminated, or at least not immediately analyzed, it will proceed directly to the subconscious mind. Once it enters your subconscious, it becomes a samskara and is a ‘behind the scenes’ influencing factor in life.
Therefore, in spiritual life you must be able to recall at will all the past experiences of your life. And if you are looking at impulses, you must give all the thoughts to them. The whole thing should be clear before you. For example, you should be able to see nervous excitement when you see yourself in a mob attacking someone’s home. You just cut off your mind and say ‘get out’. This is how we eliminate the conscious thought. Psychology also accepts the idea that if any conscious experience is properly analyzed, it loses its force, and that is the purpose of this exercise.
I feel that when you are given the freedom to express any thought of your choice, you should select a bad thought rather than a good one, because it is very easy to think of good thoughts and it is also very easy to get rid of them. But it is very difficult to get rid of bad thoughts. Therefore, we should try to develop a method or technique by which we are able to throw out the negative thoughts from our mind.
For example, a good thought comes to you about a certain person, and you start to think that he is a good man, a wonderful friend, etc., and then you think one very bad thought about him and it destroys all the good thoughts. Now, you wish to throw off this bad thought and resume all the good thoughts, but you find that you cannot. It usually happens this way and people spend sleepless nights and restless days worrying about the bad thought. They have probably tried several ways of getting rid of the bad thought, but almost always fail.
Therefore, I have used this third exercise in antar mouna in which we invite a bad thought or at least a thought that we consider as bad. We dwell on the thought for a while and become one with it, then we give our mind a jerk and throw the thought out. A stage of vacuum should arise in the place of the thought; that is, there should be no thought in the mind.
At this time you should invite another new thought to your mind and start the exercise again. When the bad thought comes, think it over, dwell on it for a while and then throw it out. I must remind you again that it is no use thinking of good thoughts during this exercise. You must only think of those thoughts that have a destructive influence on your mind.
In spiritual life, eliminating bad thoughts is a very useful practice. This is the only way that you can know the fundamental nature of a thought. If this practice is continued for fifteen or more days, you can develop a spontaneous psychological conditioning with which you will be able to set aside any thought at will. At least you will not spend any sleepless nights or restless days. You will know how to set aside the bad thoughts.
I can tell you of my personal experience. I can bring any thought to my mind and then at will I can get rid of it. I can throw out the most important and burdensome thought. It does not even take me a second. I just perceive it and then throw it away. I do not have to think, “Oh, this thought is coming and I do not want it.” If it is not something new, I do not share the thought with my will. It is something that is given to the mind when you practise this third stage. But you must practise it many times. You must remember one important thing while you are practising, which is that you are practising antar mouna and not just merely thinking.
There are also thoughts that have no form. They do not have any particular dimension. You will not have any trouble disposing of them. I am only concerned about good and bad thoughts, divine and undivine. The formless thought such as “I must take a bath” or “I must go to the toilet” etc. are called nitya karma or routine thoughts. They do not create a samskara. You must not concern yourself about these thoughts. You must always take thoughts of a very heavy dimension. A typical thought would be “I have an enemy who has been troubling me for so many years. Whenever I am conscious of him I feel terrible and want to kill him.” This is the type of thought you must dwell on and then dispose of at will, quickly.
I believe that if you think of more than three thoughts in one practice, it will be too much for you. But you must complete one whole theme, and the theme must be of your own planning. By this I do not mean that you should complete the theme right up to the present – that is, think up to a certain extent and then cut it off.
Do not repeat the same thought twice, because that is known as brooding. When you think about a certain place in one thought scheme and then the place returns in a later thought, you should say, “What is the use of this same thought again?” The mind has a certain brooding tendency – it likes to return to the same thought again and again. This tendency is very dangerous as far as the development of neurosis is concerned. When modern psychology analyzes the causes of neurosis, it finds that this brooding over the same point over and over again is one cause. When you become aware that this brooding over one point again and again is the nature of the mind, you should be especially aware of it in your practice of antar mouna.
When you finish a theme you must tell yourself, “Yes, now this thought is finished, this will not be thought of again.” If you like the topic very much, you will not stop thinking about it completely. Then you must say, “I am going to think about this topic again,” and so on. There will come a certain movement in your thinking process and your mind will say, “Enough,” and the thinking about the topic will be finished. Possibly some portion of the thought will remain. There may be a mild suppression of the topic, but it will be only mild because most of the topic will have been analyzed. Part of the topic will again return to you. But why should there even be a mild suppression? You should analyze it thoroughly by the method of being the impartial witness, witnessing at will. The thought does not come up on its own, you must bring it up.
This third exercise will help you a little later in the future planning of things because, after all, future thinking and the materialization of your future thoughts depend upon your present correct thinking. You should be able to fulfil any future plan within a few months or years after practising this third exercise. It depends on the individual. But future planning should be controlled; it should not be spontaneous. You must form a definite pattern to follow. The point is that you should only include the item of the future planning after you have gained a certain control over your psychic dimensions. Then the mind will lead you to the right point. You cannot practise this without having attained perfection in the previous exercises; they are interdependent.
The first stage is to be practised until an undisturbed attitude to outer objects has developed. The second stage should be practised until the horrible dimensions of the psyche have appeared. Then and only then should you proceed to the third stage.
The third stage is very important. It is one of the meditations that can be found in a differently expressed way in Buddhist meditation. It is constant self-analysis; we call it atma vichara. This third exercise is the preliminary stage of atma vichara. Modern psychology has something similar, but I believe that when this particular technique is introduced into the psychological field, it will be much better. Some scholars from both the East and the West have assimilated some of it, but of course not in toto.
This method is only helpful for those having an independent psychic system; that is, having their psyche and thinking system under their control. It is not for those who are unable to think or are suffering from neurosis. It is only when you have developed the power of imagination and become aware of your difficulties and when you come to know that there must be a method that will help you, that this practice will help you. Diary writing is an important method that can be added to this practice.
Again, you should pose a thought, dwell on it for some time and then get rid of it. This process must be strictly followed. If any other thought spontaneously comes to you, it is your duty to reject it immediately. After this you should practise a state of thoughtlessness for a few moments before you take up another thought.
Sometimes you will find (if you are realistic, of course) that you are thinking about a thought that came spontaneously. The spontaneous thought gets mixed up with your conscious posing of thoughts. Therefore, it is better if you choose more than one thought and then pick out a certain thought with which you will develop a theme. In this manner you will make sure that you will not select a spontaneous thought. For instance, you may say mentally, “Now I am going to think about this trip or that trip or my friend,” etc. You must also remember that you must choose the thought that is the most difficult for you to get rid of. It is no use choosing an easy thought.
During the practice of antar mouna you will find yourself, for a short time, engrossed in a state of momentary depression because the mind revolts against analysis. Every mind does not like to be analyzed. The more you try to practise the more resistance you will meet. Minds that are attached to worldly pleasures do not like to be analyzed. Therefore, it is best if you practise this exercise simply and as naturally as you can.
You will also come across the experience of rejecting a thought without completely analyzing it. This may take place for any number of reasons, depending on what your thought was about. Here part of the thought becomes suppressed. It will remain unexpressed in your subconscious mind. You will not be able to help it, as you know that vasanas (8) are endless. If you think that you should think of a thought completely, you can be sure that you can never finish it in this life. There is no end to it; one thought leads to another and that thought to another and so on. What I am trying to explain is that it is better to think a thought two-thirds through and then get rid of it, rather than brood over the same thing day in and out.
If you continue brooding, the thought will only embed itself further and further or deeper and deeper in your subconscious. You must think then that a thought must be checked at a particular stage and not be allowed to continue further. The third practice of antar mouna is now over.


STAGE 4: AWARENESS OF SPONTANEOUS THOUGHTS AND DISPOSAL OF THOUGHTS AT WILL

After you have practised the first three stages of antar mouna you will find that after the third stage, before you are able to pose a thought, thoughts will spontaneously come to your mind. Their frequency, that is, the number of thoughts coming one after another, will create so much pressure that you will find it difficult to pose any thought at all. It is at this stage that the fourth stage should come in.
In the fourth stage you must learn to become a witness of the spontaneous thoughts. Sometimes you do not know which thoughts you have seen and which thoughts you have not. There are so many thoughts, you do not know whether you are thinking or not. At this time you should just remain an impartial witness to all the confusion. It is something like shankhaprakshalana. In the beginning, undigested food comes out and later the mixed material comes. You do not know which is rice, bread, fruit, etc. This is what the psychic confusion should be like at the end of the third stage and at the beginning of the fourth stage of your practice. You are aware that you are thinking, but you do not know what you are thinking of.
Suddenly, during all this psychic confusion a very clear and prominent thought arises from nowhere. It is so clear that you are able to pick it up easily. You must follow this thought. It is a projection of your deeper consciousness. It arises from the deepest sphere of the subconscious. Unfortunately, this thought that arises is almost always related to a bad event or experience. Because it comes from the deepest sphere of the subconscious it may be a thought from the past, or perhaps a future thought. It is a precognitive thought and is therefore spontaneous and as such, it must be got rid of. This thought should not be recognized; it should not be accepted. It is a very clear thought, but it is somewhere beyond thought dimensions.
So, in the fourth exercise we must become aware of the spontaneous thought and then dispose of it immediately. The emergence of a spontaneous thought from the confusion and pandemonium of many thoughts is in many cases precognitive and premonitory. We can safely attribute this particular thought which has arisen from the confusing system of thinking to the deeper layers of the subconscious mind. As you probably know, the deeper you penetrate your subconscious personality, the clearer and more realistic are the thoughts that appear. But the intellectual and emotional levels of your thought will become impractical. They are idealistic and not always true.
These thoughts which come up from the deeper layers of the subconscious belong to the dimensions of truth, vision and the lower class or a lower quality of prophecy. It is in this context that you should look upon and understand the psychological background of the different kinds of prophecies made by occultists, astrologers and fortune-tellers. These people have at their disposal their own method of reaching into the subconscious mind.
When you develop such clear spontaneous thoughts in the beginning of the fourth exercise, you will find that it always informs you of an imminent accident or of some difficulties that you will encounter shortly. Aspirants who want to go still further in this practice should immediately dispose of these thoughts at will. But those who wish to immerse themselves in such spontaneous thoughts and keep on thinking about them for a longer period will find their spontaneous thoughts coming through unknown areas of the past. They will be surprised. But with that the depth of the experience will end and they will have to begin their practice all over again.
For instance, the spontaneous thought of a snake arises, and it comes into your room to bite you. It is the type of thought that will make you wonder, ‘Did the snake bite me or did it escape?’ If you keep on thinking about this, you may be able to know more details of the thought, but you may not be able to find the meaning for yourself. In due course you will find that your psychic system is disturbed. You must then start the practice from the beginning.
Therefore, I can tell you that at this stage the awareness of spontaneous thoughts, however precognitive or premonitory, and however prophetic, will only prove to be an obstacle. I have seen many psychic mediums and psychic individuals stranded at this point, unable to go beyond. If you are able to wait and resist these temptations I can assure you that you will be able to go deeper and deeper into your subconscious mind. You will go deeper within the self.
Now, there will come a stage where the spontaneous thoughts will cease; there will be no more thoughts. There is a state of mental vacuum. In the case of the aspirants who can get rid of the previously mentioned temptations, this state of vacuum will come. While in this vacuum state you should have the constant awareness that ‘I am practising antar mouna.’ You are aware of yourself – ahamkara, ego remains and there is the feeling and perception of external things from time to time. You become so quiet internally that you are unable to see any thought and at the same time you hear, for example, a train passing, the clock chiming and then you may not hear them. It is an off and on type of experience. It is a state when sometimes your faculties of perception are turned inward and sometimes turned outward. It is similar to what is experienced during the first part of sleep. You call it drowsiness, when you are aware of everything and then for a few moments you lose the awareness of what has happened around you. Certain types of experiences come to you and others are blocked.
You might be awake at three in the morning just lying in bed thinking about something. You must have experienced this condition. You may be thinking about anything, spiritual or non-spiritual. While you are thinking, a train, car, etc. may pass and you do not hear them even though you are not sleeping. Then, simultaneously, there is a bell ringing off in the distance and someone is banging your door – you hear the bell but you do not hear the banging. In Sanskrit, this condition is called antar mukha vritti. It means ‘modification of internal mind’ – when the mind is looking inside. It is inert or dead to some of the experiences of the senses but is capable or receiving certain sensations.
When your mind becomes free from any kind of thought and when it is aware of only some sense experiences, then pratyahara is completed. The fifth limb of raja yoga known as pratyahara ends here. After this it becomes dharana. And so, the fourth stage of antar mouna, which is the practice of pratyahara, opens the door to dharana.


STAGE 5: THOUGHT-FREENESS

The fifth practice of antar mouna does not require much effort on your part. It becomes an automatic development of your consciousness which was prepared by the practices of the four previous stages. You cannot practise the fifth stage without having perfected the first four. Each stage must lead into the other; each must prepare you for the next.
You will have the experience similar to that of fainting. You will have the experience of soaring between the consciousness, sub-consciousness and small parts of the unconsciousness. You will be in the unconsciousness for a short while, in the consciousness for a short while, but you will be in the subconsciousness for a greater period of time. Your chitta vrittis (9) keep on floating simultaneously from this end to that end. The stage of unconsciousness becomes stronger and more permanent. The spontaneity of thought has been checked by cutting the link in the chain of thoughts.
You will now find yourself in a thoughtless and thought-free state, where you are sometimes aware of external affairs and at other times not. You will find that for a short while you are conscious, for a longer while subconscious, and for a very short time unconscious. The time you spend in the unconscious increases as you progress in this stage.
If proper methods are not followed in the fifth stage, you will find that within a few weeks you will be landing yourself in a state of mind where you become more non-conscious, less subconscious and still less conscious. You may find yourself non-conscious for about half an hour. For example, when you are practising you are aware of your surroundings and then you go to the different planes of your psyche. Then you find that you have been non-conscious for half an hour. You do not know how to check this. What will happen then? I can tell you that if it is not counter-attacked within a few weeks, you will enter into jada samadhi. Jada means inert, dead or lifeless. You develop jada samadhi in which your consciousness enters into an unmanifested state, avyakta. There are hundreds of spiritual aspirants practising this jada samadhi, never realizing that they have made a mistake. The practice of jada samadhi only leads them astray from the spiritual path and into the kingdom of tamas (10).
We are coming to the last stage of antar mouna now – the stage where prominent spontaneous thoughts arose from the depths of the subconsciousness. They were of a precognitive and premonitory nature. You were allowing them to arise from the subconsciousness and merely observing them, no matter how many came. You will find that within a few days they will cease. You are experiencing a state of vacuum, of thought-freeness.
In this stage you will find it very difficult to pose a thought or even see the manifestation of any thought. This state is known as nirvichara, and it means no thought, no contemplation, and no thinking process at all. But it remains only for a short time. It is always followed by a short period of non-consciousness lasting five to ten minutes. When this happens, you must develop an awareness of the three stages of consciousness. How will this be done? Through the sixth and final stage of antar mouna.


STAGE 6: AWARENESS OF SLEEP STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS


How do we develop the awareness of the three states of consciousness? Much depends on the individual. But I will give you my example. When I sit for kriya (11) number five, I sometimes find the thought process becoming suspended and I am always entering into a state of semi-sleep or drowsiness. When this happens, I immediately direct my awareness away from the spontaneous thought-freeness of kriya number five and at once become aware of the sleep consciousness. I should become aware that I am sleeping. I should think, ‘The sleep consciousness is manifesting in me.’ I should recognize these symptoms: lightness of body or heaviness of the body, loss of memory and losing all sense of the surroundings.

All kinds of symptoms may be present; physical, mental or psychic. I must then physically follow the descent of the consciousness. After all, sleep removes consciousness. It is not a startling event, but it is something usual. How does it take place? Why, for instance, when my thought process is suspended, do I see visions and then become non-conscious for a few moments? You must remain alert and keep yourself so conscious that the whole process of sleeping becomes clear.
Sleep is a mental condition where the contents of knowledge, which contain the objects of experience and thinking, are locked away from the mind. It is when the mind is free from any object or knowledge that sleep comes. It is a condition of non-objective awareness. It should be closely followed through an alert attitude of awareness. If you blink for a moment you have lost the awareness for the time it took you to blink.
If you break the continuity of consciousness for one second, it will take you 15 to 20 minutes to come to your senses. It is like a person going down into a deep well with the help of a strong rope. As long as he has hold of the rope he can go into the deepest and the darkest well without any fear or danger. He is always sure of coming back up. But suppose he loses his grip on the rope, even for a second? He will of course fall into the deepest depths. The same conditions apply to an aspirant. It is very easy to hold a symbol but to maintain an awareness of it in the sleep state is very difficultand this is the ultimate state of antar mouna: inner silence.
When the inner disturbance and modifications caused by chitta vritti are quietened, sleep comes. But we must also control sleep. In antar mouna as in dhyana, the sleep state of consciousness is not to be eliminated, but the sleep consciousness should be checked and controlled by the awareness of sleep. You do not have to escape from yourself in order to find a method by which you can control sleep. You must be able to maintain sleep under perfect control of your consciousness. It is known as a ‘sleepless state’ or ‘sleep awareness’. Therefore, we have two events taking place simultaneously: sleep and awareness of sleep.
The ultimate goal of the methods is same for all yogis. It may be antar mouna, kriya yoga, chidakasha vidya, yoga nidra (12) or anything. The inner awareness is to be evolved and the outer awareness dissolved. There is to be involution of outer consciousness and evolution of inner consciousness. That is the way of yoga. You must find a method which you are able to maintain in order to control sleep. It is not avoiding sleep. The sleep should continue. It is a condition where you sleep and remain awake. This must be practised.
Usually aspirants of meditation do not want to practise this. They want to develop concentration but do not know how. They have quite a particular notion about concentration, and become very nervous and disappointed when sleep comes. Some of them complain bitterly that when they sit for meditation, sleep comes. It is very difficult for me to make them understand that at this time they can sleep and that this sleep is necessary. If I tell them that the sleep consciousness is a necessary condition for the development of the inner awareness, perhaps they would spend all of their time sleeping! I must make it very clear that unless you know how to sleep and unless you know how to remain awake during sleep (but not without sleep), it will not be possible for you to attain the higher states of yoga.
We shall now review the whole practice of antar mouna. First we silence the senses and make a gradual attack on the mind. We give it complete freedom in spontaneous thinking. Then we gradually come to control only one part of the mind. Ultimately, we allow the mind to think whatever it wants, precognitive or premonitory, etc. Next comes the fifth stage and the controlling of the mental process. After the fifth stage comes the dangerous stage of the sleep condition.
Now we will discuss some of the methods of developing sleep awareness. When sleep comes during the highest stage of meditation, choose a symbol for yourself. This is very important. It should be your own symbol and it should not change. If you change it, it will not come during the moment of sleep consciousness. Your mental faculties will become so weak that you will not have enough memory to think of different symbols. The symbol should come spontaneously. The moment sleep comes the symbol should also come.
As long as the symbol is there you will not enter into the state of laya. (13) Laya means total suspension of consciousness. It is a very dangerous state for spiritual aspirants. This laya samadhi is a very wonderful samadhi. You can remain in this state for many hours. The body metabolism soon stops and the breathing may either continue or you may suspend it. The heart and the circulatory system go into a state of inactivity. It is all under voluntary control.
It is very easy for some yogis to stop their hearts, but as far as spiritual awareness is concerned it is not wanted, because once you come out of this laya samadhi you will be the same person as before. You will be the same type of person with the same raga-dwesha. (14) There will be no spiritual change.
However, once you overcome laya samadhi and get into the chaitanya samadhi (15), when you come out you will be a polished person. Many of the samskaras of your previous lives will have dissolved. It is said by almost all sannyasins and yogis that laya samadhi does not create any change in the individual’s mental, psychic or spiritual life. And so, this experience of laya samadhi is to be avoided. There are also many physical reasons why you should not practise it. The heart becomes very weak, the lungs suffer and because of the cessation of the metabolism, toxins are assimilated in the body instead of being eliminated. These toxins cause premature death to the yogi. He suffers heavily and thus pays a great penalty.
It is at this stage that we come to know that it is necessary to have a concrete object for meditation. I agree that God has no form, but for this stage of meditation form is a must. At this stage, when sleep is descending, it is a must to have a symbol. It must remain fixed and shining brightly in your psyche when sleep comes. It should be distinct from the black colour. The psychic colour during sleep is black. It is a dense black. You must find out the colour of your symbol; whether it is yellow, green, brown, etc. You must find it out yourself. The symbol must not be an intellectual choice. It must come from the unconscious. The symbols have mostly been put forth by great seers. Your guru may give it to you or you may see it in a dream. The symbol is also given by tradition. It is then called a hereditary symbol. For example, the same family has the same symbol passed on to it from generation to generation.
How do you know that you slept and for how long? In sleep the conception of time is lost. Of this you should be careful. The symbol should be kept during this sixth kriya and as long as the illumined symbol is before you, you will remain conscious of sleep. But, if during a certain period of sleep the symbol is switched off, then you have slept.
This completes the practice of antar mouna. For those who are keen to pursue meditation to the extent of realization of samadhi, it is necessary to continue their sadhana under the guidance of a guru. Only a guru can lead a disciple from one practice to the higher one.


Footnotes

1. Dhyana (meditation) is the seventh limb of raja yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi).
2. Samadhi (sublime equanimity) is the aim of all spiritual techniques.
3. Samskara is a past impression, unfulfilled desire, etc., which sets up impulses and trains of thought.
4. Jnani or viveki – practitioners of advanced techniques of jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge and discrimination between the real and the limited).
5. Mantra is a word or sentence having some influence when recited. Mantras are usually sacred syllables.
6. Vedanta is one of the six great systems of Indian philosophy. Literally, Vedanta means end or higher point of wisdom of the Vedas.
7. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the essence of yoga, consisting of four padas (chapters).
8. Vasanas are attachments to the objects of one’s wants.
9. Chitta vrittis are patterns of the mental processes.
10. Tamas literally means darkness, inertia. It is one of the three gunas (inherent characteristics) of prakriti (material substance of the world).
11. Kriya means an action. Usually the last three niyamas (second limb of raja yoga) are called kriyas. Here it means particular technique.
12. Kriya yoga, chidakasha vidya, yoga nidra, etc. are different techniques of meditation. Some are only taught by word of mouth from guru to disciple. They are only for personal practice and never become subject to any discussion whatsoever.
13. Laya is a state of non-consciousness. Not to be confused with laya yoga.
14. Raga-dwesha – like and dislike – are attitudes full of passions.
15. Chaitanya samadhi is full of life. It is just the opposite of jada samadhi.

"When the mind is silent and peaceful it becomes very powerful. It can become a receptor of bliss and wisdom enabling life to become a spontaneous flow and expression of joy and harmony. However…this inner silence cannot arise while there is a continual stream of disturbing thoughts and emotions. All this inner noise of thoughts and emotions has to be removed before one can truly experience the soundless sound of inner silence."
~ Swami Satyananda Saraswati


          Antar Mouna - Advanced, audio meditation technique by Swami Niranjanananda
                                            A TECHNIQUE OF SATYANANDA YOGA SYSTEM





Τρίτη, 22 Νοεμβρίου 2016

Surya Namaskara ‘salutations to the sun’ – An Energising Practice

Surya Namaskara – An Energising Practice

Dr Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Director, Yoga Research Foundation, Head of Department of Applied Yogic Science, Bihar Yoga Bharati

As a spiritual practice surya namaskara or ‘salutations to the sun’ dates back to the ancient vedic period when the sun was worshipped as a powerful symbol of spiritual consciousness. The practice has ever since been utilised to awaken the solar aspects of an individual’s nature and release the vital energy for the development of higher awareness.
According to Prashnopanishad, the sun is the source of prana (energy) for everything that exists on the planet Earth. The Rigveda says, “The rise of the sun illumines earth, sky and the space beyond the sky. The sun is the atma, the part of eternal God, in every moving and non-moving being.”
The sun is considered as the only manifest form of the eternal principle. It is the giver of everything that we need, food, water in the form of rain, oxygen/energy/prana, light/vision, warmth, good strong health, intellect and so on.
In the Gayatri mantra we worship the sun, the supremely luminous creator of three worlds, the earth, sky and the space above the sky, and request him to guide our intellect. Worship of the sun is an act of acknowledgement (thanksgiving) and a process of receiving this energy. It consists of chanting the Gayatri mantra and other surya mantras and hymns, the practices of surya namaskara and nadi shodhana pranayama and meditation on the sun. One of the five major tantras, Saura tantra, is devoted to the practices of sun worship.
The practice of surya namaskara as it exists today was later added to the original vedic version of sun worship. The bija mantras and surya mantras as used in the practice of surya namaskara in Satyananda Yoga originally belonged to Tricha-kalpa-namaskara of Brahmakarma Samuchchaya, a technique of sun worship.
Yogic philosophy describes two types of energies in our bodies. The first, prana shakti, flowing in pingala nadi, is the solar, positively charged energy with masculine characteristics, and corresponds to the breath in the right nostril. The second, manas shakti, flowing in ida nadi, is the lunar, negatively charged energy having feminine characteristics, and corresponds to the breath in the left nostril. Prana shakti is responsible for physical activity, extroversion, dynamism, courage, leadership qualities, aggression, reasoning and logical understanding, etc. Manipura chakra, the psychic centre also known as the solar plexus, located behind the navel in the vertebral column, is the storehouse of prana shakti. In contrast, manas shakti is responsible for mental activity, introversion, nurture and growth, empathy, qualities of acceptance, adjustment and surrender, creativity, the ability to find non-conventional alternatives, intuitive understanding, artistic abilities, etc.
Both these energies are equally important for dealing with life’s different situations as well as for spiritual growth. The sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system in the physical body may be equated to a great extent with prana shakti and manas shakti respectively. The practice of surya namaskara activates prana shakti and manipura chakra. The Suryopanishad states that people who worship the sun as Brahman become powerful, active, intelligent and acquire good health and long life. The Puranas recommend that one should pray for good health to Lord Sun.
Awakening of prana shakti bestows agility, flexibility, good posture, lean body, good health, physical strength, courage, dynamism, self-confidence and clear thinking. The heightened state of prana shakti is necessary for day-to-day living, when facing the external world and its inbuilt stress.

Research studies

The research studies presented here were carried out in the Dept of Applied Yogic Science of Bihar Yoga Bharati by MSc students as their dissertation/experimental project. The first study by Ravi Shankar (MSc 2001–2003) shows the effect of surya namaskara on pingala/ida or right/left swara dominance. The second study by Nirmala Thomas (MSc 2003–2005) shows the effect of surya namaskara on the level of self-confidence and some aspects of health.

EXPERIMENT 1

Effect of surya namaskara on swara pattern

Hypothesis

Regular practice of surya namaskara for one month will correct ida dominance in asthmatics.

Method

Subjects: 20 asthmatics, 10 females and 10 males, from Barh, Bihar, were selected for the experiment. Their ages ranged from 25 to 45 years. None had any other major disease. Depending on their willingness to practise yoga regularly, they were assigned to either the experimental or the control group.
Parameter: Record of dominance of nasal flow (right or left) at sunrise and sunset time
Procedure: All the subjects were taught the method of checking nasal flow dominance (swara) using their hands. They were given a diary to note down their swara at sunrise and at noon.
The experimental group was introduced to the practice of surya namaskara. They were given two slow and five fast rounds of the practice every day for 30 days. There was no intervention with the control group. Neither of the groups were doing any other yogic practices. They did not make any changes to their lifestyle just prior to or during the experimental period.

Results and analysis

According to the science of swara yoga, the pattern of the swara is predetermined and in tune with the lunar movement. On a given lunar day a certain swara should be dominant at sunrise and at sunset. Deviation from the normal pattern indicates imbalance at one or more kosha levels. At sunrise and sunset, readings were collected on the first and last seven days of the experimental period. These readings were compared to the expected normal swara of that lunar day and time. Readings that deviated from the normal were labelled abnormal and it was noted whether the deviation was towards the left or right nostril.
Table 1 shows the abnormal swara in the first week (pre value) and the last week (post value) of the experiment in the experimental group.
Table 1: Abnormal swara pattern in the experimental asthmatic group
Out of 10 subjects, 7 showed diminished left swara dominance or a change towards right swara dominance and 3 showed insignificant change (See Graph 1).
Table 2 shows the abnormal swara in the first week (pre value) and the last week (post value) of the experiment in the control group.
Table 2: Abnormal swara pattern in the control asthmatic group
Out of 10 subjects, 2 showed more left dominance; 7 showed no or an insignificant change and 1 showed a decrease in left dominance (See Graph 1).

Conclusion

The dynamic practice of surya namaskara stimulates pingala nadi or the right nasal flow.

Some observations on the physical effects of surya namaskara

In another experiment, Dr D. B. Lad (MSc 2000–2002) found that regular practice of surya namaskara reduces body weight and abdominal girth. He experimented with 12 young men (aged 16 to 22 years) from Munger, Bihar, practising 12 dynamic rounds of surya namaskara daily for one month. The results are presented in table 3.
Table 3: Effects of surya namaskara on body weight and abdominal girth

EXPERIMENT 2

Effects of surya namaskara on level of self-confidence and menstrual problems

Hypothesis

Regular practice of surya namaskara for three months will improve self-confidence and relieve minor menstrual complaints in young women

Method

Subjects: Fifty students from Providence Women’s College Hostel, Calicut, Kerala, all young women aged 18 to 23 years, were selected as subjects. None had any major disease. All were living in the same hostel and had the same lifestyle. Fifteen were not interested in doing yoga, and were allotted to the control group. The remaining 35 formed the experimental group.
Parameters:
1. Self-confidence questionnaire ASCI
2. Menstrual history questionnaire
3. General health questionnaire
4. Sitting height (reflecting general self-confidence)
Procedure: The subjects were allotted to either the experimental or control groups according to their willingness to practise yoga regularly. The three questionnaires were administered at the beginning (pre) and at the end (post 3 month) of the experimental period. Sitting height was measured with a measuring tape while they were sitting comfortably on the floor in a cross-legged posture.
The experimental group was guided through the practice of surya namaskara and were practising 12 dynamic rounds by the end of the second week. Mantra chanting or chakra awareness was not included. The yoga class was conducted daily for one month. One student dropped out of the experiment. At the end of the first month the experimental group was asked to fill in the ASCI self-confidence questionnaire. They were asked to continue with the practice on their own. After two more months, i.e. a total of three months of practice, all four parameters were collected again. During this two month period, 20 subjects out of 35 became irregular in their practice and dropped out of the study, so 15 subjects were included in the final data analysis.

Results and analysis

The data on self-confidence was collected three times, pre, at the end of the first month and at the end of the third month, for the experimental group but only twice, pre and at the end of the third month, for the control group. Interpretation of the score is as follows.
7 and belowVery high
8–19High
20–32Average
33–44Low
45 and aboveVery low
Table 4 shows the ASCI self-confidence questionnaire scores of the experimental and control groups. The results show that after three months of regular surya namaskara practice the self-confidence level improved highly significantly in the experimental group, while in the control group there was very little change (See Graph 2). In the experimental group the mean score dropped from 31.533 to 21.867. Both scores are within the ‘average’ group, but at the extremes of the range, which means the subjects moved from a low-average to a high-average level of self-confidence. Therefore, the results are not only statistically significant, but also significant in practical daily life. Even within one month a change was observable in the 34 subjects who practised surya namaskara for one month, the mean score dropping from 31.56 to 27.7.
Table 4: ASCI self-confidence score after three months
As a physical measure of self-confidence, change in posture was observed by measuring height while the subjects were sitting cross-legged. A self-confident person sits erect and hence the height is comparatively greater than when a person is not confident. Table 5 shows the sitting height of the experimental group of 15 subjects.
Table 5: Sitting height in cm
The menstrual history questionnaire inquired into three aspects of menstrual problems: regularity, menstrual flow and pain accompanying menstruation. In the experimental group one person had an irregular and scanty menstrual flow. She did not benefit from three months of surya namaskara practice. Nine subjects had menstrual pain before the experiment began. At the end of three months of practice, in four the pain had completely stopped and in the remaining five it was reduced (See Graph 3). In the control group two students had irregular periods, none had menstrual flow problems and ten had painful menstruation. There was no change in these problems at the end of the three months (See Graph 3). Table 6 shows the data on menstrual complaints in both groups.
Table 6: Menstrual problems
The general health questionnaire revealed an improved energy level and better health in the experimental group, and almost no change in the control group. Table 7 shows the data regarding change in general health.
Table 7: Change in energy and general health
Health problems reported by subjects

Conclusion

Regular practice of surya namaskara for at least three months raises self-confidence, improves posture, helps manage menstrual complaints and boosts overall general health.