Why does the Viniyoga® tradition combine Mantras with Asana and Pranayama?

This is a very important question about the role of Mantras in Asana and Pranayama. First of all we have to understand that Yoga is not the movement of body. Yoga is the movement of Prana, an energy. That is why the Yogis were very clear that they wanted to work with Prana. In the Vedic tradition, that tool actually manifest Prana and works with Prana is mantra.

Whether it is a Pranayama technique or an Asana technique they were using Mantra as a part of the practice so that the Prana would get activated and it will move in the body the way it is meant to be.

If you think about Asana for example, in the traditional times the Yogis were doing Asana-s statically. They were not jumping from one Asana to another like monkeys will jump from one tree to the other.  They were actually staying in the Asana practice for some time. What were they doing in the Asana when they were staying?  The were regulating the breath.

Asana is actually a Pranayama practice. In every Asana they would stay with some focus on the breathing,because the breathing would direct the energy to certain parts of the body which the Asana would facilitate. When you twist one side the energy is focused on one side. When you twist to the other side the energy is focused on the other side. That is what they were doing in the Asana practice where they would stay and breathe. We all know that in Pranayama we have to measure the breathing capacity. Inhale equal seconds and exhale twice the duration of the inhale etc. In modern time we are using a watch to  measure what is 5 seconds, what is 10 seconds etc. But think about the Yogis long time ago when they didn’t have a watch. What did they use? This is where the role of Mantra comes in. When they would stay in a position where they had to breathe inhale and exhale with equal duration they would use the same mantra during inhale and same mantra during exhale by reciting mentally. So the Mantra would become the measure of breathing.

That is not the only reason why they are using Mantras. Certain Mantras triggers certain effects on the body like Mantras on the fire or Sun or Mantras that are heating and therefore they are targeting the Pita system in the body. Whereas Mantras like water or earth are much more grounding or  much more cooling,  they would focus on lower Cakras in the body which is connected with Kapa.

Different Mantras have different effects as well. That is why they would choose different Mantras in Asanas and Pranayama so that these kind of effects would also manifest.

We all must remember that the Yogis did not practice Yoga sadhana whether it is Asana or Pranayama based on modern science. The Yoga has its own science and it’s the responsibility of all modern Yoga Teachers, Yoga Therapists to learn the Yoga science. Working on the Asanas and Pranayama through the modern understanding of human body like this Asana will work on this muscles  or that Asana will work on that muscle is not actually very accurate. If we take that approach it is like following the blind person or referring to Google Maps of directions in Lisbon when you are actually searching for a Restaurant in Rome . It just doesn’t make sense.

The Yogis used the ancient knowledge of understanding the human body that come from both Yoga, Ayurveda and particularly Sankya Philosophy to make the tools of Yoga work. According to Sankya Philosophy the most fundamental structure in our human system, the material structure in the human system is what is called the “Sabta Tanmatra” the fundamental element of sound. So when we are using the Mantras we are influencing the very subtle system in our body and through that there is changes in the gross skystem in the body as well. This is yet another reason why Yogis used the Mantras in Asanas, Pranayama and other practices.

This is another reason why the Mantras were used in the Yoga practices because Mantras influence very subtle systems in our structure.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar
Viniyoga® Teacher @ Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation

What are the Yogic Tools for calming the Mind?

Yoga definitely is about influencing the mind to become more and more calm. Calm mind is able to achieve much more than a distracted or an agitated mind.  You can observe this in your daily life.  When you are actually calm you are able to do much more than when you are disturbed or agitated. This is for many reasons. First of all, a calm mind needs less energy than a distracted energy or an agitated mind. When we use the calm mind, we have much more energy at our disposal, whereas when the mind is agitated or distracted the energy is lost unnecessarily and therefore we cannot do much more.

There is also another reason. When we are having a calm mind, we are able to reflect much more peacefully and therefore come to a much more appropriate solution rather than when we are agitated or distracted. That is why Yoga is emphasizing on calming the mind.

There are many tools that are presented for calming the mind in Yoga practices. A key among them is the technique of Pranayama. Pranayama is considered one of the best tools and the simplest tools to calm the mind. The longer our breathing becomes the more calm the mind also becomes.  Pranayama is considered as one of the best tools because it directly influences the mind and it can be done everywhere. I remember when I used to travel with my teacher, my father, sometimes we would be on the flight, he will just put the blanket around his head and do Pranayama under it because he didn’t want the people to be disturbed or get distracted from what they are doing. That is the flexibility of Pranayama. You can do it anywhere you want including the plane – as a passenger not as a pilot hopefully, as a passenger in a car you can do it in your house or yoga studio, you could do in a park or wherever you want.  This is why it is one of the most efficient and effective tools because it’s very practical.

But there are also other tools like visualization, meditation, mantra practices which are also very effective in calming the mind. What would be ideal is to check with our teachers what would be the best practice to be ideal for each of us to calm the mind in a most efficient and effective manner. This is because each of us are very different, we have different responsibilities in our life, we are in different stages of our life, and therefore what may appeal to us at this moment will be different from what will appeal to another person in the same moment. Its also possible that what will appeal to us at one point in our own life may be different from what will appeal to us at a different point of time.

That is why Yoga is not giving us one method but it is giving us many methods to calm our mind.

Keep calm and carry on.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher