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

Why should I practice retention after Inhale and Exhale?

This is a very important and an interesting question in Yoga practice.  Basically, in Yoga practice a very important tool is Pranayama because we are working directly there with Prana, our energy system.  The way we work with our energy system is through regulation of breath, conscious regulation of breath. We have to extend the inhale, we have to extend the exhale etc.

A long inhale and a long exhalation is representative of a very calm and steady mind. When you are excited or when you are distracted or when you are disturbed the breathing will become shallow and short. Whereas, when we are focused and when we feel relaxed you will see that the breath will be much longer; much more quieter. You can see this in babies. When babies are in the comfortable arms of their mother they are relaxed and the breathing becomes very very smooth, very very long. compared to them of course.  Whereas when a stranger carry the baby, when he comes and takes the baby, the baby gets disturbed and you can see that the breath starts to get  short. So breath extention is not for extending the breath like the championship as to who has the longest breath. Breath extension has consequences into our mind structure so that the mind becomes more relaxed and therefore in turn then the has an impact in our physiological and emotional structures as well because we are a holistic entity.

But breath cannot be continuously extended. I can’t just extend my inhale and exhale as I want. So, at some point we need to educate our respiratory system to become able to extend the breath. One of the tools that allow us to extend the breath is retention after exhale and retention after inhale.  The retention after exhale vitalizes the exhalation and the retention after inhale vitalizes the inhalation.  At some point when we are not able to extend the breath further, say after inhale or after exhale, we use the retention after exhale and the retention after inhale to vitalise the breath for the current moment and over a period of time you will see that by extension of the  retentions after exhalation, the retention of the breath will become possible because the muscular capacity of the respiratory system will get trained in this manner. This is one of the main reasons why retention after inhalation and the retention after exhalation were suggested.

There are many other reasons as well. But the scope of this video prevents us from going into such kind of detailed explanation.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

WHAT IS THE ENERGY BODY?

Yoga’s unique way of understanding the human being is what makes it so special. Yoga does not look at our body only in a physical dimension.  This is perhaps one of its greatest assets because Yoga looks at our body in a very holistic dimension.

What is the great difference between the way we modern people look at the body and the way Yogis look at the body is , the Yogis looked at the body not just as a physical entity but also as an energetic entity.

The body is driven by what is called Prana. That is how the Yogis understood it. The energy is what makes our organs function both within inside the body as well as outside. If my senses are able to see something, my organs are able to digest food, transfer the food from one place to the other,  it is because of this thing called Prana. Prana is an all pervasive entity. It is inside us and is also outside us. It is transcendental. It moves inside us and outside us as well.

When we are created as an entity, we are not created as a body which occupies space and time.  But we are also created with an energetic body that is also offering space and time. When we move from one place to the other it is not just our body that is moving, also the energy – the Prana is also moving in the space time Continuant. The Yogis believe that Prana was the most profound Phenomena in our system. That could influence not just us but also the other beings because even though I am at a distance from the person physically there is an energetic connection that  can happen between two individuals –

it could be me and an animal, it could be me and a plant etc. Therefore the Yogis believe that by working with prana we could achieve wonders.

That is why for them Yoga was not about moving the body, but actually Yoga was about influencing the Prana. This is a very fundamental idea not just in Yoga and other Indian traditions, but also many oriental traditions such as Taichi, Zen meditation, etc where they are moving energy not the body. So the energy body is the energy’s space i.e. the surrounding  us that is both inside us and outside us and that is moving along with us in the space time Continuant. Sometimes you will see that even when the body is not existing these time continual the Prana exist.

The personal example of myself experienced. When my father, TKV Desikachar passed away and we had also finished his cremation, but yet for a long time I could feel, not just me but also my family members could feel the presence of my father’s energy in our house for many weeks after his passing. So there is some truth about this that has to be understood and explored with an open mind not necessarily our rational mind but our curious and opening mind. This is what our Yogis explored.  We must continue this further into our exploration and our spiritual journeys.

By: Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

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