Generally man breathes from 13 to 15 times per minute. If the rate of breathing is changed to 24 per minute, the breathing then becomes so quick that one does not feel pain. That is why in the heat of battle terrible wounds can be received without feeling them at all. Many great feats are accomplished under the stress of excitement. Martial music is designed to quicken the breath and the emotions, so is the colour red on flag and uniform. By quickening the breath the body loses its power of self-protection and injures itself. Benefits will accrue from slow breathing. By slowing the breath to 10 per minute, one does not feel excited or irritable. If the breathing is reduced to 5 per minute the brain becomes clear and ready for work. If the breathing is reduced to 3 per minute inspiration wells out from within. Yogis are able to suspend the breathing altogether and allow themselves to enter into trance. Slow, deep and gentle breathing will cure insomnia, blood-pressure, brain fatigue and bad temper. Correct eating, next to correct breathing, is essential for keeping a man in good health and good spirits. Of course, there is no revelation in statement. Almost everyone knows it but hardly any one practises it. Why does Yoga pay so much importance to food chemistry and dietetics? The reason is this, human blood is basic or alkaline and this alkalinity of blood is due to the presence in it of mineral salts. Whenever there is an increase in acidity caused by the development of acidic toxins, there will be maladjustment in the system and the balance between acidity and alkalinity will be upset and this imbalance calls for or invites diseases.
The maintenance of the alkalinity of the blood is of vital importance to health. Unhealthy food leads to an increase in the acidity of blood while healthy food leads to an increase of the alkalinity, and it is the presence of alkalinity that leads to the longevity of life. Hence unhealthy food is to be eliminated from the dietetics. Food processed and refined until it becomes denatured contains but little nutrition and is rich in acid-forming materials. Meat and some other acid food have a tendency to putrefy in the intestines and to produce gases which congest the blood stream. Fruits and vegetables are rich in mineral salts and such a diet helps to increase alkalinity in the blood. Organic mineral salts are the corner stones of all nutrition, for they regulate the acid-alkaline balance in the tissues and blood streams and are essential for bone and teeth formation. There is also clinical proof that people who live more on healthy foods, that is on fruits, vegetables and milk suffer less from senility and degenerative diseases in old age. Once there was a high praise of proteins but now it is realized that proteins are the danger line foods which should be used sparingly, because they are stimulants and acid forming. It is now known that carbohydrates and sugars are the chief heat and energy producers. No discussion on food can be considered complete without the mention of fasting. Fasting is not a crank but a cure for physical and mental disorders. When fasting is undertaken for the cure of disease we try to follow the nature’s way to health. No animal eats when it is sick, only man does so. When one eats too much their digestive, assimilative and other metabolic processes are overworked. Here fasting is necessary because in fasting the body consumes those substances which are least essential for maintaining the functional order within the organism. During the complete fast the body oxidizes or reconverts all kinds of accumulations including mucous and fat. Short fasts may be undertaken at intervals. In conclusion let me repeat that if you really want to feel well, eat less. Do not eat fried food. Do not eat a great variety of food within one meal. Do not forget that to digest properly you require sufficient amount of oxygen. Hence take deep breaths.
The next important problem is the attitude of Yoga towards sex. Most people have a mistaken notion that Yoga advocates suppression of sex, imposes asceticism upon its followers and consequently has nothing to say in that respect. On the contrary the science of Yoga treats the question of sex much more thoroughly than any other system. Yoga found long ago that the sex energies are closely connected with a most potent electric energy in our body which it calls Kundalini. This dormant power can be awakened by means of certain Yogic processes. When aroused, Kundalini unlocks forces so great that unless a man is physically fit and mentally sound, they play havoc with him. Yoga has devised certain ways of directing the sex energies into psychic channels and transmuting them into finer forces. That is why a Yogi is anxious to preserve and augment his sex energy; without this transmutation the whole process of asceticism becomes absurd. If the sex energies are neither transmuted nor used up in their normal way or in healthy activities, their suppression often produces mental and emotional disorders. It is a well known fact that sex repression often results in sadism, masochism, extreme cruelty and other abnormalities. It is to the credit of Yoga that it has devised ways of overcoming these abnormalities and of releasing the sex energies through psychic channels. The fact that Yoga has laid down rules on sex hygiene for married people proves itself that Yoga does not impose celibacy on all its followers, but it stresses the necessity of practising a few simple postures to conserve the sex energy. They are Shirshasana (headstand), Sarvangasana (shoulder-stand), Halasana (the plough pose). The headstand by stimulating the pituitary gland regulates the functioning of the sex glands. The two postures Sarvangasana and Halasana stimulate the thyroid and gonads and have a rejuvenating effects upon the glands and the entire system. Along with these three Asanas the Ashvini Mudra is to be practised. This Mudra consists of alternative contractions and relaxations of the anus. The Ashvini Mudra massages and tones up the sex organs and sends to them an extra supply of blood. This Mudra and these three Asanas have been known for centuries to act as restorers and strengtheners of man’s vital powers.
Man is a thinking being and a thought is a force to be reckoned with. Of course thoughts have great power, not the scattered, indefinite, fleeting kind but thoughts that are one-pointed, definite, persistent and well defined. The capacity to think consistently has to be developed. We can be well or ill, happy or unhappy depending upon the way that we think. A person who always thinks that no good will ever come out of anything he does, constantly defeats his own purpose. He becomes so negative that he takes a sort of grim delight in being right about his persistent failure. It is very difficult to convince such a person that his frustration is of his own making and is but a result of his negative thinking. Positive thoughts have exactly the same power as negative ones and work the opposite way.
Many a one speaks of culture; what is culture? Culture means cultivation of mind. It is the nature of the human mind to follow the line of least resistance, but to raise it to the level of receiving what is desirable and to the level of radiating the divinity that is already within man is indeed a glorious task. To cultivate the mind along the lines of truth, love and non-violence is true culture. Culture really aims at developing the positive qualities such as love, compassion, forgiveness and non-violence. Mental forces like the molecular, have their opposite poles or modes of action. Where the negative pole is, there also is the positive; where ignorance is present, wisdom also is possible; where passion abounds, peace awaits; where there is much suffering, much bliss is also near. Sorrow is the negation of joy, sin is the opposite of virtue, evil is the denial of good. The one thing needful therefore is the turning round from the negative to the positive, the transformation of passional forces into moral powers. Meditation is a means of achieving this transformation.
In meditation the object may be an abstract concept like love, goodness, compassion, forgiveness or it may be a concrete image. Yogis often compare the mind to a lake. When agitated and restless it is unable to reflect the sky. Only when it is calm and undisturbed, it is able to mirror the sky. Likewise only a calm and poised mind can reflect the image of man’s true nature. Then only he will understand that the positive thoughts and positive qualities constitute the true purpose of life. The final aim of meditation is to gain a vision of truth, to realize the oneness with all life and to enjoy peace and bliss. Yoga advocates the following process of meditation: relax your body, sit comfortably in the lotus pose, keep your spine erect and your chest a little spread out, throw the weight of your whole body to the ground. Concentrate on your breath and breathe deeply. Exhale fully and inhale deeply a few times. Let the mind follow breath and listen to its sound. If you listen attentively you will be able to hear the Sohum. So when the breath flows in, Hum when the breath flows out. It may be difficult in the beginning to hear it, but as the attention gets drawn inward, you will hear the breath repeating it. You need not repeat it yourselves. Just listen to that and you will be able to hear a humming musical note within you. This is the part of cosmic vibration, by concentrating on this inner vibration you will be in tune with the cosmic sound. Then you are able to feel peace and bliss. By remaining in this state you can send out peace vibrations that travel abroad and influence other minds. In this state of silence you will forget all differences and become one with all life.
OM SHANTI | OM SHANTI | OM SHANTIHI
This article ‘Teachings of Yoga’ is taken from H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji’s book, ‘Dimensions of Yoga’.