Yoga and Relaxation

Swami Satyananda Paramahamsa

Yoga is the perfect practical system for the relaxation of tensions. Modern psychology defines three types of tensions and they create all the agonies in human life. These are the muscular, mental and the emotional.

Tensions cause different troubles, diseases, inhibitions, complexes and neurosis. Anxiety and many other things that are associated with suffering are also due to these three tensions. Without tension there is no suffering and nobody can help but suffer if he has one of these tensions. Many people think that tensions mean fatigue or a blocking process of energy in the system. We think the word 'tension' means a kind of muscular or mental blockage.

But let us discuss this topic scientifically. We shall take the case history of one patient suffering from mental troubles. This case was studied by a team of scientists. Electroencephalograph investigations revealed that he had not tensions in brain, yet the man said that he could not sleep at night and that he no appetite what-so-ever. As a result of the investigations, the scientist felt he had no trouble, yet the man felt that he had trouble.

Then he was taken to the psychologists. His whole personality was analysed. In the ultimate analysis of his personality it was found that an incident in his life, when he was a boy, had gone so deeply into his mind that, at the age of 35, he had begun to suffer because of that emotional tension. These are unconscious emotional disorders. Anyway, the patient was taken to the psychologist and he could not be cured. It means that there are those tensions which are physical, those which are mental and those which are emotional. These emotional tensions are terrible tensions and they are tensions which no man can remove. This emotional tensions cannot be removed by any method, either through pranayama or through asanas, neither by meditation or through reading. These emotional tensions cannot be cured unless a man undergoes a process of reorientation.

Suppose a man receives a telegram reading his wife or son has been killed. He is shocked and cannot resist the shock. He cannot contain the shock. He cannot stand it. It keeps on creating tension from one part of the body to the other. Effects are on the nervous system, breathing process, the brain, the respiration and oxygen consumption. All kinds of pain are felt throughout the body. Loss of appetite and other troubles take place.

The change is made through wisdom. The word ‘wisdom’ is known as Jnana and in Yoga, it is called Jnana Yoga, the yoga of analytical understanding, not intellectual understanding, but understanding through a changed mind. When you have the understanding with a changed mind, death, failure, insult, any complication of life, family disaster, payment of heavy bills which you cannot pay, will not effect you.

To make it more clear, man is sensitive. He has a magnifying glass in his hand. It is only through a magnifying glass that man sees the events of life. He dreams over them, he thinks over them and any particular thought becomes an obsession. We can be obsessed by the idea of the suffering, by the idea of want, by the idea of friendship. So, therefore, our minds, our personality, our consciousness, receives all that happens like a camera, develops it inside and enlarges it according to its capacity, then man suffers the agonies.

What is the way to relax the man? To make him free from the effects of nature, this is the subject matter of Yoga. Real Yoga, higher Yoga, makes one free from these great shocks, these blows, these effects. When he becomes free from this, we do not call him a relaxed man, we call him a liberated man. Such a man is known as Jeevanmukta, the liberated man, the free man, the senseless man whom pain does not bring elation, to whom the failure does not put down. You criticise him or you praise him, you pay him money or you make money from him, he understands but he does not take it inside. So, this way of liberation, this way of relaxation from the emotional tensions, it is the most difficult subject that has been dealt with in Yoga.

How Yoga tries to help the man? If you go to a Yogi and tell him, 'Three months back, I had a baby, but today I have lost him and my mind it restless.' He will not tell you to do Asanas and Pranayama. He is not going to treat you locally, he is not going to treat you individually, he is not going to treat your symptoms, because he knows, the mind of this man is weak. If he is given peace through hypnotic methods, the benefit will only be temporary. Life is a series of ups and down, of pains and pleasures, of births and deaths, of wanted and unwanted.

In that case, if you are given peace for one month through hypnotic methods, what is going to happen after one month if something else happens to you. You have been able to get rid of one shock and the second shock follow. Well, again you comment to the Yogi and he tells you to get peace of mind through these hypnotic methods or some other process. The Third shock follows, how long can he treat your symptoms? Why not give you a strong mind? Why not give you a strong personality?

The Yoga gives you a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of taking the things of life, a way you can go wherever you like, you can face everything in life and act like a hero. This Yoga is known as Jnana Yoga. And there are different methods of practicing Jnana Yoga. A Jnani Yogi tries to develop the right understanding, tries to make his mind strong. First of all, he analyses all that happens in life. He does not understand death as death or birth, or pain as pain or pleasure as pleasure, or defeat or loss, or victory as victory. He says 'victory, defeat, loss, gain, prosperity, poverty, health, wealth, birth - all these changing conditions, these are the perceptions of the mind.

This is how the mind looks at them, this is how the mind assimilates, this is how the mind assimilates them.'

Happiness and sadness are caused by way of your thinking. Your relationship to the object, your way of thinking or looking at things procures you pain or happiness. Therefore, the Yogi of right and true understanding tries to analyse the mental effects impartially.

The Yogi has to correct his mind first. You are in touch with everybody day to day, every morning with everyone. How are you going to receive there reflexes? How are you going to react? It is at this point where tensions are accumulated and it is at this point where tensions are relaxed and from that you become a Jivanmukta, you become liberated.

So the threefold tensions are the root cause of all suffering in life and if you have any suffering you should find out for yourself, you need not go to a Yogi, you need not go to anybody, you must find them by yourself. You have a brain, a mind, intellect, you can think. Are you unhappy? Ask yourself this one question daily. 'Am I happy or unhappy?' Do not try to cheat yourself. If you are unhappy, accept it. If you are happy, boldly declare it. How will you know that you are happy or you are unhappy? A man who is completely contented he is happy. A man who complains, can never be happy. He may say he is happy but complaints are equal to dissatisfaction and discontentment which are the symptoms of unhappiness. If you think that you are unhappy and you are going to find the answer, then find out what is the cause of your unhappiness. Is it your wrong attitude about your children or is it your wrong attitude about society? Is it your wrong notion, your wrong understanding about yourself? Too much of humility, too much of arrogance, too much of inferiority, too much of superiority or too much of obstinacy and like this you will have to seek.

You will have to analyse your personality, not the physical personality, this can be analysed by looking in the mirror, but how are you going to analyse your emotional personality of feelings, the personality of thoughts, the personality of sensitiveness, the personality which undergoes pain, the personality which loves and the personality which hates.

That man who appreciates beauty and the man who hates ugliness, you look to that man and see if that man is sick. He may be sick as someone suffering from arhythmical disorders like leprosy, cancer, TB. In spite of his prosperity, in spite of all the comforts, in spite of the best education, in spite of everything that we have in our modern society. Materially there is nothing which you do not have, but emotionally you are very poor, on the emotional level there is illness, disorganisation and derangement.

By the development of that personality, your whole being becomes strong so that nothing in life can influence you. You will feel that you have become completely free from all kinds of tensions and sufferings.

In Yoga, there are different methods for different kinds of tensions which are enumerated briefly. For instance, for the exhaustion and sublimation of emotional complexes, to develop the personality, to bring about a reintegration in the system, we have Karma Yoga and to bring about mental discipline we have Raja Yoga. And in order to understand our personality for self-analyses, for self realization, we have Jnana Yoga. What is the purpose of Bhakti Yoga? The philosophy of Bhakti is this, that every man is emotional and that he has been distributing this emotional treasure to all the people in the world, mother, father, husband, wife, friends, nation. But every man has so much love that even after giving love to all the above he still has an excess. We find that we are unable to love anybody, but we always want to love somebody.

We want to love more and more people, but it happens that there is a kind of slump, a dullness in love. When we love people, sometimes we get a shock, because they do not receive our love properly, they do not respond properly to it. It can be said like this, a river is flowing to fill up a big pond but when the pond is full, it overflows. In the same way, you give love to all, but they are unable to receive so much love, so love overflows and this overflow of love brings emotional disorder and anarchy in the system. Therefore, it has been suggested in Bhakti yoga, that all surplus love should go to God because God is infinite. When you love God and try to channelize all your emotions to Him, you will find that the whole emotional personality, the entire love can be withdrawn, can be consumed or assimilated by that infinite Being. As such, those people who have not loved God, but somebody other then God, have always been unhappy. This is the psychology of what is called the love complex or the emotional complex in human life.

So we have to practice all the four Yogas, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga Jnana Yoga. With the four Yogas in life you are free from the threefold tensions. The physical tensions are removed by Asanas, Pranayama. This has been proved scientifically. It has been proved that Asanas and Pranayama bring about a complete relaxation in the system.

Recent scientific research has brought one fundamental development into the limelight that was made by the scientists. The behaviour of the endocrine glands on the human mind, the reaction of endocrine glands on human behaviour or on human emotion. You know what I mean by endocrine gland? The thyroid, pancreas, pituitary gland, pineal, thymus, adrenals, sex-hormones are called ductless glands, they are the endocrine glands.

Now scientists have come to this particular conclusion that if a man is angry by nature, then there is something wrong with his glands. If a man thinks too much, then it could be possible that some of his glands are over developed. Endocrine glands have a reaction on human action, human behaviour and human thinking. Now if you are angry, always angry or if you are too emotional or if you think too much or sleep too much or worry too much or are too self-conscious, it may be possible that it is due to some kind of fault in the glands, in the system of the endocrine glands.

In India, in order to control the population, they began giving a particular operation called a vasectomy. A vasectomy is an operation by which the hormone from the lower part of the abdomen, called the Viscera is cut and the male hormones are taken out. So that he becomes incapable of causing a pregnancy.

This was done for about two or three years and immediately we saw a change in the behaviour of man. The growth of moustache in some cases stopped or some become entirely submissive. Some began to develop palpitation of heart. Their behaviour become unmanly. Doctors were very much upset by this reaction. This incident clearly shows how the hormones have a direct effect on thinking and behaviour.

There are six or seven basic Asanas which control the Endocrine secretions. Siddhasana controls sex secretions, Sarvangasana controls thyroid glands, Halasana controls pancreatic and adrenal secretions.

So if you have mental tensions, meditation can help you. When you think too much, your brain gets over worked and at that moment, the brain shakes. Meditation controls the activity of the brain. At that moment, the brain becomes still, but when it is thinking, it makes movement of contraction and expansion. The moment you begin meditation, the brain becomes quiet, modulation also stops and you conserve a lot of energy that you usually spend.

Your brain is like an electronic battery, which loses its charge, it runs down in unnecessary thinking. But it can be recharged through meditation. When the brain stops during the time of meditation, the electronic charging takes place.

It has been seen that when a Yogi goes into concentration, his brain stops sending brainwaves. The temperature of the brain also increases, and it is charged with the energy.

There is a sound in the brain which is like humming. This kind of sound is constant ringing but that sound also becomes calm and quiet. And at the same time it can also be seen that the different nerves of the body, channels that bring the feeling, bring the sensation, all of them are cut off. Different centres are completely disassociated from the brain and you feel refreshed.

Yoga is a very comprehensive term which includes, Asana, Pranayama, mysticism, meditation, selfless-activity, surrender unto the Supreme power, experiencing of Super Consciousness and awaking of mental powers and capacities.

The cause of sufferings humanity is undergoing is tensions and everyone is suffering consciously or unconsciously. This suffering can come to an end but only when you make yourself free from tensions. The way to make yourself free from tension is to take the course of Yoga. Through Asana and Pranayama you maintain sound health and through selfless service, you exhaust your Vasanas, impressions. Through devotion and self surrender, you stabilize your emotions, through mental control, you increase your mental efficiency and through self analysis and enquiry, you sharpen your discriminative faculty and through meditation, you expand your consciousness.

Thus all your layers or personality are properly developed and you become an integrated personality and this is the main task of Yoga.