When I was very young I didn't know anything about yoga. During my student life I was always very healthy. I have never had any physical, mental or emotional problems. After completing my formal education I went to Swami Sivanandaji, my guru in Rishikesh. I didn't go to him in order to learn yoga; all I wanted was a more complete life. I had a philosophy and a religion of my own. I had definite views about life, and definite realizations and concepts of society. I didn't want to be in the same category as my parents. I wanted to be different from them. I asked my father, 'Do you agree with your life, with the way you live?' and he said, 'No!' So I asked, 'Then why do you want me to live like that? Let me make a different life for myself.'
So I went to my guru for a monastic life, to evolve my personality, my whole being. I lived with him for twelve years, and after that I lived a homeless life as a parivrajaka, a wandering mendicant, for nine years. During my period of wandering, I went all over India, and also came to Kathmandu a number of times. Of course not as a preacher, but as a beggar. I also went to Afghanistan, Burma and Ceylon. I traveled by foot, bullock cart, elephant, train and plane. While I was wandering I realized how much man was suffering. Wherever I went, people came to me with their problems, and I had no answer for them.
In 1956 I came to Monghyr and decided to find a solution for the people. I had a solution for myself and didn't need hatha yoga, raja yoga or karma yoga. But humanity was suffering and I felt that yogic techniques could definitely provide a solution for them. What about medical science, psychiatry, comfort and prosperity? People have them and still they are suffering. This means that these things are not the solution. The answer has to be found somewhere else.
So I stayed in Monghyr off and on from 1956 to 1963. And in 1963 I found the answer - yoga. Monghyr is a very backward place, and the property which was given to me for founding an ashram was very small, but I stayed there because Monghyr is the place where I found a solution for the suffering of humanity.
I have been all over the world, not once, but many times, and I have found that everywhere people are looking to yoga for illumination. The physical, mental and spiritual problems confronting people of this modern civilization are innumerable. They are beyond the knowledge of doctors and the control of the government. They are beyond the mental hospitals which will never be able to save humanity. Therefore, in 1964, I started this yoga movement. At that time, I had not one single disciple; today I have yoga centres all over the world. Not because I am a good organizer, but because the principles and practices of yoga are so perfectly based and scientifically tuned. They have already been well tested by the rishis and munis in our land for thousands of years.
Today yoga can accept the challenge of the scientists, who started yogic research with doubt and skepticism, but were soon fantastically impressed by the direct correlations they found between science and yoga. New yogic research is being carried out in many countries around the world. Personally, I am involved with one yogic research into the effects of asanas on cardiological diseases. This research project is sponsored by the central government of India, and the chief research officer is Dr Shreenivas, head of the Cardiology Department at the Patna Medical College Hospital. This research is almost complete. Over 700 heart patients have been referred to us by the hospital, and we have succeeded in helping them towards self-rehabilitation using yogic techniques. Also practical experiments on hypertension and high blood pressure have been conducted in Cama Hospital, Bombay, by Dr Dautik, who has proved that the practices of pranayama and yoga nidra can bring down high blood pressure without the help of any medicine. These are just a few examples, but from them you can understand that hatha yoga, the system of asanas and pranayamas which we teach to the people, is not really a religious practice. It is more than that; it is a practice for health.
So I have spent many years teaching asanas and pranayamas throughout the length and breadth of India and around the world. People were grateful and realized that something important had come down to them from the ancient rishis and munis. This tradition of rishis and munis, the saviours and saints, is very old. They were not idiot beggars, they were masters of the human body and mind. The way they explained the human body and hatha yoga is simply fantastic. They talked about ida, pingala and sushumna; in medical science these are called the sympathetic, parasympathetic and central nervous systems. The rishis said that when the ida and pingala nadis work in complete harmony with each other, man lives a balanced life. In the same way medical science has proved that when the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous impulses are in balance with each other, man is a balanced personality. If they are out of balance, he will have mental or physical problems.
Yogasanas and pranayamas are very important for everybody, especially people suffering from diseases and insomnia. I have many yoga teachers who go to mental hospitals and teach hatha yoga, purification of the nadis and all the different systems of the body. Exactly as you clean your car, change the oil, tune it, do the servicing and the repairs - in the same way hatha yoga is a system by which you repair the body and accelerate its functional efficiency by cleaning the whole nervous system. Hatha yoga practices are very powerful; the practice of neti kriya alone will help so much in sinusitis which doctors have been struggling with for decades. And what is neti? A simple technique. It is done with a small pot of saline water which you pour through one nostril and out the other - that is all. It takes barely five minutes. Cases of adenoids, polyps, sinusitis and mucus infections in the nose can be properly healed just by one simple kriya - neti. Hatha yoga practices are plenty, and they are the solution to the ailments of our present generation.
A famous psychologist, Dr Sigmund Freud, said: 'With the advancement of civilization, the body-mind relationship will suffer from other dimensions of disease'. You must understand this. When you suffer from cough today, the cause is not the same as it was fifty years ago. The discomfort of cough, cold, asthma or migraine is the same as it was fifty years ago, but the cause is not the same. Today man is living only in the body. The first impressions are received in the mind, and then transferred to the body in the form of a disease. For example, I know a businessman. He had an eighteen year old son, who one day went to a swimming pool and drowned himself. When the father found out, he didn't weep. He was dumbfounded, silent, unable to express his agony. From that moment on, he started having asthmatic attacks. He suffered from asthma for three years until he heard that I could treat this disease. So he came to me, and of course I taught him hatha yoga practices. I also taught him antar mouna, a practice by which one expresses his agonies. He had to cry, to release his sorrow. But first he had to go back to the point of agony, to the place where the disease started. That businessman is all right now. Our sufferings start from the depths of our personality. Therefore, the practices of hatha yoga are coupled with meditation.
Yoga is a science and an important part of education. Therefore I have been trying my best in India, and abroad also, to integrate it with all levels of the educational system. In ancient days children at the time of the sacred thread ceremony, janeo, at the age of seven or eight, were taught surya namaskara, gayatri mantra and pranayama. Now the parents are unable to teach their children the significance of these practices because they themselves no longer understand the real meaning behind them.
Everybody has a gland just at the top of the spinal column. It is a small gland about the size of a peanut. Science calls it the pineal gland. In yoga it is known as ajna chakra or the guru chakra. It is situated directly behind the mid-brow. This pineal gland is a remnant of the animal body. Up to the age of seven it is intact, and then it starts degenerating. The pineal gland is a lock, as long as it is intact, the pituitary hormones are controlled. The pituitary is in the mid-brain; it secretes different groups of hormones called pituitary hormones. In yoga the pituitary gland is known as sahasrara chakra, the place of Paramshiva, the thousand petalled lotus. The pituitary hormones interact with all the bodily functions. At a particular moment in life, this gland sends forth the hormones which develop our masculine or feminine personality. Thus we become male or female, physically as well as emotionally. Our sex glands are formed and become operative only when the ajna chakra or the pineal gland starts degenerating. As long as a child has a functioning pineal gland, his sexual aggressiveness will never manifest.
This is why sadhus and mahatmas concentrate on ajna chakra. As long as this chakra or the pineal gland is intact and healthy, sexual life will be perfectly balanced. Thus parents of old used to teach their children surya namaskara, gayatri mantra and pranayama so that they could live a balanced life until the age of maturity. This is science and this is yoga. We say that the education of a child begins with these yoga practices at the age of seven. Either in the family or at school, these practices should be taught to the children. I am not opposed to any other system of physical exercises. I have studied almost all of them, including judo and karate, but I know that they are limited. The contribution of yoga to humanity is far greater than any other system. The whole world today looks to yoga as a messenger of peace. We need yoga practices: yoga nidra - the science of spontaneous relaxation, prana vidya - the science of revitalizing the body, neti, dhauti and all the shatkarmas - the six kriyas. One of the most important exponents of hatha yoga is the famous guru Gorakhnath. In his book, Goraksha Samhita, he has explained what hatha yoga is. When you have achieved yoga in your life, then you can go ahead with your meditation.
In western countries the scientists and doctors have started flashing red signals saying, 'Medicine is dangerous'. Medicines are necessary, but at the same time one has to depend more on yoga. Nowadays, big industries everywhere are conducting yoga courses for their executives. In India we have also started it. The Hindustan Steel Ltd. gives yoga courses for their managers and executives. In Ranchi they have fifteen day yoga courses, together with management training classes for forty to fifty managers at a time. In BCCL - Bihar Coke and Coal Ltd. - the biggest coal authority in India, we have compared yoga with other efficiency sciences, and statistics have shown that yoga scores very high. Therefore, in our daily life as well as in business, yoga can help us to increase our efficiency.
Meditation is not necessarily concentration on God, but it is realization of the inner dimensions of your own personality. You have much more within than you know. Man is infinite. His mind is powerful and capable, but he doesn't know about himself yet. The individual awareness is potentially cosmic, and therefore it is very important that everybody should devote ten minutes each day to its discovery. With meditation, dhyana yoga, you start a new chapter in your life. Once you are involved in yoga, doing your practices in the correct way, your experiences and your personality will become steady and lasting. Your attitude towards yourself will be fantastic.