Five Curative Systems of Yoga

Lecture by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at Raja Yoga School of Yoga, Antwerp, Belgium in May 1977

The reason why people all over the world are accepting yoga is because of its curative effects on mind, body and spirit. I should be using the word tantra here but people in the west do not really understand that yoga is a part of tantra, therefore I am using the word yoga. Yoga has never been a religion, nor even metaphysics. It has never been a way to escape from the world. In fact the very purpose of yoga is to redeem each and every man from his personal problems. The rishis, seers and yogis in the past witnessed that the practices of yoga could free one from physical and mental problems, and therefore they gave this science to their disciples through the guru-disciple tradition. Thus we can consider yoga as a science of the curative faculty. If we understand yoga as a system of gymnastics, then we really miss the point, but if we understand yoga from the scientific point of view, then we can follow the real point. Even the practice of asanas and pranayamas has a deep effect on the most intricate principles of the human body. To give you an example: when a person is suffering from asthma, you administer cortisone and adrenaline tablets, and if he has more trouble in breathing, you give him oxygen to inhale. However, the yogic treatment is a comparatively simple matter of incorporating those postures which influence the adrenal glands. Adrenaline and cortisone are already in the body; we all have an inexhaustible pharmacy within us. If, by yoga postures, you are able to influence the adrenaline and cortisone producing glands, you will be able to get rid of the asthmatic trouble. This is just one example of how yoga aims at the origin of illness and affects a cure.

Recently, all over the world there has boon a sharp increase in the incidence of a fairly modern disease, hypertension. In eastern countries and more so in western countries, the hectic life, food, environmental pollution, and many other things are causing these cerebral hypertensions. When they occur, the brain is not able to control the functions of the body and therefore coronary diseases, as well as dozens of other diseases, occur on account of hypertension.

Hypertension is a state caused by the presence of various toxins, the result of responses to stress, which come from living a very externalised life. Whenever you inhale an insufficient amount of oxygen, tension will always be present, and when the air you breathe is itself polluted, more tension naturally ensues. When the food is impure and unnatural, that also causes tension. When you have to be alert and cautious ail the time, there is further tension. Tension in the brain affects the blood pressure because the veins and arteries, the coronary system, and the whole process of blood pressure regulation is controlled from the brain. Then tensions create more possibilities for excess cholesterol to enter the system, and the hypertensive condition influences the endocrine secretions. These secretions are directly injected into the blood stream, and they are capable of stimulating or depressing the whole system. When the tensions are too great, the endocrine glands inject hormones directly into the blood stream influencing the blood clotting mechanism and allowing heart attack to eventually take place.

Yoga has been greatly instrumental in reducing hypertensive conditions of the brain. Hypertension can be reduced greatly and high blood pressure brought to a normal level by regular practice of yogasanas and pranayamas. The efficiency of the heart action is increased. The heart/lung action is harmonized, thus helping to utilize oxygen at an optimum level.

For another example, diabetes is caused by a malfunction of non-function of the pancreatic gland which produces insulin. When the pancreatic gland does not produce insulin, diabetes is the outcome. Now, insulin is a hormone which is directly controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. If there is a threat or some strain in life, then the brain does not function properly, parasympathetic impulses are blocked temporarily and secretion of insulin is impeded. Once you remove stress and strain from the brain, the parasympathetic nervous system begins to behave normally again and insulin can be produced.

These things pertain to the physical body and brain, but eighty to ninety percent of the causes of disease are not physical, they are psychic or psychosomatic in origin. Scientists now accept this, which means that many diseases originate not from viruses or bacteria but from the depths of our bodies. This body has five aspects, or sheaths as they are traditionally called. The first sheath is the physical body, the second is the energy process or pranic body, the third is the thinking process or mental body, the fourth is the feeling process or psychic body (the same body which comes up in the dream state) and the fifth is the unconscious process or bliss body, which you don't see.

Medical scientists have only been talking about this physical body, and they are correct so far as that is concerned. Smallpox and cholera belong to the physical body, but what about the other, four bodies? To give you a simple analogy - I am sitting in this room, but the room consists of more than four walls; there are also lights, curtains, windows, furniture and carpets. Now, if you think that the room consists only of a floor, a ceiling and walls, then you have no idea of this room. In the same manner, this physical body is a container within which there is a pranic body, a mental body, a psychic body and an unconscious body.

If a disease originates from the unconscious, it is almost incurable. It cannot be eliminated by any system of meditation nor by the practice of asanas; it can only be cured by the practice of tantra, mantra and yantra. Some of you already know that if a sick person receives the appropriate yantra, he can be cured. This is because yantras as well as mantras are occult symbols, and they alone can influence the unconscious body, which is a storehouse of karma or patterns of experience.

Here is an analogy to help you understand what your unconscious body is. If you place a movie camera outside this building it will record on film everything that happens within its range of vision. Now, at any time, if you wish to view a particular frame of the film, say a photograph of a crime which took place within camera range, this you can do. The police would then take the photograph and catch the criminal. In the same manner, whatever your brain perceives throughout your life is all photographed, everything significant or insignificant, important or unimportant good or bad. Everything is recorded; there are no exceptions and the whole of this information goes for storage in the collective unconscious. Then, at a particular moment, somehow it is triggered and just comes out. We do not know how it happens, but one small insignificant experience in your childhood or youth may become a grave disease.

The psychologists and psychiatrists have the same viewpoint and I know of many experiences of people to whom this has happened. For example, suppose that once while sitting in a room you saw a small piece of paper fluttering in the breeze, so you picked it up and put it in place. That karma could go back to your unconscious and come up as a disease after fifteen or twenty years. Now, if a disease can be due to your karma, what medicines can be administered to cure it? If karma can cause a tumour, cancer or a multitude of other things, how to effect a cure? The answer to this lies in the realm of the science of tantra, yantra and mantra. If a disease originates in the psychic body, how are you going to get rid of it? If a man is psychotic or neurotic, what can you do to effectively cure him? Put him in a mental hospital? I have seen many mental hospitals for myself, and I have inspected the registers as to how many years patients have remained there. I also know that the treatment which they receive has not made them better. They are sometimes given tranquillisers and released, only to come straight back again. If it enters your mind to take a revolver and shoot yourself, how are you going to treat this condition? Is this not a disease? Sickness does not only mean arthritis, rheumatism, fever and cold. This is a sickness of the psychic body. When the psychic body becomes sick, it is unhappy and when the psychic body is really sick it is more and more unhappy. If the sickness continues, the man becomes very tired and does not want to live. He is not happy with anything and wants to escape; that is a psychic disease.

How are psychic diseases overcome? The best way is through concentration of mind. All the psychiatrists have come to the same conclusion- to consolidate the differences in the mind. A psychologist will always tell you not to accelerate your distractions but to integrate your personality. In yoga they say unify the mind. This unification of mind is focusing of the mental powers on one point. The mind which is distracted and broken must be integrated, brought to one point and when the consciousness flows in one direction, then psychic diseases can be overcome.

Disease does not belong to only one dimension of the body, but to ail five dimensions. When you eat the wrong types of food, your physical body becomes sick. When you have wrong thoughts, your pranic body develops sickness in the form of fear, insecurity, jealousy, hatred, revenge and so many other things as well. All these are seeds of diseases in the pranic body, then they go to the mental body and to the other bodies. A disease can travel both ways. From the unconscious body, a disease can gradually travel down to the physical, and from there it can again travel to higher bodies. I know of many cases of this type of disease. Boys and girls from western countries come to my ashram in large numbers and sometimes they suffer from diarrhoea. I will give you an example from among some 500. A boy who was a pop singer in Australia came to my ashram, and after one month he started getting diarrhoea. I told him to go back to Australia, but he said, 'No! I am going to become a swami'. I said that if he became a swami, he would go mad, but he was determined to stay. After three months he said that his right leg was becoming paralyzed, and he started walking with a limp. He stayed for one year, 365 days going to the toilet about thirty times daily and he became like a bamboo cane. Ultimately, I was able to send him back. The moment he stepped into the plane his diarrhoea stopped. Now, what was the real cause of this disease? Was it in the physical body, pranic body, mental body, psychic body or unconscious body? It is five years since this happened, and now he is a very important swami in our group who has rendered all my music into English notation and discussion in a book.

Another example was a girl from Copenhagen, seventeen or eighteen years old, who is now a swami. She came to live in my ashram and also developed diarrhoea. She neglected it and after a few months she had mental problems. I was not in India at the time, but when I returned I saw her and sent her back to Copenhagen at once. Now she is alright and is one of the yoga teachers there.

A physical disease can later become a mental disease, and a mental disease can also become a physical disease. Jealousy can cause many physical problems. So when you talk about the curative effects of yoga and tantra on the human body, you must understand that the body is not one, but a composition of five layers or aspects. In tantra we never say that a disease is merely mortal, mundane or ordinary. To give you an analogy: In this room, if the plaster breaks, you will call the plasterer, but if the window frame breaks, you will call the carpenter. If there is something wrong with the electricity, you will call the electrician. If there is a fire you will call the fire brigade, and so on. So even as this room can have a number of problems, requiring different treatments, in the same manner this body also needs different treatments. Therefore, in yoga, there are five systems called the curative systems.

For diseases of the unconscious body you must practice tantra, mantra and yantra. Diseases of the psychic body require the practice of concentration and raja yoga techniques. For diseases born of the mind, practice bhakti yoga and a little deep relaxation. For diseases of the pranic body, practice pranayama, and for the physical body's diseases you must practice yogasanas. But remember that no disease is only mental, only physical or only pranic; it is a combination of a great many irregularities in the five layers of life. Therefore, whenever you are unhappy, sick, tired or feeling negative, you must see that in addition to the physical treatment of modern medical science, you must also take to yogic treatment. When you teach yoga or learn yoga you must have a wide knowledge of the whole structure of human existence.