Prana Vidya - Science and Manipulation of Energy

Swami Satyananda Saraswati - Given at the Zinal Conference in Switzerland on 4th September

This physical body is a storehouse of pranic energy, a dynamo, with infinite types of electrical currents passing throughout. The ordinary eyes see this body as a combination of flesh, blood and bones, but yogis and scientists have seen a great force behind this physical body. The prana of the body is more subtle than the nucleus of an atom, and we have not yet been able to harness it. For most people prana means breath, oxygen, ions and so on. But scientific experiments are coming closer to the truth. Scientists are discovering the energy link between the physical and psychic bodies. They have arrived at the conclusion that energy or pranic force is convertible into material force and material force is convertible into pranic force.

You know the famous equation of Einstein: E=MC2, that is, matter is energy in its potential state. There is a small scientific experiment which we can use to illustrate this more clearly. If you look at a piece of bone with your naked eye, all you see is a bone. But if you look at the same piece of bone under a super microscope, what do you see? First you see molecules, then atoms, and later the nucleus of the atom. Ultimately, you discover the fantastic behaviour of energy.

The piece of bone, which appeared to be dead matter, was not really dead at all; only our eyes were incapable of detecting the energy within it. Scientists who have gone into the study of energy fields, maintain that the so called dead matter is also permeated with pranic energy. Therefore, prana does not only mean life, it means existence as well. The etymological meaning of prana is 'life in existence'. Where there is mobility and stability combined, there is prana. If an object is devoid of prana, it will disintegrate.

Distribution of energy

Each and every fibre of the body is connected with this pranic current through a complex system of energy channels or flows known as nadis. The nadis have been researched and their function can be compared to that of an electrical system. Energy is distributed in our physical body in the same way as the electrical system distributes energy from the generating station to your room.

Mooladhara chakra is the generating station. From here, the energy is distributed through three high tension wires - ida, pingala and sushumna nadis, to the various chakra points or substations situated along the spine. From the chakra points, the energy is distributed through the main poles or major nadis to the different organs and parts of the body. From the major nadis another distribution takes place through thousands of minor nadis which carry the energy to each and every cell of the body.

Where there is no electricity, there is no light; where there is no energy, there is no life. You know what happens when there is a short circuit in the electrical system - the lights go off for a minute. Or sometimes, due to overload, the voltage falls very low and all the lights go dim.

In this physical body also, the prana shakti sometimes undergoes a lot of alterations and depressions. From the different chakras, prana is distributed to all the major organs and parts of the body. At some stages there is an excess of energy and at others there is an energy drop. Everyone has experienced energy loss from time to time.

Some people frequently enter into states of depression in which their energy is so low that everything appears miserable and clouded and they do not like anything. Sometimes, although the major nadis are conducting prana, there is a failure in the minor nadis. Then the body does not work properly. Major disturbance, blockage or imbalance in the energy channels results in what is termed in medical language as a 'nervous breakdown'. So, all these conditions of depression, breakdown, energy blockage, excessive energy, etc. are due to the various states of pranic energy.

Somato-psychic approach

Many people say that all diseases are created in the mind. This is correct, but not in the absolute sense. The origin of disease is not only in the mind, it is in the body also. Many diseases originate in the mind and travel into the body. They are known as psychosomatic diseases. When diseases originate in the body and travel into the mind, they are known as somato-psychic diseases.

Body is the base and prana is the force. We know that the body and mind cannot exist without prana. Therefore, in hatha yoga as well as in tantra, we talk about somato-psychic illness, and when we supply prana to the different parts of the body, we are treating this type of illness.

Many years ago, I was of the opinion that every disease originated in the mind. I used to tell everyone that their disease was mental, not physical. But when I saw people get better by practising hatha yoga, pranayama, and other techniques, I was obliged to change my way of thinking.

Prana is the base of human health and illness. Even a psychological illness can be treated by supplying prana. Therefore, in yoga the hypothesis is that all diseases are caused by improper distribution of prana in the physical body. Even those diseases which are regarded as psychological in nature are actually caused by an imbalance in the pranic distribution.

For example, vishuddhi chakra is one of the main distribution stations. It is situated at the junction in the neck, and the pranas are distributed from vishuddhi to different parts of that area - ears, eyes, nose, throat, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, etc. If there is improper distribution of prana to the thyroid, emotional diseases occur. So many emotional complexes which we are suffering from are directly caused by hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, and this condition results from improper distribution of prana from vishuddhi chakra. So an emotional problem arising from improper distribution of prana in the thyroid complex should be termed as somato-psychic, not psycho-somatic.

For a second example, let us consider manipura chakra, behind the navel. This is the main distributing centre for the digestive system and the adrenal glands. As you know, the adrenals produce the hormone adrenaline. If there is an improper distribution of prana from manipura chakra to the adrenal glands, you will suffer from fear-psychosis, colitis, and other somatic diseases.

The third example is a very important one. Swadhisthana chakra, located at the coccyx, is the distributing station for all the uro-genital organs except the testicles. These include the uterus, ovaries, kidney and bladder, and urinary organ. Now if improper distribution of prana takes place, or excess energy is used by these particular organs of the body, then you will have the problems of this centre. Sometimes, people who are suffering from frigidity or impotence go to the doctor, who immediately tells them, 'You have a psychological problem. Something from your childhood is affecting you.' I don't entirely disagree with this theory. Our childhood experiences do have an influence on our present behaviour patterns, but you must remember that any type of frigidity or impotence is not psycho-somatic, it is somato-psychic.

Transmission of energy

The science of prana vidya is designed to facilitate the proper distribution of prana throughout the whole body. If there is an excess of prana anywhere, with this science you can balance it. If there is a disease caused by lack of prana shakti, then an excess of prana from another area is supplied to the affected part of the body. This is done by converting prana into magnetic energy and then into a flow of psychic energy. When prana has been converted into magnetic energy it can also be transmitted outside of the body through your fingers, a look, or a thought. It can be transported by a flower. It can also be used to charge an object like a mala, just as you charge your car battery with electric wires.

Transmission of prana is a natural occurrence which takes place all the time, consciously as well as unconsciously. Scientists have seen that the energy of the human body flows outward and inward. Vibrations or energy charges are constantly being emitted from every physical body. Some people have long strong pranic radiations, while others have short feeble radiations. Research with Kirlian photography has verified this hypothesis of pranic energy.

Prana is very subtle and can only be felt by the psychic body. Sensitive people can feel it, and those who are healers by nature are born with this faculty, with their pranamaya kosha manifesting predominantly. Though they have not learned this science from any guru or books, these people are capable of healing the sick. Often they themselves are surprised at their own powers and wonder where they came from and how they work.

Of course, most people are not born healers, but many are capable of developing this potential to some degree through the practice of prana vidya. This technique not only opens up your awareness to the vast stores of energy within the human body, but it also teaches you how to consciously manipulate them for the improvement of your own health and that of others.

Raising and distributing the prana

In the practice of prana vidya, the channel used for raising the prana is pingala nadi, which in modern science can be correlated with the sympathetic nervous system. Pingala emanates from mooladhara chakra at the base of the spine. It curves right and left, crossing over at all the major chakra points. Finally it terminates at ajna, where the energy is collected and stored for distribution. In order to practise prana vidya one must have a good understanding of pingala nadi.

Before beginning the practice, if there is an energy block anywhere in the body, this must be cleared first by practising yogasanas. The shakti bandha series is particularly important for clearing the energy blocks in the body.

Next you must perfect ujjayi pranayama and become familiar with all the chakra points. Most of the chakras are fairly easy to locate because they are associated with points which we can directly feel: mooladhara - perineum, swadhisthana - coccyx, manipura - behind the navel, anahata - behind the sternum, vishuddhi - behind the throat pit. Ajna is the most difficult to locate. It is situated at the pineal gland, right at the top of the spinal cord in the medulla oblongata. If you look at a book on anatomy, you will see where it is, but if you try to locate it mentally, you won't be able to find it. So we have a very simple practice for this.

Close your eyes and concentrate on the eyebrow centre. If you are able to visualise a dot, bindu, or star at this point, then you can skip over the next stage of this practice. If you are not able to visualise anything there, apply a dab of balm at the eyebrow centre. In a few seconds you will feel some sensations there which will help you to locate the bindu or star.

When you are able to visualise the bindu, practise moving it backward to ajna and forward to the eyebrow centre, with the help of ujjayi pranayama. Feel that you are breathing back and forth.

When this practice has been established and you are able to locate all the chakras, you must develop a clear mental image of pingala nadi. Remember that pingala does not go straight up to ajna. It moves in absolutely symmetrical curves. Starting from mooladhara, pingala curves to the right and crosses back over at swadhisthana. Then it curves to the left and crosses at manipura, to the right and crosses at anahata, to the left and crosses at vishuddhi. Finally it curves to the right and terminates at ajna. The path is easier to remember if you keep in mind that the first and last curves are always to the right.

Once you have a clear image of pingala passage, you are ready to begin raising the prana. Inhale in ujjayi and move up through the curves and chakras from mooladhara to ajna. Exhale in ujjayi and move back down the same route to mooladhara. Inhale while ascending and exhale while descending. The colour of pingala nadi is red. So as you inhale and exhale, imagine that you are traveling along a red path. At the end of each inhalation, practise kumbhaka (breath retention) at ajna chakra. After forty rounds, distribute the energy to the affected part.

The distribution of prana shakti to the affected part is a very complicated process, because you have to know how the particular part is connected with ajna chakra. Supposing you have pain in the knee; you have to supply prana to that part from ajna chakra. This supply of prana to that affected part has to be done with a very subtle type of ujjayi. Each inspiration has to be so subtle that it can last for about a minute. But you have to know the exact physiological and yogic pathways from ajna chakra to the affected part in the knee.

There are so many pathways. You have to find the correct one and when you have discovered it, circulate your prana from ajna chakra to the affected part. Direct the charged prana until you feel strong sensations of heat and melting, and a type of magnetic presence in that particular part of the body. First you have to try for yourself, then you can try for others as well.

Prana and mantra

In tantra, the best way to transfer prana shakti is through mantra. Each mantra is the conductor of a certain type of energy. For example, there is a special mantra for snake bite. When a person repeats this mantra thousands of times, it becomes charged with a particular type of energy. If someone has been bitten by a snake, a person who has perfected the mantra is called. As soon as he chants the mantra, the poison is dispersed without causing any further pain or harm.

Tantric mantras are carriers of pranic energy which must be used according to the rules for particular purposes. Many mantras are given in the tantra shastras, but it is necessary to study them very carefully in order to utilise them properly.

Most people do not understand the power of the mantra and they think they can utilise it in their own way. Others use any word or name for their mantra. For example, you may admire a great man and want to make a mantra out of his name, but that cannot be a mantra. If you think of that man as your guru or your god, then you have emotion for him, so you like the sound of his name. That is a mantra of emotion; it is not a mantra of prana shakti.

There are mantras of all lengths and descriptions. There are scriptural mantras; mantras for fever, for counteracting poison and disease; for removing obstructions, difficulties and doubt; for increasing health, wealth and sound sleep; for marriage, progeny and long life. Of course you don't have to practise all of these. If you practise pranayama, mudras and bandhas, you increase the capacity of your prana shakti. Then you can help others by a mantra, flower, mala, thought or contact.

The therapeutic touch

Previously, prana vidya was only known and practised by yogis and healers who were proficient in the science. Today, however, this ancient method of healing is attracting a lot of attention from the leading medical authorities and investigations are underway to ascertain its uses in the modern medical setting.

In one experiment, overseen by Dr D. Krieger, professor of nurse education at New York University, 64 patients were divided into two groups. One group received the 'therapeutic touch' (palm healing or psychic healing) from nurses twice a day; the control group received only routine nursing care. After the first day the palm healed patients began showing significant increases in the haemoglobin levels of their blood. No significant changes were found in the untreated patients.

The 'laying on of hands' is simple and can be practised by anyone. The healer first places his or her hands gently over the affected area of the sick person's body and then concentrates on sending healing energy through them.

Other researchers are looking into prana and its healing potential. Experiments with animals have shown that when great care and tenderness were used in surgery, the healing rate was higher and the post operative infection rate was lower than in another group where less care and more brutal techniques were used. Much work remains to be done in this field, which is now slowly developing. Kirlian photography, experiments in the growth of plants and animals, pyramidology and yoga are all pointing to the fact that there is a lot more to the healing touch than meets the eye.

The Secret of Health

In this modern age, people are very concerned about vitamins and minerals, but they have forgotten one important thing. Physical health is not the ultimate; it is the state of the inner being which constitutes real health. In the good old days, people used to face epidemics of smallpox, plague, cholera, yellow fever, sleeping sickness and many others. Now, however, despite the advancement of modern science we have been facing a crisis in so far as the health of mankind is concerned. Never in history have we had such terrible diseases. During these times, we are compelled to think, 'Is there any way to achieve the best possible health?' In recent years we have come to the conclusion that yoga is the answer.

The mental component

We have been taking care of the physical body, trying to meet our nutritional needs with adequate vitamins and minerals, but for a moment let us think about the inner being. What about the mind? We have not been trying to supplement the necessary needs of the mind, therefore, man has become mentally ill. He does not even know how to think, what to think, or why to think; what to feel, how to feel, or why to feel. His mind is like a motor car being driven by a driver who is heavily drunk. By chance the car may reach its destination, but more than likely it will meet with an accident along the way. Thus it is very important that we have knowledge about controlling the mind, training the mind as a whole, and thereby improving the quality of mental health. This is the main subject matter of yoga.

Why do you take bath every day? Why do you keep your house clean? It is because you believe that physical cleanliness, external cleanliness is necessary for good health. In the same way, have you ever considered that particular thoughts have to be cleaned out of the mind? You clean the kitchen and bathroom twice a day, but what about your mind? When a thought of fear, anxiety or sorrow comes into your mind, what do you do? You just let yourself go; you fall into it; you do not even try to clean it out of the mind. That is why you are suffering from anxiety, fear, depression, dejection and anger.

These thoughts are hitting your mind, infecting your mind just like a virus causes havoc in your body. But a thought is more dangerous, powerful and effective than an ordinary physical virus. When a virus enters your body, it can be treated by certain drugs and medicines. But when a thought enters, when fear strikes, when passions and anxiety get into your mind, do you know what far reaching effects it is going to have? Therefore, when we talk about health, we must definitely understand that we lack proper knowledge about the health of the mind, the health of the inner being.

The three shaktis

Yoga is a perfect practical system of physical, mental and spiritual health. According to the basic yoga philosophy man is a composition of three basic constituents: life force (prana shakti), mental force (chitta shakti), and spiritual force (atma shakti).

Prana is the universal life force, and this body has a certain amount of it. Our existence is a miracle of prana shakti. It is on account of prana that we live, move and grow. This prana shakti is not the air we breathe, it is inherent in us; we are born with it. For up to four months the foetus lives on the mother's prana, but from the fifth month on, it develops an independent pranic unit. Life is the manifestation of prana.

When prana is flowing in the correct voltage, you feel strong, energetic, enthusiastic, and all your sense faculties are sharp. But when the voltage falls, you feel physically weak and exhausted.

Besides prana, there is another shakti in the body called mind or consciousness through which we are able to think, remember, analyse and differentiate. There are so many mental faculties within us and they are all the play or manifestation of the mental shakti.

Prana shakti and mental shakti are represented in this physical body by two important flows known as pingala nadi and ida nadi respectively. The word 'nadi' means flow. In every electric bulb you have two wires, positive and negative. In the same way, in every organ and part of the body, there is a combination of both of these shaktis. Prana shakti and mental shakti pervade the whole body of man.

Pranic force is positive and mental force is negative. When these two are connected, they create energy. If there is any disconnection, what happens? If you remove one of the wires from a switchboard, the light will not burn. It is the same in the lower and higher organs. If one of the energies flows and the other does not, then the organs do not function. Therefore, according to yoga, there should be a balanced distribution of energy to every part of the body from head to toe. If there is any imbalance, there is illness.

Prana shakti and chitta shakti are both physical energies. Atma shakti, the third type of energy, is spiritual. It is non-physical, transcendental, formless energy. Mooladhara chakra produces both the physical and spiritual energy, but the spiritual energy is produced by a larger generator. This energy cannot be conducted by either ida or pingala. For this there is another line called sushumna which conducts the spiritual energy from mooladhara straight up to sahasrara in order to open the whole brain.

You know that only one part of the brain is functioning; nine parts are locked. These nine parts of the brain contain infinite knowledge, experience and power, but we are not able to utilise it because there is no conscious force. When sushumna conducts this spiritual energy to sahasrara chakra, the dormant parts of the brain become active. Then they not only give you mental health, but also spiritual wealth. When the practitioner of yoga is able to awaken kundalini and connect it with sahasrara through sushumna nadi, he becomes the master of the body, mind and spirit.

Therefore, the secret of human health is the proper distribution of the three shaktis- prana, mind and spirit. In yoga this is done through the practices of hatha yoga which purify the physical body; pranayama which purifies the channels or nadis through which energy is distributed; and meditation which stops the flow of prana and mind and leads the spiritual energy directly to the brain, sahasrara chakra.

The different branches of yoga such as hatha, raja, kriya, etc. are very powerful systems for the health, not only of this external physical body, but the health of the whole man in totality.

In order to gain total health, it is necessary for the spiritual life to become the base of our ordinary life. The people of this century have been thinking that spiritual life should be led for the sake of improving the physical life. We have put the cart before the horse. We consider the physical life as the base and the spiritual life as an adjunct, but it should be the other way around. Man's life is essentially spiritual; the physical life is just one part of his existence. In the same way we have been making many mistakes. We say, 'Oh, the divine is within us', as if we were the containers of the divine. When actually it is we who are in the divinity, not the divinity which is in us. This is a different way of thinking which must be developed in order to correct the errors of body, mind and soul, and create harmony on all levels of our being.

There is no doubt that we have been making mistakes on the mental plane, that we have ignored the mind; and this is how we have become sick and unhappy. When we take to the path of yoga the most important thing for us is the spirit, then the mind, and then the body. In the materialistic philosophy, body is alpha and omega, but in yogic philosophy, body is not the first and last. This physical body is not everything; it is just a small portion of our infinite existence. We have to maintain this body correctly, but not through medicines, tranquillisers and nutritious food alone. We have to supplement right thinking, philosophy, principles and beliefs.

More than that, we have to develop the art of dhyana yoga, wherein the eyes are closed but the mind is expanding and becoming more and more brilliant, more aware. Where this little world of name and form alone is not there, but where the infinite existence is before us in an ever expanding vision of universal life.


Satsang on Mental Problems

What is peace of mind?

Peace of mind is a balanced vision of life. It is not subject to achievements and losses; it is an understanding of everything in life. The external life is full of ups and downs and for a weak man it can become tiring, or even exhausting. But for a strong man, every ascent is a joy and every descent is a game.

What are the spiritual methods for relieving tensions of the mind?

If the tension is too acute, one should leave home for some time and stay in a peaceful environment such as that of an ashram. This is the first step. The second is satsang. When something is wrong with your car you take it to a garage and leave it with ,a good mechanic for a few days. He will find out what is wrong with the car and clean and service it. Likewise, when there is a lot of tension in your mind the best thing to do is to put your car into the hands of a good mechanic. Satsang is the best way. If the tension is not acute, then a few asanas, pranayama and the practice of yoga nidra can be undertaken.

Tensions are threefold: muscular, mental and emotional. If muscular tension is due to over exercise you need to rest a little more. If it is due to lack of exercise then you have to make yourself more active. If your tension is mental, due to a lot of thinking and daydreaming, then you should work hard through karma yoga to give direction to your mind. Mental tensions arise when you have too much time to think. Emotional tensions, due to love, hatred, death, etc., are more difficult to eliminate and have to be handled with accurate precision through bhakti yoga. For the relief of these threefold tensions one has to follow the spiritual path.

What is the way to stop thoughts from going deeply into the mind?

When a thought comes to your mind, your approach to it is of the utmost importance. Suppose, for example, you either like or dislike the thought Of having diarrhoea, that thought will always re-enter your mind. It has the potential to go deeply into your mind. However, if you see the thought but refuse to have any relationship or association with the idea, i.e. if you are completely neutral towards it, then it will quickly cease. When you just remain a witness, a seer of an experience, it ceases, but when you become involved with a thought, or emotionally affected by it, either positively or negatively then it will go back into the mind and be recycled.

What is the secret of happiness?

The secret of happiness lies in connecting the mind with its source. Once you are able to do this, happiness flows. When you know the source, you become an elevated person in thought as well as in action. Happiness is within your reach, and you can hold it firmly, but incessant and noble efforts are necessary.

How are we influenced by living in ordinary society? Does the constant suggestion we are subjected to from advertising, newspapers, etc. affect our minds?

Everybody is under hypnosis. Constant influence is being exerted on all individuals and it is totally structuring their minds. The whole lifestyle is a hypnotic process. Delusion hypnotises you and you are continually exposed to newspapers, advertisements, television, radio, books and magazines which keep you under hypnosis.

How are you going to de-hypnotize yourself? If you manage it, you will be disillusioned about the whole scheme of society. We live within a family pattern; a man and a woman live together and call themselves husband and wife. That's hypnotism. If you de-hypnotize yourself, the family will break up. In fact, man lives under constant hypnotism right from the time of his birth up to the point of his death. Perhaps only a few people are not under that hypnotic state.

Once I tried to de-hypnotize myself, and I found that I had no faith in anything. I was full of doubt and I couldn't be sure of the honesty and sincerity of anyone. Therefore, it is easier for most people to remain hypnotised. But as you grow in spiritual life, you automatically become de-hypnotized.

How can I stop my mind from criticising other people?

There is no harm in criticising other people in your mind. If you stop this mental process then you will criticise others openly and will harm them. I think criticism is a part of evolution. You have to accept it and face it, no matter how bitter it may be. If you don't want to criticise you are going to be criticised. Then what will happen? You will be wounded. You are going to get a shock, because you are an idealist and you have failed to accept the realism.

So, when these kinds of negative thoughts come into your mind you must understand them, not from the religious point of view; you must understand them from the point of view of the laws of nature. Nature has certain laws and negativity is one of them. If there is no negativity, there can't be progress in life. We hear people say: "This is negative", or "Oh, my mind thinks negatively!" What do you mean by it? If there is dark, there should be light. Day and night balance each other. Positive forces and negative forces of the mind indicate the constant evolutionary process of the mind. If a baby tries to walk and falters and falls, it means he is evolving. If he doesn't make the move, it means he is paralysed.

During life there are many times when you are negative, and then you become positive again. Just like the cycle of day and night, the attitude of your mind changes from time to time. When evil thoughts come into the mind, religious people shudder. We are kept from the reality of nature by religion. We ought to be told that evil thoughts are as much a part of the human mind as good thoughts. Evolution is a constant movement like a quantum - forward, backward, forward, backward. The evolution of life that you have reached in your human incarnation has never moved in one straight line. It has moved back and forth, back and forth. This is how the energy moves. When these thoughts of criticism come into your mind, let them come. You should have an attitude of understanding towards them, they are your off springs. A thought of criticism has not been imported from outside; it is your own creation.

If you disagree with one of the attitudes of your mind you are creating a friction between yourself and yourself, between one part of your attitude and another. This is what leads people to schizophrenia. All schizophrenics are those who have been unable to maintain amicable relations with themselves. It is most important that you have a friendly relationship with every dimension of thought that comes into your mind. After all, what is a thought? It is not an emotion; it is a bubble of energy, this way or that way, it is a negative and a positive energy. Don't worry about the thoughts of criticism. Sit down quietly and go on criticising as much as you like.

What is the best way to overcome complexes?

Ashram life and karma yoga are the best therapy for people with many mental problems. In my ashram I tell people to work so hard that they have no time to think or be unhappy. Complexes disappear miraculously when the mind has no time to dwell on them.

I am disturbed by so many distractions, how can I get rid of them?

Distractions are natural for every man. Even if you live in seclusion at the top of the mountains, you will still have distractions. If you close yourself off in a soundproof chamber you will still have distractions. Distractions are born of desires, of ignorance and unawareness of the spirit. When you are not following the inner path side by side with external life, you will have more distractions, whether you are living in the country or in a busy city. On the yogic path you can learn to live to the fullest without being affected by distractions.

Is it possible to control anger and jealousy?

Anger is one of the biggest barriers in life and jealousy is absolutely unnecessary and useless. When you are angry with somebody at least it has some kind of advantage - the person with whom you are angry obeys or respects you, but jealousy has absolutely no reward at all. In my opinion you should never worry about jealousy or anger, but practise shashankasana and it will help. Sit in vajrasana, bend forward and touch your forehead to the floor. Bring your arms forward and rest them on the floor or clasp the hands together behind your back. Remain in this posture for 2 to 30 minutes. Shashankasana helps to control the adrenal glands and calms the mind.

What is the best way to deal with aggression in oneself?

Aggression can be combated by the practice of sheetali and sheetkari pranayama, but I think you should firstly make a thorough study of your personality. Aggression is a part of your nature which has developed during the course of your life and sometimes you can cause psychological disturbances if you try to arrest a natural aspect of your personality.

Although I have suggested pranayama, I personally feel that one should make use of one's nature in constructive and creative work. A man with an aggressive nature can be very dynamic. He can utilise his personality to bring about great changes in society.

Which yogic practices can help a person suffering from fear of riding on buses, trains, planes and so on?

Normally children do not have this type of fear. They are afraid of darkness and particular personalities etc., but they are never afraid to travel in aeroplanes and buses, or even to go near a fire. This type of fear usually occurs in people over 35 years of age. There are two basic reasons for such fears. One is an accumulation of fat in the nervous tissues and physical organs of the body, especially in this age group. In younger people the rate of metabolism is much faster and this prevents the body accumulating excess fat in any organ or part of the body. In order to reduce these fears the accumulation of fat has to be eliminated.

The second cause is due to a physiological process that occurs in the body as a response to a frightening or confusing situation. When fear is experienced in the brain it is passed on to the body via the glandular and nervous systems which prepare the body for fight or flight.

Experiments conducted on thieves preparing to enter and steal from a house at night have shown that the flow of adrenal secretions is greatly increased. Their whole body is fighting their unconscious fear. As a result, at that time he may feel like going to the toilet, he may sweat profusely or experience heavy breathing.

There are two ways of overcoming the fear complex. In the first case one should try to metabolise the fat accumulation. In the second case one should practise antar mouna. Let the fear come and just witness it, observing the effects it has on your mind, body and emotions. After some time you will realise the cause of your fear and find that it is rooted in a forgotten childhood experience.

If you practise shashankasana for half an hour daily, you will be able to control the secretion of adrenaline and the fright and fear will then gradually diminish. If you practise shashankasana, antar mouna and pranayama regularly, after some time you will relive the childhood experience in your mind and all fear will vanish like a miracle.

Is there any specific practice that one can perform for immediate relief from feelings such as anxiety, grief, guilt, envy, remorse, jealousy, fear and so on?

One should practise awareness of the natural breath. This will bring immediate relief.

My adolescent daughter is not happy. She is an underachiever in school, angry at home, has few if any friends and is refusing any help. What do you suggest for her?

When your children have gone out of your hands and they need help, then you should encourage them to try ashram life for some time. If you expose your child to ashram life, a different environment, different people, different activities, freedom of speech, thought and deed, and then expose them to asanas and pranayama, you will soon find them reacting positively.

What can yoga do for mentally retarded children?

Some work has been done on the effects of yoga on mentally retarded people, especially children, and it has been found that if the child is properly guided through the practice of important asanas, a great deal of change can be brought about. The asanas that are particularly recommended are those which have a direct effect on the hormonal secretions of the pituitary body and so on, These include sarvangasana and sirshasana. After these asanas have been practised for some time, pranayama and bandhas should be slowly introduced. These techniques will definitely make an improvement, but I think there is still a lot of work to be done. Parents tend to be very careless about their mentally retarded children and they are not obtaining the desired results from the systems they expose their children to. If you send the child to a school, some of his faculties may be developed, but what about the fundamental structure of the brain?

Sometimes a mentally retarded child has perfect brain structure, but there is some psycho-emotional block which has been created by the parents or by his environment. When this is the case, the practice of yoga nidra is beneficial. The child might not understand the practice, but that is not important. If the teacher utilises the right form of yoga nidra, he can get into the child's deeper mind and influence his whole personality. Thereby he may be able to bring him out of the psycho-emotional confusion.

For the best results with yogic therapy it is essential that we have a clear cut diagnosis of the child's retardation so we can determine the category to which he belongs and the correct method of treatment.

What is the place in the universe for people with an unbalanced mind? And what is the purpose of their existence?

Those who are crazy are the people that have completely rejected the whole scheme of your society. They are the people who have been searching for the truth. Because they did not find it in your society they lost every hope. They could not find what they were aspiring for in the environment society offered so they went what you call crazy. But in the next life they will become swamis like myself.