Yoga has done fantastic things and attracted many people over the last twenty years. In every part of the world scientists are researching and correlating the effects of yoga therapy. Previously, yoga was only regarded as a spiritual science, but now people realise that it can also be used to help them overcome their physical and mental limitations. Recently the whole tide of events has turned and now the thinking people are endeavouring to use the science of yoga for the benefit of all mankind.
Although the world has raced ahead materially, there is definitely something lacking in the spiritual development of man. We have made great strides in technology which have enabled man to raise his standard of living and increase his abilities and knowledge. Yet, despite all these developments, there is a spiritual vacuum, a deep rooted mental agony in every man.
We are frightened when we hear of the rate of suicide in the world, and simply cannot believe that the prosperous Americans take such great quantities of aspirin. The prevalence of cancer and heart attack in the face of progress made in the field of medical science is also frightening. Man is suffering from many diseases and problems today in spite of the fact that modern science is constantly developing new and better means of coping with them.
In the last two or three decades, when yoga was introduced to the modern world, it was received with some skepticism. At first people thought that it was another religion. But in spite of this, the young people took up yoga, and soon the others began to notice the amazing effects it had. Then the psychologists, medical men, criminologists, and philosophers started making investigations, and they were surprised to find that yoga is not a religion, but a science.
When the scientists began to investigate yoga on the physical level, they found that it had a tremendous influence on the physical body. The yoga postures harmonised the endocrines. The practice of pranayama created a balance in the nervous system. They also investigated the effects of asanas and pranayama on the different organs of the body. Research was made into the effect of pranayama on the behaviour of the hypothalamus and the effects of various hatha yoga practices upon mental, psychological and emotional problems. Experiments were successfully conducted on the effects of yoga in coronary disorders. Positive conclusions were drawn on the possibility of reviving insulin production in the physical body of diabetics. Yoga postures were determined for disc-prolapse which is a widespread problem.
Scientists have also investigated and assessed the value of meditation. It was once thought that meditation was an occult practice used to invoke some devil or spirit, or to escape from life. Meditation was therefore totally misunderstood. Now, however, scientists, psychologists and medical men have come to a different conclusion. They have measured the brain waves during deep meditation and found the predominance of alpha waves, which arise during the state of relaxation. Alpha rhythms automatically reduce the blood pressure of a person suffering from hypertension. Drugs are therefore not necessary. Since high blood pressure is a consequence of hypertension, it can only be balanced by bringing the alpha rhythm into action. This can be achieved through the practice of meditation.
Meditation is also being used for the reformation of character, personality and mind. Sociologists and criminologists have clearly stated that the practices of yoga bring a tangible and substantial change in the behaviour patterns of delinquents, criminals, alcoholics and drug addicts.
Yoga has been internationally accepted as a therapeutic science, and more and more people are taking it up. But in comparison to the great population of the world, teachers are still very few, and consequently there are many people in the world who do not know yoga. It is therefore necessary for us to see that more and more people become aware of these benefits of yoga. In fact, one of the greatest services that we can do for mankind today is to expose him to the practices of yoga.
It is not only for health that people need yoga. Everyone is trying to express himself better, whether he be a painter, carpenter, businessman, tradesman or shopkeeper. It is important that yoga becomes one of the more recognised aids for developing this creative intelligence.
When you want to start practising or teaching yoga, you must begin with hatha yoga because these practices train the systems of the body. It is necessary to set this organism in order, otherwise any disharmony or disorder which may exist within the systems, will make you unhappy and melancholic. Through the practices of hatha yoga, all the systems of the physical body are reconditioned. Just as you send your car to the mechanic's shop for reconditioning, overhauling and repairing, similarly, we are reconditioning this body through the practices of hatha yoga. Once this physical body is properly reconditioned and in good running order, then we can go ahead.
In this physical body there are two forces which are in constant imbalance, causing many mental, emotional and physical problems. One is the force of the mind by which you think and know. The other is the force of life by which you live and move. If there is no life or mind, you can imagine what will happen to your body. The physical body does not move on the basis of the brain, heart, lungs, hands or feet. After all, a dead man has all these.
Take a motor car, for example. Switch it on and remove the driver. What will happen? The car has life, but no mind. Now, stop the engine, remove the spark plugs, and ask the driver to sit in the car. What will happen? There is mind, but no life! So, you need a car in good running order and you need a driver. Similarly, the physical body is the car, and the mind is the driving force.
This body lives on the life force which is not the air you breathe, not oxygen, but bio-plasma. This life force is generated in everyone at the time of conception. It is part of the cosmic force. If there is no life force, everything would disintegrate. This life force is known as prana.
Prana is one part of your existence, and mind is the other. If there is no mind, you cannot see, even though you have eyes. You can neither speak, hear, breathe, touch, smell or know. This mind makes you aware of time and space and if it begins to fail, you make mistakes.
So, in this physical body there are two forces and a balance must be maintained between them. If the prana or mind is low, you are sick or abnormal. Prana and mind can be compared to the two wires conducting electricity. In order to have light, the positive and negative cables must carry the same voltage. Therefore, to have a healthy body and a strong peaceful mind, it is most important that the pranic and mental forces are kept in balance. The purpose of hatha yoga, asanas and pranayama is to create and maintain this balance. So you can understand how important yoga is.
Is man the body? Is there nothing beyond this phenomenal existence? It has been said, and I think you will agree, that man is far more than he knows. Somehow or other he has confined himself like the frog living in the well. The frog thinks that the water in the well is all the water in the world. He cannot imagine the Atlantic ocean or the Pacific ocean. His maximum vision is the little well, and that is the case with you.
You have always been limited to this physical body and you think about it so much that if anyone were to say that you are something more than this physical body you would say, 'What?' 5' 2", 56 kg.; white, black, yellow; Spanish, Christian, Hindu; man, woman. That is your definition of yourself. Is there no other definition? Think about it!
Where do you go when you dream or when you go crazy? You have to imagine to conceive other dimensions of your personality. This is one dimension, but not the total. If it were the total dimension, the only dimension, then you would be absolute. If you were absolute, you would not be in time and space.
What is the definition of absolute? That which is beyond time and space is absolute, infinite. That which is relative to time and space is limited, finite. This state of mind is not absolute. It is only one dimension of your personality, perhaps the tiniest aspect. Your total personality is far greater. But how to know it? You are angry, full of jealousy, worries, anxiety and frustration. Love and hatred inflame you and each and every insignificant event has a great bearing upon your mind. How to get out of it? Of course, if you want to remain in it, if you want to be worried, melancholic and depressed, well and good. But if you have become aware of the limitations of your existence, if you know that you are mentally, emotionally and spiritually atrophied, then you have to find a way out. I think mankind is searching for the way.
Throughout history, mankind has been trying to overcome his limitations. He wants to be infinite. He wants to see the light, and for that he has tried path after path. Therefore, I think it is worth your while to try yoga. The therapeutic value of yoga is one aspect. But man has a greater strength to know. Beyond this physical body there is something very great and the way to realise this is the path of yoga. You must always keep this possibility before you. You may live in this physical body, with this individual mind, but your awareness must be greater and wider. You should be aware of your infinitude. You should be aware of the possibility that you can create, and gradually get into yoga headlong, neck deep.
Life means yoga; yoga means life. Therefore, you do not have to make any substantial change in the order of your living or day to day life. If it is not possible to practise in the morning, do it at night. Half an hour a day for yoga means that you have 23½ hours left for your other activities. During this half an hour, practise one or two asanas, simple pranayama and meditation. Sit quietly, close your eyes and find a way for yourself.
You have to find your own way! Nobody can carry you on their shoulders. There are no motor cars, no cable cars. You have to go by yourself. No swami, clergyman, or religion can take you there. It is a very narrow path and two cannot traverse it together. There is only one way traffic; only a one-pointed mind can go in. With a concentrated mind keep going in and follow the light.