Siddhasana and the Heart

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Recently, medical scientists have found an important connection between the reproductive metabolism and the heart. Excessive and uncontrolled levels of the male hormone testosterone in the blood are correlated with a preponderance of such traits as over-assertiveness, acquisitiveness and latent or overt aggression which characterize the cardiac personality, the type most prone to a sudden heart attack. Research has revealed the existence of specific receptor sites for this hormone in the Myocardial tissue of the heart, and also in the walls of the larger blood vessels, and it is now felt that Myocardial damage is induced by testosterone accumulation at these sites.

Heart attack is far more frequent in men than in women, up to the age of the menopause, but beyond that, the incidence between both sexes is similar. This strongly suggests that the female hormonal environment bestows a natural protection for the feminine heart whereas the male heart is endangered by excessive circulating levels of male hormones. In order to combat this, the masculine emotional and sexual metabolism has to be controlled. For this purpose we recommend the practice of meditation in siddhasana, where the lower heel exerts pressure in the area of the prostate gland in the region of the perineal floor, and the upper heel is against the pubic bone, above the root of the generative organ.

This posture stabilizes the two lower psychic centres- mooladhara chakra and swadhisthana chakra, redirecting prana upwards towards the higher centres. Blockage of energy within these two centres is responsible for many health problems and also poses a barrier which has to be crossed in spiritual life. Mooladhara is the root centre in which an infinite source of pranic energy lies dormant and asleep, while swadhisthana is the centre responsible for the sexual and emotional metabolism in which our psychic energy most spontaneously manifests itself. When our emotional life does not extend beyond this plane, blood pressure and cardiac function remain unstable and our role and purpose in life remains ill-defined and unclear. There is an 'ache' in the heart which never knows the experience of constancy, beyond the fickle and transitory emotional feelings. But the higher experiences of the human heart and mind remain impenetrable unless the energy can be stabilized and led up into the higher centres of consciousness. In this sense, heart diseases can be considered an evolutionary malady, where we suffer due to our bondage on the emotional plane, while our being aches to experience the constancy of human life which arises when emotional attachments and aversions have been transcended.

Siddhasana is the posture which is recommended by Dr Christian Barnard, the heart transplant surgeon, to stabilize cardiac function in his patients. We have found that it proves most beneficial when learned during the late teens or early twenties, when the emotional and sexual drives and passions are likely to be unruly. At that time, siddhasana is found to rectify problems such as excessive nocturnal emission. If followed throughout life it bestows protection from emotional ravages and stabilizes the passions, preventing later cardiac demise. The heart is protected when there is neither suppression of, nor anarchical expression of the emotional complexes. The key to preservation of the heart lies in controlled expression of our desires, instincts and drives and this is learned by following the precepts and practices of yoga throughout the different stages of life. By incorporating some asanas, pranayama and meditation into the daily program from an early age, the penalty of an overtaxed heart is avoided in middle age, and the emotions are channelled and expressed in a more creative way throughout life.

The central role of cholesterol should be understood. This fatty substance is the precursor from which the sex hormones are synthesized by the gonads and the adrenal glands. It is also required in the production of the spermatozoa by the testes, along with other fatty protein complexes known as lipoproteins. These are needed to provide the structural requirements of the sperms, and also to provide the machinery which gives every sperm such an enormous energetic and motile capacity.

If the emotional and reproductive metabolism is unruly and uncontrolled then the turnover of new sperms must occur at a rapid rate and an enormous amount of energy must be constantly provided to synthesize these replacement sperms. As a result a high level of cholesterol and protein is necessary, and this usually comes from dietary sources. This necessitates a high protein and fat diet, and demands that the physiological systems of digestion and cell synthesis operate at a very high rate, pushing up the metabolic rate and basal temperature in the process. Strain on the heart, the digestive organs such as the liver, and the eliminatory organs such as kidneys, bowels and sweat glands, is inevitable. Excessive wear and tear on the physiological systems is the end result and cardiac strain is one foremost effect.

Clearly the emotional metabolism must be stabilized if the body is to be preserved. This can be attained by the twin approach of dietary regulation, where a decreased protein and fat intake is recommended, coupled with the growth of self-knowledge, self-expression and self-control, which develops by following the royal path of yoga in the midst of the various worldly confrontations and difficulties. These measures are the best insulators against heart disease in the community as a whole.

In this regard, it is not enough to simply follow the precepts of a traditional religion. While this may provide a degree of mental and emotional security, it is actually suppressive and anti-evolutionary, for it does not allow us to come to terms with the emotional and instinctual factors of our nature directly. Traditional religions offer only precepts and concepts, but yoga offers psycho-physiological practices which channel emotional energy correctly. The key to an enlightened emotional and sexual life, free of mental conflicts and physiological exhaustion lies in the practice of yoga techniques in conjunction with our normal daily life experiences. Yoga does not require renunciation, but leads its practitioner to a fuller enjoyment of every aspect of life. The experiences of life should be enjoyed and understood if we are to progress and evolve. Blind adherence to dogmas only blocks this evolutionary process, leading to mental illness and physical disease, but yoga offers the sublime way to fully appreciate life and complete our evolutionary journey.