Body and Mind

From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Hatha Yoga Book 3: Shatkarma

How can stress be managed by life-style?

Swami Sivananda: If there is mental fatigue in students due to too much strain and study, if there is mental fatigue in merchants on account of business worries, if there is fatigue in officers on account of overwork, they should take proper rest at once. They should go to the hills or the seaside for a change. They should do pranayama and take a light, wholesome, nutritious diet. They should do japa and kirtan vigorously and practise easy asanas.

Why does hatha yoga recommend a regulated and moderate lifestyle?

Swami Sivananda: Physical health is an important condition of mental health. Strain of any organ, excessive fatigue and mental strain should be avoided. One’s life must be well regulated and disciplined. Samyama, restraint, must be practised in all things. Excess of any kind should be avoided. Stick to the happy, golden medium. Rest is necessary. Yogi Swatmarama advises such restraint in Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1:15):

Atyaahaarah prayaasshva prajalpo niyamagrahah;
Janasangashcha laulyam cha shadbhiryogo vinashyati.

Overeating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, being in the company of common people and unsteadiness (wavering mind) are the six (causes) which destroy yoga.

How do the conditions of the body and mind affect each other?

Swami Sivananda: The mind is intimately connected with the body. The mind acts upon the body and the body reacts upon the mind. The mind influences the body – a pure, healthy mind means a healthy body. Grief in the mind weakens the body. The body influences the mind in its turn. If the body is strong and healthy, the mind also becomes healthy and strong. If the body is sick, the mind also becomes sick. A pain in the stomach causes depression in the mind.

The primary cause of diseases which afflict the body is bad thoughts. Whatever is held in the mind will be produced in the physical body. Any ill feeling or bitterness towards another person at once affects the body and produces some kind of disease in the body. Intense passion, hatred, long-standing bitter jealousy, corroding anxiety, fits of hot temper actually destroy the cells of the body and induce disease of the heart, liver, kidneys, spleen and stomach. Violent fits of hot temper do serious damage to the brain cells, throw poisonous chemical products into the blood, produce general shock and depression and suppress the secretion of gastric juice, bile and other digestive juices in the alimentary canal, drain away energy and vitality, induce premature old age and shorten life.

When the mind is agitated, the body is agitated. Wherever the body goes, the mind follows. When both the body and mind are agitated the prana flows in the wrong direction. Instead of pervading the whole body steadily and equally it will vibrate at an unequal rate, without rhythm.

How can anger be managed with hatha yoga?

Swami Sivananda: Prana entwines the mind like a creeper. Pranayama leads to the control of mind. Pranayama will put a break on the impulse of speech. It gives one an abundance of energy to check anger.

Do asanas and pranayama also affect feelings and moods?

Swami Sivananda: When one is not practising yoga, the nervous system is slow, and as a result, there is a sort of depression. Additionally, the energy in the body usually remains blocked at one or more centres as the nervous system is not activated. When yoga asanas and pranayamas are practised, the various systems in the body, such as the respiratory, circulatory, cardiac and nervous systems, are properly activated. As a result of this, the feelings in the brain that had been blocked are released, and pranic energy is introduced into the higher centres of the brain, allowing one to feel light and relaxed.