Yoga Research on Practices

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

We have been practising different spiritual techniques for centuries, but from time to time the intellectuals discouraged us from doing it. They made up so many ‘cock and bull’ stories, and then they dissipated our interest.

In recent times scientists have done some very commendable work and their investigations have at least verified scientifically that certain practices produce positive changes in the body and mind, nervous system and behaviour.

Change of acceptance

About thirty years back, if you told someone who was suffering from blood pressure to sit down and practise meditation, he would have said you were crazy. Now those instruments that you are talking about like biofeedback have clearly indicated that, when the practice of meditation goes deeper and deeper, the alpha patterns appear in the brain. As the alpha patterns dominate in the brain, the pressure is released from the heart, and there is a great change in the oxygen consumption of the system. Nowadays if anyone is suffering from high blood pressure and I tell him to meditate, and if his physician knows, the patient will not object.

Thirty years back if you were asked to practise sirshasana, the headstand pose, many people would have said, “Don’t do that, you’ll go crazy.” There was a lot of controversy about the headstand pose. Those who have followed the scientific researches, their minds are now clear.

About thirteen years ago, a team of scientist conducted some research into the effect of sirshasana, the physiological effect of sirshasana. This research was conducted not by one man, but by a team. They had about one hundred practitioners of different age groups, and the experiment was continued over a period of six months. What were the results? The same that were given in the yoga book, Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The modern scientific instruments have not glorified yoga, but they have tended to dispel the ignorance in the minds of many people about yoga.

Discovering the right asana

If anyone is suffering from a slipped disc or from sciatica, I teach him just three asanas: bhujangasana, shalabhasana, makarasana, some pranayama and simple bhastrika. It will take a maximum of one week for him to recover even if he has been suffering for years. How did I come to this conclusion? I will tell you. It was by chance that I was visiting a lawyer in Calcutta, and that lawyer was also very much interested in yoga. At his home that day were a few American people. They had a number of instruments with them, electro-encephalogram, electro-cardiogram, and machines for measuring skin resistance, portable versions of the laboratory models.

They were measuring the responses of each other, but not in a particularly scientific way. One man was tested for muscular tension. He sat down in the same posture that we are in now, and the instruments were connected to him. The muscles showed a high rate of tension. Then he was asked to practise bhujangasana. As soon as he lay down on his stomach, the machine indicated that the tension was falling. When he actually went into bhujangasana, all his back muscles were on zero, completely relaxed, right up to the sacral system. There was not one part with tension. The same results showed in shalabhasana and makarasana. Then it came to me that it would be the best practice for slipped disc and sciatica.

Looking for kundalini

The scientific instruments have been revealing to us the potentialities of yoga practices. Now many people talk about kundalini. About ten years back, one doctor asked me, “Have you seen kundalini?” I asked him, “Did you see it?” He said that he had dissected a whole body and he did not see it. I told him, “What do you mean by it?” He said there cannot be a kundalini shakti, because he did not see it in his dissections. I only asked him one question. I said, “While dissecting the brain did you find a thought?” The doctor had no answer.

There is a doctor in Japan, a very good friend, Dr Hiroshi Motoyama. He is a doctor of medicine and he has improvised an apparatus which can register the impulses in the chakras. He has a long-size, big machine. If you are six feet, he puts the machine at six feet. If you are short and Japanese he puts the machine at small. He exactly fits those sections at the chakras, mooladhara, swadhisthana, manipura, anahata, and monitors them.

Then he will ask you to practise bhastrika pranayama, for example, or anything else. When you are practising bhastrika, take the breath in, practise jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, moola bandha and then you see what is happening through the chakras. It is of course no kundalini awakening. It is the chakra becoming active. After this investigation has come out, many medical doctors are keeping quiet, because now the kundalini shakti has been accepted as a force.

The monitoring system

In the last thirteen, no in the last thirty-one years, more than one thousand researches on meditation have been conducted by scientists all over the word. They have conducted fantastic research on kundalini yoga, zen and on other forms of meditation. We have many such apparatus which we can use to explain the effects of different yogic practices on the body and mind.

A few years back in India a swami stopped his heart and went underground for seven days. Indian doctors, non-Indian doctors and doctors from overseas came to investigate. They declared him clinically dead, but after ten days he came out. Now what did that prove? It proves that even after the heart attack, if you know yoga you can survive it. The cardiac monitoring system is in the brain and not in the heart. The heart attack takes place not because your heart has failed, but because the monitoring system has failed to regulate and coordinate. If you know how to manipulate that monitoring system, the heart attack can be avoided.