Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga Practice


We offer this page to all sadhaks who are in need of simple and effective tools to put their sadhana on the integral foundation of concrete and psychological methods of the Integral Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo writes:
What I meant by some concrete method was things like repetition of a mantra, pranayama, asana, etc. What I mean by subtle methods is psychological, non-mechanical processes e.g., concentration in the heart, surrender, self-purification, working out by inner means the change of the consciousness. (Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Vol.3)
How to use this page
All practices, that are given on this page have been selected in the course of many years of yogic practice and search for simple and effective means to control mind with its habitual mechanical thinking and vital with its violent impulses, urges and desires, as well as the body restlessness and tendency to busy itself with different outer activities and tasks.
It is important to keep our body healthy by giving it a physical training. You may start by watching the Introduction to the Basic Asanas and then doing the Ashram warm up as a way of starting your day. These exercises, which were developed by Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, had been a part of Ashram life for more than 50 years. By doing them you will be closer to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry not only in your spirit, but in your physical body as well.
In order to make the rest of exercises part of your life you must begin with only one practice, we recommend “Observing your breath”. Do it regularly to get the desired state of calm and quiet mind, which focuses itself on observation of breathing and let the rest of the being pass into calmed and open receptive state during meditation.
After 6 weeks of practicing observing your breath you may add to your practice the next step: Concentration on the Mother’s photograph. This will focus your practice on a single aspiration to get in touch with the Mother.
After practicing it for at least 6 weeks you may add the next practice of the Mother’s Pranayama, a simple and safe exercise which will make your breathing organized and rhythmical as opposed to chaotic ordinary human way of breathing.
These three practices will give to your practice a firm foundation and concentration skills which after 6 weeks may be successfully used to incorporate in your practice Mula bandha in order to control your sexual impulses and turn the sexual energy of Apana into the energy of prana. Mula bandha must not be practiced violently and too frequently, Start with a few times a day, and, after 1-2 weeks, if you feel that you do not have any unpleasant sensations associated with it you may proceed with more frequent application.
After 6 weeks of new practice, you may start repeating mantra while walking, or do the Mother’s japa. Soon you would notice how has changed the intensity of your sadhana because of repetition of mantra.
All exercises must be practiced without any strain, patiently allowing your body to adjust to the new rhythms and movements and letting it gradually acquire new skills and new habits.
All questions that may arise during your practice will be resolved by the practice itself. We will not answer your questions. You must understand that only by practicing you may realize your aspiration to improve yourself and get closer to the Mother. You may send to other people great quotes everyday but that will never change anything in you. You will never realize the true meaning of these quotes which can only be realized by practicing Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s words, by applying them actuallyin your own life. All explanations in the world would not make you a one step closer to your goal, they would not change you.
But practice of aspiration by concentrating on the Mother’s photo would immediately make you closer and nearer to the Divine. Observing your breath would make your mind calmer and Ashram workout would make your body stronger and happier and your mind clearer.
The Mother wrote:
“A drop of practice is better than an ocean of theories, advices and good resolutions.”
Continue your practice and all questions that arise with it will be resolved.
Observing your Breath
Below is a link to the film-practice “Observing your breath”. This video will not just help you to calm down, it practically will put you in the right state of consciousness and give you the quiet and restful poise which, according to Sri Aurobindo, is the foundation for the receptive and open state in your being when the higher consciousness can come down into you.
Pactice observing your breath regularly. Make it work for you every time when you are tense, restless, unhappy and before meditation.
After 5 – 10 minutes of observing your breath you become quiet and ready for mediation.
The Mother’s Pranayama
(from Agenda, February 24, 1962)
I did it (Pranayama) myself for years, using the same system: inhale, hold, exhale, remain empty. Without knowing it, Sri Aurobindo and I did it nearly the same way! This is to tell you that the danger is mainly in what you think. No, the “danger” is MAINLY a thought formation.
You can achieve excellent control of the heart. But I never practiced it violently, never strained myself.
I used to do it simply like this: breathe in very slowly to the count of 4, then hold for 4 like this, lifting the diaphragm and lowering the head (Mother bends her neck), closing everything. Then while I held the air, and I would concentrate it wherever there was a physical disorder (a pain or something wrong somewhere). It’s very effective. The way I did it was: inhale very slowly to the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale very slowly to the count of 4 and remain empty to the count of 4 – you are completely empty.
I had trouble breathing in slowly enough – that’s a bit hard. I began with 4 and eventually managed to do 12. It took me months to reach that, it can’t be done quickly. To breathe in very slowly and hold all that air isn’t easy. I count: 1-2-3-4 … no quicker.
And exhale slowly – that’s very difficult – being careful to empty the top part of the lungs, because air often stagnates there. This seems to be one of the most frequent causes of coughs and colds. I was familiar with the method: you learn to hold the air and then release it slowly, slowly, so as to keep singing nonstop.
I advise you to practice it.
How much time do you spend on it?
Eight to ten minutes, three times a day before my Japa.
Oh, that’s very good.
I don’t know why, but I got entangled with that traditional formation which says it’s dangerous.
Someone put it on you, mon petit!
It troubled me.
No, it’s not at all dangerous, at least if you don’t overdo it. If you do it simply…. I think some people practice pranayama with the idea of gaining “powers.” That idea of gaining powers fouls it up more than anything. But if you do it simply as a help to your progress, there’s no danger.
Ah, it’s funny, because just this morning when I went out on the balcony, something suddenly began making me do pranayama! I started doing it and it was funny – I had great fun. It was like the Lord entering into me as air, and when it was held inside like that (I was doing it physically at the same time), all the air began to flow out into everybody and do its work in each one – with such a sensation of ease, of tranquil power, and so sure of itself! So comfortably peaceful.
How to open head centres
Nadis are channels within the physical, subtle and spiritual bodies which are conveying energy in different forms. They are channels for spiritual, cosmic, vital and other energies as well as for sensations, consciousness, and spiritual aura.
Nadichakras are ganglia or plexuses in all three bodies – the gross, subtle and casual.
Every time when you feel stressed, depressed, tired or have a headache, it means that the channels that connect your body to the universal energy are blocked and the flow of energy had stopped. In order to restore the flow of the universal energy you have to open your channels and you can do that by the ancient technique of Chinese point massage.
Thus, every time when you are tense or have a headache as well as each time before you meditate, a few minutes of point massage will return to you the relaxed ease and receptive state of inner concentration. Watch the film and try to practice this simple massage on yourself.
The Mother on Mantra
(From Agenda, May 19, 1959)
I have also come to realize that for this sadhana of the body, the mantra is essential. Sri Aurobindo gave none; he said that one should be able to do all the work without having to resort to external means. Had he reached the point where we are now, he would have seen that the purely psychological method is inadequate and that a japa is necessary, because only japa has a direct action on the body. So I had to find the method all alone, to find my mantra by myself. But now that things are ready, I have done ten years of work in a few months. That is the difficulty, it requires time …
And I repeat my mantra constantly when I am awake and even when I sleep. I say it even when I am getting dressed, when I eat, when I work, when I speak with others; it is there, just behind in the background, all the time, all the time.
In fact, you can immediately see the difference between those who have a mantra and those who don’t. With those who have no mantra, even if they have a strong habit of meditation or concentration, something around them remains hazy and vague. Whereas the japa imparts to those who practice it a kind of precision, a kind of solidity: an armature. They become galvanized, as it were.
The Mother on Japa
(from Agenda, vol. 1,October 6, 1959)
Japa means a repetition of mantra.
The Mother did her Japa (mantra) while walking back and forth in her room.
It is similar with this Japa: an imperceptible little change, and one can pass from a more or less mechanical, more or less efficient and real Japa, to the true Japa full of power and light. I even wondered if this difference is what the tantrics call the ‘power’ of the Japa. For example, the other day I was down with a cold. Each time I opened my mouth, there was a spasm in the throat and I coughed and coughed. Then a fever came. So I looked, I saw where it was coming from, and I decided that it had to stop. I got up to do my Japa as usual, and I started walking back and forth in my room. I had to apply a certain will. Of course, I could do my Japa in trance, I could walk in trance while repeating the Japa, because then you feel nothing, none of all the body’s drawbacks. But the work has to be done in the body! So I got up and started doing my Japa. Then, with each word pronounced – the Light, the full Power. A power that heals everything. I began the Japa tired, ill, and I came out of it refreshed, rested, cured. So those who tell me they come out of it exhausted, contracted, emptied, it means that they are not doing it in the true way.
I understand why certain tantrics advise saying the Japa in the heart center. When one applies a certain enthusiasm, when each word is said with a warmth of aspiration, then everything changes. I could feel this difference in myself, in my own Japa.
In fact, when I walk back and forth in my room, I don’t cut myself off from the rest of the world – although it would be so much more convenient! … All kinds of things come to me – suggestions, wills, aspirations. But automatically I make a movement of offering: things come to me and just as they are about to touch my head, I turn them upwards and offer them to the Light. They don’t enter into me.
Yet the difference between the two Japas is imperceptible; it’s not a difference between saying the Japa in a more or less mechanical way and saying it consciously, because even while I work I remain fully conscious of the Japa – I continue to repeat it putting the full meaning into each syllable. But nevertheless, there is a difference. One is the all-powerful Japa; the other, an almost ordinary Japa … There is a difference in the inner attitude. Perhaps for the Japa to become true, a kind of joy, an elation, a warmth of enthusiasm has to be added – but especially joy. Then everything changes.
Well, it is the same thing, the same imperceptible difference, when it comes to entering the world of Truth. On one side there is the falsehood, and on the other, close by, like the lining of this one, the true life. Only a little difference in the inner quality, a little reversal, is enough to pass to the other side, into the Truth and Light.
Perhaps simply to add joy would suffice.
How to control sexual impulses
Mula Bandha
Mula means root, source, origin, or cause and basis, or foundation. It refers to the principal region between the anus and the genitals. Contract the muscles of this area, and lift them vertically towards the navel. Simultaneously, the lower anterior abdomen below the navel is pressed backwards and upwards towards the spine. The downward course of apana energy is changed and then made to flow up to unite with the prana energy, which has its seat in the region of the chest.
Mula bandha should be attempted first in retention of breath after inhalation. There is a difference between the abdominal grips and mula bandha. In mula bandha only the perineal and lower abdominal area between the anus and navel is contracted, pulled back to the spine and lifted up towards the diaphragm.
The practice of contracting the anal sphincter muscles helps one to master mula bandha. Asva means a horse.
There is a danger in attempting to do mula bandhas violently and too frequently. Improper performance of it will cause loss of vitality and seriously weaken the practitioner. The correct performance of mula bandha  is to do it with the least necessary effort only when sexual impulse must be controlled.
Normally, the senses open outwards and are attracted to objects and follow the path of enjoyment. If this direction is changed, so that they turn inwards, then they follow the path of Yoga. The yogi’s senses are turned inwards to meet the Source of all Creation.
Having mastered the sexual urge naturally but not by force, sadhak or sadhika stops dissipating his or her energies. He is fully potent yet a master of himself. He then acquires moral and spiritual power, which will shine forth like the sun.
While practising mula bandha, the yogi attempts to reach the true source or mula of all creation. His goal is the complete restraint or bandha of the chitta which includes the mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi) and the ego (aharhkara).
B.K.S. Iyengar “Light on Pranayama”, p.97
Hathayoga Asanas
The practice of asanas is part of the very ancient science of Hathayoga and consists of a number of poses which, apart from their yogic or psychological value, promote health, organic vigour and physical fitness. The mere fact that this system had stood the test of time to the present day indicates that it possesses some exceptional merit. In the introduction to The Synthesis of Yoga Sri Aurobindo wrote, ‘The chief processes of Hathayoga are asanas and pranayama. By its numerous Asanas or fixed postures it first cures the body of that restlessness which is a sign of its inability to contain without working them off in action and movement the vital forces poured into it from the universal Life-Ocean, gives to it an extraordinary health, force and suppleness and seeks to liberate it from the habits by which it is subjected to ordinary physical Nature and kept within the narrow bounds of her normal operations…. By various subsidiary but elaborate processes the Hathayogin next contrives to keep the body free from all impurities and the nervous system unclogged for those exercises of respiration which are his most important instruments.’ [SABCL vol. 20, p.291]
Asanas are divided broadly into two groups – one, the meditative poses, for psychological development and the other for physical health and fitness. Here we shall mention the latter.
It must be stated that asanas should not be confused with contortionism of boneless acrobatic feats of the circus type. Though asanas of the advanced variety are difficult to perform, the simple poses can be practiced by anybody with very beneficial results. But it is very important to note that like all other sciences, it should be studied and practiced without strain, gradually allowing the body to aquire new skills and habits or else it can be dangerous and result in more harm than good.
In the body, it is the blood which most influences the glands and vital organs and maintains their efficiency by feeding them, repairing worn tissues and by carrying away the waste and toxins they produce.
In the modern system of physical exercise this is done by the action of the muscles and by giving progressive work to the heart and lungs. But in the system of asanas this is done by adopting such poses as would direct the blood to the particular gland or vital organ where it is required and so improve its efficiency and capacity.
There has long been a controversy as to which is the better system for the body and there is a tendency nowadays to decry the ancient system of asanas as outmoded and obsolete. But though asanas may not make one very strong physically or build big muscles, they give sound physical health and so condition the body in endurance and resistance to fatigue that they can give a good basis for the practice of all sorts of games, sports and other physical exercises. Moreover, their value in corrective and curative exercises is exceptional.
Hence in this age of synthesis, this ancient system should find its place side by side with the modern practice in any national scheme of physical education. And it is indeed now being introduced in many progressive institutions as part of physical training, at home and abroad.
Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya
Director of Physical Education,
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.
1. Select a quiet and well ventilated place. Fix a time when you are not in a hurry and are not tired; be punctual and regular. Avoid the period immediately after or less than half an hour before a big meal. You may bathe just before the asanas but never less than half an hour after. Wear clothes that will not hinder the free movement of your limbs.
2.You may, if time permits, do asanas in the morning and other types of exercises in the evening; or do them on alternate clays. Whatever you do, do not mix asanas with other forms of exercises in a single session. You may take one day off in a week for rest.
3. The final poses of all the asanas have been shown. In some cases the initial poses also. Where there are bilateral actions, left side and right side actions have been shown separately. Slowly take the final pose in each asana and remain relaxed. Never apply force.
4. Try to do the asanas as correctly as possible, even if you stay in a pose for only a few seconds. In that case, make two or three attempts of shorter duration. Start with the timings with which you feel comfortable, then slowly and gradually increase the time to reach the maximum given in the text.
5. Always concentrate fully on the area where you feel the maximum resistance in each asana.
6. Never hold your breath. Breathe normally all the time.
7. Relax (in Shavasana) for about 15 to 20 seconds between two asanas.

Courtesy and Link:

Mother's Mantra: OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH (ॐ नमो भगवते)

The first word, OM , represents 
the supreme invocation, the invocation to the Supreme.

The second word, NAMO, represents 
total self-giving, perfect surrender.

The third word, BHAGAVATEH, represents 
the aspiration,
what the manifestation must become — Divine.

When I sit in meditation or I have a minute of quiet for concentration, this
mantra arises from the solar plexus, and there is a response in the cells of
the body: they all start vibrating. Everything gets filled with Light!

                                                                                      - The Mother

The Mother [Agenda, 26 April 1972] 

'I am beginning to understand why Sri Aurobindo always said it was woman that could build a bridge between the two. I am beginning to understand. One day, I'll explain. I am beginning to understand. Sri Aurobindo used to say: it is woman that can build a bridge between the old world and the supramental world. Now I understand. '
The spirit's alchemist energy is hers;

She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire.

[Mother's comments on Savitri]


pianomonika said...

A very good guide to Integral yoga Practice.
Even the ancient Latins said:Mens sana in corpore sano--Healthy mind in a healthy body.
Proper breathing plays a great role in life, and Sri Aurobindo told this: The will focus your practice on a single aspiration to get in touch with the Mother.
It is a long way, many things must be done, but the way to it is shown by the great Sri Aurobindo.

pianomonika said...

The Mother said: The true lasting quietness comes form a complete consecration to the Divine.
One have to be willing to go this way.