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7 SIGNS OF PROGRESS IN YOGA

Posted on December 15, 2014 by yogaandrini


Laghutvam-arogyam-alolupatvam

Varna prasadam svara saushtavam ca

Gandhaha shubho mutrapurisham-alpam

Yogapravrttim prathamam vadanti

 

Lightness, good health, non-covetousness,

Glowing complexion, sweetness of voice. Sweet fragrance and scanty output of urine and feces. Are the first signs of progress in yoga.

Shetashvatara Upanishad 2.13

 

It is natural for a regular yoga practitioner to exude certain qualities and a glowing complexion is just one side effect. How to achieve and maintain this will be discussed below, but first it is important to understand the afflictions the yoga practitioner and every mortal in this world faces.

Avidya asmita ragha dvesha abhinivesha pancha kleshaha

Ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and fear of death are five afflictions.

Yoga Sutra 2.3

 

It is imperative for a yogi to circumvent the above five afflictions through correct understanding, regular practice of meditation, worshiping of Ishwara (the Lord) and by getting the guidance of a guru.

These obstacles bind us to the wheel of repeated cycles of birth and death (samsara) and are by no means easy to avert.

Another set of afflictions are adhyatmikaadhibhautika and adhidaivika.

As the ones mentioned above, Adhyatmika are mental and physical afflictions made by us alone. Mental afflictions constitute desire, anger, hatred, greed, regret, jealousy, misunderstanding, reaction to rebuke and faultfinding.

Physical afflictions include diseases of the head and lungs, fevers, stomach pains, ulcers, spleen disorders, edemas, fistula, breathing difficulties and vomiting; also eye diseases, skin diseases, indigestion and diarrhea among many others.

  • Adhibhautika are the kinds of sufferings afflicted on us by other living beings such as cruel people and animals.
  • Adhidaivika are sufferings caused by natural and/or extreme elemental forces that we do not control.

Nevertheless, being on the path of yoga does usher a light that helps destroy those diseases, illnesses, ignorance and other afflictions, which in turn produces visible and comprehendible signs of success in the practice of yoga.

Lightness (Laghutva)

Lightness is the foremost characteristic of the practice of yoga; the body simply becomes light. It may be argued that regular exercise also brings lightness to the body but certainly not in the liberating sense that yoga does. This is due to the prime factor incorporated in yoga practice, Pranayama i.e. the lengthening of prana or life air.

Five major types of prana govern all major 'events' in the body.

Apana is the downward pushing air that helps eliminate stool, urine and menstrual blood. It also helps deliver babies and expel semen. Its seat is in the colon.

Prana moves inwards into the chest region and enhances confidence, gregariousness, and contentment. Its seat is in the heart.

The function of Samana air is to absorb the nutrients into the digestive tract and digest food. It moves around in the waist area. Its seat is in the stomach.

Udana air moves upwards and induces felicity and a sense of the ethereal. Its seat is in the throat.

Vyana air circulates around the body and is responsible for absorbing nutrients into the blood stream. It is also responsible for a glowing face.

Be assured that these Pranas have far more complex duties and many more benefits than the inadequate few mentioned above.

However, in relation to lightness we must understand the right pranic mix.

With the practice of yoga, the downward flowing air or Apana is forced to move up into the Prana air, which resides in the chest. The combustion of the two generates Udana, the 'flying up' air, which is responsible for the feeling of elation. Said simply, it makes you feel like being above the rest.

This long-term cultivation of Udana air is precisely what yogis master, bringing about a great sense of lightness. The following Yoga Sutra brings this understanding to the fore:

Udana jayat jala panka

Kantakadishu asangaha utkrantihi ca

When Udana air is mastered, there is disunion from water, swamps,

thorns and others; ascending happens too.

Yoga Sutra 3.40

Note the word “ascending”. Ascending happens at the time of death and the soul (Jiva) that was constrained by the physical body has, due to the practice of yoga, becomes liberated and is able to enter into the realm of ‘absolute freedom’ , Moksha in Sanskrit. The very disunion from water, swamps and thorns indicates the guidance of Udana air of taking us away from being earth bound.

The unanimous understanding of the yogis’ scripts with regard to liberation and lightness is in the knowing and manipulation of Udana air. Yoga is not only practiced in the realm of the asanas or yoga poses, it also especially focuses on Pranayama, the breathing exercises that manipulate all the airs. This is the actual beginning, middle and end of all yogic practices. Pranayama’s ultimate goal (in terms of liberation) is to raise Udana and keep it raised at all times.

Mantra invocation is another method of raising Udana air. Here, the whole being is energized by the mantra, which is sealed by the mudras (seals) thus fixing Udana air in the region above the throat.

There are other methods to raise Udana.

One is through meditation.

Another is the way of deep discrimination, with a sense of detachment from worldly affairs, of what constitutes eternity and what falls in the realm of impermanency.

In addition, the yoga of devotion and utter surrender to the Lord is also said to raise Udana air to the upper regions of the body.

These practices push and maintain the Udana air in the region of the throat and head. Over a longer period, natural discrimination sets in and what the Self is and is not becomes apparent.

Health (Arogya)

A natural consequence of regular practice of yoga is good health; indeed, it is the best lifestyle regulator. There are no better remedies than continuous and dedicated practice of yoga.

Health primarily depends on the state of inner organs. The liver, the seat of metabolic fire with its 500+ functions, together with the colon, the seat of the concomitant sum of all the pranas, are the two most vital organs, besides the heart, that need intensive care and should be cleansed prior to anything else.

The liver’s digestive fire either will or will not be able to metabolize food, break down fats and protein, produce enough anti-bodies and above all move the Pranas with the heat emanated in their respective directions.

The colon is mainly responsible for the elimination of stool, but is indeed more than that; it is also responsible for the flow of Apana air (downward pushing air) and with it, all the toxic impurities in the mind too.

Vata air that cannot move freely becomes cold and, at first dwells in the stomach and intestines, then it moves into the joints and further into the bones and marrow, lastly pushing towards the brain, inducing various mental disorders. Hence, the control of the Pranas, which as we said above, constitutes the Vata property of the body, is vital for the yogi and pretty much anybody wishing good and robust health.

Non-covetousness (Alolupatva)

Yes, when practiced properly yoga does diminish desires. Non-covetousness is the fifth restraint (yama) listed in the Yoga Sutra and it is imperative for the advancement in yoga. Again, the rising Udana air is responsible for the anchoring of oneself in the pure, undiluted Self and the detachment with worldliness. This happens when following the path of practice and detachment.

In yoga, we talk about three knots or granthis that keep us shackled to covetousness; they are the BrahmaVishnu and Rudra granthis.

The first one, the Brahma granthi, denotes the knot of procreation, the base desire for sex, attachment to possessions and lordship over others.

The second, the Vishnu granthi, is the knot of mental attachments as well as covetousness of the heart. From a yogic point of view, whatever the attachment might be, it still is an attachment and hence it is counterproductive to the practice of yoga, which strives for freedom from good and bad deeds alike.

The third knot, the Rudra granthi, situated in the sixth Chakra is popularly known as the third eye. Here, the covetousness is with regard to intellectual and spiritual matters.

As said above, the rising Udana air, from the prolonged practices of Pranayama, as well as the other above explained practices will diminish the desire to be entertained in the lower parts of the body. The aspirant, mastering the practice and using the intellect to understand covetousness and, with it, the connected dangers will shine forth in every endeavor she/he undertakes.

Glowing Complexion (Varnaprasada)

Usually saints and sages are pictured with a halo around their head. It is but an indicator of the strength of their prana. The halo or golden shine itself is certainly an indicator of a pure nature.

Sage Patanjali clearly states in the very beginnings of his Yoga Sutras:

Yoga chittavritti nirodhaha

Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam

Vritti sarupyam itaratra

Yoga is the restraint of movement in consciousness.

Then the seer stands in its own nature.

Otherwise, he identifies with movements in consciousness elsewhere.

Yoga Sutra 1.2-4

The above declaration forms the essence of yoga.

When consciousness is restrained, it reaches its eternal resting place in its own nature, termed Atman, the spiritual, shinning self. The more one restrains the senses and abides in one's Atman, the greater the shine produced. It is Indeed the practice of Pranayama, the yogic breathing exercises, which magnify this shine.

Tatah kshiyate prakasa avaranam

Thence the cover of light is destroyed.

Yoga Sutra 2.52

The control and lengthening of Prana is achieved not only through Pranayama but also through the practice of Mantra Yoga. The shine of the particular divinity invoked by the mantra will be embedded in the Atman of the practitioner.

Finally, the greatest shine produced is by seeing an equal self in all other beings. This is the highest yoga, the yoga of immense compassion and true divine nature.

Sweetness of Voice (Svarasaushtava)

It does not necessarily means that the practitioner will become a great singer though singing capacity may manifest. The voice becomes sweet and alluring; the words convey the truth.

How does this happen?

The remarkable Udana air pushes up and clears the Vishuddhi or throat chakra. The Vishuddhi chakra is composed of all vowels without which consonants have no power. Similarly, without the activation of the Vishuddhi by the rising Udana air, there is no sweetness of speech or the power of Atman behind the words.

Fragrance (Shubhagandha)

This body is mortal and once dead, it emits a foul smell. Indeed the body does not need to be dead to emit a foul smell. It does so by the sheer mismanaged lifestyle by the body's owner. However, with the practice of yoga, the internal organs, especially the liver, intestines and colon are cleansed and food becomes less taxing on the body. The body becomes either fragrant or odorless as the toxic nature of the consumed food is diminished.

Yoga does require some dietary control and the food consumed should be of the same nature of Atman. Differentiating between pure and impure food is proof of yoga. Good fragrance can also be obtained by continence. The procreative power if not brazenly and indiscriminately lost will provide a pleasant fragrance to the body and pure love for the surrounding.

Scanty Urine and Feces (Alpamutra-purisha)

The practice of yoga in its various forms automatically decreases food intake as the upward pushing Udana air becomes more prominent, pushing the very Atman away succumbing to over eating. This increases digestive power, as the digestive fire, Jatharagni, has its way to metabolize food properly; improved digestion leave less toxic mass from undigested food. The main occupation of the world seems to be a constant search for food and sex. The power of yoga helps the sincere yogi transcend or at least diminish the cravings and urges of the tongue, stomach and genitals, incidentally all situated in one line.

The powers of yoga are many, the benefits tremendous and the signs self- evident.


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