Real Yoga From India by Uma

Real Yoga from India - by Umadevi

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a system of holistic living that originated in India several thousands of years back. When we say yoga, what it means to most of us is a set of stretching and breathing exercises that promote fitness through relaxation. The real scope of yoga is much more than that. What we learn today is only a small part of the vast system.

The thought behind Yoga

The modern life we lead today is the result of thousands of discoveries, inventions, thoughts and work of some men and women over the centuries. Their ideas and inventions have helped us to lead a comfortable life today. We know these men and women by different names- scientists, thinkers and artists. One thing common to them all is that they were all devoted to knowledge, truth and beauty.

In ancient India, these people who gave their lives for discovering beauty, truth and happiness were called rishis and munis. A rishi is one who sees, or a seer. Muni means one who keeps silent, that is someone who talks very less and contemplates a lot. These rishis and munis lived very simple lives and spent all their time in search of knowledge. They worked and taught on many walks of life- physical sciences, health sciences, astronomy, mathematics, arts and sexuality.

These men and women had very little ambition for fame or money- they worked for the delight of knowledge and joy of giving their discoveries for the benefit of everyone. When they wrote books on their discoveries, some of them didn’t bother to add their names to the books.  As a result, the names of many of these people got lost with the years. Today we know that the concept of zero in mathematics originated among these rishis. Another muni, Kanada, gave us the theory of paramanu or atom as we know today. Ayurveda, or the Indian system of medicine, was the work of a set of munis, Charaka and Sushruta famous among them. It was again a muni, Vatsyayana who gave us Kamasutra, the ancient Indian treatise on sexuality. All the Indian classical dance forms originated from Natya Shastra, the work of Bharata Muni.

Although these rishis and munis worked on diverse fields, there were a few common things they all believed in. Science tells us today that all matter around us is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Science has also proved that matter can be converted into energy and vice versa. In other words, we can say that everything around are different forms of energy. The sages in India went one step further. They said that everything around us, living and non-living, are different manifestations of supreme consciousness. We might want to use the word God to describe this supreme consciousness. The rishis used to call it Brahman.

This was not just a theory to the rishis. Through practice of meditation, penance and other means, they were able to experience Brahman, which is a state of being. Every form of energy and matter manifested from Brahman. The words that we use to describe the things of our ordinary lives are finite and thus unable to express the infinite Brahman. The rishis used three words to describe Brahman. The Brahman is sat (that which exists), chit (that which is divine light), and ananda (that which is pure bliss).

As Brahman is all there is, we can say that we are also Brahman. We come to live, get on with life and then fade away just like waves form in the vast ocean.

However this is all theory to us. We see and experience many different things around us. It is hard for us to believe that we are one with the tree in front of our house, let alone the universe! In other words, we experience separateness in everything.

The rishis said that this experience of separateness is the root cause of all suffering and ailments in the world. The cause for this sense of separateness is maya (ignorance or illusion). Yes, maya is also Brahman. Maya manifested as the first step of Brahman’s intention to make different manifestations out of itself. Thus there were two entities, Brahman and Maya, and then they multiplied into countless forms as we see them now.

Thus through Maya the sense of separateness was born. As separate beings, we feel limited and incomplete. When we see many different things around us, we feel that we can feel more complete by having more of those things. Thus desire is born. Unmet desires cause suffering. Suffering causes pain in the mind and illnesses in the body.

That was a rather simple explanation. In our life, we experience separateness and its problems in many ways. Sometimes our work doesn’t get done- we get angry. A dear one does something we didn’t expect them to do- we are hurt. We lose someone or something- we feel sad. Many things make us worried, overworked, stressed out, revengeful. All these things take a toll on our body and we fall ill.

The word yoga means union in Sanskrit. We saw that our experience of separateness with the universe is the root of all problems. The ultimate aim of yoga is to help us experience our oneness-union- with the universe. If we are able to experience even for a moment that we are masters of much more than we can ever imagine in our limited capacity- all the wealth, all the beauty and all the joy in the universe- wouldn’t it make us much happier?

This does not mean that we have to leave our sense of identity or way of life. All these things are part of the plan of the universe- otherwise we won’t be here. Yoga simply helps us to appreciate the connectedness between different things. It helps us to keep things in perspective. It helps us to manage our emotions and our body better. We feel in harmony with ourselves and the universe.

The sages of ancient India were people who experienced this oneness with the Universe. They also cared to share the ways everyone can experience this oneness. There are many ways to this experience. As these are ways to experience union with our divine self, the sages used the word yoga to name them.

Thus there are many yogas, not just one, to suit different people. The intellectual can reach this sense of harmony by contemplation. This is called jnana yoga (knowledge, thought). The highly emotional person experiences union through bhakti yoga (devotion to god or a deity of their liking). People engaged in normal life as we know it can experience oneness by karma yoga (doing things with awareness and detachment). Often, people have to combine several yogas. For example, even if you are the intellectual kind, you cannot spend all your life in contemplation. You have to go through the business of life- work, play, relationships, everything come into the picture. So you have to use a combination of karma and jnana yogas. There are many other ways- in fact as many unique ways as are people on this earth.

The yoga as we know today- a set of stretching and breathing exercises, and some meditation- is only part of Raja yoga, a system developed by Patanjali Maharshi. (Maharshi is maha+ rishi, meaning a great rishi). Raja Yoga has hatha yoga (physical exercises and postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and dhyana (meditation).

More on Raja Yoga

Health science today tells us that mind and body are connected entities. This means that what goes on in the mind affects the body and vice versa. Difficulties in the mind often lead to illnesses in the body. Such illnesses, caused by the mind, are called psychosomatic illnesses.

Long before the word psychosomatic was formed, the rishis of India knew of this connection. In fact they said that the mind is another layer of the body. They explained it this way.

The Brahman manifests as the universe and its countless things through different stages. Each separate entity experiences its own separate soul. This individual soul is called jiva. Each jiva has a body with five layers. Each layer is called a kosha. These layers are as follows.

  1. Annamaya Kosha: This is the outermost layer, the body we see, made of bones, skin, muscles, blood, hormones, enzymes and so on. This is the layer of matter.
  2. Pranamaya Kosha: This is the layer of the energies that operate through this body. The sages thought that there are five kinds of energies that run the body. These energies were called pranas. Pranas operate through nerves.
  3. Manomaya kosha: This is the realm of conscious mind- the thoughts and feelings of our waking life.
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha: This is that layer of mind where our stored memories and unconscious mind come in. This is the layer of mind we are in when we are dreaming.
  5. Ananadamaya Kosha or Karana Kosha: This is the innermost and the finest layer. This is a stage of deep forgetfulness and complete bliss, we experience only when we are in the deep sleep stage. Rishis believed that this is where the universe’s plan or blueprint for each individual soul is stored.

The outermost layer is the easiest for us to see and verify. The layers get finer and finer as we go inside, this is why we are not able to identify and verify them easily. In reality, the pranamaya kosha is spread all over the annamaya kosha, the manomaya kosha is spread all over the pranamaya kosha and so on.

We see that there is a layer of prana (energy) between the layers of the outer body and the mind. The work of this energy is easiest to be seen in the breathing process of our body.

The principle of yoga is this. The outer, physical body, its energy or prana (through breathing) and our thoughts and feelings are the things we experience in our waking life. Thus these are the only three things we have direct control over. By managing these layers, we are able to indirectly influence the inner layers and thus experience overall harmony.

So we have physical exercises or hatha yoga to manage the body, breathing exercises or pranayama for the energy field, and meditation for the mind. This does not mean that hatha yoga benefits only the body, pranayama helps only the energy field and so on. All these layers overlap, so an influence on one layer affects all the others. Ideally, we should practice hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation in combination.

If you are a beginner, you might start out with only the physical exercises. As you progress, you can start on pranayama and later meditation.

How to start on Yoga

The name yoga conjures up images of impossible postures and acrobatics in the minds of many people. Well, there are easy postures and exercises and there are difficult ones too. Easy or difficult, each of these postures and exercises are there because they benefit some problem or the other.

The good news is that you don’t have to do anything you are not comfortable doing. Do only what and as much as you can. Any yoga instructor worth his salt will tell you to be gentle and patient with your body. With gentle but regular practice, you will be amazed to see how much you can achieve. You might still not be able to do what that film star shows in that magazine cover, but you feel far more flexible than when you started!

Elsewhere in this article, you will see some common and well known postures and exercises, including breathing exercises. Some are pretty easy and safe to do on your own. Some others are not so easy. Ideally, you should start on a yoga program under the supervision of a good trainer. This is all the more so for people with health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases etc.

How to find a good trainer

There are many people all over the world who profess to teach yoga. All of them may not be working in your best interests. Here are a few common sense tips to use.

Some of the people who teach yoga are gurus and spiritual practitioners. We saw that there are in fact countless yogas. Hatha yoga and pranayama are in fact just one part. Some gurus and guides may combine yoga exercises with their own unique formulae. Some might advocate bhakti (devotion) and practice of yoga together. Some others might advise you to read and follow spiritual philosophy (jnana). Then there are some who use tantra techniques along with yoga (more on tantra later).

Guru or layman trainer, some of them are genuine and some are fakes out to make a quick buck and then some. Some trainers know their job well and others with a little learning are outright dangerous to you.

Let us leave out the fakes and have a word about the sincere ones. Know that, even among them, all of them are not dependable. The guru might be talking about a technique that worked for him or her. That doesn’t mean that it has to suit you. You are unique. If what the guru prescribes doesn’t feel right for you, please stay away from it. Do only what appeals to your common sense and values.

This is the real test. A good guru or yoga trainer will talk to your common sense. He or she will not force you to do something you are not comfortable doing, or something that doesn’t feel right to you. Always use your common sense and be gentle with your body. Never do anything that feels wrong to your morals.

There are many ancient Indian texts that discuss kinds of yoga and the thought system behind it. Bhagavad Gita is the most important among them. Gita is a conversation between Krishna, and his friend and disciple Arjun. Arjun was a noble and great warrior. Krishna was much more than that- guru, leader and embodiment of love, joy and beauty. Arjun is faced with some difficult choices, as he has to battle with his loved ones who are on the side of wrong. Krishna explains to him that death and birth are not real but the soul is immortal. He also tells him why it is important for a noble and strong person to do the right thing.

In the process, Krishna discusses the different yogas with special emphasis on karma yoga. He concludes the conversation this way:

Iti te jnanam akhyatam

Guhyad guhyataram maya

Vimrushaitad asheshena

Yathecchasi tatha kuru

Thus I have explained to you these rare and valuable principles. Think about them, and do as you wish.

The rishis considered Krishna to be the complete manifestation of the Universal Consciousness (Brahma). Krishna is also called Yogeshwar, meaning the supreme master of yoga. Yet he doesn’t force Arjun to do as he advised. Being Arjun’s best friend, he has great influence over Arjun. Yet he doesn’t tell him “I’ll be annoyed if you don’t do this”.

Krishna doesn’t get angry when Arjun asks questions. In fact he encourages Arjun to ask, and takes delight in answering. He uses rational arguments. He gives profound wisdom in clear words.

When you are in doubt about a guru or trainer, remember what Krishna did.


You need very little preparation to start on a yoga program. You will feel comfortable in a pair of loose fitting sweat pants or leggings, and a t-shirt. In India, many people prefer to wear cotton pyjama- kurta. This is also fine. You don’t need shoes, as yoga is done barefoot. Investing in an exercise mat is a good idea. If you are going to a yoga school, they might lend their mats.

As with any other exercise program, you would do well to consult your doctor before you start yoga. This is more important if you have any health problems like high blood pressure. Yoga is a safe and gentle technique, but some of the exercises and postures can get tricky.

Mornings are the best time to practise yoga. One reason is that your stomach is empty in the morning. As yoga needs twisting, turning and bending, doing them with a full stomach will not feel comfortable. If you have to choose another time, try not to eat anything two to three hours before the exercises. If at all you have to eat, that is if your digestion is very fast and you might feel very tired if you exercise on empty stomach, have light snacks like fruit or nuts an hour before you start.

Some Simple Postures

  1. Paschimotanasana: Sit upright and stretch out your legs in front of you in a straight line. The legs should be held together. Now bend your trunk forward slowly and stretch out your arms. Try to touch your knees with your forehead and toes with your hands. (Do not force your body. Let it bend comfortably, as much as it can. With regular practice, your stretch will improve). Go slowly back to the upright position.

This exercise improves memory and works on the abdominal organs. Avoid this exercise if you have slipped disc, hernia or lumbar spondylosis.

  1.  Vajrasana: Start with kneeling on the ground. Keep the heels slightly apart. Turn the soles of your feet upward, go down and sit on the soles. Keep the body erect and hands on the knees.

This exercise is good for digestion.

  1. Shalabhasana: (butterfly posture) Lie face down. Raise the face and keep your chin on the ground. Raise your legs as much as you can, keeping them straight. Support your thighs with your hands.

This exercise helps to strengthen lungs, abdominal organs, prostrate glands and kidneys. Avoid this exercise if you have hernia, heart problems or ulcer.

  1. Bhujangasana: (serpent posture) Lie face downwards. Keep your hands on your side, close to the shoulders. Raise your trunk as much as you can. Do not use the hands to prop the body, you should use your abdominal muscles for raising the trunk. Stay in the position as much as you can. Return slowly to rest.

Bhujangasana is excellent for toning the abdominal muscles.

  1. Padahastasana: Stand straight. Bend slowly forward without bending the knees. Try to touch your feet using your hands, and the knees using your nose. Hold the position and return slowly to rest.

This is a good exercise for stretching the spine.

  1. Shavasana: This is a deep relaxation posture. Always end your yoga session with shavasana. Lie down face upwards. Stretch out your feet, keeping them a foot or so apart from each other. Keep your arms a little apart from the body. Take slow, deep breaths and relax.
  2. Ardha Halasana: Lie down face up. While breathing in, lift your right leg, keeping the knee straight. Hold the leg in a vertical position as long as you can comfortably, breathing normally. Breathe out and bring the leg back. Now repeat with the other leg.

This exercise is good for lower back, knees and abdominals.

  1. Uttana Padasana: Lie down face up. Breathing in, lift both legs up and bring them to a vertical position. Hold position as long as you can, breathing normally. Exhale and return. Knees should be straight.

This is good for lower abdomen, legs, back and shoulders. Avoid if you have knee pain, ulcers, back pain and soon after abdominal surgery.

  1. Ardha Pavana Muktasana: Lie down face up. Breathe in, raise the right leg and press the thigh against abdomen. (Your leg will be in a folded position this way). Now raise your head and try to touch your knee with your chin. Hold position, breathing normally. Now return the leg to the stretched position, breathing out. Repeat with left leg.

Ardha Pavana Muktasana is good for upper abdominal muscles and the back.

  1. Pavana Muktasana: Lie down as in 9. Breathing in, raise both legs. Keeping the legs in folded position, press thighs against abdomen. Raise your head and touch chin between the knees. Hold position, breathing normally. Now breathe out and return legs to the normal position.

Avoid if you have neck and shoulder problems. This is a good exercise to help diabetes, high blood pressure, and constipation. Also tones up the upper abdominal muscles.

  1. Uttana Tadasana: Lie down face up. Breathe in and stretch hands upwards and legs downwards. Breathe normally, holding position. Now breathe out and relax.

This exercise stretches and releases tension in the spine.

  1.  Makarasana: This is another relaxation posture. Lie down face down. Now lift the head and upper portion of your body. Cross arms and keep palms on shoulders. Rest head between hands. Keep legs slightly apart. Breathe normally.
  2. Ardha Dhanurasana: Lie face down. Lift upper torso. Hold right ankle with left hand. Breathing in, raise the leg and stretch body. Hold position, breathing normally. Breathing out, come back to normal position. Repeat with the other leg and hand.

This posture strengthens the spine and tones the thighs and abdominal muscles.

  1. Dhanurasana: Look at 13. Here, you hold both ankles with the hands. Breathe in and pull up the body. Breathe out and return.

Avoid dhanurasana if you have heart problems, hernia, slip disc or ulcers. This posture is good for problems like diabetes, asthma and constipation.

  1. Naukasana: Lie down face down. Breathing in, lift hands, legs, chest and head. Keep hands and legs straight. In this position, your body resembles the shape of a boat, hence the name nauka (boat) asana. Breathe normally and hold position. Now exhale and return to normal.

Naukasana makes the body more flexible and helps back pain and constipation.

  1. Vakrasana: Sit up and stretch out both legs in front of you. Now bend right leg and hold it near left knee, resting foot on the ground. Hold the right foot with left hand. Rest right hand on ground behind you, giving support to the spine. Breathe out and look towards the right shoulder. Hold position, breathing normally. Breathe in and return. Repeat with the other side.

This posture is beneficial to relieve diabetes, constipation, back pain and high blood pressure.

  1. Hastha Parshwasana: Sit in vajrasana. Entwine fingers of both hands at back. Breathe in and stretch hands and neck. Hold position, breathing normally. Exhale and return.
  2. Mandukasana: Sit in vajrasana and place fists on the navel. Gradually bend forward, breathing out. Go as far as you can and try to touch ground with your forehead. Inhale and return.

This posture is beneficial for the reproductive system and digestive system.

  1. Purvottanasana: Lie down face up. Breathing in, raise body with the support of palms and heals. Breathe out and return.

This posture relieves back pain and strengthens heart and lungs.

  1. Padmasana: (Lotus position) Sit on a comfortable platform and fold legs. The legs should be crossed in such a way that both heels are near the navel. Breathe normally. This is a highly preferred position for doing pranayama and meditation.

This posture is excellent for calming the mind and strengthening nerves.

Some Breathing Exercises:

1. Anuloma Viloma: Sit upright, in padmasana or vajrasana. If you have difficulty doing this, you can sit erect on a chair, without leaning on the backrest.  Close the right nostril slowly, and do exhalation and inhalation through the left nostril. Now close both nostrils and hold breath for sometime. Change and repeat with the other nostril.

If you have conditions like high blood pressure, avoid holding breath and just do the inhalation-exhalation closing one nostril after the other.

2. Bhramari: Sit upright as in 1. Gently close your eyes. Now close your ears with index fingers. Take in a deep breath. Breathe out slowly, making a humming sound from the throat. Repeat the process five times.

3. Sheetali: Sit upright. Roll your tongue like a bird’s beak. The tip of the tongue should be outside the mouth. Breathe in through the opening of the tongue. Now close the mouth and breathe out through the nose.

4. Sitakari: Sit upright. Fold tongue between teeth. Keep the teeth in a clenched position and breathe in through this. Close mouth and now breathe out through nose.

Surya Namaskar

Some of you may not have the time or patience to learn and practice many different postures for different parts of the body. Such people may do well to learn surya namaskar. It is a simple yet powerful exercise that benefits the entire body.

Surya namaskar means salutation to the sun. We know that Sun is the source of energy and life on earth. Sun is a god in India, and he is believed to stand for soul, knowledge, health and all things noble.

Surya namaskar is a set of twelve asanas that are done in a particular sequence. Surya namaskar is more than a set of physical exercises. It combines the elements of hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation. Beginners start surya namaskar as the physical exercise. As they start gaining proficiency in the physical postures, they can build in elements of pranayama (breathing) and finally meditation.

The ideal time to do surya namaskar is in the morning, when the sun is just rising. Do the exercises facing the east and try to expose your body to the sun’s rays. You can start with three rounds. As you gain proficiency, increase the number till you can do twelve rounds.

Surya namaskar is a great way to retain youth and vitality. It also promotes your intellect and spiritual values, making you more alert, peaceful and loving.

The steps are as follows:

1. Breathe out and fold your hands in front of your body, close to your chest.

2. Inhale deeply, unfold and raise your hands upwards. Stretch gently backwards as much as you can. This should be done keeping your eyes open. Hold for a few seconds.

3. Exhale completely, bend slowly forward and touch the grounds with your palms.

4. Breathe in and bend left leg, while stretching your right leg backwards. The knee and toes of the right hand should be touching the ground. Look upwards.

5. Hold your breath and extend the left leg also backwards. Lift the knees of both legs off ground along with this. This is similar to the push up position where the heels, hip and head are in a straight line.

6. Breathe out and bring your body to the ground. You are now in a prostrate position, called sashtanga namaskara. This means that only eight parts of the body are touching the ground- they are the forehead, chest, two hands, two knees and two feet. Abdominal muscles should be pulled in so that stomach doesn’t touch the ground.

7. Breathe in and slowly raise the trunk, using straightened arms as props to hold the body up. Bend the head backwards.

8. Breathe out and raise the middle part of your body, keeping the head and shoulders bent forward. This position looks like an inverted V.

9. Breathe in and come back to the position 4. This time, the right leg should be bent forward and the left leg should be extended backward.

10. Breathe out and bring your body back to the position 3. (bending forward).

11. Inhale, raise your body and come back to the position 2.

12. Breathe out and bring your hands down. This concludes one cycle of surya namaskar.

You can start with three cycles. With some practice, you will be able to perform all the positions easily.


Many yoga practitioners today do not give much importance to the meditative aspects of yoga. Most of them emphasize on the exercise part. However research has shown that meditation helps to calm the mind and nerves, thus reducing stress and stress- related illnesses like hypertension. Meditation has also been shown to help psychological wellbeing. So regardless of whether you are spiritually inclined or not, you would do well to include some meditation as part of your yoga routine.

There are many different meditation techniques. Some trainers advise you to use chanting, others might ask you to follow visualization. Choose whatever you feel inclined to take up.

To start with, you might try the given simple techniques to see how meditation works for you.

The first thing about meditation, especially for a beginner, is that he or she finds a quiet place and some alone time. Meditation trainers may advise you to sit in the lotus posture or vajrasana. These postures do have their benefits, but you can follow whatever posture is comfortable to you. You can meditate sitting in a chair, standing or even lying down. (But when you try to meditate lying down, chances are that the relaxation will cause you to fall asleep!). However, all said and done, sitting postures with an erect spine are ideal.

As a total beginner, the first thing you have to train yourself is to sit still. You don’t have to try to focus your thoughts. You may find that sitting still, doing nothing, is not as easy as you thought. Find one posture you are comfortable with, and make sure that you don’t have to shift your body. (If you are taking up lotus posture or vajrasana, you may not be able to sit in it for a long time. Persist and gradually increase the time). The one thing you have to do at this stage is observe your body with all its restlessness and any discomfort it may feel due to the posture.

Once you can sit comfortably still for about fifteen minutes or so, start on the next level. Here, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. (You must be in a place where there isn’t a lot of noise). Listen as much as you can and see how many register in your mind, and how long you can continue with this till your attention wanders.

There are several practices like chanting as the next stage. However here I would like to give you something more neutral- that is, observe your breathing. Feel the air as it touches your nostrils, and follow its path to the lung and on its way out. This is a simple yet powerful tool to calm the mind and induce a state of deep relaxation.

This technique sounds simple, but it is easier said than done. After a few breaths, your mind will wander. Do not get angry with yourself. Simply try to bring your mind back to observing the breath. Start with smaller durations like five minutes, and gradually increase the time. Be cautioned again, this is not as easy as it looks. After a few days you may find this not working as much as you hoped, but do not give up. Even a few minutes of this practice is highly relaxing.

Another method is to sit still and observe your thoughts. This may sound the exact opposite of your notion of meditation- which is to empty the mind of all thoughts. Well, the principle is this: if you try to force thoughts out of mind, they will return with a vengeance. Instead, simply observe the thoughts as they pass through the mind. Do not judge them as good and bad, label them or manage them. Let them come and go on their own. Simply observe them and be aware of them. With regular practice, the inner chatter reduces and the mind grows calmer.

These techniques take you as far as relaxation, calming the mind and developing more mindfulness. The more spiritually oriented can combine these with a spiritual system of their liking.

What is Kundalini Yoga?

Kundalini Yoga is another expression of the philosophy we learned in Raja Yoga. While Raja Yoga makes a rational explanation, Kundalini Yoga is mystical.

We saw that the basis of everything around us is pure undivided consciousness. This consciousness is called Brahman in Raja Yoga and Sadasiva in KundaliniYoga. The basic life force that gives birth to the individual soul is called Kundalini.

The yogis said that there are different points in the human body associated with different levels of consciousness. These points, called charkas, start from the base of the spine and end at the crown of the head. The level of the soul’s awareness depends on the level of Kundalini. In the case of ordinary human beings, the level of awareness is at the base. Thus, it is said that their Kundalini is sleeping at the charka at the base of the spine. At best, it might be at the next level at the crotch.

By practicing pranayama, that is regulating the prana, it is possible to awaken Kundalini and raise it to the higher chakras. When the Kundalini ascends to higher charkas, it results in greater levels of consciousness. When it reaches the topmost (crown) charka, the soul completely unites with the Universal consciousness (Sada Siva) and all sense of personality and separateness vanish.

Thus Kundalini Yoga is only for the spiritual seeker. It is said that advanced practice of other yogas also awakens of Kundalini.

What is Tantra?

Tantra is an ancient Indian system of worship closely associated with Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini is also called Shakti or the feminine principle, whereas Sada Siva is the masculine principle. This is similar to the Ying and Yang of Chinese philosophies. Tantra uses a combination of yoga postures, meditation, pranayama and rituals to awaken Kundalini or Shakti and take it forward to unite with Sada Siva.

Shakti worship is shrouded in mystery. Some of the rituals resemble black magic practices. Rituals are said to sometimes include sex –considered a hindrance to spiritual advancement in common spiritual systems- to evoke the union of Sada Siva and Shakti in the individual consciousness.

Thus tantra is highly exotic. It is difficult to say what really helps. Real tantra practitioners are said to be highly advanced souls. Tantra and Kundalini Yoga are not for beginners of spiritual practice.

Some spiritual guides may have elements of Tantra and Kundalini Yoga in their systems, and needless to say, not all of them are real practitioners. Some might be using tantra as a cover up for sleazy activities. Use your discretion and steer clear of anything that looks suspicious.

Summing Up

Yoga is not one uniform practice all over the world, there are many yogas. What you must choose depends on your goals and personality. Whatever you choose, do not aim to achieve too much too soon. Easy does it. And above all, keep the positive spirit of yoga in mind at all times. This spirit is beautifully captured in this verse from Kathopanishad, often used as a prayer in yoga classes in India. The teacher and pupils start the session with chanting of this verse:

Sahanavavatu, saha nau bhunaktu

Sahaveeryam karavavahai


Ma vidwishavahai

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

(May we be always protected together. May we share nourishment together. May we attain vitality together. May the light of supreme knowledge shine on both of us. May we never come to hate each other. May peace come to all)

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