Chapter 1: Antaranga Yoga: an Introduction
Aspects of yogic discipline
Preparation for Antaranga Yoga
Yoga is not only an inward journey but externally it unites with nature and self. Yoga is an ancient and complete humanistic spiritual science that evolved through thousands of years of study and inner experience. Today people practice yoga for bodily health, mental concentration, tranquility, and spiritual experience. There are a variety of yogic paths to suit different human needs and temperaments all of which assist in the liberation of human potential and creativity. Understandably, many of the paths interact and flow into each other, and, individually or combined, they are tools designed to help us become caring and considerate, loving, and compassionate human
beings. Traditionally the word yoga is defined as the union or integration of individuals with universal consciousness. On a practical level, it is a way to balance and harmonize the body, mind, and emotions.
There are 2 basic aspects of yoga: Bahiranga Yoga and Antaranga Yoga.
Bahiranga yoga, the first five steps of Ashtānga Yoga, leads to Antaranga Yoga by removing various disturbances psycho-physiological by yama and niyama, physical disturbances by asanas, prāṇic disturbances by prāṇāyāma and extrovert nature of mind through senses by Pratyāhāra. Practicing Bahiranga yoga can improve fitness and help to achieve or maintain a healthy life style. Properly executing asana strengthens your bones and muscles, enhances your balance, and promotes flexibility and greater range of motion, all of which can help protect your body against everyday injuries.
Bahiranga yoga gives real hunger, good digestion, sound sleep, perfect functioning of the various organs of the body, proper pulsation, timely elimination of wastes, interest in doing one’s duties, and happiness of mind. The āsanas and prāṇāyāma give you back your natural good health and vitality by eliminating all the toxins and tension, toning the spine, building the nerves, and correcting any malfunctions in the glands. Along with all physical benefit a healthy person need strong mind, concentration, memory, confidence, commitment, creativity, happiness, bliss, appreciative, love and spirituality. Antaranga yoga gives all whatever left in Bahiranga yoga. Actually all practices of Bahiranga yoga like āsana, prāṇāyāma and pratyāhāra is only to achieve or to prepare aspirant for Antaranga yoga. Antaranga yoga completes the yoga process. Antaranga yoga provides unparalleled benefits to all of the major categories of human existence: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual:
1. Physical Benefits: Through deep-breathing, which is the backbone of any meditation practice, muscle fatigue and tension are reduced by increasing the circulation of oxygen to the muscles. Meditation has also been proven to lower high blood cholesterol due to its stress-reducing benefits. Meditation also helps to strengthen the immune system as well. With meditation, the physiology undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with more prāṇa (energy). This results in joy, peace, enthusiasm as the level of prāṇa in the
body increases. Meditation induces the relaxation response which reduces the occurrence of pain, insomnia, and headaches. Another major physical benefit of meditation is unlimited energy. Meditation helps you to create an eternal and infinite flow of pure life-force energy. Our incredible universe has enough energy to keep all the stars in the sky moving and flowing in perfect harmony for billions of years, so it definitely has more than enough energy for you as well and meditation will help you tap into it permanently.
2. Emotional Benefits: Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an Alpha state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation, aspirants get less irritability, a reduction in the “fight or flight” response, and more emotional self-control. Helps bring perspective when confronted with a crisis thus making the crisis more manageable. Managing our modern daily lives can become quite overwhelming when you factor in traffic jams, work-related stress, toxicity overload and seemingly unmanageable schedules. Taking a small amount of daily time to meditate can bring the perspective you need to manage your busy schedule and bring back a feeling of “I can handle this”. Meditation will allow your senses to be heightened and aroused even during routine tasks, making your day more enjoyable. You will start enjoying the subtleties of life again like the smell of fresh laundry or the feel of the road as you drive or the color of the morning sky. Learning to integrate all the senses in your daily life, through meditation, will bring a myriad of emotional benefits and fullness to your life and help you become a better observer. By being a better observer you can
respond to situations rather than react, meaning you can act appropriately when you feel inspired or compelled to and in perfect timing.
3. Mental Benefits: Better mental focus, concentration and creativity. Less stress and anxiety and greater peace of mind. Meditation seeks to bring harmful and counter-productive thoughts and feelings to the surface within you, quell them and help you gain the necessary perspective to invoke more truth and reality in your life. The mental benefits of meditation, if regularly practiced, are long lasting and eventually become permanent. Unlike drugs or alcohol, meditation does not need to be obtained or paid for and you will never run the
risk of driving while impaired or face legal ramifications for doing it. Meditation is the healthy replacement to drugs and alcohol and is the ultimate antiaddiction medication.
4. Spiritual Benefits: Greater self-awareness, the feeling of being more “connected” and a greater sense of purpose, along with the added benefit of helping you to resolve past issues that tend to get buried in the psyche and cause difficulties for you on an unconscious level. The process of becoming spiritually enlightened through meditation can be difficult, however, and does not happen overnight, although desirable benefits are noticed immediately, meditation is an ongoing process and a person must explore his or her own darker side in order to find and illuminate one’s own inner light and one must be willing to continually change and evolve on a daily basis. Meditation is not a destination but a fascinating journey where you will become more awakened to your true self. Through meditation you will discover and uncover an entire new world of interests that you will want to pursue and even find things you probably didn’t even know you had a talent for.
Antaranga Yoga is practice of inward journey via prāṇa, senses, mind, ego and consciousness. Antaranga yoga is normally famous as meditation. Many people understand meditation is relaxation. Of course it gives deep relaxation but the main purpose of meditation isn’t just to relax. Meditation is about cultivating present moment awareness and reaping the countless benefits that come from the practice.
This includes activating your body’s natural healing powers, increasing self-awareness that leads to more conscious choices, and becoming less reactive in daily life. Meditation is the mental training that helps you become alert and aware. So to say it’s about relaxation is misleading. With consistent daily practice and learning to sustain mental stillness or present-moment awareness, the depth to which meditation can
promote deep changes within is without limit. The reason meditation is associated with ancient wisdom traditions is because it has a profound impact on consciousness, which is another word for self-awareness. Over the course of a lifetime, consistent meditative practice and maintaining present-moment awareness continue to peel away aspects of your psyche that are unconscious and conditioned and make them conscious. The more aware you are, the more you notice things. The more you notice things, the more you’re likely to take mindful action around what you see and perceive. Your ability to live more of your life in a state of present-moment awareness creates a broader range of experiences, enhanced creativity, and spontaneity. Meditation is the way of connecting to God by developing a deeper level of consciousness. By meditating, an individual can communicate with the Almighty on the intra-personal level. Apart from its spiritual significance, yoga and meditation are also widely practiced for a healthy life. Myriad physical and mental benefits of yoga make it
a boon to mankind. Learning how to do it takes some commitment. Depending on the level of mental busyness you naturally have, the more challenging it may be to slow down your thought process. One of the first things you begin to notice when learning mindfulness meditation is the persistent thinking nature of your own mind. You become aware of your internal dialogue or inner chatter and the habitual nature of your mind.
As you reorient yourself to present-moment awareness you become more aware of the details of your sensory faculties in the moment — what you see, hear, and feel inside yourself and in your immediate environment. This is distinguished from thoughts of the past and future. Eventually, you readily recognize the difference between being present versus becoming preoccupied with your thoughts, because only in the present moment are you fully aware, alive, and creative. Conscious breathing helps bring your focus into the present moment simply because your continuous stream of breathing is always present.
Pratyāhāra and dhāraṇā
Pratyāhāra is the bridge between Antaranga yoga and Bahiranga yoga. The word Pratyāhāra means “removing the indriyas from material objects”. Pratyāhāra is the stage at which aspirants learn to control the “tentacles” of the consciousness which are called indriyas (senses) in Sanskrit. This allows one to achieve the ability to see in subtle and the subtlest layers of multidimensional space, as well as to exit from the material body into them and settle in them, accustoming oneself to their subtlety, tenderness, and purity. Pratyāhāra is abstraction. It is the withdrawal of the Indriyas from the objects. The senses are assimilated in the mind which is rendered pure through the practice of yama, niyama and prāṇayama. The mind becomes calmer now. The nature of the Indriyas is to have always connection with the objects. Where the vision is turned outward (Bahirmukha Vritti), the rush of fleeting events engages the mind. The outgoing energies of the mind begin to play. When they are obstructed by the practice of Pratyāhāra, the other course for them is to mix with the mind and to be absorbed in the mind. The mind will not assume any form of any object. Hitherto, the Indriyas were following the mind like the other bees which follow the queen bee. Just as the bees fly as the queen bee flies and sit as it sits down, so also, the Indriyas become restrained as the mind is restrained. A distracted mind is a breeding ground for all kinds of physical and mental illnesses. A concentrated mind will manifest itself in good physical health, abundant energy and will never cause worry, suspicion or be anxious, as it will extend its best effort when any situation presents itself. One becomes very efficient in all things and has high output as wastage of all sorts is eliminated.
Newer skills will be learnt more easily as the concentrated mind does not have inner resistance. The most difficult and trying of situations will be handled with calm, equipoise and finesse and one will walk lightly where others tread heavy. For Patanjali, it is a bridge between the Bahiranga means external aspects of yoga namely, yama, niyama, asana, prāṇayama, and the Antaranga means internal aspects
of yoga. Having actualized the Pratyāhāra stage, a practitioner is able to effectively engage into the practice of Samyama. At the stage of Pratyāhāra, the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don’t reach their respective centers in the brain and takes the sadhaka (practitioner) to next stages of Yoga, namely dhāraṇā (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (mystical absorption), being the aim of all Yogic practices.
This involves withdrawal of senses, or sensory inputs into our physical being, coming from our five senses, namely organs creating a sensory overload, and hence hinders collection of the mind, as in dhāraṇā, the next stage of Yoga. Control of our senses requires mastery over the flow of prāṇa, as that is what drives the senses. To stop the scattering of valuable vital energy of the body or prāṇa, we need to seek control over its flow, and harmonize it. This is done through various practices including bringing the entire focus to a single point in the body. These two lead to the subsequent two types of Pratyāhāra, the Control of Action or ‘Karma Pratyāhāra ‘, which entails not just control of motor organs, but also right action or work, and Karma Yoga, surrender of every action to the divine and performing it as an act of service. This leads to the final form of Pratyāhāra – the Withdrawal of Mind or ‘Mano Pratyāhāra ‘, which is practiced by consciously
withdrawing attention from anything that is unwholesome, and distracting for the mind such as by withdrawing attention from the senses, and directing it inwards.
Pratyāhāra, it may be noted, is both an Abhyāsa as well as a Prakriyā. Abhyāsa means a practice that you do at a given time, in a given place, in a particular Asana; and it is in the form of an exercise. In the form of an exercise, it becomes a valuable precursor to starting your meditation, because when you sit for meditation, your senses begin going outside. In their wake, the mind begins thinking of objects. So, you have to withdraw the mind away from the senses. In that sense, Pratyāhāra is an Abhyāsa. But in a more vital sense, it is a process. Pratyāhāra is not only practice or an exercise, but it is also a process—a process that has to be constantly kept going throughout your wakeful hours of Vyavahāra. Because, if you are trying to center yourself in the inner Reality, in the Dhyāna Lakshya or object of meditation, that effort is confined only to your hours of actual practice. And the rest of the time you allow the mind and the senses to go in
the opposite direction towards the external things, towards the many things or the Aneka, towards the perception and enjoyment of sense-objects. So, what happens? Your Yoga practice will never succeed. Your inner yoga practice can never succeed. It can succeed only if it has the full cooperation and support of the remaining part of your life, that is, your life outside the meditating hours, because yoga Abhyāsa has to be done within the broad framework of your normal life. Your normal life you cannot ignore. You cannot make it disappear. There is no magic wand to do that. Your normal life is there, very much there. Day after day, the Yogi has got to cope with a certain pattern of external life. Pratyāhāra has a very important significance in the overall practice of Rāja yoga and its special significance is twofold.
One is the purely scientific significance—the significance of Pratyāhāra as an integral part or process of Raja Yoga as an exact science, a science of mind-discipline, a science of concentrate ing the scattered mind, a science of focusing the concentrated mind upon a single object, a science of practicing this focusing in a continuous and unbroken manner. So, Pratyāhāra is a purely scientific process. So, from this scientific angle, Pratyāhāra becomes important and significant in the sense that unless you, first of all, withdraw the mind from being externalized, concentration is impossible. The question of concentration can never arise unless first of all the externalized mind is withdrawn. Only if you first succeed in withdrawing or internalizing the externalized mind, only then can you try to bring about a centralization of it inwardly. When the mind is not even inward, how can you centralize it? When the nature of the mind is completely
extrovert and the mind is externalized, where comes the question of your trying to centralize it? First of all, bring it in. Then, within the context or framework of your interior, when the mind is still thinking of other objects, try to gather it together. Try to subdue its restless object ward motion or thought and try to bring it together. So, from the scientific point of view, pratyāhāra becomes the indispensable qualification or prerequisite in order to be able to think of dhāraṇā or concentration. Without pratyāhāra, concentration is not possible. Unless you withdraw yourself, unless you withdraw your mind from the external things, you cannot have concentration. So, inner
Yoga is impossible without first becoming well established in pratyāhāra. Antaranga Yoga depends entirely upon successful practice of pratyāhāra. Dhāraṇā is a form of meditation that can be called receptive concentration. With the help of dhāraṇā, a set of conditions are created that helps the mind focus in one direction and object, rather than concentrating in many directions, thereby diverting the mind. The term ‘dhāraṇā’ is given to both the practice of deep concentration and the state in which you achieve deep concentration. Ideally, ‘dhāraṇā’ should be performed at every moment of the day to gain utmost control of both body and mind. Dhāraṇā is the initial step of deep concentrative meditation, where the object being focused upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it. The
difference between dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi (the three together constituting samyama) is that in the former, the object of meditation, the meditator, and the act of meditation itself remain separate. That is, the meditator or the meditator’s meta-awareness is conscious of meditating (that is, is conscious of the act of meditation) on an object, and of his or her own self, which is concentrating on the object. In the subsequent stage of dhyāna, as the meditator becomes more advanced, consciousness of the act of meditation disappears, and only the consciousness of being/existing and the object of concentration exist (in the mind). In the final stage of
samādhi , the ego-mind also dissolves, and the meditator becomes one with the object. Generally, the object of concentration is God, or the Self, which is seen as an expression of God. When the area of concentration reduces and becomes so much subtle that there is no mental fluctuation at all and continuous focusing without disturbance is called dhyāna or Meditation. These two are not separate techniques but
two different states of mind. We start practicing dhāraṇā. Sometimes mind becomes subtle steady that we enter into dhyāna, after sometime again mind starts moving and come back to state of dhāraṇā. It keeps on happening. One cannot force mind however it depends upon purity, innocence, will -power, stability of body, emotion and mind as well. Dhāraṇā aims at setting up the mind, by focusing it upon some stable entity. One good method to start it is by fixing the gaze in trātaka, in one direction to get the concentration. Any object selected for practicing has no role to play in the meditation process. The object is only used to stop the mind from wandering – through memories, dreams, or reflective thought – by intentionally holding it obsessively upon some static object. This ability is a movement toward the perception of its true nature and not an escape from reality.
Dhāraṇā helps in channeling one’s thoughts on a certain thing. It makes sure that you reach a level of awareness in anything you do, by focusing on every step you take. Dhāraṇā can bring richness to one’s life. With the help of deep contemplation and reflection, one can create the right conditions. Dhāraṇā works with the objective to achieve the mental state, where the mind, intellect, and ego are controlled. The mind becomes purified by the practices. It becomes able to focus efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Dhāraṇā also helps in the cessation of flu ctuations in the mind. The practice of Dhāraṇā, at the time, when you are struggling with anger, restlessness
or expectation would help in balancing those struggles. Dhāraṇā is the practice of training the mind, to concentrate and focus, in such a way, that we can possibly avoid frustrations. Concentrating our attention on one point allows the mind to be stable and calms the disturbance of activity, to which we are used to. The point of concentration can be anywhere within our body or outside. Therefore, maintaining a fixed and focused concentration, throughout the practice, gives consistency and clarity to the thoughts.
Obstacles of Antaranga Yoga
There are a number of predictable obstacles that arise on the inner journey, along with several consequences that grow out of them. While these can be a challenge, there is a certain comfort in knowing that they are a natural, predictable part of the process. There is a single, underlying principle that is the antidote for these obstacles and their consequences, and that is the one-pointedness of mind. Knowing this can help to maintain the faith and conviction in the practice of Antaranga Yoga. Patanjali states that there are eight antarayas (obstacles) that we encounter during meditation and as we work towards obtaining clarity and stability of the mind.
1. Vyadhi – Illness or Sickness of the body: it is caused by impure and inefficient diet, uncontrolled urges, and lack of physical activities, mental stress and over work. Physical sickness is a great hindrance to the practice of meditation, because the body and the mind are related to each other. Take a simple, light, nutritious and wholesome diet like milk, wheat, barley, fruits and vegetables, dry fruits, low sweet or salt diets etc. Regular exercise, breathing exercise, conservation of energy by controlling different mental and physical urges are
necessary for the path of meditation.
2. Samsaya – Doubt: Doubts are caused by the impurity of mind, which exert resistance from the subconscious mind. Doubts about the certainty of the result, about the impossibility of result and derogative thoughts are common doubts, may produce hindrance to the path of meditation. Hearing or reading sacred texts, company of spiritual people, rigorous meditation technique and concentrating on one owns deity will remove all the doubts.
3. Pramada – Haste, Impatience or Cravings: Due to the resistance of subconscious mind craving for sense enjoyment arises in the mind. In meditation when the mind begins to raise the upper level of consciousness, the suppressed emotions, feelings and thoughts in the subconscious mind begin to start manifested and expressed in the conscious level. These craving must be neutralize by sense- control and practices of discrimination and by devoting more time regularly in the practise of meditation.
4. Alasya – resignation or Styana Tamas – fatigue: The mind is unable to stir; it is caused by weakness of the mind or low energy level of the mind. Strong wills, mental exercises and breathing techniques can overcome the condition of sloth. There are a number of possible causes of sleepiness during meditation. For one, we are relaxed when we meditate and most of us only experience this kind of relaxation after lying down at night to go to sleep. So our minds may habitually associate relaxation with sleep. Therefore, the best time to meditate is 15 minutes to half an hour after rising in the morning, when we have fulfilled our need for sleep and we feel wide awake, having washed our face, gone to the bathroom, etc. In this way, with time, the association between relaxation and sleep will dissipate.
5. Avirati – distraction: As the person practices concentration the suppressed or hidden mental tendencies begin to appear on the surface and drag the mind down. When the mind craves sensual stimulation it becomes agitated and unable to concentrate. The problem lies in a weak will. You must keep your interest alive. Uninterrupted and regular practice of meditation is the remedy to this problem. Meditation is about getting used to being in the state of nondistraction. Or, and this is even better, mediation is about not being distracted by your distractions! When you begin the practice of meditation, you may become pretty disheartened to learn that your mind is everywhere else but on your meditation. Even after years of practicing meditation, there are times when instead of meditating, I find myself caught up in a sea of emotions and thoughts, unable to do anything but try desperately to ride the waves and not get swept away. What is most wonderful about this whole process is that even when you find yourself getting swept away and coming back to your meditation after what seems like hours, you can use that “coming back” as your meditation practice. That is, the practice of meditation means getting used to practicing
even as your thoughts and emotions arise and you find yourself getting distracted.
6. Bhrantidarsana – ignorance or arrogance: When you practice meditation, you can expect to come to face with many subtle thoughts and visions which have been stored away in the subconscious mind. Many people feel that because they are having psychic experiences they are progressing into spirituals life. But this is not true. All psychic experiences are unreal they are not ultimate goal. They misguide our consciousness and make us forget our real path. Do not become involved with psychic experiences and do not crave for them. With
careful observation they will pass away and you may never have them again.
7. Alabdhumikatva – the inability to take a new step: When aspirants are stuck in some level and feel unable to move further, this phase is known as mental inertia. Under mental inertia the mind tends to reject any idea, practice or technique which disturbs its original state. Mind never allows retraining the mental pattern easily. Recreate the original motivation and establish meditations as part of your daily routine, proper diet, regulation of sleep are the factors necessary to break the mental inertia.
8. Anavasthitatvani – loss of confidence: The confidence could be lost by not getting into the practice by many efforts. Many times we lose basic principles of meditation which also cause loss of confidence. For example sincerity and regularity for the practice. If you are not sincere for the meditation then it is very difficult to get focus on it. In the path of meditation the person may ignore the aspect of regularity; oversimplify few steps, impressed by unreal psychic impressions, forget the clarity of goal, hence may slip into the state of delusion. Loss of confidence is overcome by following rules of practice, stick to teaching and guidance of the efficient master or teacher.
Antaranga yoga is cultivating present-moment awareness and reaping the countless benefits that come from the practice. All practices of bahiranga yoga like asana, prāṇayama and pratyāhāra is only to achieve or to prepare aspirant for antaranga yoga. Pratyāhāra is the indispensable qualification or prerequisite to be able for dhāraṇā or concentration. Dhāraṇā aims at setting up the mind, by focusing it upon some stable entity. There are many obstacles for meditation but by concentration it could be removed.