An overview summary of

 Yoga Arudam :

 The second workshop of 

"The Subtler Dimensions of Asana Practice" 

A scriptural perspective on how to establish a regular yoga practice 

The "Subtler dimensions of Asana Practice" is not a conventional yoga class or a workshop. We practice asanas in the style of Hatha Yoga, using the bandhas and the Ujjayi breath, for 80 minutes followed by the study of the scriptures and texts on Yoga for 30 minutes. After the asana practice, the mind is well settled to absorb the information in the scriptures. The four workshops in this series are described here

1) What was covered in the first workshop ?

The first workshop in this series introduced the basic concepts of Hatha Yoga which include

Using the heat that is generated by the Ujjayi breath and fanned by the bandhas, the body becomes malleable, even if it is initially not flexible. This is the secret to being able to do poses, which otherwise are difficult even after reasonable ordinary warm-up.

We also studied the importance of a moderate diet to enhance this Agni in the body as shown by the video below.


2) The Theme of the second workshop

The second workshop builds on the first workshop and focuses on the sublime aspects of yoga practice from which one derives great joy. This joy that comes from the yoga practice, is the secret behind making it a part of one's daily routine, as described in this article, which further contains several references. The focus of this workshop is therefore the placement of the mind on the subtle sensations that arise during yoga practice and to find relaxation in them after putting in the necessary effort. The body is, thus, regarded as a playground in asana practice. The sensations and the resulting joy are very subtle initially, but by repeated practice they become enhanced just the way a tiny flame is stoked into a blazing campfire.

For example, pressing the foot on the thigh in Janu Shirashasana -1 and 3, and, sitting on the heel to externally stimulate the moola bandha in Janu Shirashasana-2, are all mudra techniques to channel the flow of prana which results in certain pleasurable sensations in the body. 


Bhujapidasana with the Vinyasa

Similarly, Bhuja Pidasana (which literally means "shoulder squeeze") acts like a shoulder massage, and therefore gives rise to pleasurable sensations in the arms and shoulder, akin to those that arise during a massage.

3) Text used for the second workshop titled Yoga Arudam or establishing in Yoga

The first workshop used a lot of examples from the classical Hatha Yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita. The second workshop uses the 6th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is considered the quintessential chapter on the lifestyle and destiny of a Yogi. This chapter is called by two names "Dhyana Yoga", or the Yoga of meditation, as well as "Atma Samyama Yoga", the Yoga of resting the mind on the Atma. Though the chapter talks about meditation, the principles involved in resting the mind onto something, are equally valid for asana practice as well. Patanjali calls these anchors to rest our restless minds on, Aalambana which means support in Sanskrit. The video below gives a brief overview of this chapter. As it is clearly seen in the video, and as enunciated by Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, a Yogi is one who possesses self control, not necessarily one who is able to stand on their head or arms. As dull as it may seem, this is the greatest secret to one's success in asana practice.


4) The organization of chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita

Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita is divided into 6 portions:

4.1) General disciplines observed throughout the day

The first portion of the 6th chapter primarily talks about sense control. Bhagavan Krishna gives the example of a tortoise that withdraws its limbs inside, to denote a Yogi who is able to restrain their senses and place their mind on the Atma. The transition from Kurmasana (tortoise pose) to Supta Kurmasana (sleeping tortoise pose) symbolizes this withdrawing of the senses as described in this article on the mythology and symbolism of Kurmasana.

Lord Vishnu, incarnating as the tortoise in the Kurma avatara, and acting as a base to support the weight of mount Mandara, that was being churned, and remaining equanimous to the most beautiful as well as the scary things that emerged during the churning, is an symbolism of this withdrawing of the senses.

4.2) Specific disciplines observed before meditation

In this set of verses, Bhagavan Krishna talks about the proper place, posture, attitude and diet for meditation. This article goes into detail on the correct posture for meditation. Slides 41-43 contain references for diet prescriptions for Yogis from the scriptures.

4.3) Nature of meditation: Dhyana swarupam 

In these verses, the nature of the meditation is talked about in detail. As mentioned previously, even though Krishna talks about meditation in this chapter, the concepts are equally valid for asana practice also. In fact Guruji Pattabjhi Jois, when asked by his students about how one can know if an asana is done correctly, would say that one should use the stillness of the mind as a guide to know if one is doing an asana correctly.

Bhagavan Krishna uses the simile of a lamp in a windless place to denote the mind of a Yogi absorbed in meditation.

Even in asana practice, engagement of the bandhas, to channel the Prana, removes the floppiness and unwanted movements of the body. This gives the impression of a taut body as opposed to a slack body.  We saw this using the example of Marichiasanas C & D, as shown in this article

4.4) Fruits of meditation: Dhyana Phala

Lord Krishna says that, as a result of  meditation, one obtains the highest bliss because of which, however grievous a situation one is faced with, one is not moved from the state of bliss. Krishna calls this bliss, 'Athindriyam', one that is beyond the senses. A term used to describe this out-worldly bliss, that does not come from the senses (like good food, music and a nice picture), is Hlada.

4.5) Obstacles to meditation 

Krishna agress with Arjuna's assessment of the mind of most people being fickle and restless. However, he says that , by practice and dispassion, one can control it.

4.6) Yoga Bhrashta: The destiny of a yogi (who does not succeed in a certain lifetime)

The last portion of this chapter contain some of the most eloquent and inspiring verses for a Yoga practitioner. It, therefore, is a true climax to the chapter. Krishna says that once one steps into the path of yoga, so powerful is the force, that one lifetime after another, the yogi is 'helplessly' pushed into the path of yoga- "Once a yogi, always a yogi". 

5) Conclusion

Thus, is summarized, the flow of concepts in the second workshop in "The Subtler Dimensions of Asana Practice" workshop series, which is titled "Yoga Arudam: Establishing in Yoga". This workshop builds on the first workshop which explored the core concepts of Hatha Yoga in depth and delves into how to make this a part of our daily routine.