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Use and Significance of Asanas, Pranayamas, and Mudras*

In different states of meditation, different postures are formed by the body from which the depth of meditation of the meditator could be told. Conversely, can the same inner state be brought about by forming the necessary postures? In that case, can meditation be attained by the use of various asanas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas? What is their use and significance?

The nature of the body is that it works in accordance with the state of mind. The body follows the mind: it always follows behind. So ordinarily we know what a man will do in anger and what he will do in love – also what he will do in a state of trust. But we do not know how he will react to the deeper states of mind.

When deep states are created within the mind a great deal takes place in the body also. Various mudras, gestures, and also many asanas, postures happen that tell of the changes within. In fact, the asanas are formed at the time of preparation for particular inner states. Mudras are formed later and they give information about a person’s inner state.

When changes occur within, the body has to find an equivalent adjustment to the inner changes. When the kundalini awakens within, the body will have to assume all kinds of unusual positions to make way for the energy. The spine will bend itself in many ways in order to allow the energy to ascend. The head also takes different positions when the kundalini awakens. The body assumes such postures as we have never taken before. It is just like when we are awake the body takes an erect position and when we sleep the body has to lie down – it cannot stand or sit.

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The posture of the body corresponds to one’s state of mind. So with the awakening of the energy within and its movements in several ways asanas begin to form. The different chakras also take the body into different asanas. Thus, various postures are formed. As a particular state begins to form within, the expressions of your hands, face and eyes change. This happens in meditation. As a result, the reverse has also come into man’s attention: that is, when performing these asanas is it possible to go into meditation? It is necessary to understand this.

In meditation these processes take place; yet they are not inevitable. In other words, all meditators do not pass through the same body processes. One condition has to be born in mind: every meditator’s state of body and mind is different from the states of body and mind of others – therefore, all will not pass through the same asanas. For instance, if the flow of blood is less toward the head of one meditator and if a greater flow is required for the awakening of the kundalini, he will at once without knowing, go into shirshasana,the headstand posture. All meditators will not go into this asana because the rate of the flow of blood is different in each; each one has different requirements. So asanas will form according to the need of each meditator.

When we ourselves select asanas and practice them, then we do not know which particular asana is useful or necessary for us. Asanas can be harmful as well as helpful. If they are not required in the case of a particular meditator they can prove harmful – if they are needed they will be of help. One difficulty is that this is an uncertain thing. Another difficulty is that when something is happening within and simultaneously something begins to happen outwardly as well, then the energy will move outwardly. When we perform an act from the outside it may remain nothing more than a physical performance.

Now as I said, in anger the fists clench automatically. But it is not necessarily the case that you can bring on anger by clenching your fists. We can put on an act of anger while there is no anger whatsoever within. Yet if we want to provoke anger within clenching of fists could be helpful, but we cannot say for sure that anger will result. If we have to choose between clenching and not clenching the fists the possibility of bringing on anger is definitely more with a clenched fist. This little help is possible.

When a person is in a state of tranquility his hands will take on the necessary mudra. But if a person practices the formation of this mudra of the hands it cannot be said for certain that his mind will attain peace. Yet particular states of the body help the mind to be peaceful. The body will show its readiness to cooperate; then it is left to the mind to do the needful. But changing the body does not mean that the mind will change, and the reason is that the state of mind precedes the state of the body. That is why when the mind changes the body follows suit, but an initial change in the body can at best create a possibility of a change in the mind. It is not a certainty.

So there is always the danger of delusion. A man may keep on performing asanas and mudras and think he has done everything; such cases have happened. For thousands of years people have been doing asanas and mudras thinking that they were practicing yoga. Then gradually the concept of meditation was lost in yoga. By the words yoga sadhana,what comes to mind is asanas, pranayamas, etcetera. If you ask someone what yoga is he will think of asanas, pranayamas, and so on. Therefore, I always insist that if the requirements of a meditator are properly understood certain body positions can prove helpful to him. But the result is not certain. This is why I am always in favor of working from within and not from without. <...>

 

*excerpt from OSHO. In Search of the miraculous, Vol 2







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