Reaching the soul through Hatha Yoga

The mind can only have direct consciousness of itself in the present moment.  It can only have some partial direct perception of things as they are offered to it in the present moment of time and the immediate field of experience of the senses.   In order to facilitate awareness and development of the soul, we must consciously turn the mind inward, towards its light.   We cannot know the Divine, the absolute Truth underling the transitory show, through out senses, mind or intellect.   The senses and reason will only deceive us.  They are capable of moving only within a limited range and a partial divided view of things.  Our only opportunity to experience the Divine is to be silent, humble and respectful before that which we do not know.  We must develop aspiration to know. This we must have to progress.  There can be an infiltration of the soul and the mind; it is not that the mind and soul are in air-tight containers… in fact, there is quite a bit of perceptible infiltration of soul and mind.  One of the most accessible ways is through our Hatha Yoga practice.

When I was first introduced to the 18 asana series of Babaji s Kriya Yoga, I found them to be enormously energizing.   As I began to work with them daily, I realized how they increased my physical health and reduced body fat, strengthened the nervous system, brought about more and more equanimity and mental clarity.  But, the benefits did not stop with that –they continued to widen and strengthened my inner sense of strength, joy, fortitude, resilience and persistence and opened me to deep and powerful devotion. I noticed as I taught these postures that others were reaping the same benefits and yearning for a deeply spiritual path of Yoga. Everyone seems to most benefit from the integral path of Kriya Yoga when they include a daily asana practice and incorporate asana with ujjayi pranayama, bandha, mudra, mantra, meditation and devotion.

I have over the past 40 years practiced many techniques and forms of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Siddha Yoga, Art of Living and Iyengar Yoga.  I have received innumerable benefits from all these various forms of Yoga, when I did them with intensity and persistence.   However, what I have found most consistently and deeply rewarding on all levels of my life throughout the last 15 years  is my integral practice of Babajis Kriya Hatha Yoga.   I feel that it is the 18 posture series alone, if done as a ritual of worship in about two hours, which takes me into higher realms of consciousness.  In addition I feel the practice strengthens the very cells of my physical body.  I come out of the practice feeling renewed, joyful and younger!

When I forgo the asana practice my age begins to catch up with me.  Since summer I have been dealing with a shoulder problem. It is a reoccurring problem since 1999, when I had a bad fall on the trek back from Santopanth.  Perhaps it is some karma I am working through.  My shoulder freezes up and the whole process takes about two years to complete, regardless of what I do therapeutically.  First it was my right shoulder that froze up and thawed and now it is occurring with the left.  During this time, my hatha yoga practice suffers and my sadhana is maintained though mantra, meditation and by the practice of Nityananda Kriya.  However, I find that my devotional nature suffers. I experience something missing.  I have calmness in my mind and clarity, but there is dryness without my devotional asana practice.  For me there is a direct connection between the strength and power of my devotion and the movement of energy and consciousness in my body through posture.    And for me, contentment and equanimity is directly proportional to the degree of my  devotion.

Even the first posture, kriya asana vanekom begins to stimulate an increase of force and devotion.  Presently, I am unable to bring my arms above my head with palms together properly in the pose, so I instead bring them to my lower back.   I realize that even the position of the arms and hands facilitates the movement of energy differently. This first posture is  an “offering” and the position of the arms and hands above the head is critical to that experience.

We are “offering” our head to the Guru, our supreme source of inner guidance and wisdom, whose center is in the sahasrara, the crown chakra.  We are offering our separate will to Divine Will.  With our head towards the ground and our feet upwards and our hands and palms together reaching above the head, we attempt to enter the zone of the Guru, the zone of Love.  Remaining in the pose we can experience that quality. This pose is symbolic of Samadhi.  In this posture it is possible for the prana vayu to settle within the head, which means that there is an equal pressure from head to foot and we rest in a state of utter tranquility.

The Tamil Siddhas have told us that “the human body is the mystic center, the sacred passage to the ultimate reality and that liberation is available only within it.”  To meditate on the Self, to worship the Self, begins the practice of Yoga.  This first posture, Kriya Asanan Vanekom orients the entire being to the worship of the Divine and to the recognition that the body is a “temple” worthy of Infinite care.  It begins our practice as a ritual of worship.

This posture of Salutation to the Self aligns and integrates all five bodies within the practice.

As your body kneels and moves into a bow, the physical body aligns.  Your chin comes to your chest and you place the crown of the head onto the floor, about a hand’s length from your knees.  The pelvic floor is tightened as you squeeze the muscles of the perineum and pull the navel center in toward the spine. Palms come together on the floor in front of the head.  The feet are lifted off the floor and the body rocks forward slightly.  The inhalation draws the breath up the spine. With the exhalation the breath expands inside of the skull at the crown center.  Both the vital and mental bodies align as your eyes follow your breath to the crown of the head.  The mind and breath remain concentrated there, in the inside of the skull at the crown of the head and the intellectual body aligns as you chant the mantra, Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum. Meditating deeply at this point for at least 3 minutes on the all pervading Divine Consciousness can awaken the brow and crown chakras and the spiritual body aligns in aspiration.

Just this first Kriya Asana directly stimulates all the nerves of the head and the pituitary and pineal glands, whose secretions, including endorphins, invigorate the entire glandular system.   The posture stretches and relaxes the whole spine, stretching all the movable vertebra in the spine. The cervical vertebra and windpipe is made more elastic.  Circulation is improved in the spine and brain.  The eyes are relaxed and refreshed.  The whole body is refreshed.  Salutation pose stimulates the ajna and sahasrara chakras, if eyes are turned upward and concentration remains focused for at least 3 minutes.  You come out of this one pose with a more peaceful temperament.

There is power in all exertion, in any effort we make toward the soul. Any earnestness of effort, or fine discrimination, or keen sense of longing will take us toward the movements of the soul. Each time we do our postures with bandhas, spinal breathing, devotion and awareness of the energy flowing through nadis, we can exert a conscious effort to direct and link our energy with the aspiration of the soul.  A devotional practice creates a dynamic disciple of Hatha Yoga.

I have written a new book, which takes one through each or the 18 asana incorporating bandhas, mudras, spinal breathing, concentration, mantra and devotion.  I invite non-initiated students and seasoned Kriya Yoga practitioners to investigate Babaji’s Kriya

By Jan “Durga” Ahlund and M. Govindan. ISBN 978-1-895383-64-5, 108 pages, 8.5 x 11 inches, softcover with photographs and diagrams. US$17.00, CA$18.90 (inc gst) plus US$4.50 for shipping and handling to the US or CA$3.50 within Canada. US$15.45 for overseas airmail.

“This book provides detailed instructions, diagrams and photographs in the practice of a particular set of 18 Yoga asanas or postures, known as “Babaji’s Kriya Hatha Yoga.” The essays and instructions herein enable the practitioner to go beyond the development and health of the physical body, and to transform the practice of yoga asana into a spiritual practice, inducing a higher state of consciousness. Unlike earlier publications related to Hatha Yoga, this volume will show you how to transform your Hatha Yoga practice into a means for Self-Realization. It introduces students to the Five-fold Path of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. This book is dedicated to Yoga students new to Kriya Yoga and also to Initiated students looking to deepen their own practice.”

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