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At the Feet of The Mother

Kriyas, Pranayama and the Practice of Integral Yoga

In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga there are no fixed kriyas though there is nothing against any kriyas as individual disciple finds it helpful or necessary at a given stage of his progress. Even meditation is not compulsory or turned into a fixed technique! The reason for this is that Sri Aurobindo’s yoga (just as the yoga of the Gita) starts from the vision of man primarily as a psychological being and hence the yoga takes off from there.

It may be important to note that Pranayama, Kriyas, Bandhas are not part of quite a few yogas notably Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. While their utility in regulating the prana shakti and providing good health is well known, they have little use beyond that as far as spiritual seeking is concerned. Even in Patanjali’s yoga sutras, they find a relatively small place as preliminary preparatory steps of the yoga which includes moral rectitude, breath control and physical immobility. These are meant to discipline the mental – vital – physical apparatus of man so that he can then turn towards contemplation of God without disturbance from these aspects of nature. However, in modern times they have been much popularised because they seem something tangible in an age that has lost contact with its subjective space. Besides, it gives us the sense of doing something concrete. But psychological movements are as real and concrete to the persons who have emerged out of the initial physical-vital stage of evolution and have become aware of a subjective self within.

Asanas and Pranayama are meant for those who live primarily in the bodily self or the vital sheath. They bring limited gains of vigour and vitality, health and fitness to the body but leave our psychological being untouched. In yoga it is the mind, heart and will that become the first trysting ground for God and man. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, like the yoga of the Gita starts from this ground and hence emphasises rather on psychological movements such as bhakti, surrender, concentration in the heart or the head, Japa, offering of our will to God, surrender, awakening the discerning Intelligence, equanimity, cultivating right attitudes, and most importantly opening ourselves to the Divine Mother.

Once the disciple opens to Her then it is Her Grace that purify and transform the vital and physical sheaths giving us all the results of these kriyas such as health and vigour and much more. The difference however is that the practice of pranayama and other psycho-physical techniques may give us some supraphysical experiences rather quickly but they leave the central knot of the ego untouched which can even get aggrandised due to the tremendous vitality released into the system. In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga the first thing to be done is to establish contact with the Divine within and then let all else flow as a natural consequence.

In fact when the Divine Peace flows into our human system the breath automatically becomes rhythmic and quieter, the body touched by this Peace descending from the higher regions and flowing from the touch of Grace automatically enters a state of immobility, balance and health. But it does not stop there. The Yoga goes much further since the power that enters the human system is also the very Highest.

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To be spontaneous means not to think, organise, decide and make an effort to realise with the personal will.