This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

(click to enlarge)

(Hatha) Yoga, Health and Healing

Abha Singh
P.P.N. College-Kanpur


The grossest meaning of the word hatha is force, forcing, doing something forcibly because initially hatha is breaking a body habit and almost forcing you to do it. The body has the habit of slouching forcing that habit out and forcing a new one in is hatha. But it is a gentle forcing. The word ha means the sun, the word tha means the moon. As the understanding of one's personal, physical relationship with the entire universe. The word yoga signifies the union of individual soul and universal soul and also the practical methods which bring such union.

Yoga means to control and concentrate the body & mind. The word yoga literally means 'union' and therefore the basic aims of all kinds of yoga is the realization of the divine and the realisation of unity. The restoration of the original unity is the aims of yoga. According to Sri Aurobindo "Yoga implies to only the realization of God but an entire concentration and change of the inner and outer life till it is fit to manifest a divine consciousness and become part of a divine work.  

Integral yoga or Purna Yoga of Sri Aurobindo is the effort to move the mind along the path of ascent (through higher mind, illumined mind, intuition and over mind) toward super mind. This includes (i) a process of psychicisation (ii) a process of spiritualization (iii) a process of supramentalisation. These steps are essentially inner, and that is why at times, Sri Aurobindo yoga is described as inner yoga. Patanjali said yoga is a Citta-Vrtti nirodhaha. yoga is a "Self Discipline"

According to the Bhagavadgita in chapter II it was said-

Yogasthah kurukarmdni

Sangam tyakiva dhananjaya

Siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutra

Samatvam yoga ucyate

Fixed in yoga do thy work, O winner of wealth abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure for evenness of mind is called yoga. Yoga means binding one's psychic powers, balancing and enhancing them.

Hatha yoga is a process of developing that sensitivity both to your surfaces of the body and internal surfaces of the body to the internal organs of the body and all the inner functions.

Hatha yoga is conquest of the body. The first philosophical goal of hatha yoga that the body should be under the direction of the mind. To make the body a fit vessel for God's worship becomes the purpose of hatha yoga. If the body is not purified then it will have adverse effects on the processes of mental purification.

The entire yoga is a system of regulating the tendencies of citta or the ciatas manas. Our citta has been compassed with a pool of water, which is normally calm and quiet. The swirls of mind are known as the vrttis. Vrtti is a thought wave in mind which swirls around something like a whirlpool.  

The quieter down these swirls (vrttis) of mind is yoga. Patanjali suggest four types of attitudes for keeping a person mentally healthy.

A friendly attitude towards those who are happy (Maitri)

An attitude of compassion towards those who are in misery (karuna).

Rejoicing attitude towards virtuous persons (mudita).

An attitude of indifference towards vicious (upeksa). 

These attitude will keep the mind of person, pacified otherwise a person could always get perturbed in respect to his associations with other persons.

The yogic asana is further conducive in attaining a state of for bearance and adjustments to the changes in environment. A person should be true from natural environmental susceptibilities, within limits, he should be able to resist the changes of temperature and humidity and thus remain unperturbed in respect to hot and cold, pain and pleasure, light and shade, sweet or bitter, luxury or non-luxury.

Through solar salutation or surya - Namaskar, a person can conquer not only of the body but conquer the mood is what hatha yoga will accomplish.

With the practice of hatha yoga depression can be treated very easily. Hatha yoga said that every act you perform with your body is a thought planted in your mind. According to hatha yoga through breathing exercise pain and poisons can be reduced. Breathing exercise is a long art of self healing. The relationship between hatha yoga and meditation comes at four points of course, hatha yoga itself is a meditative practice; but then there are four areas of transition four links between hatha yoga and meditation proper. The only way to gain immortality is to take a little death serum every day-this is the principle of immunity. So you lie in the corpse posture, you become relaxed, and then that leads to meditation. This is one way of transition from hatha into meditation.

Health is derived from the healing. According to aurveda healthy person is defined by a sanskrit sholoka which means - A persons having a strong nervous system, digestive and blood circulatory system and vitality and excretory system, then he would be in a good health. Along with this soul and mind should be happy this state can be a symbol of health or healthy person. Physical and mental fitness both are important for a good health.

Yoga is a actual path of peace and happiness. In science of yoga human being is assumed like a atomic reactor which need shields, full, controller and coolant system.

For maintaining good health five factors are most important.

Proper Exercise:

1.    Proper Exercise is the best way for the circulation and flexibility of the body. Exercise is the boon for the good health, which make a person strong and active in every way.

2.    Proper Diet:

Vegetarian food is strongly recommended for the physical and mental health.

3.    Proper breathing:

Pranayam is a major source of energy. Pranayam is a yogic breathing system. Body subsists on Prana the vital life force. Shortage of Prana vayu breeds disease. Our lungs purify the whole blood of the body in less then a minute, thus purifying 8 tons of blood every 24 horus. Practicing pranayam sets the blood-purification system right. The movement of pran and sub pran within the body keeps it in proper balance makes the mind calm and the body relaxed. It keeps all the systems active and healthy. Panayam like Nadi-shodhan, Bhastrika, Sheetali, Sheetkari, Chandrabhedi, Suryabhedi, ujjayi. Moorchhya etc. are all even more beneficial.

Postive thinking/Dhyan :

Meditation is a wonderful remedy to alleviate disease. It makes the mind thought free, void of love and hatred full of joy and bliss, free from tension and conflicts of all kinds. Due to meditation a person can lead his life very peacefully and healthy. At the time of meditation over body and mind become relaxed and over consciousness rise above the earthly atmosphere. Samadhi leads to total transformationor 'Kayakalp'. Meditation is a very good technique for health and healing.

Proper Relaxation is essential for the re-charging of the body and mind. Yoga does its function, like a tonic. Through yoga self confidence and mental capacity can be increased. Thus in the real sense yoga keeps the person mentally and physically healthy. 

Asans- Regular and systematic practice of Asans makes the body as well as mind healthy and disease free, because;

1.    Asans relieve tension of the muscular system and purify it.

2.    Expansion and contraction of muscles by doing asans give them needed massage.

3.    The asan-activated muscles regulate blood supply and its circulation throughout the body.

4.    Deep breathing asans enhance the intake of oxygen and help purify blood.

5.    The asan- improved efficiency of intestines creates natural appetite and helps easy digestion of food.

6.    Asans make endocrine glands generates enough digestive juice to help the body systems function properly.

7.    Asans strengthen the spine, the vital body support and

8.    Asan help the mind attain piety, concentration and every and add to the body stoutness, beauty, elasticity, alertness and diseaselessness. 

Hatha yoga is a process of developing that sensitivity - both to your external surfaces of the body and internal organs of the body and all the inner functions. According to hatha yoga, physical yoga as a preparation for spiritual liberation. Hatha yoga was devised by the people in the meditative life, Raja Yogis as a preparation of pre-meditation both physically and psychologically, as a process of purification. By practicing the hatha yoga a person can learn how to absorb yours energies into your system and
re-use them. This conquest by the mind of the body then is the first philosophical goal of hatha yoga that the body should be under the direction of the mind. To make the body a fit vessel for God’s worship becomes the purpose of hatha yoga. If the body is not purified then it will have adverse effects on the processes of mental purification.

Yoga is a ideal process for keeping the person mentally and physically healthy. Self confidence and power of determination can be developed by the practicing of yoga.

Asan and Pranayam prove to be most useful in removing all kinds of tension. They affect our creative and functionally better and to keep in turn, our body and mind healthy and pure.

Sthiram Sukham Asan-

Asans make our body and mind stable and produce in us a feeling of happiness and bliss. No other exercise is so helpful as asans to yield happiness and to maintain the position of physical and mental equilibrium.

Shavasan deserves special importance as a means of removing mental tension. Persons suffering from heart disease and blood pressure, in particular, universally benefit by performing these asans.

Perturbed and agitated mind causes many a psychosomatic diseases. It works in two ways: (a) when the perfected mind creates imbalance in body secretions, metabolism, digestion and blood circulation resulting in reduction of resistance power of the body, it easily falls prey to disease. and (b) When agitated mind is unable to establish proper coordination and balance amongst various limbs of the body, it causes diseases of the body. Asans and pranayam help calm down the perturbed mind to the greatest possible extent to obviate many a psychosomatic disease.

 Meditation and disease

Some mental diseases are due to a set of hidden ambition in the sub-conscious or unconscious mind. On many occasions, certain thoughts arise in our mind which is simply suppressed by the conscious mind because they are not allowed by the society. These suppressed ambitions and thoughts get recorded in the sub-conscious or unconscious mind, awaiting an occasion for manifestations. Psychologists believe that 9/10 of our behavioral activities are inspired b these suppressed ambition and thoughts. Sanskars and Craving of the past lives too lay deep in the caves of sub conscious and unconscious mind. Freud and his followers in the 19th century made an intensive research on the working of mind at subconscious and unconscious levels and proposed psychoanalysis as a method for understanding these thoughts and ambitions.

Since ancient times our Rishi and Munis knew obstacles in meditation caused by dissatisfied and suppressed desires and cravings. The suppressed desires and cravings cause many a mental disease, even leading to madness. Neurosis, depression, hysteria fainting, schizophrenia etc. are some of the diseases caused by suppressed, unsatiated desires and carvings. All these can be cured by practicing yoga, especially meditation. Sage Patanjali says in yoga sutra "Daily practice of Pranayam destroys Sanskars and Cravings of past lives". When we draw our senses inward by practicing 'pratyahar', then these accumulated cravings, unsatiated ambitions and suppressed desires gradually appear before our mind much like dreams, simply to disappear.

During the last two decades a good deal of scientific research has been conducted on meditation including Dharma, Dhyan and Samadhi as well. These experiments reveal that during the state of meditation our body and mind undergo drastic changes. For example, it reduces tension of the body and mind, slows down heart beat, regulates the consumption of oxygen, stabilizes the processes of metabolism and emission of alpha rays from the brain etc. to yield, in turn, an experience of peace and bliss. 

In brief, the eight -fold steps of yog-yam, Niyam, Asan, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharma, Dhyan and Samadhi are capable of removing our diseases of body and mind. Persons adopting yoga in lie remain healthy in true sense of the word.

yoga (Hatha) is a boon to humanity and renders benefit of complete health. Yogic therapies gift of the yogshatras. It makes the life force stronger and gives new life to the body. It is for more effective, easier and cheaper than most other therapies. 

Yogic therapeutic system is closely related to psychology. Yogic therapy has certain special feature of its our such as body cleansing, activating endocrines, managing proper functioning all systems- nervous system , breathing, digestion, blood circulation, excretion etc. Keeping the mind tension free through the six fold cleansing processes and practice of Asans, Pranayam, and Meditation etc. eliminates the very cause of disease. The observance of yam, Niyam, noble thinking and healthy determination hasten overcoming the disease.

A brief description of principal means adopted in yogic system and their working is as follows-

Six Folds Cleansing Practices:

 1.    Neti- To clean the upper part of the throat, sutra - neti and Jalneti are performed. A number of nerves at the junction of upper part of the nose and forehead are prone to the accumulation of dirt. Neti cleans them all to make them in turn active and healthy. It removes all cough and rejuvenates every part of the eyes, nose, throat and forehead. Drinking water, milk, ghee etc. through nostrils too cures many diseases.

2.    Kunjal :  It is also called Gajkarni. To cleanse the stomach and food pipe, the practice of drinking Luke warm water and vomiting it in turn is very useful. It removes extra acid, bile and cough from these part and helps cure ailments like poor digestion, bile diseases, acidity, asthma etc Similarly, practices like Brahm-datum, muslin-dhauti. Agnisar also acid the cleansing process.

3.    Basti- As excrete tends to rot in the large intestines, the accumulated filth in the stomach causes many a disease. To clean it, Basti-Kriya, similar to modern enema, is practiced" As a result larges intestines or the colon and the digestive system start functioning properly. Te problems of gas. Constipation, piles, indigestions and similar other stomach disorders disappear. Ganesh Kriya also proves helpful in this regard.

4.    Nauli- The practice of Nauli yields additional energy to strengthen the large and small intestines, stomach muscles, nerves and veins and blood carrying arteries. It is a matchless activity for obviating rheumatism related ailments and stomach diseases.

6.    Kapalbhati- It occupies a very important place in the purification process. It cleanses the forehead, the brain and the skull. It gives mental peace and improves the functioning of intestines. It removes residual dirty foreign matter from muscles and veins of the forehead and makes all the principal glands functional.

Curing disease through yoga gives due importance to sun bath. Sun's rays are believed to be health-giving. Sun bath cures body's paleness, provides for the shortage of iron, removes feebleness of nerves, alleviates fatigue and weakness of he muscles. It cures many a chronic disease too.

Man today sends to be an extrovert, always struggling in a great hurry and worry. Psychologically 80% of disease arises from mental tension. Owing to being oppressed by disappointment, depression and negative thinking, there remains no. co-ordination between his body and mind. Yoga is a best healer of these psychosomatic diseases.

Healing by Yogic Therapy :

 Many patients suffering from high blood pressure can get cured by adopting simple diet and some others by performing asans. Doding Shalabhasar, Chakrasan, yoga mudra, and shavasan are useful. Siddhasan, Padmasan, Paschimottan asan, Suptvajrasan, Shashankasan, Vipritkarni, Matseyasan, Bhujangasan, Pavanuktasan and Surya Namaskar are also very useful in curing the high blood pressure. Meditating for the ten minutes every morning and evening removes mental tension and high blood pressure.

Yogic way of life can cure even this frightening disease. In order to avoid the occurrence of heart trouble a person should lead of yogic way of life. Performing yogic Mudras  and Asans, heart trouble can be prevented and control very well.

Practice of Hatha yoga is making up for karma taking a little physical discomfort, out of your own choice so that seeds, sown in the soil of mind come to fruition and get paid off very quickly.

In the yoga sutras, the purification exercises are called shauch. Shauch is a word both for physical cleanliness and mental purity. As the mind aspires for purity it immediately becomes conscious o the unclean things in the body. Santosh-remaining contented with honest earning. Tap means a person should do labour and sadhana for healthy living. Swadhayay infer self study, self evaluation and contemplation to gain knowledge of the self. Fifth niyam in the yoga sutra is Ishwar Pranidhan means complete surrender to God. These basic rules keep the self healthy and pure.

Hatha yoga in its finest highest, deepest philosophy is a preparation for kundalini yog. Hath yoga is than the prepared a for the conrol and direction of meditative experience. Hath yoga is refining the body to move a human being to a finer existence. Kun dalina yoga is working from within, where Hatha yoga is working from the outside.

There are the four locks practised in Hatha yog.

Mulabandha- The root locks which is the pulling up of the lower anal genital sphincter muscles and internal rectal muscles. Khecari the tongue lock which is turning the tongue up and back into the palate as far back as it will go.

Creating a hole as you pull in and up into the rib cage and Jalandhara bandha - locking the throat pushing the chin into the hollow of the neck. The fifth lock- Jnana mudra or Chin mudra- locking the figures for meditation is easily achieved by just leaving your hands like those of a baby in a comfortable position so that the energy flow is not going outwards but is drawn inwards and locked. Ashvini Mudras is a release and pulling of the root lock.

Hatha yoga is practised to train the body to serve as a fit vessel for the spirit of God, within so that when the coils a Divine Energy are uncoiled, the body should not become a hindrance. By practicing the hatha yoga good health can be maintained.

For the Asthmatic pateint - Neti, Kunjal, Kapalbati, Pranayam, deep long breathing. Shashankar, Matseyasan is very beneficial in the treatment. Regular practice of Bhastrika Pranayam, Kunjal Kriya and Jalneti is a magic cure of bad cold and cough.

By the regular practice of Bhujangasan, Shalabhasan, Dhanurasan, Paschimottanasan, and Sarvangasan for some days to curve even the worst form of chronic constipation. Frothe cure of Acidity by doing Kunjal Kriya with Luke warm saltiness plain water regularly for a mother. For the gas trouble, practicing Bhujangasan. Shalabhasan, Dhanurasan, Pawan Muktasan will be useful.

For the treatment o Piles- Ashwani Mudra practice, that is practicing contracting and expanding of the anus at will again and again throughout the day. Mool Bandh practice for 20 times by contracting the anus while keeping the breath exhaled and stretching it upwards. Regular practice of Janushirasan, Paschimottanasan, Vajrasan, Suptvayrasan, Mayurasan, Shashanpeasan, Pawanuptasan, halasan, Sarvangasan, Matseyasan and shavasan are the useful for the treatment of piles.

Diabetes can by control by he regular yoga practice.

  • Regular practice of Kunjal Kriya.
  • Thorough Practice of Bhastrika and udiyan Bandh.
  • Ordinarily doing all Asan but especially practicing nowkasan and Ardhmatseyndarasan. 
  • Doing a good deal of physical work and improved dietary habits.
  • aschimottanasa, yoga mudra, Dhanurasan Mayurasan, Halasan are very effective for curing the diabetes. Nauli, Kapalbhati, Nadi Shadhan and Agniasan Kriya can also be profitably used for the diabetic patients.

Shavasan, Pranayam, Yoganidra, and other yogasan & are effective means of reducing tension. These asans, would eliminate all his physical as well as mental tension. Shavasan, Meditation and Pranayam are a sure remedy for fatigue.

Doing some ordinary asans like Surya-Namaskar, Pascimottanasan, Yogmudra, Shashankasan, Bhujangasan, Halasan, Pawanmuktasan, Sarvangasan, Matseyasan etc. also removes headache.

Sound health always depends on general condition of the body and mind. Mind is the pilot of this bodily Chariot and it is mind alone that guides all it actions. When mind is well then the body also performs well because body is dependent on mind.

Yogic practices are helpful in cleaning the body and making it healthy, such as Kunjal Kriya, Neti, Enema, Asans, like Pranayam Tratak etc. These will make the body as well as mind healthy.

For mental balance Surya Namaskar, Pawanmuktasan, Gamuphasan, Padmasan, Simhasan, Sarvangasan and Pranayam like Nadi Shodhan, Bhastrika, Ujjayi are useful and the best means of establishing mental equilibrium.

Apart from many good points from yogic exercise, it may not be out of place to mention that when yoga was initiated in India, modern principles of medicine like physiology, anatomy etc. were not discovered, hence any yogic exercise to be practised must be in consonance with the basic principle of modern medicine.

According to Pt. Sri Ram Sharma "Psychology is a state of higher spirituality". 'Self knowledge' is a important aim of the Indian Psychology. At this juncture, it is a time to re-think and re-evaluate about the Indian Psychology. Definitely we should study, understand and practice of our Indian psychology. Now even in this modern world, relevance of the'(hatha) yoga - health and healing' is proving true.