“The soul is atomic in size and can be perceived by perfect intelligence. This atomic soul is floating in the five kinds of air, is situated within the heart, and spreads its influence all over the body of the embodied living entities. When the soul is purified from the contamination of the five kinds of material air, its spiritual influence is exhibited.” (Mundaka Upanishad, 3.19)
According to the Ayurvedic system, the science of health as described in the ancient scriptures of India, there are five kinds of air that exist within the body of a jiva soul: prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana. One who learns to control these airs can achieve great yogic perfections.
Air is the vital force of man. If air didn’t exist in the body, there would be no life, for the vital organs would not be able to operate. Ayurveda tells us that our bodies are composed of kapha, pitha, vayu (mucus, bile, and air). A healthy person has an equal balance of these three elements. When these elements exist disproportionately, problems arise within the body such as disease. Wind is the considered the most powerful element and it is even used in the Vedic texts as a reference for making comparisons. One will often see statements comparing certain things or people, to being “as strong as the wind”. There are two notable historical personalities born of the wind god Vayu, both of whom possessed an extraordinary amount of strength.
Around five thousand years ago, there was a royal family by the name of the Pandavas. Consisting of five brothers, they were the rightful heirs to the kingdom formerly ruled by their late father Pandu, but unfortunately the throne was usurped unjustly by their cousin brothers, the Kauravas. During a previous incident, King Pandu was cursed that he would meet death during the act of sex. For this reason, his first three sons were begotten from the semina of various demigods. One of his sons, Bhima, was begotten by Vayu, the wind god. For this reason, Bhima was extremely strong. The Pandavas suffered greatly throughout their life. One of their tribulations involved a stint in the forest where they lived as exiles from the kingdom. This was the result of Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava brother, losing a dice match. During their travels, the five brothers and their mother Queen Kunti, would get tired from all the walking. Bhima was so strong that he was able to carry the entire family on his shoulders and travel great distances. Lord Hanuman was also born of the wind god, and His strength was even greater. As the faithful servant of Lord Rama, God’s incarnation during the Treta Yuga, Hanuman performed many heroic feats such as burning down the city of Lanka, carrying an entire mountain in his hand, and helping destroy the Rakshasa army of Ravana.
The hatha-yoga system is meant to help one control the air within the body. If we learn to control the vital airs, we can really harness all our strength. The body is capable of amazing feats, but our powers are limited due to our entanglement in sense gratification. Hatha-yoga, with its various sitting postures and breathing exercises, helps us break free of this attachment. When the senses are completely under control, one can more easily avoid sinful activities. The four pillars of sinful life are meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. Sexual urges are the hardest to control, and one who engages in any of the other three sinful activities naturally has their desire for sex increase. In the Western world, these activities are quite the norm. One who initially is instructed on the science of self realization thinks it almost impossible to give up this lifestyle. For this reason, hatha-yoga is recommended for those who are overly attached to the demands of the gross body.
Learning of the benefits of this type of yoga, one may think that we should all take it up. We see that yoga is very popular today, especially hatha-yoga, but almost everyone is performing it improperly and for the wrong reason. Yoga is touted as a completely secular activity, where people are even taught to vibrate the sacred syllable of Om. Lord Krishna, God Himself, declares in the Bhagavad-gita, that of all sound vibrations, He is the syllable Om, yet the modern practitioners of yoga recite this sound without any thought of God. Yoga is taught as a gymnastics exercise, something to be taken up for those seeking improved health. While it undoubtedly provides health benefits, the yoga system was created by God to allow people to make spiritual advancement. If one performs yoga for thirty minutes a day, and then spends the rest of the time engaged in sinful activity, they haven’t made any progress at all. They may have increased the duration of their life and their performance capabilities in sex life, but those things are all temporary. At the time of death, one has to give up this gross body and all its attributes.
In this day and age, meditational yoga is very difficult to perform. For this reason, bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the best method for achieving spiritual advancement. Hanuman is a great example in this regard. He was a perfect yogi, who had his vital airs under complete control. He was so strong that he even surprised himself with some of his feats. Yet, all this strength meant nothing to him, for he was completely dedicated to serving the lotus feet of Lord Shri Rama. Rama’s eternal servant Hanuman, thinks of Him and His wife Sita all day and night. “How can I make my Lord happy? What can I do for Him next? Let me sing His praises.” These are the thoughts of the great Hanuman. He is the perfect yogi in all respects, and He uses all his powers towards the ultimate cause. He is a role model that we should all look up to.
Bhakti-yoga involves nine distinct processes: heating, chanting, remembering, worshiping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering prayers, carrying out the orders of the Lord, becoming friends with Him, and surrendering everything unto Him. As we can see, this type of yoga isn’t difficult to perform, and it affords us many different avenues which we can follow. Yoga means having union with the Supreme. Whether it’s sitting alone in a secluded place, or loudly chanting the holy names of the Lord: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the key is to always keep our mind with God. Then we will be performing real yoga and we will always be happy.