Friday, May 28, 2010
by Suleiha Suguna
My father, my Yoga guru, paid particular attention to the Gheranda Samhita in his journey as a Yogi. Consequently, my education in Yoga was based on the Gheranda Samhita. Today, Maya Yoga Samudraa's foundation is the Gheranda Samhita. Most readers will be curious as to what is the Gheranda Samhita as I have found that people are more familiar with the Patanjali Sutras when it comes to Yoga.
The Patanjali Sutras is widely regarded as the basis of yoga practice and philosophy. However, the many Yoga postures or asanas as practiced today can be traced to the Gheranda Samhita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita. These 3 texts form the basis for the contemporary practice of Hatha Yoga. In covering asanas, Patanjali contended with a very general guideline - stirre, sukha asana. Literally translated, this means steady, comfortable posture. According to Patanjali, a steady, comfortable posture was necessary for contemplation and meditation.
Of the 3 texts that provide details on Yoga postures, the Gheranda Samhita is regarded as the most encyclopedic. This Tantrika Sanskrit text, which is in the form of dialogue between Sage Gheranda and an enquirer, Chanda Kapili, teaches yoga in 350 verses and is divided into 7 chapters or steps as follows:
1. The purification of the body
2. Asanas or postures
3. Mudras (control of body through symbolic gestures)
4. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
5. Pranayama (control of breath)
6. Dhyana (meditation)
7. Samadhi (non-dualistic state of consciousness)
The Purification Process
Gheranda Samhita's first lesson is on the purification of the body. This purification process is aimed at flushing out the toxins accumulated in the body. Gheranda outlines 6 purification methods that must be practices by a student of Yoga:
1. There are hundreds of thousands of Asanas. The postures are as many in numbers as there are species of living creatures in this universe.
2. Among them 84 are the best and among those 84, 32 have been found useful for mankind in this world.
My father emphasized mastery of these 32 asanas for maximum health benefits and I have made this a cornerstone of my teaching syllabus.
Mudras are symbolic gestures made with one's fingers and/or other parts of the body. The science behind the mudra is that you can control your involuntary muscles by positioning a controllable body part in a particular way. As amazing as it may sound, I have performed demonstrations with students who have been amazed by how their breathing capacity or lung capacity changes as they perform certain mudras.
Gheranda says that there are 25 mudras and the practice of these 25 mudras give great success to a yogi. In his dialogue with Chanda Kapili he points out that these mudras destroy all diseases and its practitioner will not have any fear of fire, water, and air. Cough, asthma and the enlargement of the spleen is negated.
I quote Gheranda here: "O Chanda, what more shall I tell thee. In short, there is nothing in this world like the mudras for giving quick success".
In Part 2 of the Gheranda Samhita, I will delve into the remaining 4 steps.