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MUDRA

 

SPECIAL techniques are required to awaken the spiritual force which is latent within man according to the theory of HathaYoga.[1]

[1] See Serpent Power-the chapter on the "Theoretical Basis of Yoga".

 This subtle force is called Kundalini[2]  

[2] Ibid.; the chapter on "Embodied Consciousness". See also the discussion of this force by Briggs, in his Gorakhnãth and the Kãnphata Yogis, pp. 308 ff.

and is believed to be in a static state. The aim and goal of Hatha Yoga is to enliven, or awaken, this force. After the student has purified his system and gained control of his breath, these techniques, called mudrãs,[3]  

[3] The word mudrã means to seal, close, or lock up. The various practices are techniques for locking the breath within the body. Another term that is used in connection with these practices, bandha, which means to bind, fix, or restrain. The distinction is theoretical and should not cause any confusion, for they are one and the same thing.

are given to him by the guru according to his needs.

The purpose and importance of mudrãs is revealed by the text in typical allegorical fashion.

As the chief of the snakes is the support of the earth with all the mountains and forests on it, so all the Tantras (Yoga practices) rest on the Kundalinî. When the sleeping Kundalinî awakens by favour of a Guru, then all the lotuses (in the six chakras or centres) and all the knots are pierced through. Susumnã (Sunya Padavi) becomes a main road for the passage of Prãna, and the mind then becomes free from all connections (with its objects of enjoyment) and Death is then evaded. Susumnã, Sunya, Padavi, Brahma-Randhra, Mahã-Patha, Smasãna, Sãmbhavî, Madhya-Mãrga, are names of one and the same thing. In order, therefore, to awaken this goddess, who is sleeping at the entrance of Brahma Dvãra (the great door), Mudrãs should be practised. Mahã Mudrã, Mahã Bandha, Mahã Vedha, Khecarî, Uddiyãna Bandha, Múla Bandha, Jãlandhara Bandha, Viparîta Karanî, Vajroli, and Sakti Cãlani. These are the ten Mudrãs which annihilate old age and death, They have been explained by Adi Nãtha (Siva) and give eight kinds of divine wealth. They are loved by all the Siddhas (perfected ones) and are hard to attain even by the Maruts. These Mudrãs should be kept secret by every means, as one keeps ones box of jewelry, and should on no account be told to anyone, just as husband and wife keep their dealings secret.[4]

[4] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 1-9: Compare Gheranda Samhitã, i, 1-3: "There are twenty-five mudrãs, the practice of which gives success to the Yogins. They are: (1) Mahã-mudrã, (2) Nabho mudrã, (3) Uddiyãna, (4) Jãlandhara, (5) Mûlabandha, (6) Mahãbandha, (7) Mahãvedha, (8) Khecarî (9) Viparitakarani, (10) Yoni-mudrã, (11) Vajroli-mudrã, (12) Sakticãlani, (13) Tãdãgî, (14) Mãnduki (15) Sambhavi, (16) Pañcadhãranã (five dhãranãs), (21) Asvini, (22) Pãsini, (23) Kãkî, (24) Mãtangi, and (25) Bhujanginî."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 12-15: "Now I shall tell you the best means of attaining success m Yoga. The practitioners should keep it secret. It is the inaccessible Yoga. When the sleeping goddess Kundalinî is awakened through the grace of Guru, then all the lotuses and the bonds are readily pierced through and through. Therefore, in order that the goddess, who is asleep in the mouth of the Brahmarandhra (the innermost hollow of Susumnã) be awakened, the Mudrãs should be practised with the greatest care. Out of the many Mudrãs, the following ten are the best:-(1) Mahãmudrã, (2) Mahãbandha, (3) Mahãvedha, (4) Khecarî, (5) Jãlandhara, (6) Mûlabandha, (7) Viparitakarani, (8) Uddãna, (9) Vajronî, and (10) Sakticãlana. I will comment in the proper sequence on the additional mudrãs mentioned in the Gheranda Samhitã.

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 94-100: "0 Canda-Kapãli! thus have I recited to thee the chapter on Mudrãs. This is beloved of all adepts, and destroys decay and death. This should not be taught indiscriminately, nor to a wicked person, nor to one devoid of faith; this secret should be preserved with great care; it is difficult to be attained even by the Devas. These Mudrãs which give happiness and emancipation should be taught to a guileless, calm and peace-minded person, who is devoted to his Teacher and comes of good family. These Mudrãs destroy all diseases. They increase the gastric fire of him who practises them daily. To him death never comes, nor decay, etc.; there is no fear to him from fire and water, nor front air. Cough, asthma, enlargement of the spleen, leprosy, phlegm diseases of twenty sorts, are verily destroyed by the practice of these Mudrãs. 0 Canda! What more shall I tell thee? In short, there is nothing in this world like the Mudrãs for giving quick success. "

 

Each mudrã has a specific purpose. It is not necessary to use every one of them when practising; yet it is advisable that the student be familiar with them. I shall, therefore, present all the general description and comments given in our text, as well as my personal experience. The text begins with mahã-mudrã (see illustration).

Pressing the Yoni (perineum) with the heel of the left foot, and stretching forth the right foot, its toe should be firmly grasped by the hands. By stopping the throat (by Jãlandhara) the air is held upwards. Just as a snake struck with a stick becomes straight like a stick, in the same way, Sakti (Susumnã) becomes straight at once. Then the Kundalinî becomes as it were dead, leaving the support of both the Idã and the Pingalã (the left and right sympathetic nervous system). The air should be expelled then, slowly only and not violently. For this very reason the best of the wise men call it the Mahã Mudrã. This Mahã Mudrã has been propounded by great masters. Great evils and pains, like death, are destroyed by it, and for this reason wise men call it the Mahã Mudrã. Having practised with the left nostril, it should be practised with the right one; and when the number on both sides becomes equal, then the Mudrã should be discontinued. There is no food wholesome or injurious in this practice; for the practice of this Mudrã destroys the injurious effects of all the rasas (chemicals). Even the deadliest of poisons, if taken, acts like nectar. Consumption, leprosy, prolapsus ani, colic, and the diseases due to indigestionall these irregularities are removed by the practice of this Mahã Mudrã. This Mahã Mudrã has been described as the giver of great success (Siddhi) to men. It should be kept secret by every effort and not revealed to any and every one.[5]

[5] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 10-18. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 6-8: "Pressing carefully the anus by the left heel, stretch the right leg and take hold of the toes by the hands; contract the throat (not exhaling), and fix the gaze between the eyebrows. This is called Mahã-mudrã by the wise. The practice of Mahã-mudrã cures consumption, the obstruction of the bowels, the enlargement of the spleen, indigestion and fever-in fact it cures all diseases." I was taught to alternate the legs while learning.

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 16-20: "My dearest, I shall now describe to you the Mahãmudrã, from whose knowledge the ancient sages Kapila and others, obtained successes in Yoga. In accordance with the instructions of the Guru, press gently on the perineum with the heel of the left foot. Stretching the right foot out, hold it fast by the two hands. Having closed the nine gates (of the body), place the chin on the chest. Then concentrate the vibrations of the mind and inspire air and retain it by kumbhaka (so long as one can comfortably keep it). This is Mahãmudrã, held secret in all the Tantras. The steady-minded Yogi, having practised it on the left side, should then practise it on the right side; and in all cases must be firm in Prãnãyãma,-the regulation of his breath. In this way, even the most unfortunate Yogi might obtain success. By this means all the vessels of the body are roused and stirred into activity; the life is increased and its decay is checked, and all sins are destroyed. All diseases are healed and the gastric fire is increased. It gives faultless beauty to the body, and destroys decay and death. All fruits of desires and pleasures are obtained, and the senses are conquered. The Yogi fixed in meditation acquires all the above-mentioned things, through practice. There should be no hesitation in doing so. 0 ye worshipped of god! know that this Mudrã is to be kept secret with the greatest care. Obtaining this, the Yogi crosses the ocean of the world. This Mudrã, described by me, is the giver of all desires to the practitioner; it should be practised in secrecy, and ought never to be given to everybody."

 

A few supplementary remarks which were given to me by my teacher will be helpful. The technique is simple. Sit on the floor with both legs straight ahead, then place the heel of the left foot on the perineum. The next step is to grasp the great toe of the right foot and lean forward until the forehead rests on the knee of the extended leg. It is permissible to lock both hands around the ball of the foot instead of trying to keep a grip on the great toe. In the beginning I was permitted to grasp the ankle. While in this position, inhale and suspend as in all breathing exercises. The texts instructs the student to take in the breath through the left nostril; however, I was permitted to use both nostrils. During the suspension other mudrãs should be used to lock in the air and create internal pressure. This is done by using the chin-lock,[6]  

[6] Sec below, pp. 70-71.

uddiyãna,[7]  

[7] See above, pp. 41-43.

and contraction of the anal sphincters.[8] mula bandha

[8] See below, p. 70.

 Then the eyes should be closed and the mind focused on the space between the eyebrows. In this position the various inner lights are said to appear, which I shall discuss after I have described the physical techniques. After a suspension with the right leg extended, I was taught to reverse the legs and perform an equal number of suspensions with the left leg extended.

The next practice is mahã bandha (the great binding).

Press the left heel to the perineum and place the right foot on the left thigh. Fill in the air, keeping the chin firm against the chest, and, having pressed the air, the mind should be fixed on the middle of the eyebrows or in the susumnã (the spine). Having kept it confined so long as possible, it should be expelled slowly. Having practised on the left side, it should be practised again on the right side. Some are of opinion that the closing of the throat is not necessary here, and that keeping the tongue pressed against the roots of the two upper central teeth makes a good Bandha (stop). This stops the upward motion of all the Nãdis. Verily this Mahã Bandha is the giver of great Siddhis. This Mahã Bandha is the most skilful means for cutting away the snare of death. It brings about the conjunction of the Triveni (Idã, Pingalã and Susumnã) and carries the mind to Kedãra (the space between the eyebrows, which is the seat of Siva).[9]

[9] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 19-24. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 18-20: "Close the anal orifice by the heel of the left foot, press that heel with the right foot carefully, move slowly the muscles of the rectum, and slowly contract the muscles of the yoni or perineum (space between the anus and the Scrotum): restrain the breath by Jãlandhara. This is called Mahãbandha. The Mahãbandha is the Greatest Bandha; it destroys decay and death: by virtue of this Bandha a man accomplishes all his desires."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 21-2: "Then (after Mahãmudrã), having extended the (right) foot, place it on the (left) thigh; contract the perineum, and draw the Apãna Vãyu upwards and join it with the Samãna Vãyu; bend the Prãna Vãyu downwards, and then let the wise Yogi bind them in trinity in the navel (i.e. the Prãna and the Apãna should be joined with Samãna in the navel). I have told you now the Mahãbandha, which shows the way to emancipation. By this, all the fluids in the vessels of the body of the Yogi are propelled towards the head. This should be practised with great care, alternately with both feet. Through this practice, the wind enters the middle channel of the Susumnã, the body is invigorated by it, the bones are firmly knitted, the heart of the Yogi becomes full (of cheerfulness). By this Bandha, the great Yogi accomplishes all his desires."

In addition to what is given in the text, I was taught two supplementary requirements. During the suspension I was told to draw in the abdominal viscera toward the spine, as in uddiyãna, and then to work the muscles of the rectum forcibly. The contractions of the anal sphincters were to be continued until it was possible finally to draw in air, which was to be carried to the small intestines. I found no particular difficulty in doing this; however, it will be virtually impossible for anyone who has not perfected the practices required in the earlier stages. Here I was taught to use the alternate breath and to practise on both sides as in mahã mudrã.

The importance of the next practice can be seen from the way it is introduced by the text.

As beauty and loveliness do not avail a woman without a husband, so the Mahã Mudrã and the Mahã Bandha are useless without the Mahã Vedha [The Great Piercing]. Sitting with the Mahã Bandha, the Yogi should fill in the air and keep his mind collected. The movements of the Vãyus (Prãna and Apãna) should be stopped by closing the throat. Resting both the hands equally on the ground, he should raise himself a little and strike his buttocks against the ground gently. The air, leaving both the passages (Idã and Pingalã), starts into the middle one. The union of the Idã and the Pingalã and Agni is effected, in order to bring about immortality. When the air becomes as it were dead (by leaving its course through the Idã and Pingalã) (i.e. when it has been kept confined), then it should be expelled. The practise of this Mahã Vedha, the giver of great Siddhi, destroys old age, grey hair, and shaking of the body, and, therefore, it is practised by the best masters. These three are the great secrets. They are the destroyers of old age and death, increase the appetite, confer the accomplishments of Anima, etc. They should be practised eight times every day, once every three hours. They increase collection of good actions and lessen the evil ones. People, instructed well, should begin their practice, little by little, first.[10]

[10] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 25-31. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 21-4: "As the beauty and charms of women are in vain without men, so are Mûlabandha and Mahãbandha without Mahãvedha. Sit first in Mahãbandha posture, then restrain breath by Uddãna Kumbhaka. This is called Mahãvedha-the giver of success to the Yogis. The Yogin who daily practises Mahãbandha and Mûlabandha, accompanied with Mahãvedha, is the best of Yogins. For him there is no fear of death, and decay does not approach. This Vedha should be kept carefully secret by the Yogins."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 23-30: "0 goddess of the three worlds! when the Yogi, while performing the Mahãbandha, causes the union of the Prãna and Apãna Vãyus and filling in the viscera with air drives it slowly towards the nates, it is called Mahãvedha. The best of the Yogis having, through the help of the Vãyu, pierced with this perforator the knot which is in the path of Susumnã, should then pierce the knot of Brahmã. He who practises this Mahãvedha with great secrecy, obtains Vãyu-siddhi (success over the wind). It destroys decay and death. The gods residing in the chakras tremble owing to the gentle influx and efflux of air in Prãnãyãma; the great goddess, Kundali Mahã Mãyã, is also absorbed in the mount Kailãsa. The Mahãmudrã and Mahãbandha become fruitless if they are not followed by Mahãvedha; therefore, the Yogi should practise all these three successively with great care. He who practises these three daily four times with great care, undoubtedly conquers death within six months. Only the, siddha knows the importance of these three and no one else; knowing these, the practitioner obtains all success. This should be kept in great secrecy by the practitioner desirous of obtaining power; otherwise it is certain that the coveted powers can never be obtained through the practice of Mudrãs."

I was taught that instead of sitting in the posture described for mahã-bandha, I was to use padmãsana, then inhale, suspend, and do the chin-lock. While holding my breath I was to contract the anus and navel as though trying to bring them together. Next I was to lift my body from the floor and gently drop it in order to give it a slight jar. I was cautioned never to be severe when the air was locked within, for there is always danger of driving it into channels where it might prove harmful. This warning I heeded, and I cannot report any ill consequences. When the breath can no longer be held, relax the contraction of the anal sphincters and the abdominal muscles, but maintain the dim, lock, while letting the air out very slowly. The effectiveness of these mudrãs cannot be seen until one has developed his prã1~ãyäma, and even then it is necessary to practise them for some time before their purpose can be experienced. However, it is maintained by some teachers that a few of them can be used for building up the health of the body. I have always practised them in conjunction with prãnãyãma and cannot report on their individual advantages. They are intended to produce certain mental conditions, which will be discussed later.

The fourth mudrã listed in the text is described at length.

The Khecarî Mudrã [roaming through space, flyinga supernatural power of Yogis] is accomplished by thrusting the tongue into the gullet, by turning it over itself and keeping the eyesight in the middle of the eyebrows. To accomplish this, the tongue is lengthened by cutting the fraenum linguae, moving, and pulling it. When it can touch the space between the eyebrows, then Khecarî can be accomplished. Taking a sharp, smooth, and clean instrument, of the shape of a cactus leaf, the fraenum of the tongue should be cut a little (as much as a hairs thickness), at a time. Then rock salt and yellow myrobalan (both powdered) should be rubbed in. On the 7th day, it should again be cut a hairs breadth. One should go on doing thus, regularly for six months. At the end of six months the fraenum of the tongue will be completely cut. Turning the tongue upwards, it is fixed on the three ways (esophagus, windpipe and palate). Thus it makes the Khecarî Mudrã, and is called the Vyoma [Sky] Chakra. The Yogi who sits for a minute turning his tongue upwards is saved from poisons, diseases, death, old age, etc. He who knows the Khecarî Mudrã is not afflicted with disease, death, sloth, sleep, hunger, thirst, and swooning. He who knows Khecarî Mudrã is not troubled by diseases, is not stained with karmas, and is not snared by time.[11]

[11] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 32-40. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 25-8: "Cut the lower tendon of the tongue, and move the tongue constantly; rub it with fresh butter, and draw it out (to lengthen it) with an iron instrument. By practising this always, the tongue becomes long, and when it reaches the space between the eyebrows, then the Khecarî is accomplished. Then (the tongue being lengthened) practise turning it upwards and backwards so as to touch the palate, till at length it reaches the holes of the nostrils opening into the mouth. Close those holes with the tongue (thus stopping inspiration), and fix the gaze on the space between the eyebrows. This is called Khecarî. By this practice there is neither fainting, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor laziness. There comes neither disease, nor decay, nor death. The body becomes divine."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 31-2: "The wise Yogi, sitting in Vajrãsana posture, in a place free from all disturbance, should firmly fix his gaze on the spot in the middle of the two eyebrows; and reversing the tongue backwards fix it in the hollow under the epiglottis, placing it with great care on the mouth of the well of nectar (i.e. closing up the air passage). This mudrã, described by me at the request of my devotees, is the Khecarî Mudrã. O, my beloved! know this to be the source of all success, always practising it let him drink the ambrosia daily. By this he obtains Vigraha-siddhi (power over the microcosm), even as lion over the elephant of death."

 

The text continues to offer praise to this mudrã. I feel it advisable to quote these general remarks in order to enable the reader to familiarize himself with the obscure and mysterious manner in which the material is handled in the traditional literature and the problems involved in trying to ferret out the true meaning of these teachings.

The Siddhas have named this Mudrã Khecarî from the fact that the mind and the tongue reach Akãsa [Ether] by its practice. If the hole behind the soft palate be stopped with Khecarî by turning the tongue upwards, then bindu (semen) cannot leave its place even if a woman were embraced. If the Yogi drinks Somarasa [vital fluid] by sitting with the tongue turned backwards and mind concentrated, there is no doubt he conquers death within is days. If the Yogi, whose body is full of Somarasa [vital fluid] were bitten by Taksaka (snake), its poison cannot permeate his body. As fire is inseparably connected with the wood and light is connected with the wick and oil, so does the soul not leave the body full of nectar exuding from the Soma [Lunar centre of vital fluid, located in the head]. Those who eat the flesh of the cow and drink the immortal liquor daily, are regarded by me men of noble family. Others are but a disgrace to their families. The word go (cow) means tongue; eating it is thrusting it in the gullet, which destroys great sins. Immortal liquor is the nectar exuding from the moon (Chandra situated on the left side of the space between the eyebrows). It is produced by the fire which is generated by thrusting the tongue. If the tongue can touch with its end the hole from which falls the rasa [vital fluid] which is saltish, bitter, sour, milky and similar to ghee and honey, one can drive away disease, can destroy old age, can evade an attack of arms, can become thrice immortal and can attract fairies. He who drinks the clear stream of liquor of the moon (soma) falling from the brain to the sixteen petalled lotus (in the heart), obtained by means of Prãna, by applying the tongue to the hole of the pendant in the palate, and by meditating on the great power (Kundalinî), becomes free from disease and tender in body, like the stalk of a lotus, and the Yogi lives a very long life. On top of the Meru (spinal column), concealed in a hole, is the Somarasa (nectar of Chandra), the wise, whose intellect is not overpowered by Raja and Tama gunas, but in whom Sattva guna is predominant, say there is the (universal spirit) ãtmã in it. It is the source of the down-going Idã, Pingalã and Susumnã Nãdis, which are the Gangã, the Yamunã and the Sarasvati. From that Chandra is shed the essence which, leaving the body, causes death in men. It should, therefore, be stopped from shedding.[12]  

[12] I shall not pause to explain the elaborate mythology contained in this passage or indicate the physiological processes which they symbolize. This has been done by other writers. See Briggs, Gorakhnãth and the Kãnphata Yogis, ch. xv, and Rele, The Mysterious Kundalinî, passim.

 

This (Khecarî Mudrã) is a very good instrument for this purpose. There is no other means of achieving this end. This hole is the generator of knowledge and is the source of the five streams (Idã, Pingalã, etc.). In that colourless vacuum, Khecarî Mudrã should be established. There is only one seed germinating the whole universe from it; and there is only one Mudrã, called Khecarî. There is only one deva (god) without any ones support, and there is one condition called Manonmani.[13]

[13] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 41-53. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 29-32: "The body cannot be burned by fire, nor dried up by air, nor wetted by water, nor bitten by snakes. The body becomes beautiful; Samãdhi is verily attained, and the tongue touching the holes in the roof (of the mouth) obtains various juices (it drinks nectar). Various juices being produced, day by day the man experiences new sensations; first, he experiences a saltish taste, then alkaline, then bitter, then astringent, then he feels the taste of butter, then of ghee, then of milk, then of curds, then of whey, then of honey, then of palm juice, and, lastly, arises the taste of nectar."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 33-7 "Whether pure or impure, in whatever condition one may be, if success be obtained in Khecarî, he becomes pure. There is no doubt of it. He who practises it even for a moment crosses the great ocean of sins, and having enjoyed the pleasures of Deva-world is born into a noble family. He who practises this Khecarî-Mudrã calmly and without laziness counts as seconds the periods of a hundred Brahmãs. He knows this Khecarî-Mudrã according to the instructions of his Guru, obtains the highest end, though immersed in great sins. O, ye adored of gods! this Mudrã, dear as life, should not be given to everybody; it should be kept concealed with great care." In order to understand what is meant by these references on conquering death and enjoying the pleasures of Deva-world, see The Tibetan Book of the Dead, by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, which Contains a discussion of this subject.

Aside from all the allegorical praise offered in reverence to khecarî mudrã, it is a very important technique for the practice of the more highly developed stages of Yoga and should be learned. This mudrã is obviously important iii connection with the control of the breath (see above, p. 57, but, as the passages just quoted indicate, it is central to much in the Yoga discipline because of the conflux of powers in the chakra of the head. Its chief purpose, as mythologically indicated here, is to keep the vital fluid in the head from dripping down (shedding) into the lower chakras.

The process itself is simple enough. I started by milking the tongue. This was accomplished by washing it and then catching hold of it with a linen towel. Any sort of cloth can be used, but I found this to be the most convenient. When the tongue has become sufficiently dry, it can be handled with the bare hands; but the slightest bit of saliva makes it impossible to handle it without the aid of a piece of cloth. I pulled it straight out and then from side to side as far as it would go. This I did regularly twice a day for ten minutes. After a couple of weeks I noticed that the fraenum was beginning to give way because of being drawn over the incisor teeth; but I wanted to encourage the process, so I resorted to a razor blade. Each morning I delicately drew the blade across the fraenum until blood appeared. There was no pain, and the bleeding stopped before I finished milking the tongue. The following morning the wound had begun to heal and a light tissue was beginning to form, which I scraped off; then I repeated the process of the preceding day.

I was also taught a practice supplementary to milking the tongue. In order to get the tongue down the throat, it is first necessary to loosen the soft palate. The most convenient way is to bend the end of the handle of an ordinary teaspoon enough to form a hook. Insert this in the back of the throat and draw it forward until it catches on to the palate ridge. When a firm grip has been secured, repeatedly pull the palate toward the front part of the mouth. In time this membrane will become so flexible that it will be almost possible to touch the teeth with the soft palate. I practised this daily for ten minutes after milking the tongue.

Success depends upon the amount of time spent in practice. I was able to accomplish it in about four months by working an average of ten minutes a day. For part of this period I worked ten minutes twice a day on each practice, arid then circumstances made it necessary to set the practice aside for a few days a week. Sometimes I was able to devote only five minutes to each practice in the morning, having to forgo the evening round. To elongate the tongue so that it can be placed between the eyebrows requires several years, but it is not necessary to achieve this goal at once. It is sufficient to acquire the ability to swallow the tongue and to use it to direct the breath into the desired nostril or shut it off complete1y. During the practice of prãnãyãma, it is the common practice to lock in the air by swallowing the tongue, but those who are unable to do this may turn the tongue upward and hold it firmly against the roof of the mouth.[14]

[14] See Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 9: "In whatever business a Yogin may be engaged, wherever he may be, let him always keep his tongue turned upwards (towards the soft palate), and restrain the breath. This is called Nabho-Mudrã; it destroys the disease of the Yogins." Nabho means sky, cloud, vapour and has reference to the mystic nectar that is believed to be in the top of the head. This practice, as well as others, is intended to stimulate the flow of this nectar. See ibid., 62: "Closing the mouth, move the tongue towards the palate, and taste slowly the nectar (flowing from the Thousand-petalled Lotus) [nerve centre situated at the crown of the head]. This is Mãnduki Mudrã (Frog-mudrã)." I was also taught to seal the tongue against the roof of the mouth without turning it back. This is sufficient for the beginner, but later Khecarî will be needed.

In the beginning I was permitted to help the tongue down the throat with the fingers, but after a time this was not necessary. As soon as I placed the tongue behind the palate, the saliva began to flow in a constant stream. In this way I was supposed to determine the condition of the body fluids. At first it was thick, heavy, and slimy; eventually, it became thin, clear, and smooth. Under my working conditions it was impracticaleven impossiblefor me to do more than make note of changes that I could see and feel. As the saliva accumulated in my mouth, I had to withdraw my tongue from behind my palate in order to swallow. Later I learned to swallow while holding my tongue in position, and finally I developed the practice so that I could leave it so placed for hours at a time, withdrawing it only when it was necessary to speak, eat, or engage m some other activity that made its position inconvenient.

As for the effectiveness of the practice, I can report that I did notice a lack of hunger and thirst when using it. One of the problems that confronts the student when practising Yoga is how to satisfy the feeling of hunger without crowding the system with food. By using this practice I was able to subdue the hunger pangs so that it was necessary to eat only at the appointed time, without any of the reactions that would otherwise have ensued from the sparse diet. This mudrã is also needed for the practice of prãnãyãma. After holding the breath for several minutes a natural reflex makes one start to breathe again. I was told to use this practice, and I found that it helped to overcome that powerful urge. According to the teachings of Yoga the nerve that controls the reflex action is associated with the tongue and by so controlling the tongue it is possible to affect this nerve. Whether this be true or not, from the practical standpoint I found that the exercise enabled me to overcome the urge to breathe. I was required to learn khecarî along with the purification practices, instead of waiting until the need for it arose during the later stages of my training. On account of the time involved in mastering this technique, I recommend the same sequence for others.

The practice of uddiyãna was described earlier.[15]  

[15] See above, pp. 41, 42.

The next is múla bandha (the basic binding).

Pressing Yoni (Perineum) with the heel, contract up the anus. By drawing the Apãna thus, Múla Bandha is made. The Apãna, naturally inclining downward, is made to go up by force. This Múla Bandha is spoken of by Yogis as done by contracting the anus. Pressing the heel well against the anus, draw up the air by force, again and again till it (air) goes up. Prãna and Apãna, Nãda and Bindu, uniting into one this way, gives success in Yoga undoubtedly. By the unification of Prãna, and Apãna, urine and excrements decrease. Even an old man becomes young by constantly practising this Múla Bandha. Going up the Apãna enters the zone of fire, i.e. the stomach. The flame of fire struck by air is thereby lengthened. These, fire and Apãna go to the naturally hot Prãna, which then highly flares up the bodily fire. The Kundalinî, which has been sleeping all this time, is heated by this fire and awakens well. It hisses and becomes straight like a serpent struck with a stick. It enters the Brahma Nãdi just as a serpent enters its hole. Therefore, the Yogi should always practise this Múla Bandha.[16]

[16] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 60-8. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 14-17: "Press with the heel of the left foot the region between the anus and the scrotum, and contract the rectum; carefully press the intestines near the navel on the spine; and put the right heel on the organ of generation or pubes. This is called Mûlabandha, destroyer of decay. The person who desires to cross the ocean of Samsãra, let him go to a retired place, and practice in secrecy this mudrã. By the practice of it, the Vãyu (Prãna) is controlled undoubtedly; let one silently practise this, without laziness, and with care."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 41-4: "Pressing well the anus with the heel, forcibly draw upwards the Apãna Vãyu slowly by practice. This is described as the Mûlabandha -the destroyer of decay and death. If, in the course of the practice of this Mudrã, the Yogi can unite the Apãna with the Prãna Vãyu, then it becomes of course the Yoni-Mudrã. He who has accomplished Yoni-Mudrã, what can not be accomplished in this world. Sitting in the Padmãsana posture, free from idleness, the Yogi leaving the ground, moves through the air, by virtue of this Mudrã. If the wise Yogi is desirous of crossing the ocean of the world, let him practise this Bandha in secret, in a retired place."

 

This mudrã is one of the principal restraints in the practice of prãnãyãma. According to my instructions the important feature is the contraction of the anal sphincter while the abdominal viscera are held in as far as possible. I was taught to use the practice in any posture when I wanted to lock the air within and create internal pressure. I did not have to assume the siddhãsana posture, with the heel pressing the perineum. From this it can be seen that whenever the text advises múla bandha, it means that one is to draw in the abdomen and contract the anus. In order to do this with sufficient force to effect results, one is required to practise uddiyãna bandha and avinî mudrã which, respectively, develop the muscles of the abdomen and the anus. I perfected these practices during the preliminary stages; so this technique caused me no trouble.

The practice of asvini[17]  

[17] See Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 82-3: "Contract and dilate the anal aperture again and again; this is called Asvini-mudrã. It awakens the Sakti (Kundalinî). This Asvini is a great mudrã; it destroys all diseases of the rectum; it gives strength and vigour, and prevents premature death."

 

is not listed as a separate mudrã, but it is an important technique and is required by all teachers. Some practices, such as basti, cannot be done until it is mastered. The object is to strengthen the rectal muscles so that it is possible to open the rectum at will. I was taught to take a position on elbows and knees. Exhale and pull the navel as far back toward the spine as possible; then contract the anal muscles, trying to pull the navel and the anus together. After a vigorous contraction, relax and breathe again. By the repeated practice of this contraction and relaxation complete control over the rectal muscles can be established. I was told that a normal person can accomplish this in about two weeks by practicing an. hour a day. The exercise was not assigned to me until I had perfected uddiyãna and nauli, consequently I was able to perform it after a few attempts. In the end I found no difficulty in holding the rectum open without the suspension of breath.

Jãlandhara bandha (cloud-holding, receptacle of vital fluid) is described as follows.

Contract the throat and press the chin firmly against the chest. This is called Jãlandhara Bandha, which destroys old age and death. It stops the opening (hole) of the group of the Nãdis, through which the juice from the sky (from the Soma or Chandra in the brain) falls down. It is, therefore, called the Jãlandhara Bandhathe destroyer of a host of diseases of the throat. In Jãlandhara Bandha, by a perfect contraction of the throat, the nectar does not fall into the fire (the Súrya situated in the navel), and the air is not disturbed. The two N~ç1is should be stopped firmly by contracting the throat. This is called the middle circuit or centre (Madhya Chakra) and it stops the 16 ãdhãras (i.e. vital parts)[18]

[18] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 72, note: "The sixteen vital parts mentioned by renowned Yogis are the (1) thumb, (2) ankles, (3) knees, (4) thighs, (5) the prepuce, (6) organ of generation, (7) the navel, (8) the heart, (9) the neck, (10) the throat, (11) the palate, (12) the nose, (13) the middle of the eyebrows, (14) the forehead, (15) the head and (16) the Brahma randhra."

 By drawing up the mulasthãna (anus), Uc1cliy~na Bandha should be performed. The flow of the air should be directed to the Susumnã, by closing the Idã and the Pingalã. The Prãna becomes calm and latent by this means, and thus there is no death, old age disease, etc. These three Bandhas[19]  

[19] The three bandhas are: múla bandha, uddiyãna bandha, and jãlandhara.

are the best of all and have been practised by the masters. Of all the means of success in the Hatha Yoga, they are known to the Yogis as the chief ones. The whole of the nectar, which exudes from the Soma (Chandra) possessing divine qualities, is devoured by the Súrya; and, owing to this the body becomes old. To remedy this, the opening of the Súrya is avoided by excellent means. It is to be learnt best by instructions from a guru; but not by even a million discussions.[20]

[20] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 69-77. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 12-13: "Contracting the throat, place the chin on the chest. This is called Jãlandhara. By this Bandha the sixteen ãdhãras are closed. This Mahã-mudrã destroys death. This success-giving Jãlandhara when practised well for six months, the man becomes an adept without doubt."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 38-40 "Having contracted the muscles of the throat press the chin on the breast. This is said to be the Jãlandhara-Mudrã. Even gods reckon it as inestimable. The fire in the region of the navel (i.e. the gastric juice) drinks the nectar which exudes out of the thousand-petalled lotus. (In order to prevent the nectar to be thus consumed), he should practice this Bandha. Through this Bandha the wise Yogi himself drinks the nectar, and, obtaining immortality, enjoys the three worlds. This Jãlandhara-Bandha is the giver of success to the practitioner; the Yogi desirous of success should practise it daily."

 

The importance of jãlandhara cannot be over-emphasized. It is popularly known as the chin lock and is required whenever one needs to seal the breath within the body during suspension. When I complained of tingling and buzzing sounds in my head toward the end of a suspension, I was advised to pay closer attention to this practice. By securely locking the chin into the jugular notch I was able to prevent these sounds and thereby to continue my breath suspension without this disagreeable experience, caused by the air in trying to find its way out. My only comment in addition to what the text has said about jãlandhara is that I was taught always to simulate the act of swallowing a couple of times before using it.

The practice of viparîta karanî (inverted body) commonly known as the head-stand, has been described with the postures.[21]  

[21] See above, p. 29

 

The next three mudrãs listed are vajroli, sahajoli (innate), and amaroli (immortal).[22]  

[22] For the classical description see Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 82-96: "Even one who lives a wayward life, without observing any rules of Yoga, but performs Vajroli, deserves success and is a Yogi. Two things are necessary for this, and these are difficult to get for the ordinary people-(t) milk and (a) a woman behaving, as desired. By practising to draw in the Bindu (semen), discharged during cohabitation, whether one be a man or a woman, one obtains success in the practice of Vajroli. By means of a pipe, one should blow air slowly into the passage in the male organ. By practice, the discharged Bindu is drawn up. One can draw back and preserve ones own discharged Bindu. The Yogi who can protect his Bindu thus, overcomes death; because death comes by discharging Bindu, and life is prolonged by its preservation. By preserving Bindu, the body of the Yogi emits a pleasing smell. There is no fear of death, so long as the Bindu is well established in the body. The Bindu of men is under the control of the mind, and life is dependent on the Bindu. Hence, mind and Bindu should be protected by all means.

"Sahajoli and amaroli are only the different kinds of Vajroli. Ashes from burnt up cow dung should be mixed with water. Being free from exercise of Vajroli, man and woman seated at ease, should both rub it on their bodies. This is called Sahajoli, and should be relied on by Yogis. It does good and gives moksa. This Yoga is achieved by courageous wise men, who are free from envy, and cannot be accomplished by the envious. In the doctrine of the sect of the Kãpãlikas, the Amaroli is the drinking of the cool mid stream; leaving the first, as it is a mixture of too much bile and the last which is useless. He who drinks Amari, snuffs it daily, and practises Vajroli, is called practising Amaroli. The Bindu discharged in the practice of Vajroli should be mixed with ashes, and the rubbing it on the head gives divine sight." The description of vajroli given in Gheranda Samhitã is entirely different. For comparison see p. 29 n. Siva Samhitã does not give it.

 

They are auxiliary techniques and did not form an integral part of my basic training, for success in the practice of Yoga is possible without them. Their purpose is to enable one to control the sex force of the body, which the Yogis recognize as a fundamental urge in human nature.

The object of Hatha Yoga is to vitalize the latent forces within man called Kundalinî. The various mudrãs have been designed toward that ultimate end. The last practice given in the text, called sakti cãlani, assumes that all the previous steps have been perfected and that the student is ready to stir this dormant energy and thereby experience true reality. I include the full statement of the text in order to show the stress laid on this aspect of the practices.

Kutilãngi (crooked-bodied), Kundalinî, Bhujangi (a she-serpent) Sakti, Isvari, Kundali, Arundhati, all these words are synonymous. As a door is opened with a key, so the Yogi opens the door of mukti by opening Kundalinî by means of Hatha Yoga. The Paramesvari (Kundalinî) sleeps, covering with her mouth the hole of the passage by which one can go to the seat of Brahman which is free from pains. Kundali Sakti sleeps on the bulb, for the purpose of giving moksa to Yogis and bondage to the ignorant. He who knows it, knows Yoga. Kundali is of a coiled shape, and has been described to be like a serpent. He who has moved that Sakti is no doubt Mukta (released from bondage).

Yongster Tapasvini (a she-ascetic), lying between the Gangã and the Yamunã (Idã and Pingalã) should be caught hold of by force, to get the highest position. Idã is called goddess Gangã, Pingalã goddess Yamunã. In the middle of the Idã and the Pingalã is the young widow Kundali. This sleeping she-serpent should be awakened by catching hold of her tail. By the force of Hatha the Sakti leaves her sleep and starts upwards. This she-serpent is situated in Mulãdhãra. She should be caught and moved daily, morning and evening, for half a prahara (1.5 hours), by filling with air through Pingalã by the Paridhãna method. The bulb is above the anus, a vitasti (twelve angulas) long, and measures four angulas (3 inches) in extent and is soft and white, and appears as if a folded cloth. Keeping the feet in Vajra-ãsana (Padma-ãsana) hold them firmly with the hands. The position of the bulb will then be near the ankle joint, where it should be pressed.

The Yogi, sitting with Vajra-ãsana and having moved Kundali, should perform Bhastrikã to awaken Kundali soon. Bhãnu (Súrya, near the navel) should be contracted (by contracting the navel), which will move the Kundali. There is no fear for him who does so, even if he has entered the mouth of death. By moving this for two muhurtas, it is drawn up a little by entering the Susumnã (spinal column). By this Kundalinî leaves the entrance of the Susumnã at once, and the Prãna enters it of itself. Therefore, this comfortably sleeping Arundhati should always be moved; for by so doing the Yogi gets rid of diseases.

The Yogi observing Brachmacharya (continence) and always eating sparingly, gets success within forty days by practice with the Kundalinî. After moving the Kundali, plenty of Bhastrã should be performed. By such practice, he has no fear from the god of death. There is no other way, but the practice of the Kundali, for washing away the impurities of the 72,000 Nãdis. This middle Nãdi becomes straight by steady practice of postures, Prãnãyãma and Mudrãs of Yogis. Those whose sleep has decreased by practice and mind has become calm by samãdhi, get beneficial accomplishments by Sambhavi and other Mudrãs. Without Raja Yoga, this earth, the night, and the Mudrãs, be they howsoever wonderful, do not appear beautiful. All the practices relating to the air should be performed with concentrated mind. A wise man should not allow his mind to wander away. These are the ten Mudrãs, as explained by Adinãtha (Siva). Everyone of them is the giver of great accomplishments to the practiser. He is really the Guru and to be considered as Isvara in human form who teaches the Mudrãs as handed down from guru to guru. Engaging in practice, by putting faith in his words, one gets the Siddhis of Animã, etc.,[23]  

[23] Siddhi means "accomplishment, performance, fulfillment, (complete attainment, success." Here it has reference to the acquisition of the eight supernatural powers: (1) the power to assimilate oneself with an atom (animã); (2) the power to be as light as cotton or any similar thing (laghimã); (3) the power of reaching anywhere, even to the moon (prãptih); (4) the power of having all wishes of whatever description realized (prãkãmyãm); (5) the power to expand oneself into space (mahimã); (6) the power to create (isitvam); (7) the power to command all (vasitvam); (8) the power of suppressing desire (kãmãvasãyitã). Compare Siva Samhitã, iii, 54 for description, see p. 58 n.

as also evades death.[24]

[24] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 97-123. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 49-60: "The great goddess Kundalinî, the energy of Self, ãtma-sakti (spiritual force), sleeps in the Mulãdhãra (rectum); she has the form of a serpent having three coils and a half. So long as she is asleep in the body, the Jiva is a mere animal, and true knowledge does not arise, though he may practise ten millions. As by a key a door is opened, so by awakening the Kundalinî by Hatha Yoga, the door of Brahman is unlocked. Encircling the loins with a piece of cloth, seated in a secret room, not naked in an outer room, let him practise the Sakticãlana. One cubit long, and four fingers (3 inches) wide, should be the encircling cloth, soft, white and of fine texture. Join this cloth with the Kati-Sutra (a string worn round the loins). Smear the body with ashes, sit in Siddhãsana-posture, drawing the Prãna-Vãyu with the nostrils, forcibly join it with the Apãna. Contract the rectum slowly by the Asvini Mudrã, till the Vãyu enters the Susumnã, and manifests its presence. By restraining the breath by Kumbhaka in this way, the serpent Kundalinî, feeling suffocated, awakes and rises upwards to the Brahmarandhra. Without the Sakticãlana, the Yoni-Mudrã is not complete or perfected; first the Cãlana should be practised, and then the Yoni-Mudrã. O Canda-Kapãli! thus have I taught thee the Sakticãlana. Preserve it with care and practise it daily. This mudrã should be kept carefully concealed. It destroys decay and death. Therefore, the Yogin, desirous of perfection, should practise it. The Yogin who practices this daily acquires adeptship, attains Vigraha-siddhi and all his diseases are cured."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 53-8: "Let the wise Yogi forcibly and firmly draw up the goddess Kundali sleeping in the Adhãra Lotus, by means of the Apãna Vãyu. This is Sakti-Cãlana Mudrã, the giver of all powers. He who practises this Sakti-Cãlana Mudrã, daily, gets increase of life and destruction of diseases. Leaving sleep, the serpent (i.e. the Kundalinî) herself goes up; therefore, let the Yogi desirous of power practise this. He who practises always this best Sakti-Cãlana according to the instructions of his guru, obtains the Vigraha-siddhi which gives the powers of animã, etc., and has no fear of death. He who practises the Sakti-Cãlana for two seconds, and with care is very near to success. This Mudrã should be practised by the Yogi in the proper posture. These are the ten Mudrã whose equal there never was nor ever shall be; through the practice of any one of them, a person becomes a siddha and obtains success."

This awakening of Kundalinî assumes that the student has thoroughly purified his nervous system according to the standards of Yoga and has perfected all the preliminary techniques. I was told that the best posture is the full padmãsana, in which the hands are crossed behind the back and grasp the great toe of their respective feet. However, it is permissible to use siddhãsana. After the posture has been assumed, start the practice of prãnãyãma and use the three principal locks.[25]  

[25] Múla bandha, uddiyãna bandha, and jãlandhara.

The suspension is supposed to suffocate the Serpent kundalinî, making it awaken and rise up. In order to force kundalinî into the central channel located within the spinal cord, I was told to practise bhastrikã for a few minutes and then work Her for one hour and thirty minutes by means of nauli. If I continued this routine for the period of one year, I was assured, I would achieve success. Any further delay was said to be due to impurities which still remained in the nãdis. So far I have never had the time to test this technique. However, I did use the supplementary practices given to me for stimulating the nerve centre, where the latent force called Kundalinî is said to be located. They are pãsini mudrã, vajroli mudrã and yogãsana[26]  

[26] See p. 29 n.

In the next chapter I will relate the psychological effects which I experienced.