The yogis said that to implement this concept, one has to begin to work with oneself, with what is tangible, visible, to be in touch with the body. How do we manage the imbalances of the body? How do we eliminate the accumulated toxins? How do we remove the organic blockages? Asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas and dharmatma are an applied part of this sadhana. We misuse our body day in and day out. With all this abuse of a body which is performing well, imagine how the body will perform when it is treated properly. Misuse and abuse of the body creates illness.
In order to develop physiological balance and to eliminate imbalances, the yogis described the process of hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is the doorway to yoga because it allows you to accept yourself, to move from this physical self into the subtle realms of your nature. Bahiranga yoga is external physical practice and sadhana. Hatha yoga is the gateway to bahiranga yoga. Asanas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas are techniques to improve the physical system, to service this vehicle. If you drive a brand new car without having it served, the car will age faster; its life will be reduced by half and accidents will happen. But if you have the car serviced regularly, you ensure it’s optimum performance, and if something does go wrong, it can be rectified immediately. Accidents also happen in our life. If you want a new body, you have to die and take a new birth. So, the choice is yours.
People who have had regular servicing have youthful bodies, even in old age. At the age of eighty they are still full of vitality, dynamism and stamina. Their eyesight is good, their digestion is good, the strength of their limbs is good and they can walk with an erect spine without having to use a walking stick. If you are regular in practising bahiranga yoga, even at the age of eighty you will be like twenty. We can see this in yogis who, although well advanced in age, follow a systematic routine and discipline.
Swami Satyananda, my guru, is over eighty, but today we cannot keep up with his routine and activities. He gets up at two in the morning and is continually moving. He refuses to have helpers and does his own cleaning and washing. He is not a mahatma who sits down and has his disciples do his work. People who have seen him are witnesses to his vitality, dynamism and clarity. We can never match his stamina and health. That is the perfection of bahiranga yoga, external yogic sadhana.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
(Yoga Sadhana Panorama Vol. Five)