Yoga and Health
Swami Adhyatmananda

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 We were once traveling from Surendranagar to Baroda. An announcement was made at Viramgam junction that bogey No. X of Saurashtra mail wherein we were traveling was defective and passengers should change the compart­ment upto Ahmedabad. That bogey was disconnected at Viramgam. Passengers were requested to excuse for the difficulty they were put in and we were obliged to change the compartment.

There were many youths sitting in that bogey. They were playing mischief. It was a jumble of dances and songs. One very handsome well-built youth was sleeping on one of the benches at the noontime. I wondered whether I should request him to get up. But at least, one could ask, are you sick my friend? “I understand that all those students were traveling to Baroda to play an inter-university hockey tournament. The boy found sleeping was the captain of the team and all of them were traveling from Rajkot University and the captain, while going for a wash in the basin in the morning, tried to bend forward which resulted in sprain of the back. In such a case, the back becomes stiff. The gentleman could not either sit or bend because of the stiffness. He could not even bend forward. He could only lie sleeping on the wooden bench with straight back and facing the top of the carriage.

I made him perform Shavasana in the running train. Thereafter I made him perform Kati-utthanasana. I then asked him to sleep prone with belly supported on the bench. Thereafter I made him perform Bhujangasana and Naukasana; thereafter he rested for a few minutes in Makarasana. Again I made him sleep face upward and made him perform deep breathing (Sivananda Pranayama). I then requested him to sit up and this friend could sit up easily with composure. We also got immediate advantage that we could, instead of standing, sit down, on the benches, his getting up allowed us to sit. He was told “an orthopedic surgeon “is to receive us at Baroda railway station. He is a very well known and the senior most orthopedic doctor of Gujarat, we will consult him on reaching Baroda. On reaching Baroda Dr. Gopal Merchant advised that captain to repeat the exercise very slowly three times during the day “This will make you all right.” Next day in the late evening that friend visited us in the house of Dr. Merchant and had brought fruits, sweets and garland. He wanted to express thanks as he could play as captain. His pain in the back had disappeared and their team had won. This captain was a Jew. Thereafter he came to our Rajkot branch of Divine Life Society and learnt Yogasana, Pranayama and meditation. At present he is a well-known Hockey teacher and regularly teaches Yogasana, Pranayama and meditation to his sport students.

Backpain is the pain at the end of spinal column and in the muscles connecting the bones. Mostly both young and old get this pain but if it is not treated in time the disease takes a permanent shape. Ladies suffer backache to a great extent during the period of menstruation. It is also possible that this pain may result in fever if the pain is excessive. 


 (1) This type of pain can result from a sudden weight straining the ligament of the back. The muscle and the ligament that suffer accidental weight or increase in tension become too sensitive. A little touch or pressure or a pull can result in too much of pain.

 2) One would surely suffer from backache if one sits in an odd manner. It is possible for the back to be stiff for a person working as clerk in the office, cashier, typist, computer operator, rickshaw driver, taxi driver, labourer, cobbler, goldsmith, tailor, musician playing instruments and all workers who work with bent back. Even doctors performing four, five or more operations at a time can also suffer from backache.

3) Backache can also result if any heavy weight is suddenly lifted up or if at the time of lifting the weight, very often weight is lifted with a jerk or if weight is not lifted by sharing the weight on legs and after lowering the body downward half way but the weight is lifted in an odd manner of lifting, back suffers unnecessary weight and backache results.

(4) If there is a difference in the length of both the legs or if one walks with a leg improperly supported, then also backache results.

(5) If one has a slip-disc, if the spinal column is uneven or if there is a tumor in the spinal cord, the same can cause backache.

(6) If one suffers from chronic constipation, chronic colitis, if the stools are sticky, if the stools are irregular then also you can suffer from bad smell emanating from the mouth and the knees suffer pain. Ladies suffering from leucorrhoea also suffer pain. 


If there is some ordinary pain in the back or if the ligament has suffered pull; by taking pain killing drugs like aspirin, ordinary pain can be removed. But if it is very painful, some more effective medicine has to be taken for relaxation of the muscles. One should get properly and carefully examined by a doctor and one should take precau­tion as well as treatment as advised by the doctor. In cases of backaches, one should take complete rest by sleeping on a hard bed and keeping the spinal column completely straight. The backache can also be treated by massage, hot water bag on the back, ultraviolet heat and necessary exercise. All these descriptions pertain to ordinary pain. But if pain is a result of chronic dysentery, chronic colitis, chronic constipation, then either massage from outside or taking medicine for pain will hardly result in any advantage. In such circumstances where backache has become chronic, mere general medical examination will not do. It is equally essential to get the stools examined, as is the need to get X-Ray taken. Colitis is one separate subject, which we are not discussing at present. But backache resulting from colitis requires exercises as well as need for complete care about food, such as reduction of oil, chilies and sour things. Do not consume tamarind powder and mango powder. You can consume tomatoes and lemon. You must completely stop the consumption of garlic, onion, and meat as well as eggs. You must consume one glass full of zero fat milk after removal of cream and in the food of noon you should definitely take fresh non-sour curd which is prepared after removal of cream and which is not made by keeping in a fridge. One must make use of green vegetable salad along with the meal. One should also take medicine as advised and directed by the doctor 


(1) Keep the teeth properly cleaned. Clean the mouth thoroughly after meal. We do not have a habit of gargling after we eat pizza and coke. This is not proper. One must thoroughly clean the mouth by gargling after eating anything or chewing any eatable. We are not habituated to clean our mouth after consumption of chewing gum, chocolate, pickles, tea and coffee. Normally in India people go on consuming peanuts, horse-grams, bhel-puri, pani-pakodi, dabeli and sandwich. In Kathiawad, people consume half cup of tea but add six spoons of sugar in a cup. They consume tea which is strong and over sweet. If one does not clean the teeth and mouth properly after eating or drinking anything, one can suffer from backache. Since a last few years, youth is addicted to consume tobacco as well as ‘Mayo’ and pouches of mixed tobacco. By retaining these things of addiction in the mouth, one definitely starts having back pain initially but ultimately it results in cancer. One should therefore, form a habit of brushing the teeth before going to bed and take tea and breakfast only after cleaning the mouth and teeth properly after getting up. We may have brushed our teeth at night, therefore, to have the habit of taking bed tea in the morning without cleaning the mouth is bad for teeth, health and back also.

(2) One can suffer back-pain even if body weight is more than essential. It is observed that when Yoga-shibirs are arranged in Punjab, bodies of people are very fat and with excess weight. Their biceps and muscles of the hands occupy the circumference equal to our thighs. During the conduct of the class if we remark “Mataji” raise your back (Kamar) a bit, we immediately get a reply “Mahatmaji” we can raise the Kamar when it is there, but now it has become a ‘Kamara’ (room). This is their truthful confession. What to do? There is a saying in Punjab, “Rajke Kha    te Dabke Va” that means eat plenty and do work also plenty. But now a days, eating has increased too much, but working habit is com­pletely nil. Servants mostly do all the jobs. In America, everything is done by electrical gadgets. Thus because the ligaments, and muscles of the waist and the back do not get enough exercise in the manner that is required, that part becomes rigid and brittle, hence on suffering even a small tension, the back gets stiff. We now look at Asanas pertaining to the back. 


(1) Sleep with your belly on the ground. (see the chapter, on Asthma-2)

(2) Keep both the hands on both the sides of chest and on the ground with palms facing on the top and fingers of the hands remaining touching each other, the fingers should not project beyond the shoulders, the elbows should remain parallel to each other and should be pointing towards the ceiling of the building.(see chapter Asthma -2)

(3) Keep the paws of the leg and the heels touching each other and bent in the fashion of the tail of a serpent pointing on the back side.

(4) Now take a deep breath and go on lifting the weight of the body slowly on both the hands,lift the head, neck and chest upto the navel. Retain the breath.

(5) Try to remain in the above position for one and a half minutes. In the initial stages, breath cannot be retained inside so long and hence after raising up the body you should continue breathing normally Thereafter, come down slowly Take rest in Makarasana.

One gets pressure on the end of spinal column by this exercise and back pain gets relief. 


(1)   Sleep with belly on the ground.

(2)   Keep both the legs together. Keep heels as well as paws also together.

(3)   Take both the hands upto waist along the back and hook the fingers.

(4)   Take a deep breath and on one side in the front raise the head, shoulder and chest and on the other side raise thighs without bending the legs from the knees. The shape of the body will resemble a boat. Here also the blood will move towards the waist. Weight of the body will also be borne on the waist. This practice of Baddha­naukasana relieves pain in waist appreciably Try to remain steady in this Asana every time for 1 to 2 minutes. Initially if this is not possible, you may increase the period slowly 

Baddha-naukasana (Fig—35)


(1)   Lie on the ground with back remaining on the ground.

(2)   Keep the palms of both the hands on the ground, keep both the legs straight on the ground.

(3)   Now bend both the legs one after the other slowly from the knees and bring those right up to the buttocks.

(4)   Keep distance equal to the distance between the shoul­ders in between the two legs.

(5)   Now transfer the weight on both the legs and both the hands and raise the waist as much as possible and remain steady Breathe normally

(6)   In this position Kati which means waist and Utthan means raised. Remain in this condition for I to 2 minutes. If this is not possible repeat this Asana two or three times.

(Fig—36)Kati-utthan­ asana


(1) Sit in Vajrasana. For Vajrasana bend the knees with both the legs, on the head side, both the paws kept together, both the heels kept apart, and buttocks, resting on both the heels. (see Hyper-acidity)

(2) Now lift the waist. Get up on the knees. Thereby half the body will remain at right angle to the other half.

(3) Keep both the hands on the waist. vend backward,pull the head on the hack side. Do not bring the buttocks down. Pull the whole part of the waist in the opposite direction. This is the most easy position.

(4) Now raise both the legs on both the paws. Thereby heels will come nearer on the ground and nearer the two hands.

(5) Hold both the heels with both the hands; it may not be possible to do so at a time hence hold one after the other.

(6) Do not allow the but­tocks to go down. Keep the opposite side of the waist pulled in the opposite direction. This is Ushtrasana.

(7) Now turn both the legs in the reverse direction, so that the paws of the legs remain on the top. By doing so, heels will go still lower. Keep holding the

heels in this position and perform Ushtrasana. In the initial stages this will be found a little difficult but once you catch hold of the position you will feel very good.

(8) Ushtrasana has proved a panacea and a boon for all the pain in the waist, hump and cervical spondylosis.

Those who suffer from pain in waist will not find it easy to sit on the ground, crossed legged. At the time of sitting they should take a support of a pillow such that the buttocks remain a little above and knees touch the ground.


Ushtra-asanp (Fig—37)


      First inhale deeply. One has to make a sound from the neck via the nose as if there is a humming of a black bee m performing this Pranayama. Then simulate the sound of humming through the neck. Keep the continuation of hum­ming as long as it is possible depending on the capacity of containing the breath. Do not continue making an .... un... un... un... sound unnecessarily if the breath gets exhausted. Keep the sound neither too high nor too low depending on the sound produced in your. neck and bring the sound out through the nose. At the time of Bhramari Pranayama, mouth should remain closed. 

      By performing this Pranayama the speed of blood circulation increases. The practice of Bhramari Pranayama is helpful in the pain connected with all the joints. 


(1) Lie dawn with the face up on the wooden bench.

(2) Relax the body

(3) Keep the fist open, legs a little relaxed and widespread.

(4) Now listen to the beating of the heart.

(5) Remain a witness of the inhalation as well as exhalation.

(6) Create a feeling that your body is peaceful, composed, and completely disease-less. (see Asthma-2)

(7) In this manner without the movement of any part of the body, remaining fully composed having no restlessness of any type go deep in mental quiet attitude.

Note:      Practice of Shalabhasana at the end of Bhujang­asana and practice of Dhanurasana on completion of Ushtrasana are found very advantageous in the pain in the waist. Therefore, without any type of hurry, with perfect quiet attitude, composed, and with patience, practise Asanas and Bhramari as well as Omkar Pranayamas. 


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