Yoga Sutra Study – 3.40


Udanajayat jala panka kantakadisu asangah utkrantih ca

 “By mastery of udana vayu, the yogi can walk over water, swamps and thorns without touching them. He can also levitate.”

 Vayu is usually defined as wind or air. Actually vayu is not merely air, but the medium in which air exists and the force by which it is held together.  

 The body functions are performed by five types of prana vayu, or vital energy, namely: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. Prana moves in the chest region (areas above the diaphragm) and controls breathing. Apana moves in the pelvic region and legs, it controls elimination of urine, semen and faeces. Samana moves in the abdominal region (between the diaphragm and navel), it controls digestion and maintains the harmonious functioning of the digestive and reproductive organs. Udana moves in the head and neck region, it controls the vocal chords and governs the senses, and respiratory system by forcing air out of the lungs. Vyana vayu pervades the whole body, governing relaxation, distribution of energy from breath and food, contraction of muscles, movement of joints, etc. Vyana regulates all processes of life.

 Udana is the upward moving prana, it moves the energy from lower spine to the brain. By samyama on udana, lightness is achieved. Yogis who master udana can travel over water, mud or thorns without touching its surface. He can also make udana draws out the subtle body from the gross body, i.e. die at will.

 Since udana goes from the throat upwards, it can be particularly stimulated by Jalandhara Bandha, or chin lock. Asanas which are good for udana include Setu Bandhasana, Viparita Karani, Sarvangasana, Matsyasana, and etc. Generally, inverted postures will be beneficial. In addition, chakras associated with udana include Vishuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara, practitioner may focus on these three chakras during meditation practice.   

 To become light (laghima) is one of the siddhis that a yogi may experience. This attainment does indicate that sadhana is on the right path; however, it can be an obstacle at the same time. As Patanjali highlighted in verse 3.38, practitioners should not be attached to the power gained, as this will finally crash them down. Always keep vairagya in mind, get over the attainment and obstacles, move forward towards kaivalya.

Yoga Sutra Study 3.32


Kurmanadyam sthairyam

 “By samyama on kurma nadi, the yogi can make his body and mind firm and immobile like a tortoise.”

 Kurma means tortoise. In Hinduism, kurma is the second incarnation of Vishnu who, in the form of a great turtle, carried the world on his back. There is another mythology which talks about kurma carrying shesha naga (the cosmic snake) on his back. Shesha naga has a thousand heads and it holds the Earth on one of them. When it shifts the Earth from one head to another, earthquakes occur. The most powerful earthquake occurs when kurma moves slightly.

 Kurma nadi is the name of an energy channel, it is one of the main nadis according to yogic scriptures. The beginning of kurma nadi is said to be in between of the Muladhara Chakra and Swadhisthana Chakra. It runs up and ends in the chest region, below the throat.

 As we know, there are five types of prana vayus which govern the functioning of the body, they are prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. There are also five sub-pranas, or upa-pranas: naga, krkara, devadatta, dhanamjaya and kurma. Naga relieves pressure of the abdomen by burping. Krkara prevents substances from passing up the nasal passages and down the throat by making one sneeze or cough. Devadatta causes yawning and induces sleep. Dhanamjaya produces phlegm, nourishes the body, remains in it even after death and sometimes inflates a corpse. Kurma controls the movement of eye lids and regulates the intensity of light to be seen by controlling the size of iris. The movement of eyes reflects the movement of mind. It is often noticed that in a yoga class, after following the teacher’s instruction to close the eyes, students’ eyelids and eyeballs are continuously wobbling, which indicates their mind are very busy. By stilling the eyes, thoughts can be stilled.


Swami Hariharananda Aranya commented on this sutra from a different point of view: “Calmness is attained by samyama on the bronchial tube.” According to him, as the breathing becomes subtle, the mind becomes motionless.

 To apply this sutra in daily practice, I personally prefer to samyama on the location where kurma nadi ends, i.e. below the throat. Do a few deep breaths, focus the mind at the location where kurma nadi ends. This will lead us to a motionless state – both motionlessness of body and motionlessness of mind. In the long run, we will develop emotional steadiness in all circumstances. This technique is extremely helpful for beginners who have problems in sitting still or those whose mind is always wandering.   


Yoga sutra I.12 abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah

“Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness”
To practice yoga is to still the movements of our consciousness.
When we practice asana we focus the eyes on a dristi point specific for a pose.  Our mind follows our eyes, or the parts of the body being engaged, or our breath.  If the mind, hence our consciousness, fluctuates from these we are not practicing yoga.
When we practice pranayama our consciousness is on our breath. When we practice pratyahara our consciousness is turned inward detaching from our senses.  When we practice dharana our consciousness is focused, concentrating on an object or thought.
When we practice dhyna we are our consciousness without fluctuation.
When we are not practicing yoga we must detach from our emotions, from stimuli and the interactions we encounter.  When we are detached from the events we experience the mind is engaged in each moment of the experience, and therefore not thinking of or fluctuating between the past or future.  So if you are conversing with someone you are either talking or listening, but your mind is fully engaged in this act, therefore the consciousness is still.
When we practice any of the limbs of yoga we train our minds to detach from everything but this act of yoga.  We also come to understand what we gain through detachment.  By practicing regularly we become skilled in detachment and the mind becomes calm and our consciousness becomes steady moment by moment.