Why do the texts say that paścimottānāsana activates suṣumṇā and awakens the kuṇḍalinī?

It so happened in India, that spiritual practices are most often performed facing east. Accordingly, the west (conditionally) is our back, the south is the right and hot side and the north is left and cold. The Sun is associated with vital power, it rises in the east and sets (i.e. disappears) in the west. We fall asleep at sunset and our senses become silent, and they turn on at sunrise. We can see basically everything that is in front of us, on the sides, below and even sometimes from above, but we cannot see our back. We can only feel it, while there should be an inversion element, i.e. direction inward, listening to our sensations inside. The west is a symbol of the extinction of activities, the completeness of them, so it is suṣumṇā. It is also no coincidence that one of the well-known traditions, where kuṇḍalinī is worshiped in the form of the Goddess Kubjikā, is called paśchimāmnayā – the Western Doctrine. Paśchima – from paścāt (behind, the last, completed, western), therefore it is a symbol of suṣumṇā, self-absorption. Thus, paścimottānāsana is focused specifically on the direction of attention and the prāṇa in suṣumṇā along with it. This āsana is also focused on the conscious activation of suṣumṇā with pratyāhāra and the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī power.

Four aspects of the Laya process

इन्द्रियाणां मनो नाथो मनोनाथस्तु मारुत:।
मारुतस्य लयो नाथ: स लयो नादमाश्रित: ।। ॥ २ ९॥

indriyāṇāṁ mano nātho manonāthastu mārutaḥ |
mārutasya layo nāthaḥ sa layo nādamāśritaḥ || 29 ||

1) The mind (manaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the senses (indriyāṇām).
2) Also (tu) vital force (mārutaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the mind (manaḥ).
3) Dissolution (layaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of air (mārutasya).
4) And that (sa) depends (āśritaḥ) on resonance (nādam). (Haṭhayogapradīpikā 4.29)

Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra

I translated the tantric Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra at the request of my students.

विनियोगः। viniyogaḥ

ॐ अस्य श्री गोरक्ष मन्त्रस्य बृहदारण्यक ऋषिः अनुष्टुप् छन्दः श्री गोरक्षनाथो देवता गों बीजम् विमला शक्तिः   हंसेति कीलकं निरञ्जनात्मक सर्व तत्त्व सिद्धये जपे विनियोगः ।।

oṃ asya śrī gorakṣa mantrasya bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣiḥ anuṣṭup chandaḥ śrī gorakṣanātho devatā goṃ bījam vimalā śaktiḥ haṃseti kīlakaṃ nirañjanātmaka sarva tattva siddhaye jape viniyogaḥ ।।

The ṛṣi of the Śrī gorakṣanāthamantra is Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the rhythm is anuṣṭup, the Divine is Gorakṣanātha, the bija is goṃ, the Śakti is Vimalā (pure), the kīlaka is haṃsa, the ritual of japa for success in the essential purity of all tattvas.

ऋष्यादिन्यासः । ṛṣyādinyāsaḥ (the nyāsa starts from the head and so on)

ॐ बृहदारण्यक ऋषये नमः। शिरसि ।
oṃ bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣaye namaḥ । śirasi (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ अनुष्टुप् छन्दसे नमः । मुखे ।
oṃ anuṣṭup chandase namaḥ । mukhe (the face)

ॐश्री गोरक्ष देवताय नमः । हृदि ।
oṃ śrī gorakṣa devatāya namaḥ । hṛdi (the heart)

ॐ गो बीजाय नमः । गुह्ये ।
oṃ go bījāya namaḥ । guhye (the perineum)

ॐ विमला शक्तये नमः । पादयोः ।
oṃ vimalā śaktaye namaḥ । pādayoḥ (the feet)

ॐ हंसेति कीलकाय नमः । नाभौ ।
oṃ haṃseti kīlakāya namaḥ । nābhau (the navel)

करन्यासः । karanyāsaḥ । (the palm nyāsa)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अङ्गुष्टाभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya aṅguṣṭābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two thumbs of your hands)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय तर्जनीभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya tarjanībhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two index fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय मध्यमाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya madhyamābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect the two middle fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अनामिकाभ्यां  नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya anāmikābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two ring fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कनिष्ठिकाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kaniṣṭhikābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect two little fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय करतल-कर-पृष्ठाभ्यां नम: ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya karatala-kara-pṛṣṭhābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect the back of the palms)

हृदयादिन्यासः । hṛdayādinyāsaḥ (nyāsa starts from the heart and etc.)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय हृदयाय नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya hṛdayāya namaḥ । (touch the heart)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिरसे स्वाहा ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śirase svāhā । (touch the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिखायै वषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śikhāyai vaṣaṭ । (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कवचाय हुं ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kavacāya huṃ । (touch your shoulders)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya netratrayāya vauṣaṭ । (touch three eyes)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय सर्व विद्यापतये नमः अस्त्राय फट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya sarva vidyāpataye namaḥ astrāya phaṭ ।
(circle with your right hand above your head clockwise and hit the left palm with index and middle fingers three times)

अथ ध्यानम् । atha dhyānam (now is dhyāna)
(The text from the Kalpadruma Tantra)

निरञ्जनो निराकारो निर्विकल्पो निरामयः।
अगम्योऽगोचरोऽलक्ष्यो गोरक्षः सिद्धिवन्दितः॥
nirañjano nirākāro nirvikalpo nirāmayaḥ। 

agamyo’gocaro’lakṣyo gorakṣaḥ siddhivanditaḥ॥

Unsullied, devoid of image, free from vikalpas and disease, incomprehensible, unattainable, beyond of the symbols – Gorakṣa, revered by the siddhas.

समस्त रस भोक्ता यो यः सदा भोगवर्जित ।
सदा समरसो यश्च श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
samasta rasa bhoktā yo yaḥ sadā bhogavarjita । 

sadā samaraso yaśca śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To Him, who enjoys all races and who is always free from pleasures, who forever abides in samarasya, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

हठयोग विधाता च मत्स्यकीर्ति विवर्धनः ।
योगिभिर् मनसा गम्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
haṭhayoga vidhātā ca matsyakīrti vivardhanaḥ । 

yogibhir manasā gamyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To the creator of haṭhayoga and to that who increased the fame of Matsyendra, the one whom yogis comprehend in their hearts, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

सिद्धानाञ्च महासिद्धिः ऋषीणां च ॠषीश्वरः ।
योगीनाङ्चैव योगीन्द्रः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
siddhānāñca mahāsiddhiḥ ṛṣīṇāṃ ca ṝṣīśvaraḥ । 

yogīnāṅcaiva yogīndraḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the great siddha among the siddhas, to the lord of the ṛṣi among the ṛṣis, to the lord of the yogis among the yogis, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

विश्वतेजो विश्वरूपं विश्ववन्द्य सदाशिवः ।
विश्वनामा विश्वनाथः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
viśvatejo viśvarūpaṃ viśvavandya sadāśivaḥ । 

viśvanāmā viśvanāthaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

Universal light manifested in the image of the Universe, revered by all, Sadāśiva, who is called by all kinds of names, the lord of everything, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

अनन्तलोकनाथश्च नाथनाथशिरोमणिः।
सर्वनाथसमाराध्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
anantalokanāthaśca nāthanāthaśiromaṇiḥ। 

sarvanāthasamārādhyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the Lord of infinite worlds, the greatest (lit. “head precious adornment) of the Nāthas, to the Lord of all, to the one who is respected, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

शून्यानाङ्च परं शून्यं परेषां परमेश्वरः ।
ध्यायताञ्च परं धाम श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
śūnyānāṅca paraṃ śūnyaṃ pareṣāṃ parameśvaraḥ ।
dhyāyatāñca paraṃ dhāma śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the highest emptiness among the voids, to the Supreme Lord for others, to the highest state for the meditators, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

Then you can practice japa using the mantras from the above tantras, they can be found here: http://matsyendranatha.com/?p=554:

 

My perception of the right āsana

Over the years of yoga practice, I have developed my own definition of what the true āsana is. The right āsana is that, which leads to the interconnection of the two main dimensions of all. And through this in particular you will find explanations of any categories of āsanas. What those dimensions are, physical and spiritual or other explanations will be found for this, for everyone at their stage of practice, this can vary and can always be flexible. But, for any practitioner at any moment, this awareness of polarities must be total.

Yoga is the highest aim of a man

I always proceed from the fact that yoga, in its most essential form, is the prerogative of very few individuals. We can slowly go to it, this also includes our constant seeks and researches, but not everyone in this life reaches the point. Vyāsa, commenting on Patāñjali, gives such a definition of yoga योगः समाधिः  yogaḥ samādhiḥ“Yoga is samādhi”. We also find a great deal in the texts of the Nāthas and the most essential elements from yoga in diverse Tantras. But, we know that tantric practices have traditionally been largely kept in secret. So, what should be the attitude to yogic sādhanā, if it is the essence of tantric sādhanā? If you look at ancient yoga texts, secrecy is often mentioned there. The question is, what part of the yogic tradition and practice should be open and for whom, and which is closed? This is a very slippery moment, each guru, in one case or another, himself defines this boundary. With whom, when and what boundaries should be, and with whom should they not be at all, depends on each specific situation.

The importance of svara in the nātha sādhana

On higher levels of initiation and practice of tantrism, such as pūrṇābhiṣeka, medhā-sāmrājya and practices of upper āmnāya, there are methods of contemplation of Ardhanārīśvara. Also, such ritual as pañca-tattva is not usually practiced before śāktābhiṣeka dīkṣā, and this is especially true for higher initiations and āmnāyas. Such titles as left-handed or right-handed tantra have both symbolic and quite practical values, for instance, pātra with wine is taken by the left hand when we offer it to the ”inner fire” into the mouth of Kuṇḍalinī. The left part of the body is Śakti and the right is Śiva. Some tantrikas say that kaula sādhana begins where such dualistic methods as Patañjali yoga are ended. But the same could be said about nāthas and kaulasnātha sādhana begins where kaula sādhana ends. It has always been like that in India: the more recent endevour to continue something is more substantial than the previous one. That is why Gorakṣanātha is more honoured today than even Matsyendranātha, but this, of course, does not belittle the benefit and the authority of the latter. In the same way, for example, Vedanta – the completion of the Vedas, is not considered as something below the Vedas, but rather as its essence by either Vedantins or many other Hundu. Or, similarly, we couldn’t say that Vajrayana Buddhism is a simplification of Theravada, despite the fact that it had been developed later. Or, for instance, the fact that some cults of early female deities, like sapta and aṣṭa mātrikās have been transformed into such sophisticated cults as Trika, Kubjikā, Śrīvidyā and others, doesn’t make the latter less developed or less authoritative. And the most essential way was always the most secret, with a very careful selection of applicants for that kind of dedication and practice. The same could be said about nāthas. The phenomenon of svara-yoga is of tantric origin, but its basis is still yogic. In speaking of essence, by which we usually mean something that is closer to us as subjects, and also implying the involvement of the subjects in different degrees of the external process. That is why the practices with the body, breathing, with tracking how the breath is associated with the sun and the moon, how these two are related to the elements, tithis, grahas, nakṣatras and other aspects of both micro- and macrocosmos, are very great and subtle processes. But the most important thing is that they are all tied to the essence of it all, namely the yoga of the Sun and the Moon. In many books of both the medieval gurus of the Nāth Sampradāya and the present authors, we can very often find a description of the importance of svara-yoga and, of course, the practices of it. That can be called the basis of nātha-yoga, as its symbol is the Sun and the Moon, i.e. Śiva-Śakti saṃyukta.

The internal fire

It’s the time to expand the topic of “internal fire”. Accidentally, I discovered a very interesting description of the inner nāda source, which occurs in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, one of the earliest Upaniṣadas. The śloka from there is also repeated in Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (2.6.).

बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् । ५.११.९ ।
bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad । 5.11.9 ।

अयमग्निर्वैश्वानरो योऽयमन्तः पुरुषे येनेदमन्नं पच्यते यदिदमद्यते तस्यैष
घोषो भवति यमेतत्कर्णावपिधाय शृणोति स यदोत्क्रमिष्यन्भवति नैनं घोषं शृणोति ॥

ayamagnirvaiśvānaro yo’yamantaḥ puruṣe yenedamannaṃ pacyate
yadidamadyate tasyaiṣa ghoṣo bhavati yametatkarṇāvapidhāya śṛṇoti sa
yadotkramiṣyanbhavati nainaṃ ghoṣaṃ śṛṇoti ॥

The fire, in the form of a universal being, is inside the living beings, thanks to it the food that is eaten is digested. He [a man], hears exactly that noise when he closes his ears. [However] he does not hear this sound when he dies.

Vaiśvānara is a very revered deity in the Vedas, much like Agni, and is often identified with him. It is also one of the deities that is recommended to perform dhyāna on in Yogayājñavalkya and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā. We can find many parallels with various yoga sources. For example, the following signs associated with purified nāḍis are listed in Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

यदा तु नाडीशुद्धिः स्यात्तथा चिह्नानि बाह्यतः।
कायस्य कृशता कान्तिस्तदा जायेत निश्चितम् ॥१९॥

yadā tu nāḍīśuddhiḥ syāttathā cihnāni bāhyataḥ।
kāyasya kṛśatā kāntistadā jāyeta niścitam॥19॥

When the nāḍis are purified, then external signs appear: harmony and radiance of the body, the yogi has success beyond doubt.

यथेष्टं धारणं वायोरनलस्य प्रदीपनम्।
नादाभिव्यक्तिरारोग्यं जायते नाडिशोधनात् ॥२०॥

yatheṣṭaṁ dhāraṇaṁ vāyoranalasya pradīpanam ।
nādābhivyaktirārogyaṁ jāyate nāḍiśodhanāt ॥ 20 ॥

If the yogi can retain the life force (e.g. kumbhaka), then the radiance and inner fire are increasing. Having cleaned channels, the nāda sounds are heard and disease is overcome.

Of course, there are different types of agni in the body among which jaṭharāgni is considered particularly significant. However, the “health” concept is not the same from the common man and yogi’s point of view. Yogis do not set the goal of becoming just healthy, the goal for them is rather samādhi. Therefore, the ritual of internal and external fire for the gr̥hasthas, many tantrikas and for the sannyasins has different levels. The yogi awakens the internal fire only in the suṣumnā, “dying for the outside world.” Initially, nāda sounds appear with the fire and light, but with full realisation, even the smallest fluctuations of prāṇa-spandana are extinguished. The above-mentioned Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (6.22) says of two kinds of Brahman: Śābda Brahman, who manifests himself in the sound and Para Brahman, where the sound disappears.

 

Two nāḍī-śuddhi prāṇāyāmas

In Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (4-35-44), at first, purification of nadīs is given in the form of using the alternate breathing technique with breath holdings, using bijas, which we can find in tantric rituals, such as bhūta-śuddhi or, for example, those intended to remove doṣas (defects) from some offerings. In that way, impurities are dried up by the bija of Air यं ‘yaṃ’ and then they are burned by the bija of Fire रं ‘raṃ’. Further, the remained ash is getting wet by the element of Water or Nectar by the corresponding bija वं ‘vaṃ’ (as it often happens in tantric practices), but sometimes in yogic and tantric texts another bija symbolising nectar ठं ‘ṭhaṃ’ is suggested to use instead. Then a newly formed body should be strengthened by the bija of Earth लं ‘laṃ’. Some prāṇāyāmas reduce these elements to only three bijas (of Air, Fire and Nectar) because in yoga, it is very typical to minimise the practise to the most essential components.

As in a tantric ritual, in Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, there is a description of the further use of the alternate breathing but in combination with praṇavaOm’. Also, in the third part of Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā prāṇāyāma with the use of praṇavaOm’, or, more precisely ‘A-U-M’ – three mātrās or counts of breath lengths, is described. It is said that a practitioner must mentally repeat अं ‘aṃ’ a certain number of times on the inhalation, then उं ‘uṃ’ during kumbhaka and मं ‘maṃ’ on the exhalation. It is recommended to meditate on each of the three elements as on one of the Goddesses, namely ‘A’ – Gāyatrī, ‘U’ – Sāvitrī and ‘M’ – SarasvatīGāyatrī is described as बाला bālā in a Sanskrit text, which usually means ‘a child, a girl at the age of eight’. She is red in color and rides on a swan (haṃsavāhinī). U-kara is Sāvitrī, she is described as युवती ‘yuvatī’ (she’s 15 y.o.). She is white in color and rides on Garuḍa (garuḍavāhinī). Similarly Ma-kara, or repetition of the vibration of ‘M’ correlates with Sarasvatī, who is described as वृद्धा ‘vṛddhā’, she is 28 years of age or older and she rides Vṛṣabha.

In Gāyatrīhṛdayam from Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa is said:

॥ गायत्रीहृदयम् ॥
पूर्वा भवति गायत्री, मध्यमा सावित्री, पश्चिमा स्नध्या सरस्वती ।
रक्ता गायत्री, श्वेता सावित्री, कृष्णा सरस्वती ॥ १२॥

pūrvā bhavati gāyatrī, madhyamā sāvitrī, paścimā snadhyā sarasvatī ।
raktā gāyatrī, śvetā sāvitrī, kṛṣṇā sarasvatī ॥12॥

In the morning it is necessary to worship Gāyatrī, at noon – Sāvitrī, and in the evening –SarasvatīGāyatrī is red in color, Sāvitrī is bright, Sarasvatī is dark.

Although, there are differences about vāhanas (beings used as vehicles), for example in Gāyatrī Hṛdayam:

पूर्व सन्धि ब्राह्मी, मध्य सन्धि माहेश्वरी, परा सन्धि वैष्णवी ।
हंसवाहिनी ब्राह्मी, वृषवाहिनी माहेश्वरी, गरुडवाहिनी वैष्णवी ॥ १४॥

pūrva sandhi brāhmī, madhya sandhi māheśvarī, parā sandhi vaiṣṇavī ।
haṃsavāhinī brāhmī, vṛṣavāhinī māheśvarī, garuḍavāhinī vaiṣṇavī ॥14॥

In the first sandhya (in the morning) she is known as Brahmī, at noon as Maheshvarī, and in the evening she is Vaishnavī. Brahmī rides a swan, Maheshvarī rides a bull, Vaishnavī rides Garuda.

Something similar exists in many yogic texts where it is recommended to use praṇava (OM).

For instance, in the fifth upadesha of Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (shlokas 48-50) there is also a recommendation to use A-kara, U-kara and Ma-kara. But there, A-kara is connected with raja-guṇa and Brahma and is red in color, U-kara is connected with sattva and Viṣṇu and is black. And Ma-kara, in opposite, is white in color and connected with Śiva.

Here, as you can guess, some similarities with Śri Vidya are immediately come to mind. In the third part of Jñānārṇāva Tantra (shlokas 11-12), it is said that Tripurasundarī is a Goddess with three aspects, the one is with bijaaiṃ” and white in color, the Goddess in red color with kama-bijaklīṃ” and the Goddess suvarṇa (the golden color) with bijasauḥ”. At first she is like Bala, a girl at the age of eight, then she is Pancadaśī (15 y.o.), this is a time full of passion (kāma), and finally she is Śodaśī or Mahaśodaśī (from 16 to 28 years of age or older) – she is full of wisdom.

In yogic texts, It is also said that prāṇāyāma is the unity of three matras, i.e. in case they are unrelated to each other – it would mean a loss and a waste of the vital energy (prāṇa), but not it’s enhancement.

Some pratyāhāra methods given in the texts

Pratyāhāra literally translates as “taking back”, i.e. own perception from the outside inward (in oneself, or ātman). It can be said in another way: the return of consciousness and prāṇa to the source of their origin, which terminates the process of losing energy to something that is of secondary importance to you personally or has virtually no effect. Pratyāhāra returns the practitioner to his normal state, where is much energy. And this energy can then be more effectively used in the practice of dhāraṇā. If there is not enough energy, then sometimes the dhāraṇā practice can lead to fatigue and instead of increasing energy lead to an even greater loss. I will give a description of the five methods of pratyāhāra practice, which are set forth in Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad. Also a similar description is found in Yogayājñavalkya (Ch. 7) and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā. Śāṇḍilya gives the following description of pratyāhāra:

अथ प्रत्याहारः। स पञ्चविधः विषयेषु विचरतामिन्द्रियाणां
बलादाहरणं प्रत्याहरः। यद्यत्पश्यति तत्सर्वमामेति प्रत्याहारः।
नित्यविहितकर्मफलत्यागः प्रत्याहारः।
सर्वविषयपराङ्मुखत्वं प्रत्याहारः।
अष्टादशसु मर्मस्थानेषु क्रमाद्धारणं प्रत्याहारः।
पादाङ्गुष्ठगुल्फजङ्घाजानूरुपायुमेढ्रनाभिहृदय-
कण्ठकूपतालुनासाक्शिभ्रूमध्यललाटमूर्ध्नि स्थानानि।
तेषु क्रमादारोहावरोहक्रमेण प्रत्याहरेत्॥ ८॥

atha pratyāhāraḥ | sa pañcavidhaḥ viṣayeṣu vicaratāmindriyāṇāṁ
balādāharaṇaṁ pratyāharaḥ | yadyatpaśyati tatsarvamāmeti pratyāhāraḥ |
nityavihitakarmaphalatyāgaḥ pratyāhāraḥ |
sarvaviṣayaparāṅmukhatvaṁ pratyāhāraḥ |
aṣṭādaśasu marmasthāneṣu kramāddhāraṇaṁ pratyāhāraḥ |
pādāṅguṣṭhagulphajaṅghājānūrupāyumeḍhranābhihṛdaya-
kaṇṭhakūpatālunāsākśibhrūmadhyalalāṭamūrdhni sthānāni |
teṣu kramādārohāvarohakrameṇa pratyāharet ॥ 8॥

Thus, the overview of pratyāhāra. It (pratyāhāra) is the fifth method. Pratyāhāra is the effort to remove senses from their objects. Whatever you see (perceive), it is necessary to consider it as one with your higher Self. It is required to constantly consider your actions without being tied to the fruits, as a sacrifice – tyāga (practice of karma-yoga). You need to direct your perception in opposition to external objects (i.e., inside yourself).

Pratyāhāra (the fifth technique) consists in concentrating on eighteen vital points (marmas) in the body. It is required to focus on the toes, ankles, calves (on the legs), knees, hips, anus, genital, navel, heart, throat, palate, nose, eyes, the point between the eyebrows, on the forehead, at the top of the head, and do this by moving the perception along the body up and down (ārohāvaroha-kramena).

A more detailed description is given in Yogayājñavalkya: these points, which is called ādhāra in Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, are located slightly different. If you compare all the sources on the basis of Yogayājñavalkya and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā, then marmas can be the following:

1) pādāṅguṣṭha (the big toe)
2) gulpha (ankle)
3) jaṅghā (ankle)
4) citimūla (base of the calf)
5) jānu (knee)
6) ūrumadhya (center of the thigh)
7) pāyu (anus)
8) dehamadhya (perineum)
9) meḍhra (genitals)
10) nābhi (navel)
11) hṛdaya (heart)
12) kaṇṭha (throat)
13) tālu (soft palate)
14) nāsamūla (the base of the nose)
15) cakṣu (eyes)
16) bhrūmadhya (between the eyebrows)
17) lalāṭa (forehead)
18) mūrdhni (the crown of the head)

Usually, prāṇa moves where the perception is directed, so in this practice like many others, prāṇa should be focused through the consistent concentration and shifting of attention to the indicated points. Prāṇa is usually scattered throughout the body at very different points, which are 108 in number according to some sources, or even more according to others. However, the point is that attention and energy have to go more and more from the periphery to the center. Prāṇa comes from the root “an” – the breath, so we can also talk about the use of breathing at these points. With slow inspiration we concentrate on one point, since pūraka means “filling with energy,” then during exhalation (recaka) we dissolve the sensation of this region. With a new breath we move on to the next point and etc., moving up and down.

Cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas in the yogic texts

Such elements as cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas are not always clearly described in the Natha texts and Tantras. Therefore, it is often necessary to use different texts for “complementarity.” There is another perfect way, the presence of a knowledgeable guru, who can explain everything and transmit it. However, it is extremely difficult to find such gurus. It is obvious from lots of texts that these elements of tantric yoga are transmitted to the disciple by a guru, who are realised in them. So, for example, the Pranatoshini-tantra (in the section of guru-tattva) describes these elements:

षट्चक्रं षोडशाधारं त्रिलक्षं व्योमपञ्चकम् |
स्वदेहे यो विजानाति स गुरुः कथितो बुधैः

ṣaṭcakraṃ ṣoḍaśādhāraṃ trilakṣaṃ vyomapañcakam |
svadehe yo vijānāti sa guruḥ kathito budhaiḥ ||

Six cakras, sixteen pillars, three goals (in yoga) and five vyomas are known (realised) in the body [of a disciple], that is connected with a guru.

Also, there are six streams or ways of opening of Paramashiva (षडध्वा ṣaḍadhvā) added to these elements. They play a big role in the tantric initiation (diksha), when the guru places them in the disciple’s body, awakens them in him, actually transmitting that he has realised already in himself. Therefore, a disciple adopts the psychophysical realisation of his guru. A disciple must perceive the transmission of these elements from the guru as the very revealing of Shiva. The revealing of Shiva, who is vācaka (expressing speech) and vācya (expressed) – Shakti. They are both revealed on three levels: the higher – parā (or abheda – apart from the differences), parāpara – the combination of the higher and the lower or the bhedābheda (one in discrimination) and apara – the lowest or bheda (separate). At the highest level, Shiva manifests as varṇa (the Sanskrit letters), and Shakti – as kalā (the five forms of primordial energy). At the parāpara level, Shiva manifests as a mantra and Shakti at the same level – as tattva, one of the 36 elements of Shaivism. At the level of apara, Shiva manifests himself as a pada (words) and Shakti appears as bhuvana (worlds). In a word, the entire manifested universe is the expression of the union of ShivaShakti. The shadadhvas are used in many practices, one of the well-known examples can be found in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra (Shloka 56), they are also mentioned in the Amaraugha-shasana by Gorakshanāth in the context of prāṇa movement and the awakening of kuṇḍalinīshakti.

Regarding the remaining elements, the Pranatoshini-tantra gives the following explanations:

पृथिव्यादीनि भूतानि कथितं व्योमपञ्चकमिति
pṛthivyādīni bhūtāni kathitaṃ vyomapañcakamiti

Starting from the ground, the five elements are known as the five vyomas. The Tantrāloka (Ahnika 29, Shloka 252) says about five centers, where the five vyomas manifest:

व्योमानि – जन्मनाभिहृद्विन्दुस्थानानि
vyomāni – janmanābhihṛdvindusthānāni

The following are connected with the vyomas: 1) janma-sthāna (mūlādhāra), 2) nābhi (maṇipūra), 3) hṛdaya (anāhata), 4) bindusthāna (usually, bhrūmadhya or ājñā) and 5) sahasrāra. Obviously, the earlier system of the five cakras, known in the Kubjikā-tantras for examples, corresponds to the yogic experience of five spaces. Although they are described differently in the Upaniṣadas (the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa-upaniṣad, the Advaya-taraka-upaniṣad) or in the Siddha-siddhānta-paddathi.

The Pranatoshini-tantra gives explanations of the three lakṣyas:

त्रिलक्षादिकमपि तत्रैव स्वयम्भूर्वाण इतरस्त्रिलक्षं परिकीर्त्तितम्
trilakṣādikamapi tatraiva svayambhūrvāṇa itarastrilakṣaṃ parikīrttitam

The three goals of meditation are known as svayambhū (liṅga), vana and itara (liṅgamas).

Six cakras are described similarly to many texts, but in the Pranatoshini-tantra they being reunited with the dvādaśānta system (subtle centers and spaces in the head area), give 16 adharas in total.

षोडशाधारस्वरूपमपि तत्रैव ||
मूलाधारस्वाधिष्ठानं मणिपूरमनाहतम् |
विशुद्धमाज्ञाचक्रञ्च बिन्दुर्भूयः कलापदम् |
निबोधिका तथार्द्धेन्दुर्नादो नादान्त एव च |
उन्मनी विष्णुवक्त्रञ्च ध्रुवमण्डलिका ततः |

ṣoḍaśādhārasvarūpamapi tatraiva ||
mūlādhārasvādhiṣṭhānaṃ maṇipūramanāhatam |
viśuddhamājñācakrañca bindurbhūyaḥ kalāpadam |
nibodhikā tathārddhendurnādo nādānta eva ca |
unmanī viṣṇuvaktrañca dhruvamaṇḍalikā tataḥ |

In addition to the cakras, from mūlādhāra to ājñā, there are listed bindu, kalā, pada, nibodhika, ardhendu, nada, nādānta, unmaṇi, viṣṇuvaktra, dhruvamaṇḍala.

In fact, this is a unified psychophysical system of the yogin including also the macrocosm.

In some texts, adharas are described as granthas (nodes of the energy connections), for example, in the Manthanabhaira-tantra, in others – as marmas (in the Yoga Yājñavalkya). In the last text, these marmas are used in the practice of pratyāhāra, in which, through the concentration of the mind, a yogi learns to collect his prāṇa scattered throughout the body. The term “marma” is found in Āyurveda, in Indian martial arts and comes from the root of mṛ meaning “death”, since the points were used to defeat the enemy. In these systems, marmas are numerous, and they are localised at the junction of different body systems, etc. Nevertheless, the points can play a healing function, so the mṛta (death) becomes an amṛta (life) or a path from mara to amara (immortality).

All these details in their entirety at the applied level can be transferred to the disciple only by a guru, who, without any doubt, must realise them in the most perfect form in himself.