Yogoda: The Healing Legacy of Paramhansa Yogananda
Some 90 years ago, Paramhansa Yogananda, the great master of yoga and the author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, introduced a unique system for reducing stress and improving one’s ability to manifest better health, prosperity and spiritual power. He called this revolutionary technique Yogoda, meaning “yoga or union with God.”
From his autobiography, Yogananda describes the evolution of his health philosophy:
“Realizing that man’s body is like an electric battery, I reasoned that it could be recharged with energy through the direct agency of human will. As no action, slight or large, is possible without willing, man can avail himself of this prime mover — will — to renew his bodily tissues without burdensome apparatus or mechanical exercises. In the simple Yogoda techniques, the life force, centered in man’s medulla oblongata (located in the brainstem which regulates the heart and lung functions), can be consciously and instantly recharged from the unlimited supply of cosmic energy.
“Yogoda is based on the principle, ‘The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy.’ By tensing muscle groups gradually with will — low, medium, high, and vibrating with tension — then relaxing slowly and feeling the sensations, Yogoda establishes a harmony between the working of the voluntary muscles and the involuntary processes of healing. This gives wonderful health and strength. Yogoda teaches that the body is a reservoir of infinite strength and life energy. It keeps the muscles and tissues and the whole body disciplined and will prove to be one of the greatest boons ever conferred upon mankind!”
It is recommended that after the practice of Yogoda to sit still for a short time, center yourself, and focus with eyes closed at the point between the two eyebrows. You will feel a wonderful sense of relaxation and energy flowing through the chakras to the brain, magnetizing your brain cells. This process of awakening, if done regularly, will take you into a deep spiritual state. Enlightenment comes as you become one with the energy of the Inner light.
Yogoda Energization Exercises for Reducing Stress and Promoting Healing (from the original Yogoda text of 1925)
- Gently tense and relax each body part from 1 to 20, mentally saying: “My children, wake up.” Hold the relaxation for half a minute without moving.
- Start with the left foot. Place your attention on the center of the instep of the left foot. Slowly tense the left foot — low, medium, then high, drawing the toes under. Keep the foot tensed.
- Continue adding tension — low to high — with willpower in the above mentioned manner for all 20 body parts from feet to head (1 to 20), in slow rhythmic succession.
- Gently re-tense and vibrate the whole body, holding all 20 body parts tensed, breath held, mentally counting 1 to 6, and noting whether all body parts are tensed or not.
- Exhale and slowly, relax the chain of tensed parts, head to feet in inverse order from 20 to 1. If while relaxing the parts above the waist, you find that you have also unintentionally relaxed the parts below the waist, then simultaneously tense again all the parts below the waist and relax from the waist down, one by one.
- Repeat the technique once lying on a bed, and twice out of bed, standing.
- The technique can be practiced lying down, sitting in a chair or while standing.
- Always practice this technique with eyes closed and very slowly.
- Do not tense quickly, but gradually
- Tense low any diseased or weak body part
- To heal any body part, gently tense and relax that part. Then tense low and hold that tension, counting 1 to 10 mentally, electrocuting the disease with recharged energy. Then relax. Repeat 10 times, three times a day, or as often as you desire. Practice the healing of any body part in the lying posture.
- By exhaling or throwing the breath out, you relax the lungs, diaphragm and abdomen. Any time you feel tired or nervous, tense the whole body gently, then relax; that is, withdraw the energy and consciousness and active will power, and quickly exhale. Keep still; enjoy the calmness of the body.
Master this highly practical technique of recharging by faithful and regular practice for your own knowledge and benefit. These exercises will give definite, satisfactory and invigorating results in body and mind that you can experience for yourself if you are regular, faithful, attentive and correct in your practice.
Paramhansa Yogananda was one of the first great masters of yoga to live in America and teach for an extended period of time, from 1920-1952. On March 7, 1952, Yogananda went into “Mahasamadhi,” an advanced yogi's conscious transition for the body into the omniscient spirit. After his passing, Yogananda demonstrated what regular Yogoda practice can do. Workers at Forest Lawn Mortuary of Glendale, CA wrote a testimonial letter about the incorruptibility of Yogananda's body after his death, citing, "The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramhansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience….No physical disintegration was visible in Paramhansa Yogananda's body even twenty days after death."
Robert Ram Smith is the director of Ananda-Self Realization Center of Kingston, RI, a vibrant spiritual community offering meditation, yoga, philosophy classes and satsang (fellowship). He has been a Yogoda practitioner for over 30 years and is offering a Kriya Yoga retreat April 30-May 2. He can be reached at 401-218-5858 or visit www.anandarhodeisland.org.