Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Yoga?

Meaning of the Sanskrit word Yoga is to unite or to join. From spiritual point of view Yoga means union of individual soul and cosmic soul or Jiva and Shiva. Patanjali Yoga Sutras define Yoga as restraint of mental fluctuations. When mental fluctuations cease Self shines on its own and the practitioner experience that Jiva and Shiva are one and the same.

Ancient Yogic texts classify Yoga in four types viz. Mantra, Hatha, Laya and Raja. Irrespective of the type all of them aim at manolaya or dissolution of mind. Though Ajapa is a meditation technique it actually integrates all the four forms of Yoga.

All the above mentioned types of Yoga consists of eight steps. They are - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Truthfulness, Non-violence, Non-stealing, Non-possessiveness and celibacy are Yamas. Cleanliness, Contentment, Austerities, Self-study and Surrendering everything to God are Niyamas. Steady and comfortable posture is Asana. Drawing sense organs inwards is Pratyahara. Concentrating on an object is Dharana. When Dharana matures it evolves into Dhyana. When Dhyana matures it evolves into Samadhi.

2. What is the difference or similarity between Yoga, Samkhya and Vedanta?

Samkhya is a dualistic system. Kapila Muni is considered as the originator and chief expounder of this system. Samkhya philosophy consists of 25 elements. They are - Purusha, Prakruti, Ego, Intellect, Mind, Five Tanmatras (smell, touch, form, taste, sound), Five sense organs (nose, ears, eyes, skin, tongue), Five organs of action (hand, legs, anus, genitals, mouth), Five great elements (earth, water, fire, air, space). Knowledge of these 25 elements is the aim of a Samkhya practitioner. As per Samkhya liberation is making Purusha free from Prakruti. Samkhya does not believe in God.

Vedanta is primarily based on Upanishads. Adi Shankaracharya is the chief expounder of Vedanta philosophy and his explanation is widely accepted. Vedanta is non-dualistic and believes in Advaita. As per Vedanta, Brahma alone has filled the entire universe. It does not consider deities or god-heads as Supreme reality as everything is but manifestation of Brahma. As per Vedanta liberation is the direct experience of 'Everything is Brahman'. Individual self falsely identifies itself with body and world around just like a rope mistaken as a snake in darkness. When this ignorance or veil of Maya is removed it identifies itself with Brahman. Vedanta is also known as path of Dnyana or Knowledge.

Yoga nicely combines the principles of Samkhya and Vedanta. Maharshi Patanjali is considered as the chief expounder of this system as he for the first time codified the principles of this system in a systematic way. Yoga believes in all the 25 elements of Samkhya but also believes in Ishwara or God who is beyond these 25 elements. A Yogi aims at uniting Purusha (individual self) with Ishwara (cosmic Self). Thus Yoga attains non-dual experience of Vedanta through dualistic practice. In Kaliyuga path of Dnyana alone is extremely difficult. Only through the practice of Yoga true Knowledge dawns. It should be noted that Vedanta has acknowledged the principles of Samkhya and Yoga wherever they do not contradict Advaita.

In short we can say that Vedanta explains the ultimate aim of a spiritual seeker where as Yoga provides means to reach that goal.

3. What is the eligibility required to walk the path of Yoga?

Three qualities are necessary to walk the path of Yoga viz. Shraddha (faith), Saburi (patience) and Shista (Discipline). One must have complete faith on God and the path of Yoga. Doubt hinders your progress. Patience is also necessary. Not everybody can progress with the same pace. Depending on individual's karmic balance and efforts the time required varies. One must be patient enough to undertake the practice for years together. Discipline is absolutely necessary in daily life and sadhana. Yoga is not something to be practiced once in a while. It should become an integral part of your life.

4. What is Ajapa meditation?

Ajapa meditation is an ancient powerful combination of breathing patterns, visualizations and meditation that calms and relaxes the mind quickly inducing deep meditative state. Keeping awareness on natural breathing is the central theme of Ajapa. Ajapa is also called as SoHam meditation.

5. Who can practice Ajapa meditation?

Anyone irrespective of age, gender, religion and geographic location can practice Ajapa meditation. Being a human being is all that is required!

6. What are the benefits of Ajapa meditation?

A regular practice of Ajapa meditation gives the following benefits:

  • Mind becomes calm quickly
  • Body and mind gets deep rest
  • Mental fatigue arising from stress, worries, strain is removed
  • Both the nostrils start flowing equally thus inducing a balance in both hemispheres of brain
  • One gets extra energy and enthusiasm to perform daily duties
  • Mental problems such as anger, laziness, weakness are removed
  • Energy layer is strengthened thus helping to remove diseases
  • Spiritual energy (called Kundalini in Yoga) lying dormant becomes active in safe and blissful fashion
  • Various chakras or lotuses are opened
  • By regular practice deep meditative states can be attained

7. What is the origin of Ajapa meditation?

Ajapa meditation is an ancient technique with its roots in India. Ajapa is mentioned in Upanishads, Puranasa, Tantras as well as numerous Yogic texts. Some of them are - Yoga Chudamani Upanishad, Yoga Shikha Upanishad, Vijana Bhairava Tantra, Kularnava Tantra, Yoga Bija, Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Purana and Skanda Purana.

It is believed that Lord Shiva first gave this technique to his consort Parvati. Great yogis such as Matsyendranatha and Gorakshanatha, who are considered chief expounders of Natha sect lauds the practice of Ajapa Dhyana in their works. It is an important practice of Natha sect as such. Swami Samartha Ramadasa also talks about Ajapa meditation in his famous work Dasbodha. This clearly underlines the importance of Ajapa as a meditation technique.

8. What is the specialty of Ajapa meditation as compared to other techniques?

Ajapa is a complete practice in itself. A practitioner of Ajapa doesn't need any other practice for the purpose of Self-realization. It is that powerful. Thought Ajapa is a meditation technique it actually combines the effect of Mantra, Hatha, Laya and Raja yogas in comfortable way. Ajapa is a meditation technique as well as a Pranayama. You rarely find a practice like Ajapa that is natural and without any adverse side effects. Forceful breath retention, Mudras and Bandhas can prove harmful to the practitioner. This won't happen with Ajapa because it is completely natural. A practitioner can experience the benefits of Ajapa sooner than other techniques. Kundalini awakening through Ajapa happens in comfortable and blissful fashion. Hatha Yoga expects you to follow a very strict rules and regulation which an average practitioner finds difficult to follow. In contrast Ajapa doesn't need such strict rules and even an average practitioner  can easily fulfill the expectations of Ajapa. Many practitioners find it extremely difficult to control their mind. Ajapa tames the mind using Prana and even a practitioner with wavering mind can succeed. Ajapa can be practiced by anyone irrespective of age, gender, religion and cast.

9. What is Prana?

Our body consists of the five great elements viz. earth, water, fire, air and space. However, it is just a gross lump of blood, flesh and bones unless it has the vital life force. The energy that makes this lump live is Prana. All the bodily actions such as heart beats, digestion, breathing and excretion are but manifestations of Prana. Prana cannot be seen with naked eyes. Therefore to control Prana one must control some of its subtle manifestation. Some manifestations such as heart beats cannot be controlled but breathing can certainly be controlled. That is why Yoga uses breathing exercises to gain control on Prana. Such exercises are commonly referred as Pranayama.

10. What is Kundalini and Chakras?

Earlier we talked about the 25 elements of Samkhya and Yoga. The evolution from God to Earth element is termed as Prasava in Yoga. Once this transformation is complete there is no further work for the energy. But that does not mean that energy has vanished. It is stored in the body itself in latent form. This latent energy is Kundalini. The Sanskrit work Kundalini means the one who is coiled. Suppose you have a mat but is currently unused. What will you do with it? You will possibly fold (or wind) it and keep in a cupboard. Exactly same thing happens with the unused energy.

A careful observation of human body reveals that this evolution has happened from head to feet. During this evolution the God's divine energy flows through the spinal cord in the form of Prana. This channel is the Sushumna Nadi as per Yoga. During the process of evolution small networks of sub-channels are formed across the length of Sushumna. It is as if a pipeline supplying drinking water to a city is getting branched at several intervals. The places where Sushumna forms such sub-networks are called Chakras. There are such six major Chakras on Sushumna spanning the bottom of the spine to the base of the brain (or eye brow center in terms of outer body). They have been named as Muladhara, Swadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddhi and Ajna respectively. The seventh Chakra called Sahasrara is in brain. It would be interesting to note that these Chakras correspond to the plexuses discovered by modern science.

Kundalini is not a tangible object that be switched on and off as per desire. It is energy. What is meant by awakening the Kundalini then? Suppose you have a wooden log. There is energy in it but in latent form. How would you tap that energy? You will possibly ignite the log through some external means. The same holds true even for Kundalini. To tap the Kundalini energy you need ignition in the form of Yoga. In simple terms awakening Kundalini refers to converting Potential Energy of the mind-body equipment into Kinetic Energy. Once awakened the activated energy then starts working on mind and body.

11. What is the significance of Kundalini awakening in spiritual progress?

We stated earlier that evolution of the universe happens from God to Earth element. If you wish to unite with God this sequence must be reversed. That means we must dissolve step by step from Earth to God. This is called Pratiprasava in Yoga. When Kundalini is awakened She is made to ascend from the Sushumna channel causing its journey to be reversed. As this journey begins Laya or dissolution starts. More the Laya lesser the distance from God and more will be the spiritual progress. Concrete symptoms of this spiritual progress are deep meditative states and detachment. As you progress your mental fluctuations will keep reducing and one day they will stop altogether. This is Samadhi.

12. What are the ways of awakening Kundalini?

Kundalini can be awakened through several ways other than Ajapa. They include - Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Shaktipata, Bhakti Yoga and Naamasmarana (chanting some holy name). Ajapa, however, is the easiest, most natural and safe way of awakening the sleeping Kundalini. 

13. How should be the place and seat of sadhana?

Ajapa meditation should be performed in a place having pleasant atmosphere. As far as possible select a place that is isolated. The place must be free from dust and insects (mosquitoes etc.), free from noise.

It is recommended to have a pleasant and comfortable asana or seat. No need of any fancy Yoga mat. A simple way to prepare your seat is to have a thick four fold blanket covered by a soft four fold cotton cloth. Do not use the blanket or the soft cloth for any other purpose. Do not share it with others.

14. What is the recommended timing and duration for meditation?

If possible Ajapa meditation should be performed twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening. If for some reason it is not possible for you to meditate twice prefer the morning slot. Practice at the same fixed time every day. During weekly holidays and public holidays meditate for extended duration. There is no fixed duration for practicing meditation. It all depends on individuals. Just for the sake of guideline beginners can start with 20 minutes at a time, intermediate level students can extend it to 1 to 1 1/2 hr at a time. An advanced level practitioner is mature enough to decide the duration for himself.

15. What other guidelines should a practitioner follow?

It is recommended that a practitioner should follow these guidelines :

  • Moderate diet is a very important point for making any progress. Avoid spicy and oily food altogether. Fill two quarters of stomach with food and one quarter with water. One quarter should be kept free for gases. Include fresh fruits, vegetables and cow milk in your diet whenever possible.
  • Do not expect effects of your practice to come in a very short time. Your sincerity and past karmas govern your progress.
  • Do not compare your practice with others. Everybody in this world is unique.
  • Do not practice when you are seriously ill or disturbed.
  • Always listen to your body. Do not stress or strain yourself.
  • Do not share your own practice and experiences with others except your Guru.
  • During the practice do not allow your mind to wander away. Practice done with awareness gives more benefits.
  • Avoid being in bad company. Try to be in the company of likeminded people.


Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 05 May 2010