We ARE energy. The very atoms of which our physical bodies are made are but energy. All matter is a manifestation of that energy. The more we maintain a consciousness of this reality, the more we can rise triumphant over the bondage of matter. Fatigue, weakness, disease — these have no part of our true nature. Even in little ways, once we learn this truth, we can demonstrate its usefulness. Whenever I feel a cold coming on me, for example, unless it catches me unaware in sleep, I tell it firmly, “Begone!” and in five minutes I am quite rid of it. A brother disciple of mine, fifty-five years old and weighing only 145 lbs., easily performed jobs that a couple of the young monks, 225 lbs. each and ex-weight lifters, found difficult.
Energy is the connecting link between consciousness and matter, between mind and body. For energy is, in its turn, but a manifestation of consciousness. In the last analysis, all things are but manifestations of Spirit. When you will your arm to move, it is energy, not matter, upon which your will acts directly. The energy, in its turn, acts upon the muscles of the arm, tensing them and making them move. If you will your arm to move, but don’t send any energy to it, it will remain motionless.
The amount of energy flow, as well as the simple fact of its flow, depends on the exertion of will. If you go to pick up what you think is an empty bucket, the energy you exert will not be enough to lift it if in fact it is full. In this case, you must exert more will, and send more energy; you will then be able to lift the bucket easily. To put it simply, the greater the will, the greater the flow of energy. There is, literally, no limit to the degree of will, and therefore to the measure of energy, that one can summon in any undertaking, simply because a strong will is not limited by the actual energy potential of the body; rightly applied, it draws directly on the energy of the universe. I say rightly applied, for to many people an exertion of will power suggests a grim, tense kind of determination, an exaggerated awareness of obstacles and difficulties that implies a “no” vote from the subconsciousness even while the conscious mind is affirming “yes”. Willingness, then, might better suggest the kind of will power intended here. In this sense, the axiom is as true for man’s relationship to the cosmic energy as to the energy of his own body: The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy. Remember it. Emblazon it in your mind. Repeat it to your self several times a day. This single truth can revolutionize your life…
The principle that underlies the energization of the body, then, is vitally important on all stages of spiritual growth. Yet it is easiest to master it on the level of energization. The awareness one develops as a result of this mastery can then be applied on subtler levels. For all spiritual experiences are related to this flow of energy. While it may be difficult even to visualize divine joy, the simple flow of energy in the body is easy to experience. This experience can be made the foundation for increasingly subtle perceptions. Yet energy itself may at first be a difficult word for beginning yogis to understand. What is energy? How does one feel it?
In higher states of awareness, it is possible simply to see the inner divine light and command it to charge one’s body with energy. For the energy of the body is actually a manifestation of that light. In the beginning, however, it is necessary to focus on one of the results of that energy flow.
When you move your arm, it is because you have sent energy to the arm muscles, commanding them to become tensed. You are to some extent familiar already with this energy flow. You experience it, for instance, when you stretch your arms on waking in the morning. That “good feeling” in the muscles is the breakfast of energy you are giving them to prepare them for the day’s activities.
Even when you cannot feel this flow, you can always feel the tension of your muscles, and can make this feeling the starting point for your developing awareness. By inward concentration on the tension of your muscles, you will gradually become conscious of the source of that tension in the flow of energy to those muscles. Muscular tension can thereby be utilized to stimulate the energy flow.
These truths have always been implicit in the yoga teachings, and proved useful long before they were formulated as definite principles, even as the force of gravity was useful to man long before its governing law was discovered. The discovery of the law of gravity, however, made possible the more exact application of this force. Similarly, once these truths relating to the energization of the body had been reduced to exact principles, it became possible for even beginners to benefit from them, and also for more advanced yogis to utilize them more easily, and more completely.
These principles were discovered by my great guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, in 1916. They constitute a priceless contribution to the ancient yoga science, not only because they enable yoga students to recharge their bodies with energy at will, thereby driving away fatigue and disease, but also because they give him an invaluable tool for developing divine awareness in its most subtle aspects.
The stimulation of awareness of the energy by means of physical tension requires a calm, inward awareness. Muscular tension is involved in running or in throwing a ball, but here the concentration is engaged in outward movement. It is necessary, for development of an inward awareness of energy as the true force behind muscular tension, that all corresponding physical movements be slow, harmonious, and deliberate. To use this principle for the energization and toning-up of the entire body, a complete system of exercises is needed, that every body part receive due attention.
My guru invented such a system. I have practiced it virtually every day since I first learned it in 1948. I have found it truly wonderful. Some days, owing to the pressure of duties, I have omitted doing them in the morning. The rest of that day I have felt as if there were cobwebs in my muscles. And I have thought, “This is how most people must feel all the time. They accept their condition only because they know nothing better!”
I remember one time, many years ago. A group of us went camping in the mountains. I had been told that our destination, a small lake, was an easy twenty-minute stroll from the end of the road. Anticipating no problems, I took with me not only a sleeping bag and light clothing, but a harmonium for chanting, a gallon bottle of fruit juice, and a knapsack full of useful, if unnecessary, things, including a heavy book that I had been reading. Instead of a twenty-minute stroll, unfortunately, it turned out to be a six-mile climb, much of it on steep gravelly terrain. My daily work was in an office. This climb, at 9,000 feet, was more than my body was prepared to enjoy. Back in the office the next Monday, it was an effort for me even to lift a pencil.
“I must think up some excuse”, I thought, “to get out of practicing the energization exercises this evening.” Being in charge of other people affords certain disadvantages. As the head of the monks, I was expected not only to join, but to lead them in their exercises. Others of them, too, had been with me on the hike. They, too, were sore, though perhaps none of them had been so foolish in burdening themselves as I had. I could think of no excuse that might justify my sitting on the sidelines while they exercised.
As long as I was going to suffer through those exercises, I decided, I might as well put my whole will into the act. This I did, bearing in mind more desperately than usual my guru’s principle: “The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy.”
Amazingly, after ten minutes of exercise I felt not a trace of pain in my muscles! Instead, my body actually felt better than it would have had I spent the entire weekend at home, resting. As I walked off to meditation, it seemed almost as if I was floating.
I have had numerous other occasions, though perhaps few as dramatic, to demonstrate to myself the value of these energization exercises. I simply cannot recommend them highly enough.