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Laya Yoga – Associated With Breath Control

Laya yoga is the variety of Yoga leading to an absorbed state of mind; the word laya means absorption. It is associated with breath control.

Yoga Shikha Upanishad (I.129) mentions four varieties of Yoga. These are:
  1. Mantra Yoga
  2. Laya Yoga
  3. Hatha Yoga
  4. Raja Yoga
Laya Yoga is defined (I.135) as that variety in which breath is stabilized. This is said to lead to the highest state (paramapada).

In Varaha Upanishad (II.80), it is said that the mind is the matter of the senses, breath is the controller of the mind, and laya is the controller of the breath. Hence one should practice Laya Yoga.

Laya is said to be dependent on subtle sound (nada) in Yogasikha Upanishad (III.29). Hence a detailed description of hearing subtle sounds (nadanusandhana) is given in the fourth chapter of the text. It is described the state of laya (IV.34) as one of forgetting objects of sense experience and also a state of suppression of desire, with the objective of merging oneself in the divine.

Adi Shankaracharya On Laya Yoga

Shankara has mentioned in his Yoga Taravali that nadanusandhana as the foremost among the many means available in ancient tradition for achieving the state of laya (Yogataravali, verse 2).

It is mentioned as the surest way of attaining the merger of the mind and breath (verse 4), by coming into being of absolute stoppage of breathing, called kevala kumbhaka (verse 9).

A person who has attained this state is compared to the silent flame of a lamp standing still in a place devoid of wind without flickering ( Yogataravali verse 18).

Shankara has called that state yoga nidra or the sahaja state, in which the soul (atman) shines forth brightly, ignorance and darkness are dispelled completely, and the mind enjoys eternal bliss. Indeed, it is an everlasting state of liberation in bodily existence (verse 27).

Bibliography
Tantrayoga, Nadayoga and Krityayoga (1955) - Swami Shivananda - Divine Life Society Rishikesh
Hathapradipika of Swaatmarama (1970) edited by R. G. Kokaje and Swami Digambar - Kaivalyadhama Lonavla.
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VI page 271 - IHRF



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