An Introduction
to Yoga

by Annie Besant

The Meaning of the Universe

  • The Unfolding of Consciousness
  • The Oneness of the Self
  • The Quickening of the Process of Self-Unfoldment
  • Yoga is a Science
  • Man a Duality
  • States of Mind
  • Samadhi

The Literature of Yoga

  • Some Definitions
  • God Without and God  Within
  • Changes of Consciousness and Vibrations of Matter
  • Stages of Mind
  • Inward and Outward-turned Consciousness
  • The Cloud

Relation to Indian Philosophies

  • Mind
  • The Mental Body

Mind and Self

  • Methods of Yoga
  • To the Self by the Self
  • To the Self through the Not-Self

  • Yoga and Morality
  • Composition of States of the Mind

Pleasure and Pain

  • Inhibition of States of Mind
  • Meditation with and without Seed
  • The Use of Mantras


  • Obstacles to Yoga
  • Capacities for Yoga
  • Forthgoing and Returning
  • Purification of Bodies
  • Dwellers on the Threshold
  • Preparation for Yoga
  • The End
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Self Control Exercises 1-16

Rightly has it been remarked that is easy to talk of and write upon this
subject but most difficult to possess it. Perfect Self-Control means
infinite power. Only the Buddas and the Christs of this World manifested
Perfect Self-Control. "Anything short of the absolute control of thought,
word and deed is only sowing wild oats," said Vivekananda. It is with no
little diffidence that I approach this subject as whoever handles
this subject is rightly culpable as being a "Do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do"
class of writers. Still you can make appreciable progress in this
direction by mastering these instructions, going through the exercises
and last but most important by "carrying the principles in your mind" and
applying them as far as you can in your daily life. Nothing is more
conducive to rapid growth and development as the making of the "little
and big" affairs in your work-a-day life, the occasion for the practical
expression and conscious translation of your ideals. We all are guilty of
a serious mistake in setting apart our higher ideals for regular
'practice' hours and leading a life of low and quite different ideals in
our ordinary life. The natural process, as you can see, is to LIVE OUT
your highest ideals every minute of your life. Nothing is more important
than the daily occupation of a man and if he fails to bring his ideals
right into these little things, then Success will ever elude him. A
mental scientist has summed up the entire secret of Character-Building in
this valuable advice on Objective Concentration: the simple task of
mental concentration on whatever task, business or profession a man is
engaged in is the beginning of the mastery which is the perfection of
Objective Concentration. Whatever you are doing be master of your work.
If you are a cobbler mend shoes in a perfect manner; if a barber keep
your razors and scissors in a state that will excite the admiration of
your customers; if a tailor make the coat fit like a glove; if a clerk
keep your accounts in apple-pie order; if a builder scorn your
jerry-brother; if a singer enchant the listener with a concord of sweet
sounds; if an actor enter into the spirit of the character and make the
play-goer feel that

"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and their entrance
And one man in his time plays many parts."

If a leader in any department of thought or action, remember that if to
you much is given, from you also much is required, for the responsibility
of the lives and happiness of your fellows rests heavy on your shoulders,
whether you know it or not and thousands may secretly curse your
incapacity and bungling. It is infinitely better to be a good cobbler
than a bad ruler.

I believe the above advice if followed conscientiously by you would
go to make you really fit for initiation into the more advanced stages of
mastery. Take it to heart by all means. Be convinced, the man who
looks for quick results and a royal road to the mastery of Mental Science
breaks down in frequent despair at apparent failures and neglects his
daily work will never go far. In fact, his very impatience will lead to
failure. No individual life is fully rounded out unless some useful work
forms part of it. The Yogi who has renounced the world has already
done his work and is ahead of the times. The real hermit and the saint
are the Pillars of Strength on which this world stands. I cannot repeat
this too often. The mere fact of their breathing the same atmosphere
as you is a benediction and an inestimable boon unto the race.


"The first requisite," says Mr. Atkinson, "of concentering is the
ability to shut out outside thoughts, sights and sounds; to conquer
inattention; to obtain perfect control over the body and mind. The body
must be brought under the control of the mind; the mind under the
direct control of the Will. The Will is strong enough, but the mind needs
strengthening by being brought under the direct influence of the will.
The mind, strengthened by the impulse of the will, becomes a much more
powerful projector of thought vibrations than otherwise and the
vibrations have much greater force and effect."

The first four exercises are meant to train the mind to readily obey the
commands of the mind. Take them in the privacy of your own room and never
talk of them to others. Also do not let their apparent simplicity lead
you to neglect them. If you are one of those empty-brained men who go
about talking of their exercises hoping in this way to win praise, you
will never succeed. Be serious, earnest and sincere in your work. Give
up, once for ever, all fickle-mindedness and learn to accumulate Power in
silence and through work. Prayer gives you strength to "work"--the answer
comes from your Larger Self--which is the Spirit of God "brooding" over
all and pouring strength into all. But do not fly in the face of DEITY by
expecting it to "do the work" for you while you go about loafing after
offering your prayer. Nonsense. That man prays who works constantly,
silently, patiently, unceasingly and intelligently.

Exercise 1.

Sit still; relax your body all over and then neck, chest, and head held
in a straight line; legs crossed one under the other and weight of the
body resting easily upon the ribs; right hand on right leg, left hand
on left leg. There should not be a single movement of the muscles in
any part of the body. Mind, you must avoid all rigidness and tension of
the body. There should not be the least strain on muscles. You should
be able to "relax" completely. Start with 5 minutes. Continue till you
can accomplish the 5 minutes sitting without any conscious effort,
increase to 15 minutes which is about all you need. The aim is to give
you absolute dominion over all involuntary muscular movements. It is also
an ideal "rest-cure" after fatiguing physical and mental exercise or
exertion. The principal thing is "STILLNESS" and you can, if you like,
practise it even sitting on a chair or anywhere else; the idea is one of
"relaxation" and physical and mental quietude. Let not the apparent
simplicity of this exercise deceive you. It is not so very easy after
all. You will find that by concentrating the mind upon a particular
train of thoughts or ideas or by joining the mind to the Larger Self,
you can easily lose all idea of the body and thus maintain this stillness
for a considerable length of time. Genius, inspiration and intuition
are more or less the scientific and psychological results of
self-forgetfulness. "When he sits down to meditate," it was said of
Vivekananda, "in 10 minutes he becomes quite unconscious of the body
although it may be black with mosquitoes." Do you understand now?
Absolute physical self-forgetfulness is essential to deep concentration.
Dr. Fahnestock called it the "STATUVOLIC" condition or that state in
which the Will-Power is really active and the 'outer-self' is totally in
abeyance and forgotten.

Exercise 2.

Cultivate a self-poised attitude and demeanour in your everyday life.
Avoid a tense, strained, nervous, fidgety manner and an over-anxious
appearance. Be easy, self-possessed and dignified in your bearing.
Be courteous, thoughtful and quiet. Mental exercise and Will-Culture
will enable you to acquire the proper carriage and demeanour. Stop
swinging your feet and moving your hands or rocking your self
backwards in your chair while talking or sitting. Stop biting your nails,
chewing your moustaches, rolling your tongue in your mouth or any
other unnecessary movement such as may have become "second nature"
with you while studying, reading or writing. Never twitch or jerk your
body. Never wink your eyes or look blank. Train yourself to stand
sudden and loud noises with equanimity and composure. Such things
betray lack of control. Do not let anything outside (or even within you)
disturb your composure. When engaged in conversation let your speech
be calm and measured and your voice well-controlled and even. A certain
degree of reserve should always be observed. In short, keep yourself
well under control on all occasions. You can acquire this poise by
always carrying the thoughts of "Firmness," "Self-Control", and
"Self-Respect" in your mind and letting these express themselves in your
outward bearing. Avoid bluster, self-assertion, gossip, levity or light
talk, too much laughter, excitement and so forth. Too much laughter
weakens the will. Be a quiet, earnest-thinking being. Be serious. Regard
"solitude" as the greatest medium of self-development.

Exercise 3.

Fill a wine glass full of water and taking the glass between the fingers,
extend arm directly in front of you. Fix your eyes upon the glass and
endeavour to hold your arm so steady that no quiver will be noticeable.
Commence with one minute exercise and increase until the 5 minutes limit
is reached. Alternate right and left arms. Increase to 15 minutes.

Exercise 4.

Sit erect in your chair, with your head up, chin out and shoulders
back. Raise your right arm until it is level with your shoulders,
pointing to the right. Turn your head and fix your gaze on your hand and
hold the arm perfectly steady for one minute. Repeat with left arm.
Increase the time gradually to 5 minutes. The palms of the hands should
be turned downwards.

The following exercises are meant to aid you in getting under control,
such mental faculties will produce voluntary movements.

Exercise 5.

Sit in front of a table, placing your hands upon the table, the fists
clinched and lying with the back of the hand upon the table, the thumb
being doubled over the fingers. Fix your gaze upon the fist for awhile
and then slowly extend the thumb, keeping your whole attention fixed
upon the act, just as if it was of the greatest importance. Then slowly
extend your first finger, then your second and so on, until they are all
open and extended. Then reverse the process, closing first the little
finger and continuing the closing until the fist is again in its original
position, with the thumb closed over the fingers. Repeat with left hand.
Continue this exercise 5 times at a sitting, then increase to 10 times.
Don't forget to keep your attention closely fixed upon the finger
movements. That is the main point.

Exercise 6.

Place the fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other, leaving
the thumbs free. Then slowly twirl the thumbs one over the other, with a
circular motion. Be sure to keep the attention firmly fixed upon the end
of the thumbs.

N.B. Exercises Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 have been culled (with slight
modifications by me) from the works of Yogi Ramacharaka.

Exercise 7.

Forty-eight hours after the full moon in each month, go by yourself into
a darkened chamber and quietly concentrate your mind upon one thing. Do
this as long as possible without allowing other thoughts to enter your
mind. At first you will find that your thoughts will fly from one thing
to another and it will be hard for you to accomplish this, but by
continued practice you will be able to think of one thing for a long
time. This should be continued for 5 nights in succession and one hour
each night.

Exercise 8.

Go out into the open air each evening when the sky is clear and see
how many stars you can count without allowing any other thoughts to
enter your mind. The more stars you can count without thinking of
anything the greater the degree of development produced. Quite an
interesting exercise.

Exercise 9.

Take 12 ordinary pebbles. Place them in your left hand. Then with your
right hand pick up one pebble, hold it at arm's length and concentrate
your mind thereupon without allowing other thoughts for full 60 seconds.
So with all the pebbles. Then start picking up with left hand. Do this
for one hour daily.

Exercise 10.

Concentrate your mind determinedly upon some one at a distance without
allowing other thoughts. Will that he do get strong, healthy and
spiritual. Get up a mental picture of your subject as if sitting
before you. Then give earnest, positive, forceful suggestions to his
sub-conscious mind. Will that he get into sympathy with you, write you on
the subject and earnestly co-operate with you in his spiritual
regeneration. Do it calmly and earnestly.

Exercise 11.

Get some moistened sand spread over the surface about a yard square. Make
it perfectly smooth. Then with your index finger draw any characters or
pictures in the sand. For instance, a square, a triangle or any other
figure. Fasten your gaze upon this figure. Concentrate your mind calmly
thereupon and will that the thought-form so created by your concentration
be transmitted to someone (whom you know to be sensitive to your will).
Do this for 15 minutes daily at the same time till your subject gets the
impression. Ask him to sit relaxed at the same time in the silence in a
receptive mental attitude. Face the direction, North, South, East or West
in which you send your thought. Imagine a psychic wire connecting you
with your subject and aim straight. Remember, the Will-Power is
represented in symbology by a straight line because it goes straight to
its mark.

Exercise 12.

Every night before retiring, concentrate upon your passive mind:
"When I get up in morning, my Will-power and Thought-Force will have
increased. I expect you to bring about a thorough change in my
Will-Force. It will gain in vigour, resolution, firmness and confidence.
It must grow strong, strong, strong." Project these positive suggestions
into your subjective self earnestly, confidently and concentratedly. You
will progress quickly by leaps and bounds. Every morning shall find
you stronger and full of vim, sap and energy. Persevere, persevere. In
following up such ideals to a successful conclusion you must have an
(i) overpowering desire; (ii) a strong belief in your ability to
accomplish anything; (iii) an invincible determination not a backboneless
'I will try to'; (iv) earnest expectation. This is an important and an
infallible method in Will-development.

Exercise 13.

Go by yourself into a room where you will not be disturbed. At the
beginning 'relax' all over. Then count from one to ten without allowing
any other thoughts. As soon as you accomplish this, your mind is in
a receptive state. Concentrate as before and order your sub-conscious
self to evolve a strong, infallible memory. Form your own

Exercise 14.

Pick out half a dozen unfamiliar faces. Vividly impress them upon
your subjective mind. Then recall them at least once each day for full
one year, each day impressing at least one more new face. Should you
find you are forgetting any of your older faces, do not add new ones but
firmly fix the other old faces in your mind through concentration. This
is a very interesting exercise. Memory belongs to the sub-conscious
mind, remember.

Exercise 15.

Concentrate the mind on a paragraph in some holy book and commit
to memory. Learn by heart one paragraph daily taking care not to
forget the old ones. In time, you will improve wonderfully.

Exercise 16.

People with weak memories always lack concentrative ability.
Concentration is the key to all mind-power. You will find the above
exercises quite 'tedious' and monotonous. But you can train your
'attention' only by giving it trivial and 'dry' exercises. The strong
will can cope with the most 'monotonous' and uninteresting tasks without
experiencing fatigue. You must set yourself such tasks as might seem like
'work' to your attention. Remember, the effort required to concentrate
attention voluntarily on uninteresting, dry and monotonous works
strengthens and develops Will-Power and gives you 'mental muscle.' You
will thereby acquire firm control over mind and body and be 'Master' over
your lower impulses. Power over self will express outwardly as power over
others. If you can control yourself, you will find no difficulty in
impressing your will on others. But, mark you, this sacred power should
be used only to elevate, stimulate and strengthen others. Try your Will
upon your personality in all possible ways and be satisfied with nothing
short of perfect control. The absolute mastery of 'self' ought to be
your aim. I have given you the real secrets. You must exercise
your own ingenuity and intelligence in utilising them towards your
Self-development. I leave you to finish the fight for yourself. Get up
and start in to work at your task from to-day and not to-morrow. Back of
all efforts, always have this positive incentive and auto-suggestion:


Get firm control over your emotions. Use this natural force but be
not used by it. Control over speech will lead to Emotion-control. Always
talk to the point. Cultivate silence. Repress volubility. Be brief
in speech and writing. Keep a cool head. Be level-headed and

The Doctrine and Practice of Yoga
by Swami Mukerji
The Doctrine and Practice of Yoga
by Swami Mukerji
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