Question: Most of us in the Western world who are not familiar with Yoga and meditation tend to associate the two with someone standing on his head or doing particular exercises. How are these exercises related to spirituality?
Sri Chinmoy: Right now many of us are physically very restless, no better than a monkey. We cannot stay still for more than a second without getting restless. These physical exercises and postures, called Hatha Yoga, relax our bodies and give us peace of mind for a short period. But these are only the preliminary stages. What they do is help the seeker enter into the true spiritual life. In the true spiritual system, the beginners in Hatha Yoga are like kindergarten students. From kindergarten we have to go to grammar school, high school, college. In fact, one can easily skip kindergarten. There are many aspirants who can just sit and make their minds calm and quiet and enter into the deeper regions of their being without ever doing any Hatha Yoga.
These exercises will never give us realisation, Never! Otherwise, just by taking physical exercises all the world's athletes would have realised God by this time. The body is necessary. We must have a sound and solid body so that the soul can act in and through the body in the field of manifestation. But if we expect something more from the body, then we are being foolish.
I must emphasise, however, that Hatha Yoga exercises are far superior to the Western system of exercises, which are often done abruptly, vigorously and, to some extent, violently. Hatha Yoga exercises are done calmly, quietly, in a meditative mood. They strengthen the nerves and calm the mind, unlike most Western exercises.