Whenever these things are discovered they are put into use. Then gradually, as time passes, the meaning is lost. Then people go through these practices as a matter of custom, completely unaware of their significance.
Gorakhnath discovered many things. He was a unique researcher. People felt the impact of his genius and millions joined his sect for the results, which were very clear and evident. By the time of Nanak, Gorakhnath’s teachings had become vague and foggy; people practiced them as ritual, without meaning. So Nanak tells the yogi to assume the posture of contentment and effacement. He says this because Gorakhnath had evolved many postures, asanas, which were very effective.
You must also have discovered that certain body postures and positions relate to the state of your mind. When you are quiet and tranquil the expression of your face and the position of your limbs are quite different from when you are angry. When you are filled with compassion the body takes on a certain posture; even your hands are filled with compassion, with fearlessness, and a sense of giving. In compassion the hands cannot do anything but give. When you are filled with kindness, you do not clench your fist as if to fight someone; it would be incongruous. A closed fist is always to destroy someone; it is the sign of a shallow and niggardly heart. The fist opens of its own accord in moments of compassion – you are ready to give everything away.
There is an intrinsic connection between the mind and its moods, and the states of the body. So Gorakhnath devised many postures which when practiced, resulted in a change in the seeker’s mind. For instance, if you assume the position of anger – clench your fists and fix your eyes as if ready to attack – you will find the rumblings of anger starting inside you.
There were two significant early psychologists in America, James and Lange, who together developed a theory in which they tried to disprove the idea that a man runs because of his fear; instead they claim that a man experiences fright because he runs away. Many scientists thus give credence to the theory that body position is of critical importance. We say a man runs when he is frightened. James and Lange say, when a man’s body makes preparations to run away, then he experiences himself as being frightened. If he were to stop running or preparing to run, he would no longer feel frightened. When the posture is changed, the state within also changes.