With each different state of mind there is a specific posture or position of the body. This means that the mind and the body move in parallel lines. When you are happy your body is in a particular posture; when you are sad your body is in another position. Observe how in moments of joy your body expands and spreads out as if you have become more voluminous. When you are sad or unhappy, you feel yourself contracting, as if your insides are getting narrower and narrower, like a tree that would like to shut itself up in a seed. In studying body postures it was seen clearly that a suffering man appears contracted. By observing body positions alone you can tell the state of the mind. In joy the body is in a state of expansion; in sorrow it is contracted. In anger the lines of the forehead become more pronounced. When you are worried the facial contours change. When you are carefree there are no wrinkles on the forehead.
James and Lange were not the first to make this discovery; it has been known in India since ancient times. From early hatha yoga texts to Gorakhnath, millions of yogis have experimented. In fact, no one has experimented in greater detail with the mind and body of the human being, nobody has observed and investigated it in greater detail, than these yogis. They observed that for each state of mind, the body had a corresponding posture. Out of this arose a method: by changing the posture of the body in a particular way, the required change can be brought about in the state of mind. When you feel anger arising, change your body posture to the one you have when you are relaxed and peaceful. You will experience change, a transformation in the state of your energy: the energy that was about to become anger has become tranquility.
Posture is a framework, a template, a die. Energy is neutral. It assumes whatever shape you give it. It is like water. Pour it in a glass tumbler and it assumes the shape of the tumbler; pour it into a pot and it takes the form of the pot. Energy does likewise; give it the form of anger and it becomes anger, give it the form of love and the very same energy becomes love. This is a most profound discovery. When you begin to understand the various postures of the body, you can begin to change the mind within.
But there is a danger: you can get so involved in the study of body postures that you forget that it has anything to do with changing the internal states of the mind. Then you become an adept in the science of body postures, but the mind within remains the same. Remember, this is only an aid; the actual transformation must occur within. Take as much outside help as possible, but concentrate on the internal change.
When a house is being constructed, first the scaffolding is put up. This is a necessary initial step, but if you don’t build anything with this structure the house will never be constructed. The structure is not habitable, it was only a prop for an actual house, Once its purpose is served it must be discarded.
Asanas, postures and mudras are such aids. From Gorakhnath to Nanak people had begun to consider the scaffolding as the dwelling. The yogi would sit in the posture of compassion, but he has completely forgotten that something needs to be done internally, too. So the posture is of compassion, but he is seething with anger inside. He assumes the mudra of kind-protection, but look inside and there is a dangerous man who might harm you. He stands at your door apparently asking alms, but if you do not give to him he curses you. People were frightened by the nath-yogis. Their beggarly appearance was false.