The Body Alchemical (the Yoga Post)


The Body Alchemical (the Yoga Post)

Dave Wardman


‘In contemporary yoga practices we often jump into the third limb, of āsana, and end up with a fragmented and imbalanced yoga practice, because it has no roots.  The rooting of a practice occurs when one starts at the beginning with the ethical codes that Patañjali outlines as the stepping-stones to further practice, because the cornerstones of the path, the yamas, is bypassed or avoided altogether.’    [The Inner Tradition of Yoga, M.Stone]

‘The first component “limbs” of yoga are the external disciplines (yamas) and internal disciplines (niyama), each numbering five.  All are universal, transcending gender, age, status, or other temporal considerations’  [The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali, Chip Hartranft]

‘One of the primary conceptual frameworks for the body of the yoga practitioner in today’s modern, globalized yoga is the empirical, anatomical, biological and bio-medical body.  The predominance of scientific and medical realism in popular yoga discourse has tended to obscure or displace more traditional visions of the body, and has thereby mutatis mutandis, reshaped the perceived function of the yoga practices themselves.  This is true also (and perhaps especially) when terms from yogic physiology are imported into modern practices of yoga and reinterpreted within cultural and hermeneutic parameters far removed from pre-modern ones’ [Root of Yoga, James Mallinson and Mark Singleton]


[*] yamas [यम] and niyama [नियम]

‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyama’ are the first two limbs of Patañjali’s Yoga*.  As the quote about mentions, they are often glossed over in the study of the sūtras and the practical yogic method.  Discourse within modern yoga is clearly in favour of  āsana and to a lesser [but increasing degree] prāṇāyāma – and their combination in terms of ‘yoga therapy’]  Of course the ‘more interesting’ limbs like Dhyāna [meditation] and Samādhi [absorption] also titillate many.

Auspiciously, there are seemingly a growing number of practitioners and scholar-practitioners seeking authenticity in hatha yoga and studying of the Yogasūtra and other ancient manuals of praxis.  And lineages that have persevered with little effect from the disenchanting current do [thankfully] still exist.  [see notes]

One possible aspect of the common bypassing of the first two limbs is due to their [seemingly] close resemblance to religious austerities; which in a secular [s3cular] civilization –  keen to leave the religious worldview behind – resemble too much ‘commandments’ and the behavioral corralling of religion [relig2on].

Another is that some of the classical yamas and niyamas, even though they are ‘general restraints’, will make the mindshapes** squirm due to creating friction in the pattern-mind.

This is a major mistake in my estimation – and part of the ongoing disenchanting current and domestication of yoga into medical, fitness, health, ‘wellness’ and meditation techniques co-opted by the arbitrating forces of the mind-shapes [particularly the governing C3rberus mind-shape of this current epoch] – and somethings used for intentions inauspicious and unalchemical.

The Yamas and Niyamas are general restraints applicable to the yogic paths designed [among other things] to change karma and lead to more right action.  I won’t go too much more into the yogic specifics as I am not currently a practitioner of yoga per se [i.e. not explicitly following the paths set out by Svatmarama, Patañjali or other yogic sages].  It is one of my favorite streams of research and I do need to dive deeper into this as I will be using a fair amount to compare and contrast in the book I am writing on Physical Alchemy.

It may be surprising to find out that within Physical Alchemy the work upon the mindshapes has a large component can be viewed as analogous to yama and niyama – but here they are specific restraints based on which mindshape is afflicting the organism.

Functionally the work in a similar fashion – to prevent the leeching of energy and changing karma via burning out mechanism of habit that bind people to conditioned and imprinted karmic patterns, thusly allowing for more freedom of action [increased incidence of auspicious acts and events].


[*]  Mindshape specific disciplines as Alembic 

When yamas and niyamas and specific mind-shape restraints are viewed alchemically, instead of as archaic religious austerities, they are seen to be essential to transmutation.  In a way they [as much as the physical body] are the alembic – the vessel that allows for the focused energies of practice to be concentrated, distilled and the mindshapes opened.

Cultivation practices that build energy and resources without simultaneously working on the mindshapes can be seen to largely feed the false-self more energy and create  mutation patterns that produce ‘transformation’ – a change of cloths – but not transmutation:     a perceptual revolution. 

In the parlance of Physical Alchemy:  these are the dangers of taking techniques and methods from the realm of the Triangle and Circle and inappropriately [and inauspiciously] using them within the realm of the Square;  without preserving the core of the original spiritual and alchemical frameworks – that explicitly factor in principles such as:  plurality, Sleep, active-vāsanā, māyā, levels of Being and Station-Gated knowledge [gnowledge]***.

Welcome to the 21st century ! [though reading some of the ancient commentaries it has seemingly always been thusly so]

Beside the prevention of the rerouting of the fruits of practice into suspicious and inauspicious mutations, traps and pattern-bypasses  – the specific mindshape discipline work also liberates a high grades of the energy and awareness bound within the structure of the mind-shape itself.


*] the body alchemical  [cultivation and repatterning models]

If we look at alchemical methods involving the human body they can roughly be plotted along a spectrum existing between two poles:

Cultivation and Repatterning. 

Cultivation is seen emphasized in traditions that focus on building and transmuting energies; opening up ‘blocked channels’ and/or running stronger voltage energy through said channels.  They can be ‘up and out’ – from the base of the spinal up the central channel and out the fontanelle; ‘circulatory’ involving orbiting of energies around various channels of the body [and beyond]. Other traditions use something of a fusion of these two pathways.

There are steps and stages to these maps.  Guidelines, experiences, colours [sometimes], deities, lessons, correlations with physical organs and membranes and so on.

A lot of my friends and colleagues are experienced practitioners of Indic and/or Daoist systems of alchemical work incorporating these elements.  It is actually a reasonably excellent period to get instruction in authentic traditions of this type at this time on planet Earth [if you are so inclined].


Repatterning is ‘the other side of the coin’, so to speak.  It holds that – as you True Nature is already in no need of cultivation (being complete and outside of cultivationability), what is needed is the dissolution of viels .. of patterns of habit, conditioning and imprint [vāsanā] that are themselves enormous storehouse of bound energy and awareness [some with their own sentience that actively seek to keep the practitioner enmeshed within māyā – the world of the Square.. of matter and illusion and mechanicalism].

This being said, it can be seen how the false-Is can steal and rebind the energies generated by cultivation work.  Thusly the Repatterning dominant polarity seeks to plug the leaks and the metabolise the false-selves – liberating energy and simultaneously preventing the freed energy from being recoagulated into more pernicious binding structures.

[*] The third force
And of course, as with all binaries, there is a secret third option.  ‘The other side of the coin’ of course means that it is the same coin – just viewed from different angles.  If you look at traditions that are authentic, even if they seem to emphasize one particular polarity, the have in their cosmologies and maps material from the other end to balance.

It is solve et coagula, afterall.

The problem is lopsided praxis and incomplete alchemical cycles.  [I will give the mindshape analysis of this in the least to some degree.  It is material I have not encountered elsewhere, and, as I state below – the mindshapes are anatomical (i.e apply to all incarnate human beings like spinal cords and brains but on a different level)]

‘The root problems in our world – violence, greed, anger, inflexibility, intolerence – are at their core problems of perception and consciousness.  In terms of perception, our attitudes, behaviours, and actions are conditioned by our culture, and as such the culture is by and large blind to these problems.  It is difficult to address them using the tools the culture provides.  In terms of consciousness, there seems to be a fundamental existential dislocation, one that has both cognitive and ethical dimensions.  That is, individual and collective duhkha [suffering] both stem from a disoriented understanding of reality, and a distortion of what we are actually experienceing.’   [The Inner Tradition of Yoga, Michael Stone]


[*] cultural and acultural

Intimately intertwined with the perceptual revolution fueled by the dissolving of the mindshape is that there are simultaneously cultural and acultural patterns at the genesis of the ‘problems of perception and consciousness’ mentioned in the quote just above.

If we travel right up to the top to the quote by Chip Hartranft in his commentary on the Yoga-Sūtra [talking on the yamas]:  ‘universal, transcending gender, age, status, or other temporal considerations’ – these parameters also apply to the mindshapes.

They are acultural patterns of humanity.  On the level of the mindshape: culture, status, trauma history, gender, et al – are not relevant.  This is very difficult to contemplate in a world gone mad with attachment to identity, memory and personal history.

However, [from the neoalchemical model perspective] this ramping up in vehemence of these issues is largely related to the shifting of the mindshape of the civilisation-body from M2ndshape –> M3ndshape circa ~1950 [this event to be discussed next Essay].  And of course, the mindshape does not invalidate any of the issues bubbling away in the alembic of the civilisation-body related to this.  [If anything it adds potentially  resolving perspectives to many of these kō4ns].

As mentioned in the quote – the big issues are perceptual and consciousness.

Entry into the realm of the Triangle allows the clear perception of the patterning associated with the mindshapes as they interpenetrated in, around, under, tesseractially through the major issues face humanity and planet earth.

They are anatomical on a different level than blood, brain, bone and marrow.

They apply to ~100% of humanity, so regardless of what Path you follow, you will run into them at some stage – hence the prior knowledge of them is useful to all who walk the varied paths to the holy mountain [yes, I have seen the movie].



* they are also appear Svatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā – though in this there are 5 additional yamas [I will need to do further research necessary on this for the tome – any leads, please email or PM me]

**See Cerberus Diagram and material within Physical Alchemy Facebook group

*** more on these principles and why they have to be central to the metaphysics for physical work if you want to dissolve the mindshape, in the tome I am writing.

Books mentioned: 

The Inner Tradition of Yoga:  a guide to yoga philosophy for the contemporary practitioner, Michael Stone, [Revised Edition], Shambala Publications.

The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali:  a new translation with commentary, Chip Hartranft, Shambala Publications.

Roots of Yoga, translated and edited by James Mallinson and Mark Singleton, Penguin Classics.

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