Scientists of consciousness have existed for millennia in India. In the West, the science of psychology is still considered to be an “infant” science. While Western psychology has generally looked at the processes of consciousness from outside and tried to interpret what this may mean, Yogis, Rishis and Sages in India have tried to achieve inner awareness that provides them real knowledge, not inferential knowledge, through a process of realizing or achieving states of consciousness not normally or always accessible to most individuals.
The various paths of Yoga use a variety of specific methods to achieve these inner states. In general, however, many of them utilize quite similar techniques, including Asana, Pranayama and Mantra.
Sri Aurobindo provides an overview of the psychological processes and the methods used to achieve results: “…the real energy of our being is lying asleep and inconscient in the depths of our vital system, and is awakened by the practice of Pranayama. In its expansion it opens up all the centres of our psychological being in which reside the powers and the consciousness of what would now be called perhaps our subliminal self; therefore as each centre of power and consciousness is opened up, we get access to successive psychological planes and are able to put ourselves in communication with the worlds or cosmic states of being which correspond to them; all the psychic powers abnormal to physical man, but natural to the soul develop in us. Finally, at the summit of the ascension, this arising and expanding energy meets with the superconscient self which sits concealed behind and above our physical and mental existence; this meeting leads to a profound Samadhi of union in which our waking consciousness loses itself in the superconscient.”
Hatha Yoga relies primarily on Asana and Pranayama with the aid of the Mantra. The power of this combination, whether Asana takes the lead (as in Hatha Yoga) or the Pranayama and Mantra take the lead, as in some of the other systems, is one of the secrets of psychology uncovered by the Yogis and codified in systems such as the Tantra. “This secret of the power of the Mantra, the six Chakras and the Kundalini Shakti is one of the central truths of all that complex psycho-physical science and practice of which the Tantric philosophy claims to give us a rationale and the most complete compendium of methods. All religions and disciplines in India which use largely the psycho-physical method, depend more or less upon it for their practices.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 28, Rajayoga, pg. 516