Yoga Postures and Ecstatic Trance

by Diana Scott
With groups new to the experiences meditated by combination of traditional ritual body postures and the trance, the question often arises whether Yoga postures could not also be included among the postures used in these exercises. My attitude is that Yoga postures are intended for meditation, they do not aim at an ecstatic visionary experience and therefore should not be used in combination with rhythmic auditory stimulation. However, I had no experimental to back me up. Then I found the research of Austrian psychiatrist Thomas Wenzel from the Medical University of Vienna who reported on just such an experiment The purpose of it was to test our claim that a given posture in combination with rhythmic to a trance and mediates not just any, but a specific visionary experience.

Denzel had 25 subjects aged 19-37 years who had no previous knowledge of or experience with the religious trance. They were given brief written instructions which contained no information whatever concerning, the subjective experience to be expected. They were to instructed to concentrate on the sound of the rattle. They were shown a specific Yoga as as a standing posture (of the Bear) stressing the body in a similar . None of the participants was familiar with either one of the postures. In to exclude a training, either the or the Bear posture was demon^rated first In instance the posture was c(» with stimulation using Goodman’s tape. After die , die subjects woe a their subjective experience, including also the question whether either of the two postures might have beat one to induce ti trance. Of the ^ subjects who filled out the questionnaire, stated that they a “trance-like condition,” but only with Bear posture, not with the Yoga posture.

The details of the experiences corresponded to a large measure to those by us. ^y, the subjects noted
changes in body perception, kinesthetic and acoustic pseudo hallucinations, and an intense feeling of well-being. Seven participants experienced the contact with a large animal ” something like that,” and four participants heard * saw a bear or experience changing into one.

As a ^ ], 11 of the subjects found the acoustic stimulation during die posture unpleasant, which was not the case in connection with the Bear posture. These results could not be explained by prior knowledge. The Yoga posture was one rarely seen or used. (Yearbook of the European College for the Study of Consciousness, 1^3-1994, Carl Leaner and Michael , Eds., : , 1995, pp. 181-187)

Thomas Wenzel Clinical Division of Social Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna



Yoga and Shamanism and Ecstatic Trance Postures

The Hatha-Yoga asanas also have their roots in the ritual body postures of shamanic cultures.