“ONE’S NECTAR COULD BE ANOTHER’S POISON”, this saying from the Vedic Sciences is not limited to food only, but is applicable on every aspect of life- In fact on YOGA (ASANAS) and PRANAYAMA too. Surprised??? Read this blog to know how. The blog will explain you:-
- The science behind Yogasana and Pranayama,
- How we could derive optimum results from them and
- How this science is being blindly followed/practiced (and sometimes even blindly taught) leading to serious health issues instead of resolving them thereby denting the reputation of such sciences.
- How this science is just one part of the holistic system of Vedic wisdom for bringing ultimate health, peace and prosperity and why can’t we ignore other Vedic sciences.
Here we go but before we proceed, it is essential to know about Chakras, Meridians and lymphatic systems in the body …
CHAKRAS AND MERIDIANS
We all must know that we all are different from each other only because of two factors which are:-
(a) the flow of blood and
(b) what we consume (food/water/air/thoughts) and circulate through our blood.
Because it is blood only, which carries nutrition to different parts of the body giving them shape and making each one of us unique. (To understand how, please watch this video showing how flow of blood defines Vata, pitta and kapha- the fundamental forces of Ayurveda). So, even if two different people consume the same food, they are different from each other only because of the difference in the flow of blood in them (Of course our mind also consumes subtle foods through other senses whose importance cannot be undermined but that’s a separate discussion).
*** Ayurveda says the first tissue that gets made in the body after we consume food is Rasa which in modern terminology is akin to lymph – an extremely important (though highly ignored by modern medical science) openly circulating fluid which provides nourishment and immunity to blood so here, while referring to blood, we must understand that Rasa (lymph) is also being considered.
Now, Vedic sciences had divided human body into seven chakras (In-fact twelve but the rest are not physical in nature). And the energy level of each chakra depends upon the amount of blood flowing there (and what we eat) which in turn depends upon the size of the blood vessels in that chakra. So, its the optimal quantity of blood that defines the health of each chakra along with the organs and blood vessels falling in that zone (too much of blood i.e. excess of kapha and too little of blood i.e. excess of vata, both, are bad for health).
So what are Meridians? Consider our body like a typical tree, which has a thick stem in the center and thinner branches in the peripherals. Our body’s circulation system is also similar to it where the stem can be compared with a central blood vessel and branches with peripherals. So if a particular point of the central vessel is narrow vis a vis other parts, then the branches coming out it will also not receive enough blood meaning the entire chakra corresponding to that point will be weak. However if the stem on that point is receiving enough blood but one or some branches coming out of that point are not, then it is only that part of the body which will be affected and not the entire chakra. It is these branches that represent meridians, which are healed by putting pressure on superficial points, which are nothing but nodes of the lymphatic system which help in cleaning the blood with the help of lymph gland. Ayurveda calls these points as Marma points. It is this therapy that is called as acupressure/acupuncture/marma therapy and is effective for opening specific meridian/s however please note that it can’t work on the deep seated blood vessels especially the main ones supplying blood. And that can be healed only by Yogasanas (of course Yogasanas can heal even peripheral issues).
LOGIC BEHIND YOGASANAS
Yogasana’s job is to push blood (primarily lymph)to those areas of the body which have remained underfed either due to due to wrong body postures (consciously or subconsciously) or due to our genetic make up or due to faulty eating habits. To give you an example, a person born with a relatively weaker heart (meaning less of blood and lymph reaching there vis a vis other body parts or which also means high Vata because vata reaches where blood doesn’t go), then what that person would require is Anahatasana (the Asana that pushes blood and lymph towards Anahat chakra or heart chakra) thereby providing more nutrition to it and strengthening it. In the same way, Shirshasana (headstand) increases blood flow towards the upper body and is very good for those suffering with vata (less blood) diseases of the upper body like headaches, loss of memory, insomnia etc. Since it reduces blood and lymph from the lower body parts, it is also good for kapha diseases (due to excess blood) of the lower body like endometrium thickness, PCOD, potbelly, water retention in the legs, varicose veins due to long periods of standing/sitting, knee pain due to heavy weight etc.
*** Counter-posture is a very important aspect of Yogasanas as it’s job it balance out flow of blood/prana. To give you an example, forward bending is performed by most of us during our routine chores like lifting some item or pushing it. This is one of the reasons that we develop back pain because none of us does back bending as a routine activity (unless consciously done). Similarly lying/sleeping on stomach can also become a reason for backpain as this way we push all the blood towards stomach and to counter it, one may need to lie/exercise with back against floor.
On the other hand, asana like Moolbandha (bandha means Dam whose job is to literally work like a Dam and direct blood flow in the desired direction thereby directing nutrition and consciousness) not only increases upper body blood but also peripheral blood circulation. It helps to push blood up in a V shape thereby rushing blood towards our brain and peripherals and awakening our suppressed senses which helps us to connect to the higher world referred to as Kundalini Jagran.
*** Its extremely important to remember and implement that Yogasana (including any other exercise) should never be performed when the person is having any inflammatory (pitta) disease like fever (even if mild), cough, cold, infections. This is because during such times, the blood is acidic and is full of toxins. Doing yoga/exercise would take these toxins deeper into the body thereby creating further complications. Also the right time to do Yogasana is early morning time, when blood is purest after a good night sleep and is not kapha ridden but is transiting from Vata time to kapha time (i.e. around 5 am). In fact this principle is also used in Ayurvedic therapies like Nasya where one must avoid unctuous foods (oily) before getting this therapy done as it thickens the blood and doesn’t let it flow freely.
LOGIC BEHIND PRANAYAMA (BREATHING EXERCISES)
Prana means life force which is flowing through our body all the time. Pranayama means regulating this life force through breathing since apart from food, even the air that we breathe has a huge role to play in governing our metabolism and health. Goes without saying that deep breathing is an essential part of pranayama. However there is another aspect to it…..
Human body has current (pitta) flowing in it all the time through nerve channels (representing vata) which ultimately operate all our glands, muscles and other tissues to perform all the tasks we perform. On the other hand our body also generates anti-current (or say negative current) whose job is to reduce excess of current so that we don’t burn ourselves. These two phenomenon or chemicals in the body are governed by Surya nadi (Sun’s channel) and Chandra nadi (Moon’s Channel) respectively and rightly so as Sun represents heat and moon represents coolness. So when one breathes through the right nostril, one activates Surya nadi thereby increasing pitta and thus blood circulation. On the other hand left nostril breathing activates Chandra thereby reducing the circulation. Thus, Anulom vilom,
one of pranayama where alternate breathing is done from left and then right nostril, literally creates turbulence and sweeping effect in the blood vessels of the practitioner by pulling and then pushing the blood flow thereby smoothening them and helping the life force to move very smoothly. That is why this practice is sometimes referred to as Nadi Shodhan (Channel’s purification) especially when the breath is held at every step. Remember that since Yogasana push blood and lymph from one part of the body to another, Anulom Vilom should be performed at the end of every session of Yogasanas/kriyas to smoothen out the changes made in the body.
Deep breathing during such exercises also helps us to consciously ensure that we breathe from the belly and not by inflating the chest thereby providing our body more fuel (in form of oxygen) to perform our daily tasks. Bhastrika, which is another form of pranayama, increases Surya nadi and helps to dissolve kapha in the body including that in the blood (thereby reducing blockages created due to excess cholesterol mixed with calcium etc. and thus kapha hypertension). Bhastrika is a wonderful tool but since it increases pitta, it should be performed slowly (and scrupulously) by pitta personalities and even vata people. However kapha/sluggishness can go temporarily high in case of vata/pitta minds/body too and in such cases Bhastrika works very well and instantly improves blood circulation thereby helping one to get rid of issues like kapha/low pitta depression. Bhastrika is a wonderful way to rev up pitta and metabolism for those people who are high on kapha but cannot perform rigorous physical exercises due to issues like weak knees/legs etc.
*****THE RIGHT WAY OF BREATHING (BELLY BREATHING)
One of the biggest mistakes that majority of the world makes is of contracting belly and expanding chest instead of expanding belly while breathing in. This wrong process of breathing gives a feeling of elation due to temporarily broadened chest, however this process reduces flow of prana in the mind thereby increasing prana vata and stress which may manifest itself not as stress but the feeling of excited mind full of ego (the state of being “I”) as pitta which is ego, runs through vata. It is therefore important that we must make conscious efforts not only during pranayama but otherwise too to make corrections in our breathing pattern. Observe the difference in between belly breathing and chest breathing and you will realize the difference they make in our mental state. This is one of the reasons that stress levels are found very high in people from Armed forces who are taught “Chest up Chin up” approach to display their ego (which is authority) to people around (own as well as enemy), which makes wrong breathing part of their life whereas it should be performed only when one needs to increase energy levels of brain and body to perform high energy actions as done during martial arts. We must learn from animals who breath through their bellies (we can it moving) and inflate their chest only in case of fights/flights/display of authority. Even humans during their infancy breath the right way only but the inflated sense of ego (in the collective conscience of the world today) changes their breathing pattern with passage of time.
THE DANGERS OF PRACTICING THIS SCIENCE IN A WRONG MANNER
Most of the yoga(asana) enthusiasts
would have heard (or practiced) Surya Namaskar, a set of 12 poses at some point of time in their life. The task of this act is to increase Surya (pitta) in the body and increase blood circulation in all parts. Now just visualize that what if a person high on pitta and vata is made to do several rounds of Surya namaskar that too during summers when pitta is already high in the atmosphere? Pitta of such a person would shoot up further thereby further inflaming the body creating issues like mouth ulcers, anxiety, loss of temper, piles etc. depending upon which area is vata ridden (even intense exercise will also do the same in a VP personality). Thus, it is quite logical that we/our teacher must know our ayurvedic constitution before beginning our regime.
However, sadly this isn’t the case on ground in majority of the cases. Today you visit most famous of the yoga centers/resorts of the country (including those, which provide certification at International levels) and you will find that irrespective of the constitution of the subjects, they will push everyone to practice the same pose (one size fits all-approach). In fact most of them begin their session with rounds and rounds of Surya namaskar without knowing what is right for whom. The result is burnt down minds and bodies.
******In fact, I personally know several cases who suffered serious health issues (pitta/vata imbalance related) after going through practices/therapies of Yogic regime / Ayurveda like Surya Namaskar / Panchkarma just because their teacher / practitioner, did not check their constitution before indiscreetly applying them.
It is therefore extremely essential to know the constitution and the discomforts/diseases of the person before beginning a Yoga(asana) regime.
HOLISTIC APPROACH- THE NEED OF THE HOUR
Last but not the least, please understand that even Yogasanas and Pranayama alone are incomplete sciences unless they are practiced in consonance with other sciences of the Vedic era. To understand the deep seated meaning of this statement, visualize a person born with very narrow blood vessels thereby exhibiting high Vata characterstics like hyperactive mind, nervousness, insomnia etc because his/her mother was unwell and/or undernourished and/or vata personality especially during pregnancy (this statement is also to emphasize the importance of good health especially of mother at least six months before conceiving the child). So such a person would also need to ensure that his/her vata doesn’t further increase. In such a case, what would help is the knowledge of Ayurveda i.e. vata pacifying diets (Read the blog explaining food pyramids for different constitutions) which will ensure that high vata or high metabolism of this person is compensated with the help of a diet high on sweetness, sourness and salt and low on pungency, bitterness and astringency.
Remember that all these sciences become ineffective if practiced in isolation and that is exactly the teaching of Ashtang Yoga postulated by the Great Ancient Sage Patanjali.
Also recommended to read:-
THIS BLOG IS AN EXTRACT FROM MY BOOK “THE ROOT CAUSE”. PL PICK UP THE BOOK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE ENTIRE CONCEPT.