Yoga, as practiced in the west, is commonly regarded as an exercise system for the physical body. But the ancient yogis of India, China and Tibet had a very different idea, they saw yoga as a kind of exercise for the body’s energetic system.
While different schools had different yogic techniques of breathing, postures and meditation, they were all rooted in a similar concept. Yoga was practiced to cleanse and strengthen the body’s energy pathways (Meridians or Nadis) and enhance the flow of life force energy (Prana or Qi). This was considered key to health, vitality and longevity.
While the idea of the energy body may still seem flakey to some, science today confirms its existence. We may be solid flesh and bone, but we are at source; an energy field embedded in greater energy fields.
Our bodies are electromagnetic in nature. Electromagnetic signals travel our spinal cord and nervous system, they animate our cells and fire our neurons. In fact, medical scanning technology like the EKG and MRI have been measuring these frequencies for decades. The electromagnetic field that surrounds our body has been documented as extending outwards approximately 3 -5 feet in all directions.
Not only do rhythms of electrical and magnetic force affect our health and well-being (regulating our circadian rhythms and hormonal cycles) they ultimately compose us. Our bodies, along with animals, plants, the earth sun and stars, are constantly creating, receiving storing and sending electromagnetic signals in and out of an interconnected cosmic energy field.
In his book Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, James Oschman PH.D. writes electromagnetic fields “form a structural, functional and energetic continuum extending into every nook and cranny of the body, even into the cell nucleus and genetic material”.
Oschman refers to this greater energy field as the “living matrix” and in an idea that echoes the teachings of ancient yogis, he suggests that a healthy fully ‘integrated’ body may be a body that is entirely free of restrictions to the flow of energy signals. Oshman’s book documents the work of many leading energy medicine researchers whose research is coming full circle with the wisdom of the yogis. Countless studies in bio-electricity and acupuncture have begun to confirm there exists, hidden in our flesh, a vast network of energetic meridians that can be stimulated for regeneration and healing.
Bernard O. Williams Ph.D. has demonstrated that skin at meridian lines has a lower electrical charge than the surrounding areas. In fact, “specific structural-protein complexes within the mass of the skin provide channels of heightened electron conductivity, measured at acupuncture points on the surface.” In other words, acupuncture needles create an electric charge at the point of contact and stimulate a transfer of electrons at acupuncture points on the surface of the skin.
Numerous studies demonstrate these energy pathways and points conduct electricity even when needles aren’t used. The massage technique of Shiatsu have been found to stimulate the same energetic effects. Similarly, Qigong,Tai Chi and the postures of yoga have been found to increase electrical conductance at acupoints.
Yin Yoga (Taoist Yoga) claims to directly work with connective tissue and fascia to stimulate energetic meridians. Dr. Robert Becker M.D. was the first to establish when pressure is applied to certain body structures (joints, connective issue, cells) they polarize into positive and negative electrical poles and generate piezo-electricity. The knee for example, has the same piezo-electric capacity as a quartz crystal. This means that when we get a massage or perform yoga postures, currents of energy are being sent along the most conductive channels available in the body.
Information and energy flowing through electromagnetic frequencies are vastly more efficient than chemical signals such as hormones and neurotransmitters. Research conducted by Joie P. Jones PH.D. utilizing fMRI imaging has shown that when meridian or energy points in the body are stimulated, neural circuits in the brain are activated almost immediately – far faster than what neural conduction can explain.
While the yogi’s never explicitly used the term electromagnetism to describe the energy body or its meridians, it looks like they may have well understood how it functioned. They knew that we are an energy body sheathed in greater energy fields, and that by influencing the field, one could influence the body.
So this is Yoga Fundament Number One. By working with the energy body, we learn how to sense and clear blockages and revitalize our energy systems. The energy body is “real” and caring for its health and maintenance is critical to optimum health and physical well-being.