Upto 15% of the entire disease in mankind is related to mental illness, according to the WHO. The brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) (the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter) level of the brain is the major contributor to the mental disorders. Disorders like Depression and anxiety disorders are linked to lower GABA levels. As per a recent study at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital, practising Yoga elevates the GABA levels. When two groups were studied, one doing Yoga for one hour and other reading a book, it was learnt that the former had 27% increase in the GABA levels compared to the other group. This study shows promise of use of Yoga in handling diseases like depression, anxiety and epilepsy.
Yoga is not just a one dimension wonder. It affects the whole body in a comprehensive way that promotes complete well-being. Even if the “spiritual results” may not be one’s aim, the physical benefits are immeasurable and are being discovered daily. In fact recently the National Cancer Institute has provided University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center a grant worth more than $4.5 million “to study the efficacy of incorporating yoga into the treatment program of women with breast cancer”. Here is a compilation of some benefits of Yoga:
Quality of life for Cancer Survivors: (May 2010) Cancer survivors who perform gentle yoga report they sleep better, feel less fatigued and enjoy better quality of life, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, which is presenting the largest study of this kind at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June.
Yoga effective for Chronic Back Pain: (Nov. 2009) Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center found that yoga may be more effective than standard treatment for reducing chronic low back pain in minority populations. This study appears in the November issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
Yoga reduces cytokine levels, which promote inflammation: (January 2010) Regularly practicing yoga exercises may lower a number of compounds in the blood and reduce the level of inflammation that normally rises because of both normal aging and stress, a new study, done by Ohio State University researchers and just reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine has shown. that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than did women who were the same age and weight but who were not yoga practitioners.
Yoga poses prevent falls among elderly women: (April 2008) Dr. Jinsup Song and researchers at the School of Podiatric Medicine and the College of Health Professions examined the gait and postural stability of 24 elderly females who were enrolled in an Iyengar yoga program specifically designed for those over 65. They found that at the end of the nine-week program, participants had a faster stride, an increased flexibility in the lower extremities, an improved single-leg stance and increased confidence in walking and balance.
Yoga reduces Bullying in School: Boulder students’ self reported a decrease by 60% in their own bulling behavior and a 42% decrease in regard to being bullied by others at school A comprehensive yoga program can greatly reduce violence and bullying, but, the long term lasting effects are still unclear. The results of this intervention acknowledge yoga as an effective method for increasing anger management skills and decreasing physical outbursts of violence for upper elementary school age children during the time of implementation. The study was conducted by Dee Marie, M.A., CYT1, Grace Wyshak, PhD2, George H Wyshak, DMD, PhD3.; American Medical Association Alliance, Boulder, CO.; Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.; and AHIMSA Non-profit Organization, Boulder, CO.
Yoga’s origin lies in Hindu scriptures. The main branches of yoga are Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga. These are expounded and explained in different scriptures.
Raja Yoga, compiled in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is part of the Samkhya tradition. Many other Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.
Yoga has a historical legacy that can be traced to Indus Valley Civilization.
The Vedic Samhitas contain references to ascetics, while ascetic practices (tapas) are referenced in the Bra-hman.as (900 to 500 BCE), early commentaries on the Vedas. Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300-1700 B.C.E.) sites in Pakistan depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga”, according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl. Some type of connection between the Indus Valley seals and later yoga and meditation practices is speculated upon by many scholars, though there is no conclusive evidence.
What is Yoga? According to Yogasutra of Patanjali, Yoga is defined as:
( yogas’ citta-vr.tti-nirodhah. )
– Yoga Sutras 1.2
Which as per Swami Vivekananda means: “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).”.
I personally disagree with this definition. Citta (pronounced as Chit) comes from the same root in sanskrit as Chetna and, therefore, is not mind. It is not even the “intelligence” of a sentient being or IQ as in how a being can articulate through his body and mind. It is, on the other hand, the intelligence of the consciousness. The primordial consciousness state is the state of Chit. When the primordial state takes on a “form” or creational states, then the consciousness has manifest as Creation as we know it. Sat-Chit-Anand has most often has been referred to that state. Sat (Truth), Chit (Pure and Primordial Intelligence) and Anand (or bliss from cessation of dualities) are the adjectives or characteristics of the primordial consciousness.
Also, the word “Nirodhah” is not restraining, but curing or keeping blemish-free. Yoga is the effort to take a consciousness entangled in Creational forms to its basic primordial state – of Chit. It is a way to “cure” the primordial chit from all the vrittis (forms) it has taken up.
This leads us to the discussion of Chakras – the core of Yoga. Accupuncture and Yoga are two of the health disciplines which do not use the regular physiological basis to work on body. Yet, the claimed benefits have been recorded, studied in detail and confirmed to be true.
While accupuncture works on channels and points where qi and Blood flow, Yoga works on energy channels similar to “Qi” called nadis. The intersections of nadis are known as Chakras. While modern biologists and scientists can see the benefits from Yoga exactly as explained by the Masters, they interestingly pooh-pooh the foundational explanation of why it works according to its orginators as mythical and mystical.
The reaction from the medical fraternity about Yoga’s claims in terms of benefits and its underlying reasoning has been one of superstitious disbelief. For, if someone created something that works exactly as it promises, then the reasoning behind why it works as articulated by the creator of “technology”, despite having no equivalence to anything that modern science has unveiled in the last 400 years, may be true as well.
Just that modern science has not been able to figure out the way to study that mechanism nor its significance in the very working of the body. Though Subjective, the experiences of Yogis, are “reproducible experiences that can be achieved by anyone performing certain introspective practices”.
This superstitious disbelief of the medical fraternity is further exacerbated by the fact this fraternity itself, despite its incredible advancements has not created anything close to the potency, simplicity, and profundity of Yoga despite a crying need for health care for normal people to prevent illnesses.
Reluctantly, yet surely, as evidenced by the $4.5 million grant to MD Anderson, they would rather assimilate Yoga – created on “mythical and mystical science” – into their own health care structure as opposed to create something better based on “concrete Scientific knowledge”.
And this brings one to the most fundamental question – that was best articulated by Hardy when he read Ramanujam’s papers, while others rejected them outright thinking the content to be fantastic and without rigor:
“[theorems] defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before.”… and the theorems therefore “must be true, because, if they were not true, no one would have the imagination to invent them.” (emphasis added)
If you think you are the most advanced generation with knowledge in a certain field, yet. And you still cannot create anything remotely close to the significance and benefits of something done, reportedly 4000 years back. And, you are not willing to take the reasoning of the creators of that knowledge seriously, while harping on the primacy of your knowledge. Then surely there is something inherently blinding about your view of exploration of knowledge itself. Such men and women cannot, by any imagination, be the pall-bearers of Scientific method and exploration.
If ideology leads you, if ego dictates your experimentation, if prejudice stops you from even the obvious, then pray, how are you any different from a ideologically blind individual?
The truth is that world of science is infested with such egotist, megalomaniacal men and women masquerading as people of science.
Not all the scientists are in such denial. Some see the obvious flaw of running down esoteric explanations of those who have done remarkable work before them.
Richard W. Maxwell is a private practice clinical neuropsychologist. He became intrigued with the concept of Chakras and looked at it more deeply. His observations and conclusions, though very preliminary do seem to point into a direction where modern science can learn something by deeper exploration of the Hindu Scriptural evidence of Yoga.
He explains the roots of confusion in modern science as it approaches the root of Yoga – the Chakras – as they are defined by different Yogic proponents:
……three aspects of chakras (components in the CNS, components in the ANS, and components in the endocrine system) that are variously intermingled by these authors. When abstract concepts such as “vortices of etheric matter” are also included, the potential for a scientific analysis appears hopeless.
[Central nervous system (CNS) ,Autonomic nervous system (ANS)]
Then Maxwell asks the obvious question:
….if chakras were truly independent of physical structures, why would there be any correspondence with physical locations? This dilemma can be resolved only if there are physical systems at least closely related to chakras through which the physical effects of chakras are manifest.
He argues that the little known “Gap Junctions” are the answers. These Gap junctions play supplementary and complementary role in the body to the physiological channels like blood vessels and neurons.
Gap junctions are hydrophilic passages between the cytoplasm of two adjacent cells created by a hexagonal array of connexin proteins, and probably a newly discovered family of pannexin proteins (Söhl, Maxeiner, and Willecke 2005) (see Figure 1). Approximately twenty different connexin related genes have been identified on the human and mouse genomes (Evans and Martin 2002). Gap junctions composed of different connexins have different conductance and gating properties associated with exchange of small molecules and ions capable of creating electrical conductance (Bukauskas and Verselis 2004). Gap junctions play an important role in synchronizing endocrine secretion (Berthoud et al. 2000; Røttingen and Iversen 2000; Funabashi et al. 2001; Meda 2003), in the function of the heart (Verheule et al. 1997; Dhein 1998), in the synchronized firing of neurons (Colwell 2000; Bou-Flores and Berger 2001; Solomon, Chon, and Rodriguez 2003; Hewitt et al. 2004), in interactions between neurons and glial cells (Cotrina and Nedegaard 2000; Kirchhoff, Dringen, and Giaume 2001), and in coordinating activity in many embryological processes.
The Gap junctions are most dense during the embryological development and play a significant role. The process of gap junctions have been found to affect the entire development process of the body and also playing a significant role in many situations and disorders in physiology. Such as:
- left-right patterning (Levin and Mercola 1998)
- development of limb buds (Makarenkova et al. 1997; Law et al. 2002)
- migration and survival of neural crest cells (Huang et al. 1998; Bannerman et al. 2000; Cai et al. 2004)
- heart development (Ewart et al. 1997)
- development of the nervous system (Dermietzel et al. 1989; Menichella et al. 2003; Montoro and Yuste 2004; Tang et al. 2006)
- control of tumor growth (Naus 2002)
Embryological development is deeply affected by the gap junctions role in cell management – proliferation, boundary creation etc. Also, significantly, electrical coupling of neurons through gap junctions precedes the chemical synaptic activity in early development. The gap junctions are highly concentrated in the neural folds along the spinal cord and in the brain – areas where the Chakras are supposed to be.
The practice of meditation and yoga may be affecting and accentuating the electrical circuits along the neural pathways, which in certain circumstances play a more important role than Chemical Synaptic Systems. Maxwell argues:
As a yoga practitioner becomes more adept, subtler systems using gap junctions could be activated, changing energetic states in groups of cells, including opening connections between different compartments within the glial syncytium. Yogic practices could also stimulate increases in the number of gap junction connections.
If Chakras are the “Gap Junctions”, then what is Sushumna Nadi?
The subtlest component of the sushumna (brahma-nadi) (Feuerstein 1997, 63) is expressed through a column of cells remaining in the region where the edges of the neural plate joined to form the neural tube.
Maxwell might be taking the first steps into the “How” of the Yoga. These steps, nevertheless, are not going to answer the question of “Why”, something that Yogis had ably grappled with to come up with their creation.
As “mythical and mystical” as the ancient Hindu Sciences and their approaches are made to be, it is worth exploring if indeed, those men and women had no sense of logical exploration? From the admissions of inspiration the pioneers of QM to the success and profundity of Yoga and Yogic experiences, one has seen the conclusions of the highest wisdom, without being able to “trace the steps”. But was the creation of Yoga done on a mere hunch? Did the conclusions of Vedantic rishis just mere story telling which happens to inspire the leading lights of Quantum and Unified Field Physicists even today?
If one could see a level of sophistication in enquiry of more mundane sciences, then one could with a reasonable sense conjecture that there was after all a “Method to the Madness”.
Mathematics and Astronomy
Daivajna Vara-hamihira, who served in Gupta king Vikramaditya’s court, compiled Pancasiddhantika – which comprised: Surya Siddhanta, Romaka Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Vasishtha Siddhanta and Paitamaha Siddhanta. One of these, Surya Siddhanta had the following calculations:
- sidereal year = 365.2563795 days only 1.4 seconds longer than the modern value of 365.2563627 days.
- tropical year = 365.2421756 days only 2 seconds shorter than the modern value of 365.2421988 days.
Surya Siddhanta not only had the above calculations but also the trigonometric functions. It not only introduced Sine (Jya), Cosine (Kojya) and Inverse sine (Otkram jya); but also had used Tangent and Secant functions in their early times.
The antiquity and the authorship of Surya Siddanta is not known. The concepts had been passed through many generations and come from Vedic scriptures.
Arithmetic operations (Ganit) such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, squares, cubes and roots are enumerated in the Narad Vishnu Purana attributed to Ved Vyas (pre-1000 BC). Examples of geometric knowledge (rekha-ganit) are to be found in the Sulva-Sutras of Baudhayana (800 BC) and Apasthmaba (600 BC) which describe techniques for the construction of ritual altars in use during the Vedic era. It is likely that these texts tapped geometric knowledge that may have been acquired much earlier, possibly in the Harappan period. Baudhayana’s Sutra displays an understanding of basic geometric shapes and techniques of converting one geometric shape (such as a rectangle) to another of equivalent (or multiple, or fractional) area (such as a square). While some of the formulations are approximations, others are accurate and reveal a certain degree of practical ingenuity as well as some theoretical understanding of basic geometric principles. Modern methods of multiplication and addition probably emerged from the techniques described in the Sulva-Sutra