Physical Anatomy Applied to Yoga

by Delight Yoga

 

INTRODUCTION

 

As the practice of yoga techniques deeply influences the functions and structures of the human body, it is important to understand its constitution and the way our body works. Compared with the ancient yogic anatomical knowledge, modern anatomy is more an objective science-based on experiential and direct observations than an empirically subjective matter based on personal experiences, as the old Ayurvedic medicine was.

This fact is often taken as a triumph of the modern ‘precise’ science over the old pragmatic approach. What is forgotten here is that, although similar, human beings are very different and therefore a personal, pragmatic and subjective approach gives very often better results than an objective standardized method? Nonetheless, old sciences tended to consider man in his wholeness - body-mind-spirit and to study the global functionality of this complex structure rather than split it and produce detailed descriptions of every single part.

The reasons why western medicine didn’t ever reach a holistic vision of the human being while eastern did, are to research into the different theological and social roots of these two, at that time, separate worlds.

Very synthetically we could say that ancient civilizations like Egyptian, Greek or Roman conceived god(s) and humans as separate entities while eastern traditions always had an inner, intimate concept of the divinity. (Bible and Vedas are excellent examples).

So from one side, the body was considered “low matter” with no possibilities to get even closer to the divinity, while from the other was seen as the “temple of God”. Dark Age and the catholic manipulation of spirituality enhanced this gap. When anatomy was born, at end of the XVI century, the western spiritual world was still under the catholic repression and so any possible connection between body, mind and soul was considered heretical. Modern anatomy and western medicine founded and develop themselves into this environment with no other chances. It took almost sixteen centuries, from Galeno (I century) to William Harvey (XVI-XVII century) to understand what yogis had known forever: that is, the heart that pumps the blood and not the liver!

Luckily the tendency in the later years has been to assemble modern discovers with old knowledge and to produce something really helpful for the US instead of giving credit to our ego aspirations. Nice examples are the studies on the ‘placebo’ reaction in the Western world or the scientific study of the yoga techniques at the Kaivalyadhama research institute in India.

 

FROM THE CELL TO THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE SELF

 

Mammal’s beginning of life is very fascinating: the mother’s ovum and father’s sperm join together to form a new being. Life starts just as a single cell and after some stages of multiplication becomes an aggregate of hundreds of millions of very specialized and organized types. For example, some very hard cells will form the bones, others very elongated will form the nerves, and another mobile will form the blood.

Organized in specific groups, cells will form the tissue and various tissues will join to form the organs. Finally, different organs, connected and working together, will form the body systems.

The work of all the systems in the body makes the Body Function. This means that the Body Function is ultimately a synergic work of all the cells and a correct function of every single cell is the basic factor for the proper functionality of the whole body. A cell can work only in a proper environment and the process responsible for maintaining a balance between the inner environment of the body and the external environment is called homeostasis.

Although systems and functions are the same in all bodies every single body has his own specific structure depending on many factors like the genetic patrimony, the habit of life, social and natural environment and so on. This is visible also for other animal species but what makes human nature more complex than any other in the world is Self Consciousness.