We look at our body as a static unit instead of it being a continuously changing phenomenon. Like the water of the river which is continuously flowing, the cells in our body are continuously getting replaced by new cells. About 98 per cent of the cells in the body gets replaced every year. Our body is nothing but a fluctuating field of energy and once we understand this, it is easy to see how this body of energy is part of the universal field of energy. And how harmony inside and harmony with the environment outside is essential for a 'harmonious flow of healthy life'. Ayurveda, the system of medicine which comes from the very vedas, defines stress as "that which interferes with nature's intelligence in our body" - Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Simply Living. According to Dr. Chopra, the flow of universal intelligence through our body is a very effective stress management technique, because stress is that which interferes with that flow of intelligence.
Science has discovered that the atmosphere is charged with electromagnetic energy which is vital to the preservation of life, which is exactly how yoga talks about the universal prana: prana shakti, the cosmic energy, is the basis of existence and whatever we see in the whole cosmos and in this little world, is nothing but the gross manifestation of prana. The counterpart in the body is called microcosmic energy.
Recent scientific investigations have brought modern science and man closer to yoga. For example, swara yoga talks about the positive and negative energy currents flowing in the body, and science has proven the existence of these flows. The electromagnetic energy, which surrounds the earth, makes it appear to be a gigantic magnet- the north pole being positive and the south pole being negative. Each pole attracts opposite and repels like electromagnetic particles, thus creating energy circuits around the terrestrial plane. The particular movements of these electromagnetic currents affect the energy balance in every form of life. Furthermore, the cycle of these currents greatly affects our entire being, and the particular nature of the charged particles influences the different mental and physical processes.
Writing under 'Ions and You' in Yoga Today, R. Carly George refers to the ions as 'the vitamins of the air' for their effect on our well-being, and goes on to mention that as far back as the mid 18th century, 'natural philosophers' were studying the effects of atmospheric electricity on plants. By the 1920's scientists were beginning to take seriously the theory that air electricity was vital to the growth and the well-being of natural life, and by implication to man himself. But as Fred Soyka says in his book The Ion Effect (Bantam), "Only in the past decade however, have scientists been able to actually prove that when nature or man starts meddling with air electricity, life can become insufferable for some of us, and uncomfortable for all of us."
According to George, nature's own meddling is seen most often with what are known as 'Witches Winds', which sweep across parts of the world in set patterns, and at set times, and although not titanic, nonetheless leave a trail of human wreckage in their wake. People go berserk, commit suicide, commit murder, act completely out of character. On a small scale, tempers flare, families quarrel, people suffer from headaches and depression, as if under a black witch's spell. He names these winds as the Santa Ana in California, the Sharov in the Middle East and the Foehn, Europe's own witch wind.
It is said that the Foehn causes road and air accidents, and even surgeons postpone operations as they believe that their own skill and the recuperative powers of the patient are diminished when the witch wind blows.
In the Rocky Mountains, the Chinook is the ill wind that causes anything from murderous intentions to cold and respiratory problems; and the Sharov is even taken as a plea of mitigation in the Middle Eastern courts. All these are caused by an upset in the balance of ions in the atmosphere.
Modern science has come across an important discovery which shows that energy in the body emits an aura of light. The discoverers, a husband and wife team called Kirlian, came across the phenomena in 1939, and since then researchers have found that all life forms emit a particular aura, and that the insentient objects also have an aura for some time.
According to one's mental and emotional response the aura expands or contracts. For example, when a person is calm and relaxed, his pranic emanations are steady and elongated. But when he becomes anxious, the aura becomes flared and jagged. Just before death, the aura completely vanishes.
Kirlian photography conclusively proves the yogic theory of prana, and of how our thoughts and state of mind influence the pranic rhythms. Yoga also says that when there is no longer any indication of prana, death will ensue. This is because, just before death, the pranas and electromagnetic fields withdraw, and therefore the aura diminishes.
According to yoga, the body is a storehouse of vital energy, a dynamo with infinite electrical current flowing throughout. The ordinary man sees this body as a combination of flesh, blood and bone. But the yogis and scientists have perceived a greater force behind the physical elements and that is the force of energy and prana.
In Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion, prana is called ki and in Chinese, it is ch'i. If one can adjust and harmonise the flow of ki, one will be immune to sickness. The principle of acupuncture and moxibustion is the release of stagnating ki or the elimination of the imbalance in its circulation.
The Tibetan teachings also expound a similar theory. Diseases can be cured by the absorption of prana through the chakras, and simultaneously harmonising the body by the adjustment of the flow of life energy. Yoga, acupuncture and Tibetan medical teachings all talk of flow of body energy and the harmonising of body energy for health.
According to ancient texts, there are seventy-two thousand nadis or energy pathways in the psychic body of man. It is along these subtle channels that prana or life force flows throughout the body. The three most important nadis are ida, pingala and sushumna, which originate from the lowest psychic centre, the mooladhara chakra. Sushumna runs upwards through the spinal column, while ida and pingala criss-cross each other at the various chakra points, and finally meet at the ajna chakra on the top of the spinal column.
The health of the body-systems as well as the healthy functioning of the various organs depend on a proper balance of the ida and pingala nadis. However, under chronic stress and tension this delicate balance is upset, affecting the entire energy network. This results in pranic or nervous exhaustion. When this happens, the body-system becomes susceptible to a host of chronic disorders, and being 'chronic', there seems to be no cure. However, with the regular release of stress and tension through a series of yogic practices such as asana, pranayama, yoga nidra, meditation and shatkarma, the 'incurable' disorders dissolve slowly by themselves as the toxic build-up in the body gets systematically removed; and an equilibrium between the nadis gets reset, and the prana begins to flow normally.