Create the smooth inner space of the body with the knowledge of yoga.
By Fifi Kao
We see a lot of cases of chronic diseases around us, our families, colleagues, relatives and friends. Chronic disease is a major factor, just as cancer, to health decline and deprivation.
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga have a special way to recognize diseases. They believe that no matter in which part of the body the disease appears, it must be related to another part of the body. The human body is an integral whole. Chronic pain in the neck may be caused by your poor digestive function. And eye diseases may be a reflection of a problem in the kidneys. Both TCM and yoga examine health problems with an integral perspective in order to find the root of every chronic disease. As a result, they usually have their own ways to help people get rid of diseases and pains.
Now let’s explore more deeply through a scientific way. We will see in the following part how yoga treats chronic diseases.
How the human body is designed to function and how it actually functions
Why is it so common for people to have chronic diseases and chronic pains? The answer is simple. The human body was originally perfectly designed to function its best; however, we are using our body in ways different from this original designation.
Dating back from 2.5 million years to 10 thousand years ago, it was during this period that the human body’s anatomic structures were designed and perfected by nature. At that time, the development of human body structure was closely associated with the necessity of continual movement. Every day, people had to go out to explore and hunt and make food themselves to sustain the whole family. According to archaeologists, people living in that period walked or ran 15-25 kilometers per day. Nowadays, some people can hardly walk 1,000 steps a day.
In addition to hunting for food, they also had to learn to escape from beasts. So in the original design of human body structure by nature, the hip joint is the initiator of movement. As the pivot of the body, the hip can most effectively start the movement. Moreover, another idea in the original design is that the body must be straight, especially to make the upper body upright with the help of the spine so as to create the biggest space possible for breathing and provide energy and strength for movement. One more design principle is an integration of stability and flexibility, and a balance of hard and soft, which makes it possible for the body to generate the biggest power with the least energy consumption and avoid being hurt.
With time, people have been more and more “civilized”. We no longer hunt, pluck or even farm. However, there is never an “updated version” for the human body. Every one of us is still confined in this originally designed structure. There are basically no essential changes except for signs of an increase of cranial capacity or the narrowing of the lower jaw due to insufficient chewing.
As mentioned before, the human body has been designed to achieve balance, efficacy, stability and flexibility. But today we seldom give it full display. We no longer go out to hunt food or even go out to buy food. We make an order on the cell phone and the food will be delivered to us. Also, modern people scarcely exercise. Even someone who exercises one or two hours occasionally can be called a “fitness guy” today.
Meanwhile, people’s body postures have been changed completely, especially by electronic devices. Most of the time, we sit before the screens for long time with the body leaning forward, neck extending forward, shoulders gathering inwardly and the hips squeezed.
So what do these have anything to do with chronic diseases? Take heed, our body’s inner space is compressed.
The space that the body had in the original design is now compressed due to the modern living environments.
Space, movements and signal transmission
The human brain features a very initial and basic motive which is not even in our consciousness. That is to protect the safety of the body, especially the brain. When certain parts of the body or the whole body lose stability, the brain sets out to limit the movement of all the joints of the body in order to keep the stability. The limitation of joints to some extent means the limitation of body movements.
The limitation of body movements then means less inner space and scope of movements. When the body fails to move effectively, the moving space of internal organs and blood vessels is reduced and the nerves will be influenced and even be squeezed. This explains why abdominal pain and indigestion sometimes result in the pain on the neck although your neck is not hurt.
In the cranial nerve system, there is a nerve that features the longest length and widest distribution. It is the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve starts from the jugular foramen. It extends out of the cranial cavity and goes through neck and then the ribs. It governs almost all our organs and helps to control nearly all the body functions. When we fix our eyes on the screens big and small before us and our neck stays at the position of leaning forward, what will happen? It limits the space which the vagus nerve goes through.
When the space is compressed, neurotransmitter’s effectiveness to transmit message is reduced. On the contrary, the bigger the space is, the transmitting is smoother, and the body is able to react to the environment changes more effectively. In other words, a healthier and younger body.
So how can we keep the space big enough for the nerves to transmit message and nutrients more effectively? Obviously, we should try to keep our body’s inner space fully extended both vertically and horizontally.
When the body is structurally misused, not only the nervous system is suppressed, but also the internal organs, soft tissues and bones. Such suppression may result in problems in other parts of the body. For instance, the suppression of the gall bladder may cause pain on the shoulders and upper back. Kidney problems may cause waist pains. These pains come from muscles instead of the internal organs.
Pay attention to the “smooth space”
According to TCM, pain is a result of unsmooth circulation. To keep the body at its best structure status is the major contributor to smooth circulation. From the perspective of yoga, it is to keep your body as upright as possible vertically and as wide as possible horizontally, and help it restore the original status designed by nature in the ancient times.
Modern medicine carefully analyzes and divides the human body and thus forms different departments. It mainly addresses the urgent and critical care. So if you have serious and obvious body conditions, do not hesitate to see a doctor.
However, modern medicine generally doesn’t address the ultimate root of health problems. It’s good to see that nowadays the academic world pays more and more attention to the integral principle of treating diseases. They begin to consider the human body as an integral being and develop preventive medicine. Only when we treat the human body as an integral entity can we finally understand that the seemingly different symptoms may be closely related to one another. For instance, many pains of one part of the body are resulted from a problem in some other part of the body.
In order to keep our body healthy, we should consider: how shall we, through movement, help the body to restore its original structure conditions when first designed and ensure the sufficient inner space for all the organs, nerves, blood vessels, joints to move smoothly and function effectively.
To possess the awareness of health
The first step to embrace health is to have the knowledge and awareness of health. And this is the purpose of this article. When you finish reading it, I am sure you will have increased your awareness.
The next step is to put your head and neck back to its original place, expand your chest and use your hips to start the movements of the body. And of course, it will be very lucky if you can find a good yoga instructor who is able to give you proper guidance and suggestions. Nevertheless, it depends more on your personal perseverance in the long run.
To maintain the body structure’s integrity as it was originally designed through proper and correct body movements is a new and scientific idea that will finally attract all those who want to improve health. We can predict that there will be much development and opportunities in this field.
Let’s now turn to the popular saying among the weight management people today: “Control your mouth and move your legs”. It accurately reflects the living conditions of people in the ancient times when the body structure was designed and perfected by nature. At that time, they couldn’t fill themselves to the full due to lack of food, which corresponds to “control your mouth”. Meanwhile, they used hips to start movements and stretched the body long and wide, which corresponds to “move your legs”. So this modern saying coincides with the body structure and living style of ancient people.
In the spa and wellness world, yoga is one of the most mysterious and effective program and tool to improve health. It helps to restore the inner space of the body and educate people how to make their body gestures more conformed to the original design. Through the yoga postures, respiration, meditation and other modes, yoga makes the energy transmission and message exchange of different parts of the body more effective.
Practicing yoga regularly will help the body to return to nature, which is the root of health.