Yoga and Physiology: Intersection

The book of A.G. Safronov “Yoga: Physiology, Psychosomatics, Bioenergetics” contains an interesting idea stating that the process of coming in and out of asana should coincide with the main energy flow of the channel opened by such asana. Subject to such condition the energetic effect of the asana performance shall be the maximal.

The Bhujangasana, for instance, affects the anterior-middle meridian (in terms of Chinese tradition). For the purpose of its activation the channel should be stretched to the maximum. This is possible subject to coming into the asana at the inhalation, in the direction from the upper vertebrae to the lower ones – in this case the anterior-middle meridian shall be open completely (at its full length), gradually and successively. This will enable the energy flow along the meridian.

An interesting fact is that such idea has been advanced in medicine as well.

Upon analysis of the respiratory system development I.S.Breslav draws attention to the fact that in terms of phylogenetics (in process of its evolution from one species to another) the lungs ventilation was evolving from locomotor movements of the body (I. S. Breslav, 1981; I.S. Breslav «Breathing Patterns», 1984).

Upon that the act of inhalation corresponds to the body stretching (unbending), while that of exhalation – to body bending. In compliance with this thesis the inspiratory muscles are homologous to human body extensors (the extensor muscles), and those of exhalation – to flexor muscles (the flexors).

It is interesting to note that the ideas drawn in scope of the «energetic» and «physiological» concepts are not discordant but on the contrary – they mutually verify and complement each other.

Illustrating the above-set theses, the maximal effect of one’s coming in the anterior-arched asanas -Bhudjangasana, Ushtrasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana — will come in case of doing them at inhalation. And conversely, coming in the bent asanas – the Padahastasana, Paschimottanasana – should be done at exhalation.

In scope of even a more detailed understanding of mechanisms of this phenomenon we may note that the neural mechanisms that control the described respiratory and non-respiratory movements are kindred (Minyaev, 1978, 1982).

Other researchers confirm this thesis (Grillner, 1979) noting the relevance of respiratory volume and respiratory cycle periodicity with amplitude and rhythms of the body segments movements. The researchers determine that the factors that trigger respiratory and non-respiratory acts are different. In other words, the cells of the respiratory center will initiate the work of breathing organs while the work of skeletal muscles will be initiated by other CNS cells.

There is another interesting observation. Initially in scope of neurophysiology they used to differentiate the work of centers in the CNS on the basis of their managing various functions of the human body.

But today many researchers draw attention to an interesting fact of central co-innervation of the centers managing different systems of the human body that concurrently work for one and the same result.

For example, in scope of physical load the muscles begin to work intensively, thus requiring more oxygen. In order to provide the muscles with increased amount of oxygen the breathing should become more intense and deeper (so that to increase the total amount of inhaled oxygen) and the blood flow should become more intense, especially in the working muscles – in order to deliver oxygen to the tissues in need of it.

Rather often, provided that one has a healthy body, the increase of lungs ventilation during the exercise load corresponds to the intensity of muscle work, especially in its initial period.

They explain this phenomenon by central co-innervation – i.e. by the fact that the impulses from motor centers are conducted not only to working muscles but also to the respiratory centers, thus causing agitation of respiratory neurons as well (Koephen HP, 1975).

Similar ideas were advanced by P. K. Anokhin, the classic of modern domestic physiology of nervous system and the creator of the functional systems theory. According to his theory in scope of performing some certain action the centers in the CNS start to work in synergism for the purpose of performing the set task in the most effective way. In our case this means the performance of asanas or realization of muscle contraction.

Here we can assume that in case of regular performing asanas along with the breath mode that in terms of phylogenetics is relevant to contraction of muscles that are activated for asanas performance we will appeal to synergism of the systems involved in asana — at least, the respiratory and muscle ones.

Such synergism of systems may need some other additional conditions. For instance, the self-conscious performance of the exercise.

In any case the hypothesis, when verified, offers incredible perspectives of healing by means of yoga and yoga-therapy. Because the more synergetic the human body systems are, the healthier is the body that one has.

One can also assume that the energetic effect is feasible subject to synergism of the majority of the body systems. Yet the verification of this hypothesis requires much research work to be done.


Elena Akhramieieva.



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