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The Body, the Mind and Conscious Movement

by Shaykh Mohammad Abdullah Ansari

The body has arms, hand, legs, feet, a head, that is to say, the body is made up of parts.  And then everything is connected and united by skin, muscles, tendons, veins, arteries, blood, etc.  We know that, like all the rest of matter, these components of the body are composed of molecules, atoms and particles ever smaller and smaller.  Essentially the body is pure energy.

Seen with normal eyes the body is a single solid thing, but any scientist can tell us that that’s just an illusion, that the body, like everything else in the universe, is more air than matter.  Atoms are like miniature solar systems with parts orbiting a nucleus.  The space between the nucleus of the atom takes up thousands of times more area than the semi-substantial electrons that orbit that nucleus of protons and neutrons (an atom is 99.999999999999% air).  In the same way, the molecules formed by the atoms contain mostly air.  None of the parts that make up the body are touching each other.  They are kept more or less in their positions by non-material forces—electromagnetism and other energy forces.  When you move your arm, you think that the arm moves from one place to another and that’s it.  What’s really happening is that you’re dragging molecules, atoms and particles from one place to another and it’s a chain reaction, not all are moving at the same time or the same speed—ßit’s similar to a movie projected at a very very slow speed.  Normally we don’t see this phenomenon because we live in a different time reference or time frame, than matter.  Actually, everything that exists is moving continuously but we don’t see it, we see everything as solid and static.  The movement we see is only the grossest aspect of movement.

The glue that keeps the elements, the particles, of the body in place is a form of energy that the Hindus call prana the Chinese, chi, a form of divine electromagnetism.  Although there’s always enough of this energy in a body to make it appear solid and alive, the quantity and quality can vary significantly.  According to the science of the Hindus and the Chinese, this energy circulates through invisible channels in the body and the quantity and the freedom with which it moves contributes to the health or lack of health of that body.  Systems of Qi Gong (Chi Kung) and some forms of yoga are specifically aimed at removing the obstacles or blocks from the chi o prana channels (called meridians) and to increase the quantity of said energy.  The practice of one of these systems can lead to a superior level of health and a significant reduction of visits to doctors and the subsequent costs connected to that all too common custom.

But of equal or maybe more importance, is the function that this vital energy plays in maintaining the structural integrity of the body and a balance between the minds and the body in a way much more extensive than is commonly understood.  This function affects not only the physical health, but also the emotional and spiritual health of the person.

It’s based on the practice of physical movement and the use of the vibratory nature of words and sounds.

The energy to which we refer is the vital energy that impregnates everything and is everywhere.  You might ask, if this energy is everywhere and in everything, why don’t we have enough in our bodies?  The answer lies in the mind, the conscious use of the mind and the reverse, the lack of conscious use of the brain and/or being controlled by negative thoughts and emotions which create blockages in the flow of the Vital Energy.

Could be that you noticed that above I said “minds”, I used the plural forma of the word and then I just mentioned “mind” in the first part of a sentence and the then “brain” in the last part of the same sentence.  Before we go any further it’s important that the concept of the three minds is understood.  This explanation will be brief since the subject is covered extensively in other writings.  The three minds are: the real mind, the brain-mind and the ego-mind.  The real mind is the consciousness of the heart or part of the soul, the door to superior world and divine guidance.  The brain-mind has a lot of different important functions but is not the origin of thoughts, intelligence o creativity—it’s basically a machine.  The brain-mind receives instructions from either the real mind or, more commonly, from the ego-mind.  The brain interprets the information it receives and in turn sends instructions to the body.  The ego-mind is by nature, emotional, reactionary and defensive.  For our objectives, it’s necessary to learn to identify with and use the real mind.

The dominance of the ego in the majority of humans leads to rigidity not only in the attitude and vision of the person but also physical rigidity.  The ego mistakes o confuses what is best for the person, cuts off universal psychic connections and hides in a protective shell, isolated in his/her imagined individuality.  This affects the body, causing tensions and blocks that restrict the flow of vital energy with painful consequences—tensions resulting from the natural emotional unstableness of the ego.  The person’s world shrinks in a sort of vicious cycle of tension, rigidity, fear, more tension, rigidity, fear, and so on.  A form of atrophy attacks not only the physical but also the subtle body causing physical, emotional and spiritual problems. 

Seen by the inner eyes the human body varies from amorphous, fluid, flexible and limitless to confined, rigid and restricted.  In the first case the healthy, developed person falls in line with the divine pattern of things and is carried through life smoothly and easily.  The person in the second case becomes an easy target for conflicts and problems.

The developmental process for achieving freedom from the dominance of the ego and its illusory state and tension, requires spiritual practices and the assistance of someone who’s been there.  There have always existed special physical exercises specially designed to break energy blockages in the body, remove tension and rigidness and to acquire and make vital energy flow thus leading to not only a physically healthy and happy life but freedom from negative forces.

These exercises were and are certain forms of ethnic dance, moving meditation like Tai Chi and certain forms of yoga correctly taught and, the martial arts.  Understand that the current forms of these arts have other motives and their ancient goals have been all but forgotten and therefore their benefits drastically reduced.

The strongest and most direct methods directed at the development that we’re talking about can be found in the martial arts.  Seems like a contradiction but that’s because our occidental conditioning and the poor way that the martial arts are communing taught.  Originally almost all religious/spiritual traditions had martial regimens.  Their real object isn’t conflictive but the achievement of harmony.  We can see an expression of this in certain sets of training movements in which the participants, both solo and in pairs, move in sequences of movements similar to parts of a symphony.  Over time the participants of this type of martial art gain consciousness of the forces and energies that surround us, see and feel things that are not commonly seen or felt and their bodies open to Vital Energy.  The restricted and smothered cells open up and the energy begins to flow.  Now the line between the body, the world and the universe become less defined.

Vital Energy, Chi, Prana or whatever name you want to use, being the life energy that wakes up and moves matter, is contacted through its counterpart in the human being – the real mind.  The real mind is the channel that connects us with superior universal energies.  Connecting with this source is similar to completing a circuit or priming a pump to create a sort of suction with provokes the flow of this divine substance which eradicates barriers between the body, the mind and the universe.

We call these exercises conscious movement because they require the conscious participation of the mind to activate the vital energy.  Our practices are as much mental as physical.  The line between the mind and the body become increasingly less defined with the practice of Sufi Yoga or its martial branch, Silat Haqq Kuntao.


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PRANAYAM / BREATHING EXERCISES

In yogic terms prana means the vital energy and ayam means exercise. Pranayam defines the regulation of the in and out flow of this vital energy. It explains that the body, breath and the mind are intricately interwoven. When the air moves the mind moves and when the air is stilled the mind also could be stilled. Hence the various techniques employed in Pranayam are to stabilize the flow of air thus to achieve the balanced state of mind.

PREPARATION BEFORE THE PRACTICE

All breathing exercises are done in empty stomach usually after a warming up of the body by stretching exercises, sun salutation or yoga poses. One has to sit in any comfortable meditative posture and place the back and neck erect. Little deep breathing is carried out to relax the muscles after any of these practices. The inhalation and exhalations are to be performed through the nostrils

TRAINING THE RESPIRATORY MACHINE

Abdominal / Diaphragmatic breathing

Here only the abdomen is focused upon during breathing. Inhale and expand the abdomen, exhale and suck the abdomen in. This exercise is repeated for 9 rounds. To feel the expansion of abdomen, hands can be placed over the stomach

Thoracic / Intercostal breathing

Here the attention is given to the chest. Inhale and expand the chest, exhale and retract the chest. Repeat for 9 rounds.

Clavicular or Shoulder breathing

This is to aerate the upper lobe of the lungs. Inhale and raise the shoulders, exhale and drop it down. Arms stretched sideways, inhale and raise the arms above the head to join the palms; exhale and release the arms till the shoulder level.

Balancing Pranayama – Nadisuddhi Pranayama

Here the inhalation and exhalation are done through alternate nostrils. Sit erect in any meditative pose with back and neck straight. Fold your index and middle finger of the right hand to use the ring finger and thump to block the left and right nostrils respectively. Block the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale slowly and deeply from the left, counting 1,2,3,4 mentally; block the left nostril with the ring and little fingers after inhalation and breathe out through the right nostril by counting 1,2… 6. Again breathe in through the right nostril and breathe out through the left nostril with the same ratio and repeat the same procedure for 9 rounds. This technique helps to purify the nadis (nerves) and Chakras (nerve plexus) and also helps to make the body feel light and balanced.

Ujjayi / Hissing Pranayama

Sit erect in any meditative pose. Inhale from both the nostrils by feeling the air at the upper palate. This is done by partially closing the glottis. Hold the breath internally for a while; make a chin lock by bending the neck forward to touch the chest with the chin. While holding feel the air blocked below the throat. Release the chin lock partially and exhale through the left nostril continuously by producing the hissing noise with the partial closure of the glottis. Release the chin lock by lifting the head slowly up as you exhale. Repeat this cycle for 9 rounds. This will help to check the blood pressure by stimulating the carotid receptors and also will help to improve the circulation to the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Surya bhedana Pranayama

It is also called as right nostril breathing. This is a heating Pranayama. Block the left nostril and inhale from the right nostril deeply, now block the right and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat the practice for 9 rounds. Here the internal and external retention can be done for 2 seconds. Not advised in hypertension and in other cardiac illness.

Chandra bhedana Pranayama

This is also called as cooling Pranayama. Block the right nostril; inhale from the left nostril deeply and continuously, then block the left and exhale through the right nostril. Repeat the practice for 9 rounds.

Bastrika Pranayama

Sit in Vajrasana- active inhalations and exhalations with the in and out (flapping) movements of the abdomen called as strokes. Three rounds of bastrika with increasing speed. Normal breathing in between the rounds. The strokes vary from 20 – 40 per round.

Brahmari Pranayama – The Humming Bee Pranayama

Inhale deeply from both nostrils. Use the index fingers to block the ears and when you exhale, try to produce the humming sound of a female bee from the mouth and nose and feel the vibrations of this sound in the head and neck region. Repeat for 9 rounds.

In a fast paced age where stress and depression are widespread, the toll of stress on physical and mental health can be extremely high.

Stress, anxiety and depression are known to be significant factors in the onset and progression of a wide spectrum of illnesses ranging from cancer and HIV-1 infection, to asthma and cardiovascular disease.

Pranayam and its accompanying practices are time-honored stress management/health promotion techniques whose health benefits are being validated by modern medical science.

Independent research has shown that significantly:

Reduce levels of stress (reduce cortisol – the “stress” hormone)

Benefit the immune system

Reduce cholesterol

Relieve anxiety and depression (mild, moderate and severe)

Increase anti-oxidant protection

Enhance brain function (increased mental focus, calmness and recovery from stressful stimuli)

Enhance health, well-being, and peace of mind

These simple, yet powerful breathing practices have a unique advantage over many other forms of treatment: they are free from unwanted side-effects, cut health care costs , and are easy to learn and practice in daily life.

investigation of the pranayam as they relate to physical, social, and emotional well-being. We welcome research collaborations and suggestions from interested parties.

The Science of Breath – Summary of Key Findings

Research Summary-

Improved Brain Function

To study the long-term effects of pranayam on brain function, EEG (electroencephalogram) changes were recorded in 100 pranayam practitioners outside of the practice of pranayam and compared with EEG patterns of 16 controls (doctors and researchers who did not practice pranayam yoga, or meditation).

Significant increases in beta activity were observed in the left frontal, occipital, and midline regions of the brain in the pranayam practitioners, as compared to controls , These results are interpreted by neurologists as indicative of increased mental focus/heightened awareness in pranayam practitioners.

EEG activity was also studied during the practice of pranayam in five females of similar age, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.

This study found an increase in EEG alpha activity, with interspersed persistence of beta activity. This indicates a state of relaxation co-existing with heightened alertness.

Effect on Cortisol, the “Stress Hormone”

Several studies have demonstrated significant falls in cortisol levels. In one study, blood cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” was measured in 121 individuals, 28-50 years of age. Regular pranayam practitioners (Group 1) were compared with beginning practitioners (Group 2) during their pranayam sessions.

The beginning practitioners were also measured before learning pranayam, while listening to classical music (Group 3). Among beginners, the fall in cortisol levels was significantly greater during pranayam than when listening to classical music, suggesting that pranayam produces a better relaxation response.

The significant further fall in serum cortisol levels, during and following pranayam, among beginning and regular practitioners, suggests that regular practice of pranayamprogressively develops greater levels of both relaxation and resilience to stress.

Effect on Blood Lactate

(Indicator of stress and tension)

They undergo intense physical and emotional training daily. Blood lactate was measured in 10 such individuals, both before learning pranayam and after the first session. There was a significant fall in lactate levels after pranayam, suggesting that it induces a state of relaxation.

Effect on Immune Function

Natural killer (NK) cells are believed to be important in the body’s defense against new and recurring cancers. NK cells are the surveillance cells of the immune system and are capable of destroying tumor cells as well as infected cells. NK cells were counted in the peripheral blood of three groups: pranayam practitioners, normal individual’s not practicing pranayam, and cancer patients in remission. NK cells were significantly higher in the pranayam group than in either non-practicing individuals or in cancer patients in remission. The cancer patients then learned pranayam. After 3-6 months of regular practice, there was a significant increase in the cancer patients’ NK cell count.

Effect on Antioxidant Enzymes

Free radicals can react with oxygen and cause oxidant damage, contributing to many diseases, including cancer and such cardiovascular diseases as heart disease and stroke.

To counteract these free radicals, the human body has a defense system in the form of antioxidant enzymes. A study was conducted to assess the effect of pranayam on antioxidant enzymes. Levels of three major antioxidant enzymes-superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione-were all

found to be significantly higher in pranayam practitioners than in the matched control group, which suggests that people who practice pranayam have an improved antioxidant status and an enhanced defense against oxidant damage.

Effect on Blood Cholesterol

Psychosocial stress is a major contributor to hypertension and coronary heart disease (CHD). In CHD, deposits of LDL cholesterol, fat, and other substances on the arterial walls slow or block the flow of blood, resulting in heart malfunction. A study was conducted to assess the cholesterol levels of individuals before they learned pranayam, as well as after 14 and 90days of regular practice.

Significant drops in total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol, as well as increases in HDL (beneficial) cholesterol were observed.These findings suggest that pranayam improves the blood cholesterol profile, and that regular practice may therefore prove to be an effective tool in preventing and arresting hypertension and CHD.

Effect on Depression

Pranayam has been shown to have a 62%-79% success rate in the treatment of depression, regardless of severity.

Relief from depression, determined by psychiatric evaluation and standard psychiatric measures (Beck Depression

Inventory, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and others) was experienced within three weeks.

Published studies further suggest that pranayam normalizes patients’ brainwave patterns, increases serum prolactin (a “wellbeing” hormone), and is as effective as standard antidepressant drug regimens. Yet it is safe, free of unwanted side effects, cost effective, and self empowering

For more details, please visit http://www.hindupriest.com read about pranayam.

 

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Tao Te Ching

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.

Virtues of Kong-zi (Confucius)

道 tao; path, right way * 仁 ren, benevolent * 徳 de, virtuous * 禮 li, propriety * 義 yi, morality * 忠 zhong, loyalty * 恕 shu, reciprocity * 信 xin, trustworthy * 命 ming, destiny, fate * 天 tien, heaven, above * 理 li, principle *
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