Thursday, October 23, 2014

YOGIC ANATOMY

This series of posts is part of a book. See outline here.

YOGIC ANATOMY

Our existence is multi-leveled and complex. It is both physical, spiritual, finite, and infinite. Yogic teachings about anatomy therefore are meant to help us understand all levels and avoid “a lower-dimensional definition of what it is to be human.” The ancients understood that each of us can consciously link to God, and that this flow happens through the temple body, through channels that are both physical and metaphysical (beyond physical).

On the following pages you will find the basic concepts of yogic anatomy and the realm of the spirit. In the next chapter, I have invited Katy Willis RN (Siri Dharma Kaur) to give you some basics about functional western anatomy and Kundalini Yoga’s influence on these systems. As you deepen your Kundalini Yoga practice, you can return again and again to these sections and find that there is more to discover each time.


THE NADIS 
The nadis are energy conduits that bring vital energy (prana) through the body. The nadis are similar to acupuncture meridians, but while there are only twelve meridians, there are seventy-two thousand nadis. They connect the chakras and branch out to the entire body. The nadis may be considered an ethereal counterpart to the nervous system, with its expansive web of nerves, and the nadis do influence and work in conjunction with the nerves. For example, in Meditation as Medicine, the authors write:
The nadis appear to physically affect the nature and quality of nerve transmission from the brain and spinal cord to the outlying peripheral nerves. Therefore, energy blockage among the nadis seems to be associated with pathological changes in the nervous system, and with the closely associated endocrine and immune systems. For example, a decreased flow of energy through the nadis to the throat chakra might result in decreased energy to the thyroid. The physical manifestation of this might be hypothyroidism. [1]

For centuries, healers and yogis––and even early LDS writers, like Parley P. Pratt [2]—have known about this inner spiritual nerve network and its influence. However, there has not been any solid evidence of the nadis’ existence until recently. Now, through sophisticated technology, it is possible to detect the fluid-like flow of energy moving along the channels of the body. [3]

As discussed in the “Prana” chapter, this flow of energy is the Light of Christ. This energy flow has profound healing effects on the body and can even be directed toward others. The pranic body depends on the nadis to aid in this healing flow.


Of the seventy-two thousand nadis, seventy-two are major surs, or zones, through which the nadis flow. Three are of particular importance: shushmana, ida, and pingala. The shushmana is the nadi that runs up the central spinal channel. This nadi is the straight and narrow path of the spine through which the Kundalini rises. The ida and pingala coil in a serpentine fashion from the base of the spine and end at the left and right nostril, with the ida on the left and the pingala on the right.[4]


THE FIVE TATTVAS
The tattvas are the basic elements of which we are made. The human body is a microcosm of the entire cosmos; therefore, everything the universe is made of is found in the human body: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Each element gives the body vital energy, but if the energy inspired by the five tattvas is not filtered through the light of consciousness, a person will manifest the most base aspects of the tattvas: greed, lust, anger, attachment, and pride (negative ego). Yogi Bhajan said, “If you are made of mud, how can you get rid of mud? If you are made of earth, how can you get rid of earth? Nobody can get rid of the five elements of which he is composed. All he can do is channel their projections. . . . You can divert this energy to positive ends.”[5] When we examine, discipline, and drink the five tattvas through the cup of meditation and consciousness, they can occur in their highest form, including love, steadfastness, service, and grace.
Below are examples of diverting the tattvas to positive ends:
Greed: Earth (Pritvi tattva)––Instead of being greedy to possess things, you can be greedy to possess a higher vibration (seeking more holiness) or to be a noble teacher and spread truth to all people.[6]
Lust: Water (Apas tattva)––Instead of being lustful to exploit bodies, you can be lustful to live like God and serve others.[7]
Anger: Fire (Agni tattva)––Anger is a destroying emotion; it has great power. Rather than being angry at others, you can channel this power to destroy your own weaknesses.[8]
Attachment: Air (Vayu tattva)––Instead of being attached to earthly possessions or possessive of people, you can be attached to God and the divine path. [9]
Pride/negative ego: Ether (Akasha tattva)––Instead of being an egomaniac, you can have pride and gratitude that God made you. Identify with the Infinite.[10]
Each tattva is associated with one of the first five chakras and has an energy function. The sixth through eighth chakras are beyond the elements and associated with light. Each tattva is also associated with one of the five senses and one of the fingers or the thumb. Meditations like Kirtan Kriya or Ganputi Kriya that use the fingers and the thumb, as well as the five primal sounds, balance the energy of the tattvas. 
An imbalance in one of the tattvas can cause a great deal of disruption, pain, and emotional distress. For example, Jennifer was a perpetual love junkie. She would be crying over a breakup one week and then high in love the next. She would often swear off dating, but it only lasted a few days. She was so attached to not being alone, and the pattern had gone on so long, that it was causing many other problems in her life. When she undertook a daily practice of Kirtan Kriya for the forty-day meditation challenge, she found for the first time in her life that she was okay being alone. She didn’t go on a date or even think about dating for the whole forty days, and she also began to release her attachment to excess material things. On day thirty she said to me, “I think I am having a spiritual awakening. Is that normal?”
I explained that it was her True Self being revealed. This self is normal in the heavenly realms, but on this earthly plane, it is an exceptional transformation to witness.  
[1] Dharma Singh Khalsa and Cameron Stouth, Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force (New York: Fireside, 2001), 23.
[2] Parley P Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 9th ed. (1965), 100, 110. Pratt writes about the spiritual fluid, that it contains healing powers, and that it is transferable to parts of the body and to others via the nerves.
[3] Khalsa and Stouth, Meditation as Medicine, 23.
[4] Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Teacher Training Manual, Level 1 (Santa Cruz, NM: Kundalini Research Institute, 2007), 175.
[5] Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, 210.
[6] See Mosiah 4:15; 3 Nephi 12:48; 3 Nephi 27:27.  
[7] See 1 John 2:16; Mormon 9:28.
[8] See 2 Nephi 4:27–29; Ether 12:27.
[9] See Matthew 19:29; Luke 12:15.
[10] See Psalm 8:3–5; Psalm 82:6; Isaiah 2:11; Ephesians 2:10.

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