Functional Western Anatomy and Kundalini Yoga

Functional Western Anatomy and Kundalini Yoga
by Katy Willis, RN

The topic of Western anatomy and Kundalini Yoga resonates with my journey. Trained as an registered nurse, I perceived alternative medicine and holistic therapy to be a hoax. They appeared to be based on mysticism or magic. In my mind at the time, I could not see a logical explanation as to how such an approach could be healing. Therefore, I did not feel such practices were worth pursuing—until events in my life brought me to a need for healing that couldn’t be had solely with the resources at my disposal. 

As I began down what I felt was a strange and alternative path, I began to experience healing and transformation. These effects left me completely baffled. How could it be so “simple”? How were these technologies doing what they were doing? I am not the type of person who settles for a whatever-works mentality. I want to break it down and understand it inside and out. I want to know why.

My education in anatomy and physiology, or how the body works, became a springboard for me. Rather than a hindrance, as in the past, my knowledge propelled me forward as I began to learn how the body works in connection with the mind and spirit. I have come to understand that many alternative healing and transformation modalities follow laws and principles. (If you are interested in measurable studies performed on aspects of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, I recommend the book Meditation as Medicine.)[1]

I urge you to consider approaching your sadhana practice with an open mind. Be consistent in your practice. Before you can make a final judgment call on whether Kundalini Yoga is for you, you must practice for at least forty consecutive days with a serious and committed attitude.

The body is an amazing temple. Below, I will provide a general overview of the body systems. As you have already learned in the Yogic Anatomy chapter, each of these systems corresponds with something non-physical as well (e.g., a chakra, one of the Ten Bodies, a nadi, an emotion, etc.). I will also discuss how Kundalini Yoga can increase efficiency and improve the functions of the physical body. May you be able to join with me in exclaiming “Wahe Guru!” as I give a brief overview of the wonder of the body, its intricate design, and how beautifully it functions!
Circulatory System

This system includes the heart and blood vessels. The circulatory system brings blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to and from the heart, as well as brings wastes to the appropriate organs for excretion. Kundalini Yoga strengthens the heart, improves blood flow, and increases blood volume.[2]
Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system includes the lymph ducts and nodes, tonsils, spleen, bone marrow, and thymus. This system helps return fluid in the tissues to the circulatory system. This system also assists with fighting infection by producing and holding white blood cells and by collecting and killing bacteria. Kundalini Yoga improves the circulation in this system, decreases the demands on this system by improving the function of other organs involved in detoxifying, and increases immunity.[3]
Respiratory System

The organs and structures in this system include the lungs and alveoli sacs, ribs, diaphragm, voice box, nose, and air passages. This system brings oxygen into the body through inhaling and removes wastes through exhaling. The heart rate and brain waves are affected by controlled breathing. The breath also pumps cerebrospinal fluid and lymphatic fluid. The respiratory system is the only system in the body that can be controlled but is also automatic. Because of the dual nature of this system, it is controlled by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Kundalini Yoga balances both of these systems, leading to relaxation. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation activates the pituitary gland, improves the excretion of toxins, decreases depression, increases the pH level of blood, and brings in more oxygen for the body.[4]
Digestive System

The digestive system includes the mouth, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small and large intestines, and rectum. This system breaks down food into nutrients the body can use. Kundalini Yoga can improve digestion, metabolism, and elimination. It also balances the liver.[5]
Endocrine System

The organs and components in this system include the pineal and pituitary glands, hypothalamus, gonads (ovaries for females; testes for males), thyroid and parathyroid, adrenals, thymus, and pancreas. This system is responsible for producing hormones. Hormones manage the growth, maintenance, and development of our bodies. Hormones are also essential to the functions of the nervous system. Kundalini Yoga helps by stimulating the Kundalini energy to balance the glands. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation can also activate the pituitary and pineal glands as well as the hypothalamus.[6]
Nervous System

The nervous system includes neurons, the central and peripheral nervous systems, the spinal cord, and the brain. Nerves carry messages to and from each other; the nervous system creates more connections with greater use and loses connections with disuse. Nerves help muscles contract, organs to function, and the brain to sense and respond. The hypothalamus is the link between the nervous system and the glands of the endocrine system. Most other systems of the body are controlled directly by the nervous system or indirectly by the nervous system working through the endocrine system. Kundalini Yoga can help energy move through specific nerve pathways, balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, increases the connection and generation of new brain cells, decreases streass and decreases pain.[7]
Musculoskeletal System

Included in this system are bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. This system assists in body movement. Increased movement leads to more oxygen to cells. Less-considered functions include generating heat and increasing the heart rate. Kundalini Yoga uses this system to strengthen the nervous system. The musculoskeletal system balances the muscles, releases tension, and relaxes specific muscle groups. Relaxed muscle groups leads to relaxed organs. This system also increases blood circulation and improves the joints.[8]
Spinal Biomechanics

Spinal biomechanics regards the vertebrae of the spinal column. The vertebrae hold and protect the nervous system and also allow for movement. Kundalini Yoga can help with disks (the cushions between vertebrae) and can also improve the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid.[9]
Immune System

The immune system includes bone marrow, the spleen, glands, the lymphatic system, and white blood cells. This system defends against viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, as well as chemicals and cancer cells. Mental and emotional stress can weaken this system. Kundalini Yoga can cleanse the body. Sound vibration can stimulate the hypothalamus to improve the functions of this system. [10]
Genito-Urinary System

The genitourinary system includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra, as well as the prostate and testes in males and the uterus and ovaries in females. The genital and urinary systems are discussed together because problems in one can create problems in the other. These systems also share nerve and anatomy pathways. The urinary system helps to remove waste from the body. The kidneys also help in producing bone marrow and red blood cells, along with regulating blood pressure through balancing water. Kundalini Yoga can increase blood flow to the kidneys, which are the most important organ responsible for eliminating toxins, this increased blood flow supports both physical and emotional purification.[11]

[1] Dharma Singh Khalsa and Cameron Stouth, Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force (New York: Fireside, 2001).
[2] Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Level I (Santa Cruz, NM: Kundalini Research Institute, 2007), 158.
[3] Ibid., 159.
[4] Ibid., 160.
[5] Ibid., 162.
[6] Ibid., 164.
[7] Ibid., 166.
[8] Ibid., 168.
[9] Ibid., 170.
[10] Ibid., 171.
[11] Ibid., 172.


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