The Role of Breath on Diaphragm

Diaphragm is one most important muscle in the human respiratory system. Figures below show the schematic picture of the diaphragm and top view of the diaphragm from top so that location of heart and some of the parts can be clearly seen.


SCHEMATIC PICTURE OF THE DIAPHRAGM

Some extremely important features of the diaphragm are

  • Diaphragm is the central muscle of the human body and is a principal muscle of breathing.
  • Diaphragm separates body in half from top to bottom. The heart rests above and next to it. The liver, gall bladder, spleen, stomach and kidneys lie below. As the diaphragm moves up and down (as in Pranayam breathing), massaging of all abdominal organs takes place.
  • With age and more importantly, with sedentary life style, the diaphragm tends to loose its capability to expand and contract which drastically reduces its capacity to rise and fall. In healthy and deep breathing, during inhalation the diaphragm presses down so that volume of air drawn in the lungs is greatly increased and during exhalation it’s upwards movement enables very effective evacuation of carbon-di-oxide.
  • How Belly-Fat Causes Breathing Difficulties?

Non-participation/in-effective participation of diaphragm muscle in breathing is the fore runner of aging and unsatisfactory health conditions.
Excess belly fat may affect breathing by pushing on the diaphragm and chest wall, making it harder for the lungs to fill with air . This also is the main reason for the necessity of keeping waist line in check and not allow paunch to develop in abdominal region.

  • Diaphragm is mediator of all biological and emotional rhythm of our body including autonomic nervous system. We shall deal with this aspect later.
  • Diaphragm inter connects our abdomen, lungs and spine. Its movement therefore is very important.

Various Yogasanas result in toning up of the diaphragm and are therefore vital for our health.

Prana-The Cosmic Life Force Energy

Is Increase in Oxygen Absorption the Only Purpose Of Pranayama Or Is There More to it ?

The modern and popular view that breathing exercises in Pranayama are for uptake and absorption of oxygen in large quantities to vitalize the physical body only is, in reality a very minor consideration. The major benefits that accrue from Pranayama are vitalizing the entire nervous system, smoothening functions of endocrine glands, continuous state of relaxation and awakening of higher consciousness levels. To understand this we must fully understand the definition of word “prana” or life force as per Yogic science.

As per yogic sciences, the universe is not just the mundane three dimensional mechanistic place as it appears to be, but is filled with energy fields/forces (you may call it as cosmic life energy/force). To a good extent, this is now being accepted by modern science.

Humans have energy bodies that form the basic underlying strata of their physical life. These energy bodies in humans are connected with universal energy fields and forces through breath.

The imbalances, distortions, leaks and other forms of effects on energy body in the body initiates diseases which after some time manifest in the physical body. This partly explains the onset of dreaded diseases like cancer in human beings. The term “carcinogenic” in reality has only limited credentials. For example, non-smokers do get lung cancer. Also only a very limited knowledge about onset of conditions for development of breast cancer is known to modern medical science. One definitely can not fully explain so called hereditary factors in diseases such as diabetes/hypertension.

The life force, in pranayama science, is called the “prana”. Balance in life is achieved by pairing prana (ever pervading energy field, also called “Chaitannya”) and Udana, which is nothing but the manifestation of “Chaitannya”. These correspond to inhalation and exhalation of breath. Without Udana, prana has no meaning since prana is the energy potential (source of energy if we consider it in the thermodynamics parlances) and Udana signifies that the inhaled energy has been utilized (sink in parlance of thermodynamics). This indeed is a great concept.

The Five Components of Prana – (Pancha Prana)

Prana itself comprises of five elements called the “Panch prana”. These are:Prana which is ever pervading energy field, “Chaitannya”. This enables inhalation of cosmic energy.

“Apana” which is the program of life force and also for excretion.

“Vyana” is utilization of energy for physical activities, digestion, and blood circulation. It also enables ejection of unutilized/unassimilated part of food.

“Samana’ which balances energies and also activated the liver.

“Udana” which enables exhalation and without which prana is meaningless.

A careful examination of the above concepts shows great similarity with thermodynamic engine which works only when there is a source (prana) and the sink (Udana). The concept of Panch prana is indeed a great concept.

Breath is the Key To Access Higher Energies

Pranayama is therefore the most efficient method of getting connected with the universal life energy and force (Chaitannya) and drawing the cosmic energy for our life. Since breath is the only channel through which this energy is drawn in to our body, the way we breathe is very important. As per Pranayama science, all our body functions are largely controlled by the nervous system which in turn can be brought under our conscious/ voluntary control by Pranayama breathing.

Why is Diabetes Not Cured In Spite of Taking Medicines?

Do You Get Diabetes by Eating Too Much Sugar?

Diabetes is yet another disease which is now affecting a large cross section of the present day society. This is also affecting even younger generation to a very significant extent.  The recent report of WHO has predicted more than doubling of the diabetic population world over. Especially, the forecasts for diabetic population in India is extremely worry some.

Basic Cause of Type-2 Diabetes

The basic causes identified for Diabetes Mellitus disease are the stresses, faulty life style and unsatisfactory dietary habits which result into malfunctioning of the pancreas.

Generally it is believed that the basic outcome of malfunctioning pancreas is inadequate generation of Insulin or lack of quality of the insulation generated.

We in this discussion limit our discussion to type 2 diabetes i.e. non-insulin dependent diabetes only. This is because of the experience that this type of diabetes is totally curable by Pranayama and Yoga.  The general public awareness about diabetes and the associated risk factors has improved to a large extent. But still, majority of the people believe that diabetes results from eating too much of sweets, consumption of sweet fruits, rice, chocolates and they need to be avoided at any cost.

Why is it a Life Long Affair to take Diabetic Pills and Insulin Injections?


A person with borderline diabetes, or prediabetes, has
sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes People having marginally high sugar levels in the blood greatly get benefited by adopting healthy diet, resorting to exercises such as walking, yogasanas etc and do not require drug support. However this fails to give desired blood sugar levels when there is deviation in dietary habits or stoppage of exercises due to reasons beyond their control. They thus become diabetic later. It is therefore very necessary to understand the causative factors which cause diabetes.

Diagnostic Methods to Judge Sugar Levels

There are many diagnostic methods to judge the level of sugar in the blood and the urine. These are done in pathology laboratories. Additionally, portable electronic glucometers are available. They can be used for in-house monitoring of the blood sugar levels and are very popular. Also the sugar level in the urine can be monitored using chemical strips available in chemist shops off the counter requiring no prescription from the doctors. These (glucometer and urine test kit) are quite ok from the point of view of routine monitoring but not for the purpose of diagnosis.   

Symptoms of Diabetes in the Human Body

The diabetes appears in the body in number of ways as shown in the figure Various symptoms associated with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) are indicated in the figure. In type 1 diabetes, pancreas does not produce insulin at all so that external administration of insulin becomes inevitable. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does produce insulin but it may not be in adequate quantity or of desirable quality.

MAIN SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES

Why Does Diabetes Affect the Entire Body System?

Diabetes is associated with increased sugar level primarily in blood. After reaching a certain level in blood, the sugar spills in the urine. The increased level of sugar in the blood makes it more viscous. The high viscosity of the blood puts lot of pressure on the blood circulation system. The small capillaries, therefore, may not be able to circulate the blood properly. This is the principal reason that diabetes affects the entire body system.

Diabetes-The Forerunner of Complex Diseases

Diabetes is one of most feared diseases as it is the forerunner of many extremely complex diseases such as:

  • Coronary heart diseases including heart attacks
  • Retinal neuropathy which may lead to total blindness
  • Macular degeneration which may also lead to total blindness.
  • Hypertension as the heart is required to pump high viscosity blood.
  • Brain strokes
  • Kidney failures
  • Erectile dysfunction and impotency
  • Non healing wounds leading to gangrene
  • Sleep disorders

The list can include many more complex problems

NORMAL PROCESS OF TRANSPORT OF SUGAR TO BLOOD

Since the insulin plays a major role in controlling the sugar levels in the blood as well as the urine, it is very important to know some information about the pancreas which produces insulin hormone. It must be remembered that whereas pancreas generates insulin, it cannot do so correctly unless the master glands in the brain (pineal, hypothalamus and the pituitary) function properly. I am stressing on this point again and again since it has a lot of bearing on the working and performance of other endocrine glands which include the pancreas.

Role of Pancreas in Diabetes

Pancreas produces two important hormones, insulin and glucagon. These hormones work together to maintain a steady level of glucose or sugar in the blood and keep the body supplied with fuel to produce and maintain stores of energy. The pancreas also activates various enzymes and co-enzymes which support the glycolysis reactions which generate the primary ATP energy bonds. Malfunction of this gland is associated with various very serious health issues in addition to diabetes.

The role played by pancreas in diabetes is as described below:

  • Pancreas is an endocrine gland (ductless) lying transversely across the posterior wall of the abdomen
  • The pancreas has both an exocrine (with ducts) and an endocrine secretion.
  • The exocrine secretion is made up of a number of enzymes that are discharged into the intestine  to aid digestion. These enzymes are very important. Exhausted pancreas fails to generate these enzymes in desired quantities. Thus diabetics generally complain of stomach disorders
  • The endocrine secretion, insulin is the most important hormone required for metabolism of sugar in the body. Pancreas also produces another hormone called glucagon. It also has some very important function in control of sugar levels.
  • Insulin is produced in small groups of especially modified glandular cells in the pancreas; these cell groups are known as the Islets of Langerhans.
  • The failure of these cells to secrete sufficient amounts of insulin causes diabetes .

Blood Sugar Level Ranges

Normal Blood Glucose Level

In healthy (non-diabetic) human the blood glucose levels normally remain within a narrow range. The urine in healthy subjects does not show presence of sugar.

In most humans, this varies from about 80 mg/dl to perhaps 110 mg/dl (4 to 6 mmol/litre) except shortly after eating when the blood glucose level rises temporarily up to may be 140 or a bit more. The urine examination does not show any presence of sugar.

Diabetic Blood Glucose Level

In diabetic people, the sugar level usually is far more than 110 (or 140) and urine examination shows presence of sugar.

Once the sugar level crosses 180mg/dl, the sugar spills in the urine. The level 180 is called the renal threshold limit of blood sugar.

WHO Recommended Blood Glucose Level

As per world health organization (WHO) a person can be considered as diabetic only when he/she shows blood sugar level in excess of 200mg/dl on not less than two occasions. The blood tested is the venous blood drawn two hours after normal meals.  The figure shown below, shows a typical variation of blood sugar and insulin blood levels after the breakfast, lunch and dinner. One can note a fast rise in sugar level (about 6.5mmol/L) immediately after breakfast/meals. This tapers down to about 4.8mmol/L after two hours. In case the next meal is avoided for another two hours, the blood sugar level further drops to about 4.5mmol/L (~ 80 mg/dl). One can note that overnight fasting further reduces the blood sugar level to about 4.5mmol/L. One can also note the corresponding  trend of rise and fall of blood insulin levels

Some people do show unacceptable blood sugar levels 2 hours after consuming normal meals but can show reduction after say 3 or 4 hours. Such people cannot be categorized as diabetic but as people with impaired glucose tolerance which ultimately becomes diabetic. Thus monitoring blood and the urine sugar at 30 minutes interval for duration longer than two hours is very important. It is much simpler to treat impaired glucose tolerance (pre diabetes) by suggesting suitable dietary changes, exercises etc.

The reasoning behind WHO recommended test method appears to be based upon the fact that lack of proper overnight sleep on account of apprehension about the blood sugar test or any other worry in personal life strongly influences the sugar levels after overnight fast. I have personally seen several such cases.

Conditions which Influence Sugar Level in Blood

We shall now discuss conditions which influence the sugar level in blood as well as in urine.  

  • At times, the person going thru GTT (glucose tolerance test) is under acute mental stress or can have some other health problem. This may manifest in the form of high sugar levels.
  • It is not very uncommon to have higher blood sugar level in fasting condition than that in postprandial blood. The underlying cause needs to be investigated. One of the reasons for the same is disturbed sleep in the night before going for blood/urine sugar tests.
  • There are several other health conditions which may also give rise high blood sugar. Some of them are:
  • Acromegaly – gigantic growth, swelling. This is usually caused  by excessive generation of  growth hormone or pituitary tumor,
  • Cushing syndrome  is caused by excessive generation of Cortisol and kidney/pituitary gland malfunction,
  • Pheochromocytoma occurs due to  tumor of adrenal gland,
  •  Insulinoma is the   tumor of pancreas and
  •  Galectosemia  which is a metabolism disorder

There is no doubt that persisting condition of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) is very dangerous and can lead to extreme health complications. In many cases it is very important to quickly bring down the sugar level by suitable medication. It is also very necessary to understand the following facts.

  • Very low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia) is a far more dangerous condition which can even lead to death.
  • Unfortunately diabetics are liable to experience both of these conditions. That is the reason that they are advised to carry and consume sugar cubes/chocolates etc so that hypoglycemia does not occur at any time.

This greatly affects the quality of life of diabetics because of constant worries about blood/urine sugar levels. The resulting stresses further deteriorate the sugar levels. It is extremely important for diabetics to ensure that they posses calm mind.

We shall now discuss about the important aspects of generation and utilization of glucose which have important influence in diabetes.

Glucose Generation and Utilization

  • The food we eat is converted into sugar (glucose) so that by burning of this sugar, the entire cellular structure gets energy. This happens in the reaction of oxygen metabolism.
  • The principal carrier of the sugar to cells is insulin which is a hormone secreted by pancreas. Pancreas also releases other important hormone called glucagon which enables body to store extra sugar in the liver. This sugar is used whenever there is a need.

Enzymes and Hormones which Regulate Blood Glucose Level

Enzymes and hormones made by the body totally control the body function.  There are two types of mutually antagonistic metabolic hormones affecting blood glucose levels. They are:

  • Catabolic Hormones (such as glucagon, growth  hormone , cortisol and catecholamine’s) which increase the blood glucose level and
  • Anabolic Hormone (insulin), which decreases blood glucose. The functions of these two hormones are opposite to each other. Blood sugar levels are regulated by negative feedback system in order to keep the body in homeostasis (balance)

The levels of glucose in the blood are monitored by the cells in the pancreas’s Islets of Langerhans.

  •  If the blood glucose level falls to dangerous levels (as in very heavy exercise or lack of food for extended periods), the alpha  cells of the pancreas  release the hormone Glucagon,
  •  Glucagon acts on liver cells to increase the blood glucose levels.  They convert glycogen into glucose (this process is called Glycogenolysis). This glucose is released into the bloodstream, increasing the blood sugar levels.

There are also several other   hormones   which can cause increase in the blood sugar levels.  Important amongst them are the ‘stress’ hormones such as Adrenaline.  Also the steroids, infections, trauma, and of course, the abnormal consumption of junk food significantly increase the blood sugar levels. Just one or few blood tests are therefore not enough for correct diagnosis and evaluation of diabetes for the purpose of treatment.

The figure shows how the insulin and glucagon play their roles in regulation of the blood sugar.

ROLE OF INSULIN AND GLUCAGON

The table below summarizes the effects of various hormones on regulation of the blood sugar.



We can note that Epinephrine secreted by Adrenal Medulla part of the adrenal gland increases the level of sugar in the blood. This is typically the problem associated with malfunction of Adrenal gland.

Why is there No Cure for Diabetes in Modern Medical Science?

 One can appreciate that lack of insulin, both in quantity and quality, is not the only reason for diabetes and hence unless the  basic reasons for high blood sugar are established, it would be totally futile to put the patient on drugs or on insulin supplement  that cause decrease in blood sugar. It is not uncommon to see that a significant number of diabetics do not respond to drug treatment satisfactorily and at times even when external supplement of insulin is given.

By religiously taking supplements prescribed by medical practitioners, you cannot cure diabetes.In fact day-by-day the dosage of the medicines prescribed increases.It may also reach a stage to take Insulin Injections daily.It is high time that you take control of the situation by opting for other natural methods such as Pranayama and Yoga to heal your body

Similarly the malfunction of Pituitary gland in the form of excessive secretion of ACTH and / or Growth Hormone may be associated with increase in the level of blood sugar. The Thyroid gland secretions, especially the Thyroxin, also affect the blood sugar level since it is one of the principal glands which control the metabolism.

All of the above facts show that a mere Glucose Tolerance Test is not enough to correctly diagnose  the root cause of diabetes and hence treating diabetes using hypoglycemic drugs or injecting insulin only may not prove to be radical cure of diabetes. Added to the treatment using hypoglycemic drugs is the long list of “ eat / do not eat”, calorie intake and fear/tensions about the probability of falling victim to complications such as diabetic neuropathy, cardiovascular diseases, gangrene, frequent blood & urine testing etc add to the mental stress levels. These stresses do add to the present problem of unacceptable blood sugar levels very significantly.

Like hypertension, diabetes is mostly due to overactive sympathetic nervous system and imbalance in the working of endocrine glands. Unfortunately, no drugs or injections can resolve these problems.

Insulin Resistance

Also many times the diabetic body develops insulin resistance. Researchers have found a scientific explanation for developing the insulin resistance.  It is as follows:

Insulin is a hormone produced by the islet cells of the pancreas. When blood glucose (blood sugar) rises after food is eaten, the pancreas pumps out insulin, whose job is to shuttle glucose into cells, where glucose is used for energy or stored as glycogen. To do its job, insulin must fit like a key into receptors lining the outside of the cell. Each cell contains 20,000 or more insulin receptors. Once inserted in the cell’s receptors, insulin activates an enzyme called tyrosine kinase in the receptors. This triggers a series of events that allows glucose to enter the cell. With insulin resistance, the cells “resist” this process, so instead of entering the cell, glucose builds up in the blood. The pancreas responds by pumping out higher than normal levels of insulin in an attempt to reduce blood glucose to normal levels. We then conclude as follows:

How to Manage Diabetes?

  • Diabetes is not caused by eating sweets although, in state of diabetes, it can act as a poison.
  •  In case of moderate diabetes, one can keep sugar levels in control by adequate diet control and physical exercises.
  • High fiber content diet does slow down sugar absorption and gives false happiness of cheating diabetes.
  • The key to eradicating diabetes is to somehow make pancreas to secrete body’s own insulin/glucagon in adequate quantity and to eliminate excessive generation of “stress” hormones. The ‘in body’ generation of the enzyme tyrosine kinase is necessary to ensure that insulin resistance does not develop.
  • Diabetes is the disorder of the nervous system and body’s endocrine glands.

How Can Pranayama Cure Diabetes?

In my own experience majority of the patients suffering from non-insulin dependent diabetes are able to bring the sugar levels in the acceptable range by regular practice of Pranayama yoga, improved dietary habits. In some cases, the people who were treated with insulin injection of the order 80 units were able control the sugar levels with hypoglycemic drugs, Pranayama yoga and following good dietary habits. The recent interaction with this group showed that some of them do not need any drug support while for some patients the dosage of hypoglycemic drugs has substantially reduced.

As per my experience it takes at least 4-6 weeks of Pranayama practice to start getting the long term decrease in the blood sugar levels and for total eradication of diabetes, Pranayama must form a part of daily routine.  The Pranayama yoga greatly tones up the working of the nervous system by balancing the two important components of the autonomic nervous system, namely the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Pranayama also ensures proper working of the master glands in the brain and other glands such as thyroid, adrenal, pancreas etc. the balance of the two components of autonomic nervous system ensures that there are no blocks in chakras and the energy bodies. As per my experience, Kapalbhati and Anulom – Vilom Pranayama are the most effective Pranayama that not only control but also eradicate the maturity onset diabetes.  I have no experience about effect of Pranayama on type 1 diabetes although many Pranayama experts believe that type 1 diabetes can also be cured by resorting to Pranayama

Holistic Approach to Hypertension

The hypertension, a few decades ago, was considered as an age related disease affecting mostly the elderly people. It was considered as the fore runner of more serious problems such as paralysis, hemorrhages and the heart attacks. The occurrence of hypertension in young generation was almost unheard a few decades ago. However at present, hypertension has spread to a very wide cross section of the society including even teenagers.

A Few Facts about Hypertension

The following are some important facts about hypertension (HT).

  • As on this date, approximately 90% of people with high BP have “essential” or “idiopathic” hypertension. The exact cause or causes for this type of HT are not yet very clearly understood.
  • What is Normal Blood Pressure Until recently, 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic) mmHg, was considered as normal blood pressure. For the reasons best known to them, some physicians abroad as well as in our country, have lowered this limit to 110/70. If this is accepted, almost each one us is suffering from hypertension (high BP or HT). Earlier the blood pressure range 110/70 and below was considered as hypotension (low blood pressure). Since majority of the HT patients belong to the category of “essential “ or “idiopathic “category, the scientific rationale behind lowering the BP range is not understandable. The only thing that appears obvious is that the lowered BP limits helps/enhances the business of pharmaceutical companies to a very large extent and to a smaller extent, that of the medical practitioners.   A few decades ago, the permissible level of systolic pressure for people in the age group (50 +) was 100 + age while the diastolic < 90 was considered as acceptable and relatively risk free.
  • The Fear of High Blood Pressure The real fear about high BP is possibility of getting brain stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, eye disorders etc. This forces the people suffering from HT to opt for drug therapy which, as said before, helps only the pharmaceutical companies largely and to some extent, the medical practitioners. Of course, there are some cases of HT where causes are not unknown. There are cases of hypertension linked to pregnancy. Similarly some of the disorders of endocrine glands such as adrenal glands, thyroid glands cause hypertension. For example, excessive secretion of Aldosterone hormone (that controls sodium and potassium levels) results in HT. Similarly Cushing syndrome, adrenal gland tumors etc result in HT. However barring these, the majority of HT is “essential “or “idiopathic”.

Treatment in Modern Medical Science for Hypertension

The treatment of HT in modern medical science can be summarized as follows:

  • Extremely high blood pressure, called malignant HT or rapidly rising HT (accelerated HT), are real medical emergencies. These require immediate attention which may require hospitalization and the oral vasodilator drugs or the injection of the same. In absence of these, even fatalities can result.
  • In majority of the cases, control of HT is obtained by trial & error methods and treatments. Some of them include:

  1) Use of diuretics such as Thiazides and many others with different generic names. These drugs cause excessive urination which causes flushing of sodium salts (and unfortunately very essential potassium also),

2) Potassium sparing diuretics,

3)  Diuretics with beta blockers such as Propranol, Atenolol etc,

4)  Ace inhibitors such as Enalpril, Lisinopril etc,

5) Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers such as Losarton and

6)  Calcium Channel Blockers such as Amlodipine.

Popular Drugs Used to Treat Hypertension

    The following table describes the various drug options popular in the current modern medical practice

STAGE
140/90 – 159/99 MODERATE HYPERTENSION
Diuretics
Thiazide and life style change. Start of medication (first line). Diuretics flush out excess water from the system
ACE(Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) inhibitors
Catopril, Lisinopril, Ramipril. These drugs block production of hormones that cause blood vessels to narrow

Angiotensin II Receptor  blockers

Losartan, Olmesartan, Valsartan. These allow the blood vessels to widen by preventing the hormone angiotensin

Beta blockers and Calcium channel blockers

Beta blockers reduce the nerve signals to blood vessels and heart (Metoprolol, Nadolol Penbutolol). Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering into heart and blood vessel cells thereby relaxing them. (Amlodipine, Diltiazem, Nefedipine etc)
STAGE
160/100 or more HIGH RISK HYPERTENSION
multiple drugs are prescribed
STAGE
>180/120 EMERGENCY CASES.

May require vasodilators .

The table also shows the mode of action of these drugs (both ACE inhibitors as well as the angiotensin II receptor blockers). They prevent production of some hormones thereby widening the blood vessels. The most correct thing to do is analyze the reasons for generation of these hormones in the body and eliminate them. Similar analysis could be done for beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.

It is a well known fact that in modern life the stresses which result in generation of undesirable hormones, at times, may be unavoidable and short term drug based treatment may be required. But parallely, the methods to control stresses are rarely suggested by the doctors. Luckily now, a few practicing doctors do suggest methods such as meditation, listening to soothing music and even Pranayama and Yoga.

A Few Bad Effects of Treating Hypertension through Medicines

  • Each of the above are given either in isolation or in combination based upon trial & error procedures. They may control HT but, at times, give rise to several side effects which may be prove to be very grave.
  • Most unfortunate part of this is that the patient needs to monitor BP at regular intervals since drug resistance may develop. In majority of the cases, the patient is in constant mental tension about BP levels, diet, exercise etc. This, itself may considerably raise the BP.
  • Modern biochemical and drug research is very active in finding out new molecules in isolation or combination to overcome the problem of hypertension but unless the real causes for the “essential” hypertension are established, these are all somewhat meaningless. Nevertheless, in the case when the blood pressure rise is very high (a real emergency case), there is no alternative to drugs that dilate the blood vessels instantly (vasodilators).

How I Healed Myself of Moderate Hypertension through Pranayama

One can notice that these drugs act mostly on blood vessels either to widen them by or relax the muscle cell. However, the basic issue regarding why should blood vessel get narrowed or their cells are in stressed condition is not attended to. Also the question how the initial choice of the medicine is made without carrying investigation as to which medicine is most appropriate, is largely unanswered. I have personally undergone the traumatic experience of very bad side effects of HT drugs because of arbitrary choice of the medicine for the problem of very moderate hypertension. Ultimately I discontinued medicines and resorted to Pranayama and Yoga . To this day I am completely free from the problem of moderate hypertension totally.

New Findings Related to Hypertension

The intense research in physiology and neurology has enabled the modern medical science to come out with the following very important findings:

  • The recent research has shown that people with HT have hyper activity of sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system in Vedic medical science is called the Pingala Nadi.
  • The above is associated with increased level of chemical called Norepinephrine (NE) in Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF) in the brain. This in reality is because of malfunction of the kidneys.
  • In cases of seizures, Bells palsy, acute head ache, dizziness etc due to Hypertension, excessive levels of Norepinephrine are found in Cerebro Spinal Fluid.
  • Modern medical science research has concluded that the major reason for “essential” hypertension is the stresses in the mind/consciousness or even in the subconscious mind. In this condition, the sympathetic nervous system is overactive relative to parasympathetic nervous system.

How Pranayama Naturally Cures Hypertension

The recent Neurological research has shown that the slow & rhythmic, alternate nasal breathing, also called Anulom – Vilom Pranayama in Vedic science, greatly balances the activities of the brain hemispheres. The resulting balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems greatly improves the working of the glands in the brain and as a consequence, the working of thyroid and adrenal glands is greatly improved. 

With this, the generation of harmful chemicals like Norepinephrine is greatly reduced and there is a substantial reduction of blood pressure. Thus Anulom – Vilom Pranayama is the cure for “essential” hypertension. I also recommend that Kapalbhati Pranayama added to Anulom – Vilom Pranayama totally solves the problem of hypertension. It is also an established fact that Kapalbhati Pranayama and Bahya Pranayama, described in Vedic science are great pacifiers of the sympathetic nervous system.

Overview of Thyroid

We shall first discuss some important aspects of the thyroid and parathyroid gland (together called the thyroids)

What is Thyroid Gland?

Thyroid gland is located in the front part of the lower neck, is shaped like a bow tie or butterfly.It produces thyroid hormones (thyroxin and tri-iodothyronine). These hormones control the rate at which cells burn fuels from food to produce energy.

Functioning of the Thyroid

The production and release of thyroid hormones is controlled by thyrotropin which is secreted by pituitary gland.The more thyroid hormone there is in a person’s blood stream, faster chemical reactions occur in the body.Thyroid hormones help kids and teens develop strong bones. They also play a major role in the development of the brain and the nervous system.Attached to the thyroid are four tiny glands (functioning together), called parathyroid gland. They release parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone regulates level of calcium in blood using calcitonin produced in thyroid.

Faulty thyroids give rise to severe metabolic disorders which manifest in physical body in the form of very sluggish body, high weight gains, slowing down of heart rate, constipation etc or reverse of all of these.

Types of Thyroid Hormones

The principal thyroid hormones are traditionally known are

T3 (tri-iodothyronine)

T4 (thyroxin)

TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)

Malfunctioning of the Thyroid

Hypothyroidism is associated with lower generation of thyroxin while in hyperthyroidism it is generated in excess.

Hypothyroid condition is associated with increased risk for high generation of LDL and hence for heart diseases.

T4 (thyroxin) is greater than T3 (tri-iodothyronine) but T3 (tri-iodothyronine) is four times more potent. The body converts T4 to T3 as per needs. The generation of these hormones is controlled by thyrotropin which is secreted by pituitary gland.

How to Correct Thyroid Problems

Thus by ensuring proper working of pituitary gland, we can ensure proper generation of thyroid hormones.We have seen this in our previous article How Breath directly energizes the glands in the brain-Human Endocrine System

Pranayama yoga therefore is capable of curing thyroid problems.

All You Need to Know About Cholesterol

Is High Cholesterol the Cause of Your Heart Problems?

Majority of the people believe that cholesterol is very dangerous to the body and thus, its levels in the blood should be kept as low as possible. The fear in the minds of common people about high cholesterol levels has been put by heart specialists and surgeons based upon the high risk factors associated with high blood cholesterol levels in causing complex cardio-vascular diseases. As a matter of fact, they are only partially right. The reality is as follows:

A few Myths behind Cholesterol

  • Cholesterol  is  considered  as  leading  risk  factor  for   cardiovascular diseases. A few  decades  ago,  the  problem  of  high  cholesterol and associated heart diseases  was  noticed  mostly  in  elderly  people  and  rarely in  younger  generation. It is a fact that in the recent years, the standard of health awareness has increased manifold. So also the stresses and strains in life have increased to a much larger. This has made the problem of high cholesterol extremely widespread.
  • The  number  of  people,  especially  in  the  high  profile  young/middle  age  people   having  high  cholesterol (in  general,  hyperlipidemia) is  now  on  increase  and  consequently  a  large  number  of  them  are  considered as potential candidates who are likely to suffer  from  complex  cardiovascular  diseases. Consequently they are put on cholesterol reducing drug therapy. There are some complex side effects of cholesterol lowering drugs which we shall discuss later.
  • It  is  generally  believed  that  the  major  reason  for  hyperlipidemia (commonly  called  as  high  cholesterol)  is  faulty  life  style,  dietary  habits  and  stresses in conscious and the subconscious mind. This is quite correct. Nevertheless, these factors cannot be overcome by only drugs. A lot needs to be done by the individual in so far as life style, dietary habits and most importantly the stresses.

It is appropriate that we understand what cholesterol is and its role in the physiology. A few myths about cholesterol are as follows:

How Cholesterol plays a Vital Role in the Human Body?

  • Far from being a health destroyer, cholesterol is absolutely essential for life. Most people think that it is fat in the blood. In reality, it is not fat at all. Also its content in blood is only 7%. The bulk of the cholesterol in our body (93%), located in every cell of the body is made by the body itself.
  • It is pearly colored, waxy, solid alcohol that is soapy to touch. Its unique waxy, soapy consistency provides the structural integrity to cell membranes. We know that structural integrity of the cell is very important for the health. The cholesterol also regulates the inflow of nutrients and outflow of waste products from the cells.
  • Cholesterol is the building block of several important hormones produced in the body. Some of them are: 1) adrenal hormones (aldosterone which helps in regulating the blood pressure), hydrocortisones (body’s natural steroid) and the sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone).
  • Cholesterol is the natural detoxification mechanism of the body. Cholesterol levels go up in response to the presence of toxins in the body. The toxins are neutralized by cholesterol. When the toxins levels go down, a significant drop in cholesterol levels (below 200) is observed.
  • Many researchers have shown that elevation of serum cholesterol level serve only as a marker for various toxic exposures. Excess cholesterol may reflect excessive oxidative stress and nutrient deficiency (vitamin C, B3 (Niacin), Copper, Chromium, Zinc, Calcium, Essential Fatty Acids etc).
  • Cholesterol is pre-curser to formation of vitamin D in the skin, the pre-curser molecule is converted to active form when exposed to sunlight
  • Cholesterol is the main component of bile acids, which aid in the digestion of foods, particularly fatty foods. Without cholesterol it is not possible to absorb the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from the food we eat.
  •  Cholesterol is necessary for normal growth and development of the brain and nervous system. Cholesterol coats the nerves and makes the efficient transmission of nerve impulses possible.
  • Cholesterol is important for normal growth and repair of tissues since every cell membrane and the organelles (the tiny structures inside the cells that carry out specific functions) within the cells are rich in cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol plays a major role in the transportation of triglycerides (blood fats) through the circulatory system.

Is Cholesterol Really The ‘Bad’ Guy?

A review of this list should give a better idea of what cholesterol does and to dispel any notion that it is a destroyer of health, to be feared and avoided at all costs. Far from being a serial killer, cholesterol is absolutely essential for good health; without it we would die. Without cholesterol we would lose the strength and stability of our cells, making them much less resistant to invasion by infection and malignancy. In fact, a grave sign of serious illness, such as Cancer initiation and progression or crippling arthritis, is very low level of cholesterol and a rapidly falling cholesterol level.

In reality, when people refer to the cholesterol, they actually refer to the lipoproteins and the triglycerides. We shall therefore now discuss about lipoproteins and the triglycerides which are commonly and loosely called the cholesterol.

Lipoproteins and Triglycerides

Bulk of the cholesterol is produced internally in the body.  Diet contributes hardly 6-7 % of the body’s total requirement of cholesterol.  The cholesterol  is present in high concentrations in tissues which either produce more or have more densely packed membranes – for example, liver, spinal cord, brain and atheroma. It is very important to note that cholesterol is not water soluble and hence cannot dissolve in water based blood stream. Instead, it is transported in the blood stream by lipoproteins (protein molecular suit cases) which are water soluble. This ensures internal transport of cholesterol

  • Two major lipoproteins are: 1) low density lipoprotein (LDL) and 2) high density lipoprotein (HDL). There is one more lipoprotein called very low density lipoprotein (VLDL)
  • The largest lipoproteins which primarily transport fats from intestinal mucosa to the liver are called chylomicrons. They carry mostly triglyceride fats and cholesterol (both from food and especially internal cholesterol secreted by the liver into bile).
  • In the liver, chylomicron particles give up triglycerides and some cholesterol and are converted into LDL particles. This LDL carries triglycerides and cholesterol on to body cells.
  • In healthy individuals, the HDL particles are large in size and few in number. In these circumstances, they do not attach to arterial walls and thus do not cause blockages in them.
  • Conversely large number of small size LDL particles is often likely to cause arterial plaque and thus arterial blockages can occur in this condition.
  • HDL particles transport cholesterol back to liver for excretion but their effectiveness varies considerably.
  • Large number of large size HDL is indicator of good health.

Range of LDL, HDL and Triglyceride Levels in human blood

The table as shown below indicates acceptable and non acceptable levels of LDL, HDL and Triglycerides in human blood.

The important guiding factors are also indicated in the table. It is necessary to understand that the total cholesterol level alone is insufficient to indicate possibility of the existing or future cardiovascular disease. For example, a total cholesterol level well below 200mg/dl is ok only when the levels of LDL is well below 100mg/dl and the HDL level is well above 60mg/dl and the triglycerides are below 150mg/dl. The risk of atherosclerosis and consequently the heart stroke is very high when Triglyceride levels are in excess of 150 mg/dl and LDL level is in excess of 160mg/dl and HDL level is well below 40mg/dl. One should note that it is only a risk factor and does not necessarily mean an impending heart attack. There are other indicators also which can forewarn about impending heart attacks.

  • The cholesterols in LDL and HDL are identical. The only difference between them is the carrier protein molecules (lipoprotein).
  • Since only small size but large in number LDL particles have a tendency to form arterial plaque,   a higher content of LDL in blood lipid profile may generally indicate only a possible danger of arterial blockage. Higher level of LDL does not necessarily mean onset of heart attack. However, the fear of it may do so.

How Can You Lower Cholesterol Naturally?

  • Causative factors for high LDL/VLDL are: 1) genetic factors, 2) diseases such as diabetes, thyroid gland malfunctions, liver and the kidney disorders. Thus using cholesterol level reducing drugs such as Statin without checking these factors is meaningless.
  • Kapalbhati, Bhastrika, Anulom – Vilom Pranayama can correct disorders of thyroid glands, pancreas, adrenal glands and tone up liver.  The diaphragmatic motion in Pranayama is the key factor as it facilitates vigorous activity of the cisterna chyli reservoir (containing chyle) and the lymph that carries metabolic byproducts of tissues, muscles and the glands. This also results in efficient transport of chylomicrons to the toned up liver which inhibits formation of small size LDL & VLDL.  Thus, barring genetic factors, all other factors which give rise to high LDL & VLDL are totally removable by resorting to Pranayama practice.
  • In addition, Pranayama enables higher ‘in-body’ production of Coenzyme Q10 which plays a very vital role in manufacture of ATP, the fuel that runs cellular processes. Q10 is also a great heart protector. The likely hood of heart attacks become very high if Coenzyme Q10 is absent or its levels are low regardless of whether or not the lipid profile is healthy.

The Dark Side of Cholesterol Reducing Drugs

Cholesterol reducing drugs such as Statin inhibit cholesterol formation in liver but parallely reduce production of Coenzyme Q10. Such drugs have numerous side effects on the body as discussed above.

Curds can be Consumed as an alternative to Cholesterol Reducing Drugs

Recent research shows that the lactobacillus contained in curds have a very high cholesterol lowering potential and thus are strong alternative to Statin. People in several regions of rural India regularly consume significant amount of curds in the form of curd rice, lassi and they seldom encounter high cholesterol problem.

Best Possible Treatment for High Cholesterol Problems

Finally in my humble opinion , the best possible treatment for high cholesterol problem is healthy life style, avoiding junk food and yoga including Pranayama practice. Although Pranayama cannot remove the basic factors in daily life that may cause worries , fears, negative emotions etc, it can certainly reduce/eliminate the ill effects of these factors on the health. This is principally on account of tranquility of the mind achieved through Pranayama practice.

Dealing with Obesity

Obesity is a problem spread world over especially in extremely developed countries and started appearing in a big way in developing country like India.

What is Obesity?

  • Fat accumulation over entire body – prominent in waist, stomach, thigh region, upper arms etc. The body looks like swollen figure. Obese people find it very uncomfortable to appear in public and usually develop a great deal of inferiority complex and sadness. The obese usually try to divert their mind from this state of mind by resorting to engage their mind in eating making the problem much worse. Of course majority of obese people deny this strongly.
  • Obese people usually put up very significant efforts such as reduction in amount of diet, exercising etc to eliminate/reduce obesity but, most times, they miserably fail to achieve the goals.
  • The efforts include diet control (mostly switch over to vegetables, fruits and avoid cereals etc.), exercises (very difficult for them) and even taking slimming medicines.
  • The obese develop high level of inferiority complex and remain in mentally stressed condition
  • Externally/outwardly they appear to be very jolly but internally their hearts bleed.
  • Strangely obesity is very severe in highly developed countries and it is reaching alarming levels in developing countries like India.
  • Mostly obesity affected people belong to higher income class and rarely in lower income class.
  • Adverse effects of obesity are not limited to only physical looks .It is well known that obese have a higher chance of getting diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, cancer etc.
  • It is important to understand the reasons for becoming obese so that with your own efforts you can get rid of it.
  • This discussion is aimed at bringing out facts about obesity which are not known to common man including a few medical professionals.
  • Note that there is no pill/medicine which will eliminate obesity.

Well known Causes of Obesity

  • Overeating: Compulsive overeating because of lack of other meaningful activities, munching while watching TV programs, movies or during drinking sessions. One has to train his/her mind to understand that without starters programs can be enjoyed.
  • Lack of physical exercises due to comforts offered by powered vehicles, lifts and various home appliances like vacuum cleaners, automatic washing machines, food processors etc.
  • Overconsumption of dietary supplements advertized in TV programs.
  •  Increased number of times eating is done since nothing else is there at hand to do.

Important Reasons of Obesity that you Probably Never Knew

  • Defective life style caused by over abundance of means of physical comforts.
  • Unrestful mind.
  • Stresses in mind resulting in breathing disorders.
  • Defective breathing such as hyper ventilation or hypo ventilation.
  • Genetic factors (as claimed by modern medical science).
  • Most important consequence of defective breathing is abnormal growth of fat cells. This is one of most little known reasons of obesity which we discussed in earlier slides.
  • The healthy breathing rate in inactive/resting state of body is about 10 -15 breaths per minute. This breathing is rhythmic in nature and involves smooth movement of abdominal muscles. We can see it in breathing of infants.

Hyperventilation and Hypoventilation are the primary cause for Obesity

What happens when cells do not get enough oxygen?

In case the breathing process adopted does not allow enough oxygen to the cell, the energy generation in the cell is by fermentation process in which the by- products include lactic acid, uric acid etc. These are all toxic wastes called lactates. The body does not allow these toxic overloads to move to circulation system. Body in turn develops excess fat cells in which the toxic overloads are stored. This causes creation of generation of fats in the body locations such as hips, belly regions, thighs, upper arms etc. The above is described for common man to understand that both hyperventilation and hypo ventilation are the prime cause of obesity.

Why is it so Hard for Obese People to Lose Weight?

Our body’s ability to process trash, including toxic trash, is a pervasive factor in our ability to lose weight and reach a healthy goal weight. Struggling with this issue activates backup strategies for dealing with toxic overload, which include expanding the number of fat cells and stuffing them with toxins as well as fat. This is likely done to get the toxic trash out of our circulation and away from key organs. It causes easy weight gain and complicates weight loss because our body does not easily give up the toxic fat it has stored.

Other Complications of Obesity

The scientific theory of how these chemicals cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight has now been established.  They bind to gene signalling within white adipose tissue and induce new fat cells to form while simultaneously increasing inflammation. Oftentimes, the newly formed fat cells are themselves damaged by the toxins so that they cannot metabolically perform, which includes an inability to make leptin normally. These damaged fat cells can fill up with excess fat and toxins, but are not able to efficiently carry out normal functions of fat cells, leading directly to increased risk for type 2 diabetes via the suppression of the important fat cell hormone known as adiponectin. These chemicals pose a serious problem to the thyroid gland and the efficient utilization of thyroid hormone throughout our body.  Furthermore, they can cause either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

What is The Best Way to Combat Obesity?

Trying to get the fat and toxins out of these damaged fat cells is no small challenge in terms of successful weight loss, yet it is vital to restore normal metabolism. This means that we must improve our breathing method, resort to healthy diet and if possible, learn pranayama under guidance of a experienced and qualified pranayama teacher. Try to avoid vigorous exercises which can drain you of your energy because of which there is a huge temptation and likelihood of overeating. Yogasanas certainly help in reducing the flab but they also must be done with lot of patience. Do not believe in slimming drugs as they can pose dangerous problems.

In many ways, our polluted world is a true test of genetic survival of the fittest. The number of toxic chemicals now threatens the reproductive ability of the human race and is also a large part of the cancer issue. These chemicals contribute to weight gain in various ways, including disruption of the hormone signalling system that regulates our metabolism, damage to and accumulation in our white adipose tissue, and increased risk for poisoning during weight loss. It is absolutely vital that we understand this subject fully well.

Lymphatic System and its Connection with Breath

TYPICAL LYMPH NODE

Figure shows a typical lymph node. The plasma cells mentioned in the above figure are the large antibody providing cells that develop into B cells. The antibodies play a vital role in the immune system. The outgoing Lymph vessel carries the immune cells as well as the debris of the invaders.

It is obvious that the lymphatic system plays a vital role in body’s immune system. We shall now discuss this.

Overview of Lymphatic System

It is important to note that:

  • Lymphatic system is primary component of the body’s immune system.
  • It carries fluids infused with bacteria, virus, and fungus into immune-active lymph nodes.
  • At the nodes, lymphocytes, reticular cells and macrophages kill or neutralize toxic, enemy cells and organisms.
  • Lymphatic system collects interstitial fluid with the byproducts of cellular activity and transports it to blood system.
  • Lymphatic system assists in bringing nutritional factors in proximity with tissues.
  • Breath, movement and postures have profound influence on lymphatic especially in production and circulation of lymph.
  • Lymph fluid is partly cellular water and part blood plasma

Several mechanisms are associated with lymphatic system. They are;

  • Lymph generation
  • Lymph propulsion
  • Immune system
  • Cerebrospinal fluid circulation
  • Nutritive mechanism

We shall now discuss the most important aspects of lymph generation, propulsion.

Mechanism of Lymph Generation

As late as 1985, medical science believed that generation of lymph is due to filtration of blood plasma from capillaries. This view has now altered.

It is now understood that the major portion of the body’s lymph is produced by the identical physiological process that generates body’s chemical energy (oxygen metabolism).in the simplest form, at the cell level following chemical reaction takes place

6O2 (from breath) + C6H12O6 (glucose in blood) + BMR (basal metabolic rate) = ergs (energy) +6Co2 +6H2O (pure water)

Thus six molecules of water are generated for each six molecules of oxygen that are metabolized in energy production. This water and the blood plasma make the lymph fluid. As per calculations of Krebs cycle, about 700 -1000 cc of pure interstitial water is produced in a semi active person. In an active person practicing Pranayama, yogasanas etc, this amount goes up to 1400 cc and is put in subclavian vein daily. It should be remembered that in the above reaction, the oxygen uptake by the blood is very important as we discussed in our earlier paper. This uptake depends upon the hemoglobin content of the blood.

This water is the vehicle of transport for metabolic byproducts into lymph vessel. From the tissues it is propelled as lymph to the immune potent nodal treatment sites and finally to the elimination organs via the blood.

Part of the constituents of blood goes out of blood capillaries to join surrounding tissues passing through the space between each cell.

The liquid that is filtered from the blood capillary is reabsorbed: 1) 80 -98 % by the small veins emerging from blood capillaries and remaining 2 -20% by the small initial lymphatic capillaries. In case the body is unable to use the remaining liquid, the fluid gets accumulated. The result is swelling in that particular tissue. This could, in long run, cause severe complications.

The lymphatic system should therefore fine tune the drainage of the space between the cells. This drainage is very important as it evacuates water and excess substances in the interstitial environment.

Some of the Kriyas such as Svedan in Panchakarma (detoxification procedures in Ayurvedic medical system) aim at creating a perfect balance of the overflow and thus toxins are driven out of the body.

Initial lymph capillaries which originate in almost every tissue are at their beginning feather fine. They slowly increase in size moving into lymphatic collectors and eventually join major venous circulation, just before reaching the heart, behind clavicles. Thus lymph circulation ends in systemic blood circulation just before heart. Prior to that, the lymphatic system transports proteins, foreign bodies and pathogenic agents (toxins, germs etc) in its pathway through lymphatic nodes which act as purification centers. The nodes destroy these particles so that eventually they can be flushed out of the body through alimentary tract.

Mechanism of Lymph Propulsion

The human blood circulation system uses heart as the pumping mechanism. There is however, no pumping organ for the circulation of the lymph. The lymphatic flow can stagnate or even stop for many reasons such as fatigue, stress, emotional shock, consumption of certain foods. This, of course does not cause instant death as it may happen when heart fails to work. But then it creates such bad health conditions that the quality of life becomes extremely poor. This is because supplying and regeneration of cells is very poorly carried out. The toxins accumulate, aging hastens and flood gates are open for proliferation of very complex health disorders.

How to ensure proper lymph movement

The following enable propulsion of the lymph.

  • Breathing mechanism.
  •  Specific body postures called yogasanas.
  • Yogic exercise “Surya Namaskar” is one of most effective way for lymph propulsion.
  • Walking/jogging and other aerobic exercises.
  • Pranayama

The oxygen metabolism reaction produces pure water which is the raw material for the production of lymph. The interstitial water is collected through feather like capillaries and during the course, blood plasma, the lymphocytes, nutrients and the cerebrospinal fluid containing the Neuropeptides get added to make the lymph. Ultimately the lymph enters the blood circulation system at right and left subclavian vein.The body’s biggest lymphatic vessel is the thoracic duct. Itbegins near the lower part of the spine. Thoracic duct collects lymph from the lower limbs, pelvis, abdomen and lower chest..

Lymph and Pranayama

The rate of flow of the lymph at the thoracic duct is proportional to the depth of inhalation. The total volume of lymph that enters the central veins depends both on the depth of inhalation and the overall breathing rate. The diaphragm is the main pump of the lymphatic system.

It is for this reason that Yoga practice strongly recommends many of the Asana and especially Surya Namaskar which greatly tone up diaphragm and also increase the flow of lymph. Thus the most powerful apparatus for lymph propulsion is the breath apparatus. The lymphoid tissue is concentrated just above and below the diaphragm. Lymph that has been carried from all over the body accumulates centrally and is then propelled by breath/diaphragm in a final rush through thoracic lymph duct into the blood at subclavian vein where it leaves its identity as lymph and is transformed into blood serum. Above the diaphragm, the thoracic duct of the lymphatic system is a central large size collecting vessel. Below the diaphragm a substantial dilation of thoracic duct forms a collecting capsule  that is called “Cisterna Chyli reservoir” which contains chyle (milky fluid containing nutrients, lacteals absorbed from small intestine) and lymph  that carries metabolic by products of tissues, muscles and glands.

How proper breathing ensures effective lymph generation and propulsion

The circulation of lymph is most optimum when we do deep breathing involving the diaphragm. It is important to note the following points:

  • During Pranayama inhalation, the diaphragm goes down and the lymph is forced upwards into subclavian vein.
  • During Pranayama exhalation the lymph reservoir fills up.
  • Same phenomena occur during aerobic exercises but aerobic exercises are energy spending (catabolic) processes.
  • Bhastrika, Kapalbhati and Anulom – Vilom are the most effective Pranayama breathing methods that build up body’s immune system through optimum circulation of lymph.

Breath directly energizes the glands in the brain-Human Endocrine System

ENDOCRINE GLAND SYSTEM

What is the role of endocrine system?

The endocrine gland system is a collection of glands that produce hormones.These hormones regulate growth,metabolism,sexual function etc

How endocrine system impacts health?

The endocrine gland system has a profound influence on the health of human beings. The most important endocrine glands (the pineal, the pituitary and the hypothalamus) are located in the brain. The working of these glands is very crucial since unless they release their hormones in correct quantity, the other glands such as the thyroids, the adrenals, the pancreas and the male/female sex glands do not function properly. These gives rise to complex health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, Parkinsonism, Alzheimer disease and host other complex diseases

Types of glands in our body

There are two types of glands encountered in human anatomy. They are:

  • Duct glands, also known as exocrine glands. These glands have ducts (canals) which limit area of their secretions. Examples are – tear glands, sweat glands, salivary glands.
  • Ductless glands also known as endocrine glands. These glands release their secretions, called hormones, into the blood stream. The blood loaded with the hormone secreted by the gland is carried to the locations where these hormones carry out their action. Examples are – hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pancreas etc. .
GLANDS IN THE BRAIN

Key functions of the glands

Figure shows the three glands in the brain. The glands have specific functions to perform. They are:

Pituitary Gland

It is a pea sized gland which is considered the most important part of the endocrine system. It is often called master gland because it makes hormones that control several other glands. Production and secretions of pituitary hormones can be influenced by factors such as emotions, change of season, anxiety and many other environmental factors. Hypothalamus relays the information sensed by the brain (emotions, fear, anxiety etc) to pituitary through nerve cells from hypothalamus. The pituitary gland controls the working of other important glands in the body.

is a pea sized gland which is considered the most important part of the endocrine system. It is often called master gland because it makes hormones that control several other glands. Production and secretions of pituitary hormones can be influenced by factors such as emotions, change of season, anxiety and many other environmental factors. Hypothalamus relays the information sensed by the brain (emotions, fear, anxiety etc) to pituitary through nerve cells from hypothalamus. The pituitary gland controls the working of other important glands in the body.

Pituitary gland is divided into two parts

The two parts of Pituitary Gland

– The anterior lobe regulates activity of thyroid, adrenals and reproduction glands by secreting some hormones which play very important roles in human physiology. The anterior lobe also secretes growth hormone which stimulates growth of bones and body tissues. It plays an important role in body’s handling of nutrients and minerals. It secretes prolactin which activates milk glands in women who are breast feeding. Thytropin secreted by the anterior lobe stimulates thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. The anterior lobe also secretes Corticotropin which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce its own hormones. Anterior lobe secretes endorphin chemicals that act on nervous system and reduce the feeling of pain. The anterior lobe also secrets some hormones that signal reproductive system to make sex hormones and controls ovulation/menstrual cycle in women

– The posterior lobe releases anti-diuretic hormone which controls balance of water in the body.

Thyroid Gland

It is located in the front part of the lower neck, is shaped like a bow tie or butterfly.It produces thyroid hormones (thyroxin and tri-iodothyronine). These hormones control the rate at which cell burn fuels from food to produce energy.The production and release of thyroid hormones is controlled by thyrotropin which is secreted by pituitary gland.The more thyroid hormone there is in a person’s blood stream, faster chemical reactions occur in the body.Thyroid hormones help kids and teens develop strong bones. They also play a major role in the development of the brain and the nervous system.Attached to the thyroid are four tiny glands (functioning together), called parathyroid gland. They release parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone regulates level of calcium in blood using calcitonin produced in thyroid.

Adrenal Glands

Adrenal glands are two triangular glands one on top of each kidney.  Each of the glands produces a set of hormones which have different functions.The outer part, called adrenal cortex, produces hormones called corticosteroids that influence or regulate salt and water balance in the body, body’s response to stress, metabolism, immune system and sexual development/function.The inner part, called adrenal medulla, produces hormones, catecholamine’s such as epinephrine (also called adrenalin). This hormone is responsible for increase in blood pressure and the heart rate when body experiences stress, fear/flight.

Gonads

Gonads are the sex glands. These glands are the main source of sex hormones. In males, they are located in the scrotum. Male gonads or testes secrete hormones called androgens, the most important of which is testosterone. These hormones regulate body changes associated with sexual development, the growth spurt that occur during puberty. This is also associated with secondary characteristics such as deepening of voice, growth of facial and pubic hair, increased muscle growth and strength. Working with hormones from pituitary gland, testosterone also supports production of sperms.

Female gonads, ovaries, are located in pelvis. They produce eggs and secrete the female hormones, estrogens and progesterone. Estrogen is involved in development of female sexual features such as breast growth, accumulation of body fat around hips and thighs. Both are involved in pregnancy and regulation of menstrual cycle.

Pancreas

Pancreas produces two important hormones, insulin and glucagon. These hormones work together to maintain a steady level of glucose or sugar in the blood and keep the body supplied with fuel to produce and maintain stores of energy. It also activates various enzymes and co-enzymes which support the glycolysis reactions which generate the primary ATP energy bonds. Malfunction of this gland is associated with various very serious health issues in addition to diabetes.

The mysterical Pineal Gland

Pineal gland is the most mysterious gland whose function is not fully understood and is a subject of intense research at present. It is at the geometric center of the brain in a tiny cave behind and above the pituitary gland which lies a little behind the root of the nose. It is located directly behind the eyes, attached to third ventricle. The microscopic examination reveals that the pineal gland is divided into two fine hemispheres. This gland is activated by light and it controls various bio rhythms of the body. It works in harmony with hypothalamus gland which directs the body’s thirst, hunger, sexual desire and biological clock that determines our aging process.

Pineal Gland- the link between the physical and spiritual worlds

The Bhramari Pranayama is said to activate this gland and offers several spiritual powers including capability to be able to see things in higher dimensions.


Functioning of endocrine system

Endocrine glands secrete hormones. Once a hormone is secreted, it travels from the gland through blood stream to the cells, called target cells, designated to receive the message. Along the way to target cells, special proteins bind to the hormone. These proteins act as carriers that control the amount of hormone that is available to interact with and cause the desired effect on the target cell. This happens as target cells have receptors that latch onto only specific hormone. This in other words means that each hormone has its own receptors so that each hormone will communicate only with specific target cells that possess receptors for that hormone. When the hormone reaches its target cells, it locks onto the cells specific receptor. These hormone-receptor combinations give rise to chemical interaction within the cell internals to fulfill function of the cell. When hormone levels reach a certain normal level, further secretion is controlled by important body mechanisms. The body mechanisms maintain the level of hormone in the blood. The regulation of hormone secretion may involve the hormone itself or another substance in the blood related to the hormone.

As an example of above, if thyroid gland has secreted adequate amount of thyroid hormone into the blood, the pituitary gland senses the normal level of thyroid hormone in the blood stream and adjusts its release of thyrotropin (pituitary hormone) that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Thus high or low levels thyroid hormones are controlled or corrected by pituitary gland. 

Another example is parathyroid hormone which increases the level of calcium in the blood. When the level of calcium in blood rises, the parathyroid glands sense this change and decrease their secretion of parathyroid hormones – a process which can be called a negative feedback system. It is thus need less to over emphasize the role of master glands in the brain. It must be remembered that the master glands in the brain receive life energy though breath directly.

Malfunctionings of the Endocrine System

At times, the things can go wrong. A few of them are:

  • Too much secretion of hormone may be harmful. For example, too much secretion of growth hormone by pituitary gland can result in excessive growth – gigantic growth
  • Too little secretion of growth hormone by pituitary gland may make the child abnormally short.
  • Adrenal insufficiency caused by dysfunction of adrenal cortex and underproduction of adrenal corticosteroid hormone may cause excessive weakness despite healthy diet, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration and acute skin changes
  • Excessive amount of glucocorticoid hormone or excessive intake of steroids for treatment of some acute diseases can cause very severe side effects such as obesity, muscle weakness, high BP, higher heart rate.
  • Hyperthyroidism is due to excessive secretion of thyroid hormones. It  can result in weight loss, nervousness, excessive sweating, increased HR,BP, protruding eyes, goiter
  • Hypothyroidism is due to insufficient secretion of thyroid hormones can cause obesity, slow hr, constipation, acute sense of disease

The list can be very long indeed. But dealing with these conditions by drugs can prove inadequate and in many cases they are associated with severe side effects.

Endocrine system disorders can be due to deficiency in hormone generation or excessive generation of the hormone.

  • External supply of lacking hormone to treat deficiency, in theory, is ok barring the side effects which, at times can be very serious.
  • Suppression of hormone generation by antagonist drugs can also suppress generation of other important hormones which can produce severe symptoms. This is an extremely serious issue.
  • It is well known that in many autoimmune disorders, the specific immune system cells and the antibodies destroy the cells of some of important glands. For example, in type 1 diabetes, the cells and the antibodies produced in the immune system attack and destroy the cells of pancreas which produces insulin. At present, in such cases external supply of insulin is inevitable.
  •  The research has shown that regular practice of Pranayama dramatically improves the working of the most important glands in the brain (hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal) which in turn improves the working of other glands in the body.
  •  The research has also shown that one of major benefits of Pranayama and Yogasanas is to greatly improve working of immune system. Thus in general, disorders of endocrine system can be cured by Pranayama and Yogasanas and no or very little hormone supplement or antagonist may be enough.

How Breath can make an impact on the Endocrine System
Effects of Bhastrika and Kapalbhati Pranayama

  • Deeper and slow inhalation in Bhastrika will ensure higher air volume. This greatly improves O2 supply to blood. Forceful exhalation in Bhastrika ensures effective removal of CO2. It is possible to have breathing rate as low as 5-6 BPM or even less without any discomfort for 7-10 minutes of Bhastrika.
  • Pressure on abdominal viscera from diaphragmatic motion during Kapalbhati as well as Bhastrika breathing also contributes to venous blood to return to heart with force. This gives tremendous benefit to heart as we shall see later. We can safely do Kapalbhati for 15-20 minutes or more if we maintain 60-70 strokes per minute rhythm in Kapalbhati Pranayama.
  • The resulting oscillations/vibrations of the respiratory muscles, blood capillaries, and abdominal viscera are highly useful to the body and mind.
  • Lower is the rate of breathing in Bhastrika, we experience total tranquility of the mind and the mental stress disappears. Kapalbhati done for 15 minutes or more also removes the stresses. This is evident from the fact that the exhalation is the activity controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers the relaxation of the mind.
  • The master glands in the brain receive life energy through breath directly.

We shall discuss about obesity issues with present generation in our next post. A good understanding of endocrine glands is required since in many cases root cause of obesity can be malfunctioning of endocrine glands.

How does Pranayama Strengthen Immunity

What is Immune System?

The immune system is the network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by foreign invaders. These invaders are microbes (germs) – tiny infection causing bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, cancer cells.

It is the job of immune system to keep them out. In case these invaders find entry in the body, the immune system must destroy them. Complex diseases such as arthritis, cancer or AIDS can occur when the immune system is crippled.

Some of the most important facts about the immune system are:

  • It is an extremely complex system.
  • It can recognize and remember millions of different enemies.
  • To destroy them, the immune system produces secretions (chemicals) that kill and wipe out each one of the enemies.
  • The efficient immune system is able to do so because it has an elaborate and dynamic communication network comprising of millions and millions of cells organized into sets, subsets.
  • These cells gather like cluster of red ants crowding around an unprotected food article and transporting it to their homes during which they pass information back and forth.
  • Once the immune cells receive the alarm, they begin to produce very powerful chemicals. It is most important that these cells receive right alarm at right time.
  • Additionally, these chemicals allow cells to regulate their own growth so that they do not grow abnormally to become cancer cells.

What if Immune System Attacks Itself?

For certain reasons, the things can go wrong and the immune system can get significantly crippled. The healthy system has a remarkable ability to distinguish between body’s own cells, self and foreign cells – non self. Body’s immune defenses which include various cells normally co-exist peacefully with other cells that carry distinctive “self” marker molecules. Thus when immune defenders encounter cells or organisms carrying markers that say “foreign”, they immediately launch attack on them so that they can be destroyed. This process is called the immune system response.

Anything that triggers such a response is called the antigen. The antigen can be a microbe or virus or anything such as a cancer cell which immune defenders fail to recognize as own self. However, at times, there are abnormal situations in which the immune defenders fail to recognize body’s own cells. In such a situation, the immune system destroys body’s own cells. In other words the immune system may mistake itself as non self and launch an attack against body’s own cells or tissues. The result is called auto immune disorder. Some forms of arthritis and diabetes are auto immune disorders.

In some cases, the immune system responds to seemingly harmless foreign substance such as ragweed pollens. The result is allergy and this kind of antigen is called allergen. In today’s world we suffer from all kinds of these problems

Components of Immune System

The immune system comprises of

  • Lymphocytes in blood: these comprise of T-cells and NK cells – surveillance cells of immune system. They are capable of destroying tumor cells and infected cells.They are the key players in the immune system
  • Lymph system which carries these soldiers.
  •  Lymphoid organs are the battle grounds for lymphocytes. This is extremely important to ensure that the blood circulation system is not required to participate in the battle between the lymphocytes and the invaders. They are  strategically positioned throughout the body.

Important Lymph Nodes

The distribution system of the lymph nodes is very complex. The most important lymph nodes are:

  • Spleen is a flattened organ located at the upper left of the abdomen. The spleen contains specialized compartments where immune cells gather and work. The spleen serves as meeting ground where immune defenses confront antigens. There are some serious medical conditions that require full or partial spleenoctomy. The persons undergoing full or partial spleenoctomy are required to be extremely careful against various infections
  • Tonsils. The tonsils are the first security posts where streptococcus and staphylococcus infections are fought. It is therefore very important to avoid their surgical removal as far as possible.
  • Adenoid. Like tonsils, sometimes they are removed surgically. But the price paid is the weakened immune system.
  • Appendix. Many people think that appendix has no important function to deliver. This is quite untrue.
  • M.A.L.T. (Mucosal Associated Lymphoid Tissue).
LYMPHATIC SYSTEM AND LYMPH NODES

 Immune cells (lymphocytes) and foreign particles or invaders enter lymph nodes via incoming lymphatic vessels or the tiny blood vessels on the nodes.

All the lymphocytes exit lymph nodes through outgoing lymphatic vessels – once they are in blood stream, they are transported to tissues throughout the body. These are very complex systems.

A few important points which should be noted are:

  • One can see the overall spread of the lymphatic system and also the most important nodes. We can see several lymph nodes in abdominal region including diaphragm. The diaphragm plays a major role in enabling the immune system to work efficiently.
  • Major vessel is the thoracic duct which begins near lower part of the spine and collects lymph from pelvis, abdomen and lower chest.
  • Thoracic duct runs up through the chest and empties into blood through a larger vein near left side of the neck.
  • Right lymphatic duct is other major lymphatic vessel and collects lymph from right side of the neck and empties into a large vein near right side.
  • Note that while for blood circulation we have heart as a pump, lymphatic system has no pump. The propulsion of lymph has a great influence on the working of body’s immune system.

In the above article, we saw the brief working of the Human Immune System. From the above we can conclude the efficacy of Pranayama Technique in better lymph movement and drainage.