All About a Cell


This blog post is basically about cell working at the basic level. This post is a bit lengthy and might be a bit difficult for all readers to grasp. This post talks more about molecular biology and uses a lot of biological terms/words .I request the readers to kindly bear with me as the basic cell working of great interest & relevance to us because the Pranayama yoga acts on cellular level.We shall now see how Pranayama makes a true difference on the physical and mental plane of the human body.

Cells are the structural and functional units of all living organisms. Some organisms, such as bacteria, are unicellular, consisting of a single cell. Other organisms, such as humans, are multi cellular, or have many cells of the order of 100,000,000,000,000 cells.  Each cell can take in nutrients, convert these nutrients into energy, carry out specialized functions, and reproduce as and when necessary. Even more amazing is that each cell stores its own set of instructions for carrying out each of these activities.

There are two general categories of cells.  They are

  • The Prokaryotes  
  • The Eukaryotes. 

We shall now discuss first the prokaryotes and then the eukaryotes. All the animals including human beings have eukaryote cells.

Prokaryotic Organisms

It is said that life arose on earth about 4 billion years ago. The simplest of cells and the first types of cells to evolve were Prokaryotic cells. These are organisms that lack a nuclear membrane which is the membrane that surrounds the nucleus of a cell. Bacteria are the best known and most studied form of Prokaryotic organisms.  However, the recent discovery of a second group of Prokaryotes, called archaea, has provided evidence of a third cellular domain of life and probably, new insights into the origin of life itself

Prokaryotes are unicellular organisms that do not develop or differentiate into multi cellular forms. Some bacteria grow in filaments, or masses of cells, but each cell in the colony is identical and capable of independent existence. The cells may be adjacent to one another because they did not separate after cell division or because they remained enclosed in a common sheath or slime secreted by the cells. Typically though, there is no continuity or communication between the cells, Prokaryotes are capable of inhabiting almost every place on the earth, from the deep ocean, to the edges of hot springs, to just about every surface of our bodies. Prokaryotes are distinguished from Eukaryotes on the basis of nuclear organization, specifically their lack of a nuclear membrane. Prokaryotes also lack any of the intracellular organelles and structures that are characteristic of Eukaryotic cells.

Eukaryotic Organisms

Eukaryotes include fungi, animals including human beings, and plants as well as some unicellular organisms. Eukaryotic cells are about 10 times the size of a Prokaryote and can be as much as 1000 times greater in volume.

The major and extremely significant difference between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is that Eukaryotic cells contain membrane-bound compartments in which specific metabolic activities take place. Most important among these is the presence of a nucleus, a membrane-delineated compartment that houses the Eukaryotic cell’s DNA. It is this nucleus that gives the Eukaryote—literally, true nucleus—its name.

The human beings contain cells which are Eukaryotes. Eukaryotic organisms also have other specialized structures, called organelles, which are small structures within cells that perform dedicated functions which we shall describe later in this section. As the name implies, the organelles are extremely small organs. They play a very important role at a molecular level in the cell. This fact is of great interest & relevance to us because the Pranayama yoga acts on cellular level. The figure shown below illustrates a typical human cell . The internal structures of Eukaryotic cells have   the nucleus, the nucleolus, mitochondria and ribosomes

The Cell Structures

Plasma Membrane:

The plasma membrane provides a protective coat to the cell to provide the structural integrity.

The outer lining of a Eukaryotic cell is called the plasma membrane. This membrane serves to separate and protect a cell from its surrounding environment and is made mostly from a double layer of proteins and lipids (fat-like molecules). Embedded within this membrane are a variety of other molecules that act as channels and pumps, which move different molecules in and out of the cell.

Cytoskeleton

The cytoskeleton is an important dynamic components complex of the cell. It organizes and maintains the cell’s structural integrity during vibrations of the cells. It is a skeleton structure that anchors organelles in place especially during the uptake of external materials by a cell. It maintains the structural integrity of the parts of the cell during the processes of its growth and motility. There are a great number of proteins associated with the cytoskeleton, each controlling a cell’s structure by directing, bundling, and aligning filaments.

Cytoplasm

There is a large fluid-filled space, called the cytoplasm (also called the cytosol), inside the cell. In human cells, the cytosol is the “soup” within which all of the cell’s organelles reside. It is also the home of the cytoskeleton. The cytosol containing dissolved nutrients helps break down waste products, and moves material around the cell through a process called cytoplasmic streaming. The living cells during their entire life span are in a constant state of vibrations. The nucleus, during these vibrations, often moves with the cytoplasm, changing its shape as it vibrates. The cytoplasm also contains many salts which make it as an excellent conductor of electricity. This enables creation of a perfect environment for the cellular electro-chemical processes and the appropriate mechanisms required for the cellular activities. The function of the cytoplasm, and the organelles which reside in it, are thus extremely critical for a cell’s survival.

Genetic Material

Two different kinds of genetic materials exist in the cell:

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic acid (RNA).
The biological information contained in an organism is encoded in its DNA or RNA sequence. Human cell genetic material is very complex and is divided into discrete units called genes. Human genetic material is made up of two distinct components: the nuclear genome and the mitochondrial genome. The nuclear genome is divided into 24 linear DNA molecules, each contained in a different chromosome. The mitochondrial genome is a circular DNA molecule separate from the nuclear DNA. Although the mitochondrial genome is very small, it codes for some very important proteins.

Organelles

Similar to the whole human body, which contains many organs, such as the heart, lung, and kidney etc, with each organ performing a different function, cells also have a set of “little organs”, called organelles, that are specialized for carrying out one or more of  vital functions. Organelles are found only in Eukaryotes and are always surrounded by a protective membrane. It is important to know some basic facts about the organelles. Following are the most important organelles.

(1)The nucleus

The nucleus is the most prominent organelle found in a Eukaryotic cell. It houses the cell’s chromosomes and is the place where almost all DNA replication and RNA synthesis occur. The nucleus has a spherical shape and is separated from the cytoplasm by a membrane called the nuclear envelope. The nuclear envelope isolates and protects a cell’s DNA from various molecules that could accidentally damage its structure or interfere with its processing. During processing, DNA is transcribed, or synthesized, into a special RNA, called the mRNA (messenger RNA). This mRNA is then transported out of the nucleus, where it is translated into a specific protein molecule.

(2)Ribosomes

 The ribosome is a large complex composed of many molecules, including RNAs and proteins, and is responsible for processing the genetic instructions carried by an mRNA. The process of converting an mRNA’s genetic code into the exact sequence of amino acids that make up a protein is called translation. Protein synthesis is extremely important to all cells, and therefore a large number of ribosomes—sometimes hundreds or even thousands—can be found throughout a cell. Ribosomes float freely in the cytoplasm or sometimes bind to another organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum. Ribosomes are composed of one large and one small subunit, each having a different function during protein synthesis.

(2)Mitochondria

They are self-replicating organelles that occur in various numbers, shapes, and sizes in the cytoplasm of all Eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria contain their own genome that is separate and distinct from the nuclear genome of a cell. Mitochondria have two functionally distinct membrane systems separated by a space: the outer membrane, which surrounds the whole organelle; and the inner membrane, which is thrown into folds or shelves that project inward. These inward folds are called cristae. The number and shape of cristae in mitochondria differ, depending on the tissue and organism in which they are found, and serve to increase the surface area of the membrane.

Mitochondria play a very critical role in generating energy in the Eukaryotic cell, and this process involves a number of complex pathways.

Some of the best energy-supplying foods that we eat contain complex sugars. These complex sugars are broken down into a less chemically complex sugar molecule called glucose.  Once this happens, glucose can then enter the cell through special molecules found in the membrane, called glucose transporters. We discussed about this in details when we discussed diabetes. Once inside the cell, glucose is broken down to make Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), a form of energy, via two different pathways namely glycolysis and Krebs cycle or citric acid cycle.

 The first pathway is glycolysis which does not require oxygen (anaerobic activity). The glycolysis occurs in the cytoplasm outside the mitochondria. During glycolysis, glucose is broken down into a molecule called Pyruvate. Each of these reactions produces some H ions that can be used for making the ATP. However, only four ATP molecules can be made from one molecule of glucose in this pathway. The majority of ATP is formed in the Krebs cycle which occurs in the mitochondria. Increasing evidence shows that mitochondrial dysfunction due to the oxidation of lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids plays an important role in brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington disease. Mitochondria provide energy for basic metabolic processes, produce oxidants as inevitable by-products, and decay with age, impairing cellular metabolism and leading to cellular decline. Before we discuss about Krebs cycle, it is necessary to discuss some important aspects of ATP.

(4) ATP

The physical human body is a biochemical unit. We know that all biological machines must have many well-engineered parts (organs) to work such as the liver, kidney, and heart etc. These extremely complex life units are made from still smaller parts called cells which in turn are constructed from yet smaller (micro) machines known as organelles.  The cell organelles include mitochondria, Golgi complexes, microtubules etc. Even below this level are other parts so small that they are formally classified as macromolecules (large molecules).

A critically important macromolecule which can be considered as the second most important molecule after DNA is ATP. ATP is a complex nanomachine that serves as the primary energy currency of the cell and thereby of the whole body. A nanomachine is a complex precision microscopic-sized machine that fits the standard definition of a machine. ATP is the most widely distributed high-energy compound within the human body. This ubiquitous molecule is used to build complex molecules, contract muscles, generate electricity in nerves, and light fireflies. All fuel sources of nature, all foodstuffs of living things, produce ATP, which in turn powers virtually every activity of the cell and organism.

ATP is an abbreviation for Adenosine Triphosphate, a complex molecule that contains the nucleoside adenosine and a tail consisting of three phosphates. Figure shown below shows   a simple structural formula and a space filled model of ATP (Jerry Bergman). As far as known, all organisms from the simplest bacteria to humans use ATP as their primary energy currency. The energy level it carries is just the right amount for most biological reactions. Nutrients contain energy in low-energy covalent bonds which are not very useful to do most of kinds of work in the cells.

These low energy bonds must be translated to high energy bonds, and this is a role played by ATP. A steady supply of ATP is therefore extremely critical.

Energy is usually liberated from the ATP molecule to do work in the cell by a reaction that removes one of the phosphate-oxygen groups, leaving adenosine diphosphate (ADP).  When the ATP converts to ADP, the ATP is said to be spent. Then the ADP is usually immediately recycled in the mitochondria where it is recharged and comes out again as ATP.  This recycling of phosphate is the most critical event in the body’s energy management programme.

ATP is manufactured as a result of several cell processes including fermentation (glycolysis), respiration and photosynthesis (in plants). Most commonly, the cells use ADP as a precursor molecule and then add phosphorus to it. In Eukaryotes this can occur either in the soluble portion of the cytoplasm (cytosol) or in special energy-producing structures called mitochondria. Charging ADP to form ATP in the mitochondria is called chemiosmotic phosphorylation. This process occurs in specially constructed chambers located in the mitochondrion’s inner membranes.

The mitochondrion itself functions to produce an electrical chemical gradient—somewhat like a battery—by accumulating hydrogen ions in the space between the inner and outer membrane. This energy comes from the estimated 10,000 enzyme chains in the membranous sacks on the mitochondrial walls. Most of the food energy for most organisms is produced by the electron transport chain. Cellular oxidation in the Krebs cycle causes an electron build-up that is used to push H+ ions outward across the inner mitochondrial membrane (Hickman et al., 1997, p. 71). We shall now discuss the second pathway of energy generation i.e. Krebs cycle.

The second pathway, called the Krebs’s cycle, or the citric acid cycle, occurs inside the mitochondria and is capable of generating enough ATP to run all the cell functions. Once again, the cycle begins with a glucose molecule, which, during the process of glycolysis is stripped of some of its hydrogen atoms, transforming the glucose into two molecules of pyruvic acid. Next, pyruvic acid is altered by the removal of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms, which go on to form carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide is removed, energy is given off, and a molecule called NAD+ is converted into the higher energy form, NADH.  Another molecule, coenzyme A (CoA), then attaches to the remaining acetyl unit, forming acetyl CoA

Acetyl CoA enters the Krebs’s cycle by joining to a four-carbon molecule called oxaloacetate. Once the two molecules are joined, they make a six-carbon molecule called citric acid. Citric acid is then broken down and modified in a stepwise fashion. As this happens, hydrogen ions and carbon molecules are released. The carbon molecules are used to make more carbon dioxide. The hydrogen ions are picked up by NAD and another molecule called flavin-adenine dinucleotide (FAD). Eventually, the process produces the four-carbon oxaloacetate again, ending up where it started off. All in all, the Krebs’s cycle is capable of generating from 24 to 28 ATP molecules from one molecule of glucose converted to Pyruvate. Therefore, it is easy to see how much more energy we can get from a molecule of glucose if our mitochondria are working properly and if we have enough oxygen

I do understand that all that has been discussed is too complex for the common man to understand but, unfortunately, it is rather unavoidable. The sum substance of this discussion is that the cells must receive adequate quantity of oxygen and the nutrients.The oxygen deficiency at cell/tissue level, also called the cellular hypoxia/tissue hypoxia is mother of all ailments. We, therefore, shall discuss this at length later in other posts

How Does Exchange of Oxygen And Carbon-di-Oxide Happen?

Pranayama is basically a breathing process done with certain speed and rhythm. We shall, however, first consider the normal breathing. The normal respiration is done for supplying O2 (from atmosphere) to blood and in turn, to enormous number of cells and evacuating the C02 generated in the energy process of the cells. The gas exchange (O2 to blood capillaries and uptake of CO2 from impure blood in the capillaries) takes place at the lungs.
The figure shows the major (general) pathway of air during breathing. Most of the air inhaled through nostrils passes through the pathway shown but a very small portion of the inhaled air passes through flow path above the roof of the nasal cavity. This air plays a very important role as we shall see later.

The air inhaled through nostrils get properly filtered and conditioned from the point of view of temperature and humidity. The inhaled air passes through the pharynx, trachea and the primary bronchi. Subsequently the air flows through tertiary bronchi to which are attached innumerable alveoli, which serve the purpose of sites of gas exchange .

Lung structure and gas exchange

LUNG STRUCTURE
ALVEOLI
  • It is very interesting to note the following information about the lung structure and alveoli which are very tiny grape like structures.
  • There are more than 300 million alveoli surrounded by blood capillaries in the lung structure. The entire blood of the body comes here for purification (oxygenation).
  • The surface area of these is of the order of 75 -100 square meters.
  • Exchange of O2 and CO2 with blood in the capillaries surrounded by alveoli take place by diffusion.
  • The diffusion process is very efficient since the walls of capillaries as well as that of alveoli are very thin.
  • Diffusion occurs because of partial pressure gradient. Larger is this gradient, higher will be the extent of gas exchange
  • Lung structure does contain dead pockets of the size of 150 ML where no gas exchange process takes place.

Process of Exchange of Gases

The process of gas exchange is explained in figure . Figure (a) shows O2 transfer (from one typical alveolus) to the impure blood (blue) and making it oxygenated (red). The figure also shows transfer of blue blood CO2 to a typical alveolus.

OXYGEN TRANSFER TO THE BLOOD
TRANSFER OF CARBON-DI-OXIDE TO ALVEOLUS

The CO2 of impure blood in all the capillaries spread over the surface of alveoli is transferred to alveoli and then to bronchi and ultimately expelled out during exhalation phase of the breathing.
Figure ( b) show the gas exchange process from and to capillaries from a typical cell. The oxygenated blood (red) supplies O2 to the cell and CO2 from cell (released from energy production process) is transferred to the blood which, as it passes the cell, becomes blue because of C02 pick-up.
It is very easy now to understand that any action which increases O2 pick up and CO2 expulsion by lungs will result into abundant supply of 02 to blood and very effective scavenging of CO2 that gets generated in the cell process. At this stage it is very important to understand the physiological effects of Oxygen uptake by the cells or what can be called the “oxygen metabolism”.

Normal Breathing Process Explained

We shall now see the Basic Breathing Process comprising of inhalation and exhalation. The figure shows the basic movements of the body parts during breathing,
The following processes occur during inhalation and exhalation

What Happens During
Inhalation?

Contraction of external intercostals muscles leads to elevation of ribs and sternum, increased front to back dimension of thoracic cavity, lowering of the pressure in the lungs. This allows fresh O2 laden air to enter the lungs.

Contraction of diaphragm results in lowering of the diaphragm resulting in increased vertical dimension and reduction of pressure in the lungs. This also allows fresh O2 laden air to enter the lungs. The involvement of diaphragm in the process of inhalation greatly increases the air moved to lungs. Thus with more air, we get higher level of blood oxygenation. In majority of the cases, people use only chest muscles which can be considered as incomplete breathing.

What Happens during Exhalation?

The process of exhalation is exactly reverse of inhalation process. See figure .

How To Breathe Correctly?

We now shall see a quiet breathing process consisting of smooth inhalation followed by smooth exhalation.With each inhalation the abdominal area should expand .With each exhalation the abdominal area should contract.

There are no intentional pauses after inhalation and exhalation. The pauses in breathing are called “Kumbhak”. Intentional pause after inhalation is called the “Antar Kumbhak” and the pause after exhalation is called “Bahya Kumbhak”.

Most natural breathing is smooth inhalation – an unintentional momentary pause to begin exhalation followed by an unintentional pause to begin next inhalation.It has to be smooth,steady and controlled.

Physiological Effects of Pranayama

The three major areas of physiological mechanisms which are either initiated and/or enhanced by Yoga/Pranayama practices are:

  • Oxygen Metabolism
  • Lymph System
  • Brain and Nervous System

Oxygen Metabolism

The human system will begin to disorganize and die after several minutes without oxygen. It is therefore quite a logical to think that altering oxygen metabolism might be curative for diseases that have an oxygen deficiency component to their etiology. Both moderate and vigorous body movement and the accompanying muscle work increase oxygen demand in the cells. Evidence from research in exercise physiology demonstrates that muscular activity accelerates the rate of oxygen uptake from the blood. It has been shown that training and practice increase ventilitory threshold, anaerobic threshold and mechanical efficiency. This suggests that regular body movement with increased breath activity supports adaptation toward increased functional efficiency in the uptake and utilization of oxygen from the blood.
Recently there has been a tremendous amount of activity in both research and clinical practice which suggests that many deficiency disorders and degenerative diseases are, at least partially, attributable to defective Oxygen metabolism, Oxygen deficiency or hypoxia. This view is supported by many of the great names in research; Albert Szent-Gyorgi, Otto Warburg, Emmanuel Revici and Linus Pauling.
The Indian systems of Yoga/Pranayama proposed this view and developed specific methods for application centuries ago.
The practice of Pranayama Yoga increases oxygen availability which potentially:

Supports energy (ATP, AMP, and ADP) generation.

Generates water as a by product of energy metabolism which contributes a major portion to the lymph supply

Energy Generation

It has been well established that the energy necessary for cell work and body heat regulation is supplied through the reaction of oxygen and glucose to form high energy phosphate bonds. There is a direct relationship between oxygen demand, the impulse to breath and the basal metabolic rate (BMR, the rate that the cells in the body consume oxygen and glucose to produce water, carbon dioxide and energy).
Hydrolysis of adenosine triposphate (ATP) is accompanied by the release of chemical energy for cellular and muscular activity.
The food consumed by us gets converted into glucose. The oxygen received by the cell is utilized to generate the basic energy, pure water and the carbon dioxide as given by the following representative formula
6O2 + C6H12O6 + (BMR) = Ergs + 6CO2 + 6H2O
Air + Food + (BMR) = Energy + carbon dioxide + water
Oxygen (O2) plus glucose (C6H12O6) through BMR yields energy in the form of high energy phosphate bonds (especially ATP) plus water (H2O) which dissolves carbon dioxide (CO2) and facilitates the hydrolysis of energy yielding phosphate bonds. It should be noted that only a portion of the air and food, the essence, is employed in the process: only 20% of air is oxygen and glucose is approximately 60% of food.

Water Production

A second critical benefit of increased oxygen metabolism generated through the practice of Pranayama is linked to the lymph system. Besides the production of energy, in the phosphorylization cycle, there is also the generation of pure water as a waste product or by product.
This water is dramatically and directly increased when oxygen consumption is increased at the cell. Because this water becomes involved with the internal cleansing performed by the lymph it is a major link between the breath and lymphatic system function.

Immune Function

ATP drives the activity of every cell. Therefore, immune function as well as the production of immune resources (white blood cells, lymphocytes, T-cells, natural killer cells, etc) are indirectly dependent on oxygen consumption. These activities become deficient in individuals who are unwell. It has been shown that Pranayama and Yogic exercise can mobilize the effect of natural killer (NK) cells. In individuals who exercise so vigorously that they exceed the aerobic level and cross the anaerobic threshold immune function is decreased. Both suggest that oxygen deficiency leads to decreased immune function and that moderate Yogic exercise and Pranayama increases immune function.

In his research, Nobel Prize recipient Otto Warburg found that oxygen deficiency was typical of cancer cells. There are numerous studies that associate reduced oxygen intake with increased mortality and reduced resistance to disease. In studies with elders, immunodeficiency was found to be one of several consequences of reduced oxygen metabolism.
Oxygen’s effect on the immune function has been demonstrated through research studies on two nutrients that have been shown to have immuno-modulating capability. Germanium, an element that bonds easily with Oxygen, is thought to increase the efficiency of the use of oxygen in the mitochondria of the cell. In addition, it may help to decrease free radicals in the blood.

In a German study it was found that in elderly, injured, stressed and hospitalized individuals the arterial oxygen content is often reduced from normal levels.
Administration of oxygen was found to elevate the arterial oxygen content and increase recovery rates. The experimental addition of germanium to the treatment protocol increased oxygen utilization and further accelerated the healing process.
Blood studies on patients with AIDS revealed, in addition to deficient immune capability, low concentrations of Co enzyme Q10, a co enzyme present in all healthy cells. The patients were administered CoQ10 and their symptoms as well as blood immune factors improved. Co Q10 apparently improves the ability of oxygen to produce ATP. Both germanium and Co Q10 enhance the ability of oxygen to support immune function with the implication that increased oxygen through Yogic exercises/Pranayama may have a direct impact on immune deficiency states.

Free Radical Balance

There are multiple factors that modify oxygen demand and uptake besides the cell work of body movement and organ function. Such factors include the effects of chemical and environmental stress caused by foods, water and airborne pollution. Emotional, relational or career stressors, the stress of injury and the stress of infection also affect the body’s ability to absorb and utilize oxygen. Accumulation of these effects can negatively impact on oxygen metabolism and precipitate functional imbalances in the human system.
The normal activity of energy metabolism creates a certain number of by-products. These molecules are called free radicals. With the impact of the above mentioned stressors greater amounts of free radicals are produced. All normal molecules have paired electrons in their outer electron orbits. Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron in their outermost electron orbit. In an effort to return to a stable state these renegade molecules steal electrons from healthy molecules causing tissue damage and aging. The body produces a number of antioxidant enzymes, super oxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and methione reductase, whose job is to neutralize the free radicals produced in normal energy metabolism. However, in an imbalanced or unwell system demand for antioxidant enzymes is high and natural productivity, due to pathology, may be low.
When slow, deep breathing and moderate body motion is activated as in Yogic exercises there is an increased demand for oxygen molecules which are taken up from the blood. The potential for free radicals to bond with this available oxygen, neutralizing the free radical population, can be greatly accelerated when regular Yogic exercise/Pranayama is included in a person’s daily health routine.
There are a number of strategies for resolution of oxygen deficiency disease (ODD). These include the use of antioxidant nutrients (Vitamins A, C, E and selenium), antioxidant enzymes, coenzyme Q10 etc). There is, however, nothing more, inexpensive than oxygen itself taken in maximum daily doses through Yogic exercises/Pranayama.

Lymph System

The lymph fluid is actually part cellular water and part blood plasma. The lymphatic system has been some what neglected in most Western scientific traditions. Compared to the heart, for example, the lymph is relatively unexplored.
In general, the lymphatic system is a network of organs, tissues, vessels, nodes and flow potentials. It collects interstitial fluid, infused with the by products of cellular activity, and transports it centrally where it rejoins the blood system. In this role it regulates endogenous metabolites and waste products. In addition, the lymphatic system is a primary component of the immune system helping to protect the body from a broad range of pathogenic factors. It carries fluids infused with bacteria, virus, and fungus into immuno-active lymph nodes where lymphocytes, reticular cells and macrophages kill or neutralize toxic or enemy cells, substances and organisms. In this role it regulates exogenous disease inducing agents.
The lymphatic system also has a nutritional function wherein it assists in bringing nutritional factors into proximity with the tissues.
In Western science, until recently the nearly invisible lymph, received very little of the focus than it really deserves and very few health generating strategies or modalities were based on its function. In the orient, where science is based on trial and error and the invisible “Prana” is honored; the results of healthy and unhealthy lymphatic function were noted in healthy individuals and compared in unhealthy individuals. Even though the lymphatic function itself was unknown and unnamed, its effects were generally ascribed to the proper action of Prana (energy) and fluids. When we look carefully at Yogic/Pranayam practice in relation to what we now know about lymphatic function and its healing role it appears that Yogic exercises/Pranayama practice were developed specifically with the enhancement of lymphatic function in mind. Breath, movement and posture all have specific effects on the production and circulation of the lymph.
Yoga/Pranayama practice appears to activate a number of mechanisms associated with the lymphatic system such as:

  1. Lymph generation and Propulsion
  2. Immune function
  3. Cerebrospinal fluid circulation

Purpose of the Blog

In the modern (21st) century, the standard of living, world over has gone up to a very large extent. Things such as having car, refrigerator, air conditioners, modern household gadgets such as microwave oven, grinders and mixers etc have become a normal necessity of life in 21st century. This has spread even to villages in India and elsewhere in the world. Parallely complex Health issues have also surfaced in last two decades. People, now being able to somehow manage/afford things which were considered as luxuries in past, have become very sensitive to health issues because of their awareness about it. Many people therefore regularly monitor a few key medical parameters such as blood pressure, blood/urine sugar levels, blood cholesterol levels, thyroid function etc. In case they discover these health parameters beyond acceptable medical standards, they put themselves on medical treatment as per medical advice without understanding the root causes of the problems. Some people who do not regularly monitor health parameters, they, by chance, find themselves to be suffering from the above mentioned diseases. The medical practitioners, in majority of the cases do not take trouble of explaining the causative factors to the patients. Patients, on their part, follow the advice given by doctor but they may have to bear the side effects of treatment –considered as inevitable. At times, these side effects may prove to very troublesome. Majority of the people do not realize the fact that the diseases such as high BP, diabetes, high cholesterol levels etc are primarily due to defective life style, improper dietary habits and stresses in conscious/subconscious mind. Even dreaded disease such as cancer is known to be caused by defective cellular respiration. One of major reasons for defective cellular respiration is uncontrolled stresses in mind.
Modern medical science is unable to define mind, its location in the body, its anatomy and physiology. All that is known is some of the chemical molecules that can influence the behavior of mind. Hence we have all sorts of anti-stress drugs and other psychotic drugs. But these drugs can result in serious side effects that can significantly derail body physiology.

Vedic medical science, on the other hand deals with various aspects of mind in much detailed way. We shall revert back to this in our later blog posts.
Health awareness as mentioned previously has increased many folds in last 15 -20 years and thus people do not mind much about medical expenses. This has resulted in Medicare profession to thrive and to assume status of an industry. However, it has now become somewhat expensive. This is because professional doctors, in majority of cases have to invest a large amount of money in their medical practice. The reasons for this are

A few Reasons Why Medical Care has become so Expensive

  • Medical education has become excessively expensive world over as well as in India. A graduate degree holder in medical sciences has no chance to prosper unless he acquires P.G. degree and does internship for at least couple of years in large & reputed hospitals even after getting the PG degree from even prestigious medical schools.
  • Majority of qualified doctors desire to have their practice in their own clinics.
  • Owning a clinic/hospital calls for excessive/massive investments. In majority of the cases return on investments (ROI) starts only in mid thirties of the doctors.
  • One way to overcome this problem is to start hospital on commercial basis with partly own money and partly through loans from financial institutions, employing specialist doctors on retainer basis and get a status of corporate hospital.
  • There are large numbers of health insurance companies offering very attractive terms such as cashless treatments in variety of health insurance schemes provided the treatments are done only in “recognized” hospitals.
  • Corporates insist upon their employees getting annual health check up only in hospitals which they recognize.
  • Very large number of medical insurance schemes, annual check-ups in corporate hospitals etc actually promotes medical business. This has given rise to several unethical practices. Medical profession has thus become a major money spinning industry.
  • The awareness of health issues has increased multi-fold in last few decades giving rise to significantly lowered mortality rates but the quality of life in terms of feeling of contentment, mental peace has significantly gone down.
  • Undoubtedly medical standards have significantly gone up but quality of life has significantly deteriorated because of nagging health issues requiring long term drug support.


The principal aim of this blog is not to carry out critical analysis or launch criticism on current medical practice but to bring to the notice of common man the advantages of yoga in general and Pranayama in particular in keeping good health without drug support. Of course, one must seek help of modern medical science in case of medical emergencies.

The main purpose of this blog is not to criticize modern medical science and over glorify the ancient Vedic medical science. The main purpose of the book is to make readers aware of the fact that the Almighty has given to human beings a capability to control the physiology of their body through conscious control of their breathing process. To the best of my knowledge no other living being has such abilities. The biggest asset of human beings is their mind – a good part of which is in their conscious control. The human beings too have some of the natural instincts which animals have but, they can control them using their mind and intellect.

Controlling stresses in the mind must get top priority in overcoming the existing and avoiding diseases in future since many of the complex diseases affecting human beings are stress induced. One should remember that mind is not a material body perceptible to normal human sensory organs and also that it is not a biochemical unit which will respond to drugs without causing consequential damage to the human body.

It is not easy to get control over mind although everybody thinks that he knows the method to control breathing pattern. People may be able to control rate of breathing only in a controlled state of mind and that that too only for very few moments. No sooner one starts controlling breathing rate, the monkey part of the mind pulls him back to equilibrium stage of waves of thoughts, worries etc and breathing pattern becomes substantially unstable.

Vedic medical science, in particular, Patanjali Yoga Sutra attends to this problem very efficiently through Ashtanga Yoga. Although it is quite simple to understand what is being said in Ashtanga Yoga, it is very difficult for common man, in present times, to practice it fully because of present day socio-economic constraints.

The modern day life is characterized by fierce professional competition and high materialistic values. Comforts provided by modern technology and highly compartmentalized family structures are making human habits more sedentary. With this, there is an ever increasing trend of people (in almost all age groups) falling victim to life style and stress induced ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, mental disorders and even cancers.

Undoubtedly, the medical research and developments of new medicines and surgical procedures have provided some relief but they tend to treat symptoms rather than the root causes. Also the costs of these treatments are spiraling so fast that they are fast becoming unaffordable for the common man. There has been a strong movement in India for using Pranayama (set of breathing exercises brought out by ancient Indian saint, maharishi Patanjali) to resolve complex health issues such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, coronary blockages, asthma, Parkinson disease and even more complex diseases such as cancers. Ability to breathe in any manner is great boon given by the almighty to human beings.

Some Personal Experiences

After practicing some of the breathing exercises (in Pranayama Yoga) for about a fortnight, I got rid of 4 Kilograms in weight without any side effect or weakness. This prompted me to investigate the scientific basis of Pranayama Yoga.

What can you Attain By Reading this Blog?


This blog aims at bringing out the scientific basis of Pranayama with a hope that modern medical fraternity looks at it seriously and do not throw out the concepts – simply because they fail to understand and digest the concepts and more importantly, it does affect their practice as it is now happening in India. I do not claim to have done fundamental research in Pranayama. All that I have done is a logical interpretation of the some of the already known modern medical facts from the point of view of Pranayama.

By following this blog you can get the following benefits

  • A thorough understanding of the scientific basis of Pranayama
  • Learn a few important Pranayama Techniques
  • Understand how Pranayama can Heal the Body without medicines
  • Cure yourself of the physical disorders and emotional disturbances by regularly practising the Pranayama techniques.
  • Steady practise arouses the inner spiritual light and brings about true happiness

Effects of Pranayama on Chakras

We have seen that the effect of stresses is first experienced on the endocrine glands and the nervous system in the brain. Once they fail to perform as per the needs of the body, the diseases start appearing. The most affected system of the body due to stresses in the conscious and sub-conscious mind and the immune system of the body. The increased incidence of cancers, HIV, viral fevers such as swine flu, bird flu etc is because of the crippled immune system of the present day people in the society. The strained endocrine gland system as well as the autonomic nervous system is known to be responsible for the unimaginable rise in diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney &liver failures etc.

It is somewhat erroneous to conclude that certain parts of the brain only are responsible for the stresses. Many people believe that limbic and hypothalamic system generates the emotions, sex urge, anger etc. This is really not entirely true. These are the regions where messages for emotions, anger etc are processed when these are transmitted by the energy bodies surrounding the physical body. As said before, the brain is just a transducer between the energy bodies and the physical body. It is just like a hard disc of a computer which will follow certain programmed instructions. It, of its own, cannot generate the instructions. As the hard disc can get corrupted, certain regions in the brain can also get corrupted. Once this happens, the energy bodies cannot interact with physical body and the present life becomes meaningless.

We earlier mentioned that the breath is the only part of the human autonomic system that is consciously controllable. We also discussed that the region of the reticular activity system (RAS) in the brain provides the interface between the conscious and the subconscious minds which, in reality are the energy bodies. Probably it is not very difficult to know the irritants (stress raisers) in the conscious mind. All that we need to do for that is unbiased introspection. The irritants in the subconscious mind are however much deep rooted. Hence, unless a suitable interface is established between these two minds, it will be impossible to identify the irritants in the subconscious mind. As mentioned above, such an interface is provided by the RAS region of the brain.  We discussed that conscious breathing enables control of brain through RAS. We also discussed that the control of subconscious mind is achievable through conscious activity of prana nigraha and then Pranayama.

The stresses in the conscious as well as subconscious mind affect different people in different ways. But the most common effect of these stresses is on the chakras and the connected energy bodies. The diseases initiate firstly in energy bodies and then propagate to the physical body. The reason behind controlling the Ahar (diet), Vihar (life style) and the Vichar (thinking/mind) in addition to Pranayama yoga is because there are different types of people and they develop different types of stresses depending upon their personal attributes. The science of psychology calls these different types of people as belonging to type ‘A’, or type ‘B’. Obviously the reasons for stresses will vary from person to person depending upon which class they belong to. The uncontrolled stresses then may manifest as diseases in different parts of the body.

It is absurd to try changing the ‘type’ of the person. All that can be done is to make them aware of their positivity as well as negativity and advise them about enhancing their positive characteristics and reducing their negative characteristics. This is exactly the principal aim of Patanjali’s Ashtang Yoga.       

We discussed that various complex diseases have their origin in blocked chakras. These blockages occur because of imbalance in the two components, namely sympathetic (Pingala Nadi) and the parasympathetic (Ida Nadi) of the autonomic nervous system. We also have seen both of these components have variable dominance with respect to time. Associated with this alternating dominance is the alternating dominance of the brain hemispheres. We have also seen that the alternate nostril breathing enables the balance in the Ida and the Pingala Nadis resulting in excellent health in body and the mind. But the real and most confusing question that arises is why should there be any imbalance in Ida and the Pingala Nadis. The answer to this question lies in the fact that Pingala Nadi is associated with activities driven by ambitions, anger, sorrow, restlessness, ego (typical of type “A” people) etc while Ida Nadi is associated with creativity, intellect, passivity, introvert nature and certain negativities which prevent the initiative and drive (typical of type ’B’ people) in them.   

Although many doctors and researchers have noted that emotion and belief systems play a part, in fact a major part, in health and illness, western medicine is just beginning to consider such non-physiological factors in the treatment of disease. Emotion, beliefs, and other non-physical qualities, such as creativity, intuition, and wisdom, originate in the vital life energy field that surrounds and permeates each of physical bodies around. Each energy field constantly interacts with the fields of other living beings and with stimuli in the environment, everything that affects the body must first pass through this field. Some of the information contained in the field enters our awareness via our senses, thoughts, or intuition. Much of the information, however, remains hidden, affecting the choices we make and our physiology.

In her study of the human energy field, Dr. Valerie Hunt recorded brain waves, blood pressure changes, galvanic skin responses, heartbeat, and muscle contractions of subjects while aura readers observed changes in the energy field. Hunt states that changes occurred in the field much before any of the other systems changes.

Energy Body is a Template for Physical Body

At the core of all matter lies energy, and the human body is no different. The energy body is a template for the physical body. Emotional energy resonates with life experiences, personal and professional relationships, and belief systems and becomes literally encoded in cell tissue. According to neurobiologist Candace Pert, the emotionally-charged thoughts and experiences cause the body to manufacture different Neuropeptides triggered by emotions. Researchers at the Institute of Heart Math (Boulder, Colorado) found that heartfelt emotions (even emotions associated with memories) raise DHEA and IgA levels while negative emotions lower both. I strongly recommend the readers to go through the report entitled, “Coherent Heart” authored by McCraty published by the Institute of Heart Math (www.heartmath.org) to understand the point being made. We do use our energy in life – whether we use it to promote bitterness and fear or joy and love, strongly manifests in our physiology. Prolonged dissonance or weakness in the field leads to physical symptoms and, sometimes, to illness. Cure, without remission, depends upon the process we adopt in relieving the disturbed energetics that underlies the physical condition.

Natural Techniques that Raise Energy Levels

Many natural health techniques benefit the energy body as well as the physical one.

  • Whole foods are rich with electromagnetic energy.
  • Exercise, deep breathing, Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, gardening, walking barefoot on earth, prayer and meditation strengthen the energy field depending upon the level of  our faith in them.
  • Acupuncture, homeopathy, flower essences, deep muscle massage like Rolfing, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, sound therapy, and other forms of energy medicine, depending upon our faith in them, strive to address imbalances and blocks at the energy level of the body.
  • These energy therapies can nudge an incoherent field into normalcy.
  • Love, compassion, forgiveness are also powerful healing forces.

Many doctors are aware that spiritual, mental, and emotional factors play a major role in illness and health; but, their training has emphasized the physical, and they often feel at a loss as to how to address the spirit due to inability to see it or make measurements on it.

The non-physical issues (to our sensory perceptions) such as happiness, fear, sorrow, anger, greed, jealousy etc considerably affect the chakras. Vedic medical science, which also deals with spirituality, identifies each of the seven chakras with specific health conditions that may arise during the quest for disease free body and also the spiritual consciousness. This is described as follows:

The Seven Chakras

  • The first chakra, at the base of the spine, relates to the material world.
  • The second chakra, just below the belly button, deals with creation energy, sexuality, work, and physical desire.
  • The third chakra, at the solar plexus, holds lessons concerning the ego, personality, and self-esteem.
  • The fourth chakra lies at the heart and contains lessons about forgiveness, compassion, and love.
  • The fifth chakra, at the base of the throat, relates to the use of will and self-expression.
  • The sixth chakra, or “third eye” in the center of the forehead, deals with wisdom, insight, and intuition.
  • The lessons of the crown chakra at the top of the head concern spirituality.

How Your Chakras Affect the Health?

We now discuss various health conditions related to these chakras and the type of people who develop problems in these chakras due to stresses.

first chakra-mooladhara

  • The chronic fatigue syndrome is an energy disorder of the first chakra (Mooladhar).  The disorder of the first chakra is experienced by people who feel very vulnerable and insecure. These people try to be all things to all people, and they connect to more people and projects than they have energy for.  Because of this, their immune system weakens significantly. The energetic component of cancer consists of unfinished or incomplete business.  It has been seen that the people who tend to be more connected to the past than to the present are likely to suffer from cancer. We, in reality need the energy for the present things rather than those which occurred in past. When the energy is used to keep one’s past alive instead of in the present where it is needed to maintain cell tissue, malignancy develops. Wherever thought goes, energy and life force follow. Many of us are aware of energy circuits in the form of emotional ties and bonding to other human beings. We are less aware of how much energy we spend on past injuries, regrets, and losses. The thoughts that occupy one’s mind indicate where energy is flowing. When thoughts contain an underlying fear of loss or over-identification with an object or person, energy is being lost.


How do we disconnect our energy circuits from people or objects that sap energy ?

‘How do we disconnect our energy circuits from people or objects that sap energy’ is a million dollar question.  To answer this question, we need to adopt a step wise procedure.

The first step is awareness. Check in often and notice where your thoughts are. Are they with you in the present, or have they drifted off to the past, the future, or with some person or object?

Next step to follow is:  mentally cut the connection and literally call your spirit back. Calling one’s spirit back is not a one-time event; it’s a practice. Counseling can be extremely helpful for those who are struggling to let go of harmful attachments.

Although we cannot control what happens to us, we can influence the quality of our response. Rather than blame oneself or dwell on “why me,” both of which drain energy, the focus can be on what can be learned through this experience. How can I lighten my emotional life and enliven my soul?

Many people who ultimately die from a disease find the journey to death a tremendously healing experience because of their attitude and the many opportunities to forgive, make amends, and release old patterns. Blame, even self-blame, depletes one’s energy field and is one of the gravest crimes. Forgiveness, on the other hand, restores the energy field.

Vedic medical science tells that most of the diseases begin in the lower three chakras. These chakras are the ones that deal with external factors. Unresolved conflicts with one’s own family and/or society, apprehensions about own survival and access to the necessities of life as per the current standards in the society and most importantly, the feeling about  being ruled by worthless/unscrupulous  people create violent discord in the first chakra.

Anatomically, the first chakra relates to physical body support, the base of the spine, legs, bones, feet, rectum, and the immune system. The people developing the immune system diseases are those who feel victimized by their society or who have terrible worries feelings about survival. Self-respect, a sense of personal honor, feeds strong positive energy to the root chakra, bones, legs, and immune system.

Second Chakra- Swadisthana

The second chakra, Swadhishthan, gets disrupted by subdued creative energy, money and sexual conflicts, power struggles, life energy directed into dead-end relationships or jobs, and control tactics that do not follow the rule to honor one another.  Many men and women become aware, at some point in their lives, of remaining in a disempowering situation for money or physical security. The resulting helplessness makes the person hostile, ferocious to the people outside who are professionally or socially unconnected.

Physical organs most affected by second chakra issues include sexual organs, large intestine, lower vertebrae, pelvis, appendix, bladder, and hip area. Fear of losing control and fear of power can eventually manifest as ailments such as chronic pain in the lower back and pelvic area, arthritis, prostate or ovarian cancer, impotency, and bladder problems. Learning to honor others, instead of trying to control or dominate them eases much of the struggle held in the second chakra. The challenge of the second chakra is to learn to interact consciously with others: to form unions with people who support our development and to release relationships that handicap our growth.

third chakra-manipura

The third chakra (Manipura) corresponds to self-responsibility and self-respect. This chakra houses both survival instinct and the intuition. This chakra warns of impending dangers and negative actions or energies coming from others.  In absence of self-esteem, the intuitive guidance is often ignored and discounted. It is found that depression, often, originates when people lose their self-respect because they have broken a promise which they made to themselves.

Issues concerning self-responsibility, caring for oneself and others, self-esteem, fear of rejection, and an over-sensitivity to criticism eventually manifest as ailments in the abdomen, stomach, upper intestines, liver, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, spleen, and middle spine. It has also found that health disorders such as arthritis, anorexia, and bulimia often relate to third chakra issues.

 Valerie Hunt, an accomplished energy healer, refers to the third chakra as the emotional body, the area through which emotions such as fear and anger located in the aura, enter the body.

fourth chakra-anahata

The fourth chakra (Anahata or the heart chakra) corresponds to love, commitment, compassion, forgiveness, hatred, resentment, bitterness, grief, anger, loneliness, and self-centeredness. Holding onto the negative emotions, whether they are directed towards oneself or others, or intentionally causing pain for other people saps life energy from body and soul. Fear, also, drains and disrupts heart energy. Fear of loneliness, commitment, betrayal, fear of the inability to protect oneself emotionally, and of ‘following one’s heart’ contribute to dysfunctions of this chakra.

The heart chakra involves the heart and circulatory system, lungs, upper back, shoulders and arms, ribs, breasts, diaphragm, thymus gland. Tapping into the energy of love reduces fear. Love is a potent healing force for body and spirit, as many doctors recognize.

fifth chakra-vishuddhi

 The fifth chakra (Vishuddhi or throat chakra) is positioned at the base of the throat. It acts as a focal point for the heart energy (from fourth chakra) and the mind energy (from the sixth chakra). Its energy relates to willpower and the power of choice, the most basic manifestation of self-expression. Every area of our lives, including health and illness, is directly affected by the choices we make and how we make them. Clear decisions and true authority, as epitomized by King Solomon, come when the truth and wisdom of the sixth chakra is supported and in agreement with the emotional power of the heart chakra.

Before we make a choice, we often experience a contest, a struggle, between the emotional and mental sides of ourselves. That struggle disrupts the throat chakra. Prolonged disruption can manifest as physical dysfunctions that involve the throat, thyroid, trachea, neck vertebrae, mouth, teeth and gums, esophagus, parathyroid, and hypothalamus. Such disruptions also play a role in addiction.

sixth chakra-adnya

 While heart energy resides at the fourth chakra, the mind and intellect come through the sixth chakra (Adnya or brow chakra), located at the center of the forehead. Feelings of inadequacy, unwillingness to self-examine one’s fears and shadows, and fear of truth contribute to physical dysfunctions involving the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, nose, pineal gland, and pituitary gland. Myss, a famous energy healer says: “The energy pulsating from this chakra continually directs us to evaluate the truth and integrity of our beliefs. As we instinctively know from birth, to have faith in anything or in anyone that lacks integrity contaminates our spirits and our bodies.”

seventh chakra-crown

The seventh chakra (crown), at the crown of the head, relates to values, courage, humanitarianism, and the ability to see a larger pattern. It is the chakra of inspiration, spirituality and devotion, and the ability to trust life. Its lessons aim to teach us how to live in the present moment. According to Myss, energy therapies, such as reflexology, acupuncture, and homeopathy are treatments of present time. People whose energy is tied to the past do not receive much benefit from these therapies. They must first call their energy into the present by releasing the past through forgiveness of others, oneself, or an experience.

Extreme sensitivities to light, sound, and other environmental factors, chronic exhaustion that is not linked to a physical disorder, and mystical depression that comes when one feels spiritually bereft signify disruptions in the crown chakra.

This analysis will explain why the way of life, the thinking processes etc are given so much importance in Vedic medical science. These are covered in the Ashtang Yoga given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

Can Pranayama Overcome Blockages in Chakras?

The regular practice of Pranayama yoga not only overcomes the blockages in the chakras but they can make us mentally & emotionally balanced.  This however requires very honest introspection as to what are our positives and the negative attributes and how to overcome the negativities. It is for this reason we are required to close our eyes and fix our attention on the Adnya (brow) chakra.

The Pranayama yoga does enable one to get rid of mental and emotional issues. Additionally a somewhat less known Pranayama called Sama Vritti Pranayama is of great benefit. As the name implies, the practitioner of this Pranayama tries to control emotions, mental stresses, ego, possessiveness,  jealousy and other harmful  feelings etc (that cause blockages in the chakras) through a very soft & slow rhythm breathing.

Panch Pranas and the Regions of their Influence

The Pranashakti or cosmic life force enters the body through the energy bodies connected at the chakras. We also discussed that the Prana, the life force has five main components namely Prana, Udana, Apana, Samaan and Vyana. These components of the life force have their influences in particular regions of the body as shown in figure .

Prana Vayu governs the region between larynx and the base of the heart which is its seat.It has upward motion. Prana controls inhalation and swallowing. It controls organs such as eyes,nose ears and tongue.

Apana Vayu has influence below the navel and its seat is in the rectum. Apana vayu controls elimination and ejection functions of kidneys,colon,rectum,bladder and genitals.

Samana Vayu is the organizing force.It governs the region between the heart and the navel.It is the principal regulator of metabolic activity in digestion.Its seat is in the navel and intestines.It regulates pancreas and stomach and separates nutrients from waste.In a person with disordered Samana Vayu, despite having good appetite and good intake of food cannot assimilate food. The body then retains toxins.Such people have short breath,gastric disorders and at times unsound mind.

Udana Vayu enables exhalation.It is concerned with speech.Without Udana, Prana has no value. Udana controls body above larynx.

Vyana Vayu pervads the entire body and is the principal co-ordinator of other vayus. It has no specific seat.

As mentioned earlier, the cosmic life energy is extremely wide band electromagnetic wave energy or photonic energy. As it enters the body, its characteristics get changed due to interactions with products of various cellular processes which generate various fluids such as hormones, enzymes and gases such as H+, NH3, and CO2 etc. Although the entire process is too complicated, we can understand some elementary facts about the same by analyzing a bit more about the Oxygen metabolism reaction.

Breath and Food-Basic Inputs to the Body

The basic inputs to any living being, the cell growth and sustenance are input of life energy and the food that will provide the energy required for the life. The input of life is provided by the breathing wherein one utilizes the oxygen in air to oxidize the sugar which is generated through the assimilation of the food. Both of the inputs to the living being must synchronize and match properly.

One of the most undesirable processes of taking in life energy from the breath is unscientific process of breathing. In many cases people, breathe more than required and that condition is as bad as or even worse than over eating. This fact was brought out in most scientific terms in Maharishi Patanjali’s Ashtang yoga. One of the Anga (part) of this yoga is Pranayama. The most important thing to be observed in Pranayama yoga is that we must develop a total confidence/conviction that our disease will disappear totally. The indifferent and the wavering mind make this a bit difficult. For overcoming this problem, a very simple breathing pattern has been suggested. This is the Kevala Kumbhaka Pranayama

Tumors and Cancers

Cancer is the most dreaded disease affecting the lives of billions of people world over. The rate of occurrence of various types of cancers is on rise in India also. World over trillions of dollars are now being spent in cancer research and still the causes of the cancer are very unclear. Scientists through this research are talking about possibilities of changing the genetic code or development of genes that can destroy the cancer.

The views of some well known Nobel laureates as described below show the level of frustration of even the great scientists regarding the cancer.

“Everyone should know that the ‘war on cancer’ is largely a fraud” – Dr. Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate,

“Intellectually bankrupt, fiscally wasteful and therapeutically useless” – Dr. James Watson, Nobel laureate when asked about cancer research and the national cancer program

Cancer in Common Man’s Language is

  • Abnormal growth of cells in the affected region at the cost of normal cells.
  • The normal cells are therefore starved of nutrition causing their rapid destruction while cancer cells keep on progressing to larger areas.
  • In western medical system, there is no treatment other than surgical removal of tumor and radiation / or chemotherapy. Even then the mortality rate is very high especially when the cancer is not detected in its initial stage.
  • Many carcinogenic materials and environmental factors have been identified through extensive research over the  last few decades.

On the other hand, not all who are exposed to such materials/environment develop cancers.  Thus  the common  man  does  not   understand the  causes  of  initiation  and  progression  of  cancer.

 Information from Modern Research

Some of the important information from the research carried out over a period of several years about the cancer is as follows:

1) Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells and tissues which have acidic environment compared to the surrounding tissue which has alkaline environment. This is the principal reason for loss of communication between healthy and the cancer cells.

2) Cancer cells are very similar to cells of organism from which they originated and have similar but not identical DNA and RNA.

3) This is the main reason why the cancer cells are not very often easily detected by the body’s immune system, especially when it is weakened. A strong immune system is capable of destroying the cancer cells.

4) Weaker immune system is the hallmark of modern day society. Unhealthy life style, stresses cause extraordinary damage to the human immune system.

5) Alkalinity of the body tissue is most important for disease free body and more particularly, when cancer invades the body.

In fact, one can see the large number of publications in Oncology research journals which give very detailed account of various features of cancers and the roles played by various genes. What we have described above is just the overall view. Scientists are trying to shape the immune cells and substances into ingenious new anticancer weapons. In this, they are trying to use substances known as biological response modifiers, which include the lymphocytes and lymphokines that can strengthen the immune system considerably. At times, they are directly injected directly into the body of the patient. Some attempts are being done in laboratory to modify patients own lymphocytes into “tumor hungry” cells which then can be injected into the body of patients.

Antibodies specially made to recognize specific cancers can be coupled with drugs, toxins or even radioactive material which then can be put as “magic bullets” to deliver the lethal cargo to the cancer site. There is no doubt that these are the most fabulous ideas. What needs to be seen is the overall effect of these on rest of the body and also whether or not this will ensure non re occurrence of cancer in the treated area or migration to other areas. 

Findings of Modern Cell Biology

The modern cell biology tells us that

 1) Diets consisting of minerals such as Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Cesium, and Rubidium greatly help in achieving alkaline environment in cells/tissues. Out of these, potassium, calcium and magnesium are available in potato (with peel), banana, bottle gourd juice etc.

2) The cells possess certain electrical potential. This helps the cells to communicate with each other and regulate the cellular function.

3) When an injury occurs in the body, the normal cells multiply and they either replace the destroyed cells with new cells or scar tissue. These multiplying cells have cell membrane potential lower than the cell membrane potential of the healthy adult cell. After the repair is completed, the normal cells in the area of injury stop growing and their membrane potential returns to normal. This process happens because of intercellular electrical communication. In cancerous tissue, the electrical potential is very low (< 40mv) and thus healthy cells do not get the information to destroy and replace the cancer cell. Healthy cells have a potential in excess of 100 mV.

4) Body alkalinity and electrical communication at cell level is most important in radical cure of cancer. This view is still not accepted by the modern medical science. Dr. Warburg, two times Nobel Prize winner, proved that the cancer cells do not breathe oxygen. They generate their energy by anaerobic process.

5)Cancer as a matter of fact cannot survive in presence of high level of oxygen. Also at tissue temperatures 104 -105.8 0 F, the cancer gets destroyed. Dr. Deepak Chopra has reported several cases of total cure of cancer following high grade fevers (hyperthermia) whose origin and causes could not be ascertained. However it appears that hyperthermia does cause the regression of cancer. One of the activities in Panchkarma (Ayurvedic process) is called Svedan which simulates hyperthermia. Sadly, this technique has not been investigated for its effectiveness against cancer.

6)The body generates fluid called lymph which bathes every cell in the body. We have discussed this at length in the post Lymphatic System and Its Connection With Breath. Lymph carries nutrients to every cell and drains off cellular wastes. If the lymph does not circulate, the tissues will suffocate from their own acidic wastes (uric acid, lactic acid etc.). Sadly, there is no pump for circulation of lymph in our body. Ensuring adequate circulation of the lymph should be an important component of the cancer treatment. Sadly, not much attention is given to this important aspect of cancer treatment.

7)Cancer cells, as mentioned earlier, have acidic environment whereas healthy cells have alkaline environment. (The environment is graded by what is called pH value in the range 0 to 14. Lower pH means acidic, pH = 7 is said to be neutral). At pH =7.4, cancer cells become dormant while that at 8.5, the cancer cells get destroyed. Thus achieving tissue pH around this value (which means that we make it alkaline), would prove to be a radical cure of cancer. But this is easily said than done.

Causes of Cancer

(a) Hereditary factors: Still no concrete conclusions have been reached about hereditary factors that cause initiation and progression of cancers.

(b) Exposure to carcinogens: various carcinogenic materials and environment have been identified. However, not all who encounter them develop cancers. There are many heavy smokers who do not develop lung cancer while many non smokers are found to be the victims of lung cancer. Till this date no infections have been correlated with any of the cancers and hence, the talk about and development of cancer vaccine appears to be somewhat irrelevant and until now has been found to be fruitless. Many people argue that the females who do not breast feed their infants develop breast cancer but this does not appear to be the root cause of breast cancer. On the other hand, some of the females who have breast fed their infants are also known to be the victims of breast cancer.

(c) Cellular/tissue hypoxia

Recent researches by Russian and Western scientists show that prime cause of cancer is inadequate cellular respiration or cellular hypoxia. This is just a rediscovery of what Warburg mentioned decades ago. At present, in modern medical science, there is no clue to the question of why the initiation of cancer takes place in a particular organ of the body. All of the advanced researches concentrate on detailed oncological features of cancer tissue, the relevant features of DNA/RNA and enhancing the immune system by some very ingenious ways. For example, Scientists are shaping immune cells and substances into ingenious new anticancer weapons. They are using substances known as biological response modifiers, including lymphocytes and lymphokines, to bolster the patient’s immune responses. We discussed these in the earlier section. Researchers are also thinking about developing specific vaccines for specific cancer (???). Undoubtedly, the research being done is unimaginable and fantastic but as per my opinion, it may not yield the desired results. This is because none of the present research addresses the query as to why the cellular/tissue hypoxia occurred only in a certain part/region of the body and not the entire body.

As pointed out earlier, the ancient Vedic medical science does explain the reasons for occurrence of cancer in specific regions/organs of the body. The research in modern biophysics does support this view.

In general, we can say that cellular hypoxia and presence of carcinogen in the cellular environment is the prime cause for the initiation and progression of cancer.

Before we discuss the methodology of cancer treatment as per Vedic medical science, let us discuss the presently practiced methods of treatment.

Cancer Treatment in Modern Medical Science

The treatment, at present aims at destroying the cancer cells by one or more of the following methods:

  • Radiation
  • Attempts to locally destroy cancer cells with various types of radiations such as x-rays, gamma rays, particle beams, isotopes. Note that the electromagnetic wave energies associated with these radiations kill not only the cancer cells but to a certain extent the normal healthy cells also.
  • Beams are focused mainly on the cancer growth. Doses are adjusted to minimize the collateral damage to surrounding tissues – but the damage does occur in majority of the cases.
  • Worst side effect is weakening of the body’s immune system, destruction of the healthy cells and formation of new mutated cells which often become cancerous (more deadly).
  • Chemotherapy
  • Destroys cancer cells with various types of chemicals which are injected. Chemical energy associated with these chemicals kill not only the cancer cells but to a certain extent the normal healthy cells also.  These chemicals are highly potent poisons hence the dosages are adjusted to minimize the collateral damage. This is almost as bad as radiation.
  • Surgical Removal of Cancer Tissue –This indeed is a highly invasive procedure but it may be very successful if the cancer is restricted only to the region of the tumor. The high technology backed surgical procedure significantly decreases the mortality rate provided the cancer has not migrated to other areas also.

The Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

None of above treatments attends to the very serious problem of weakening of the body’s own immune system and development of lymphedema.  Obviously the problem of cancer returns very fast and frequently, it turns out to be fatal. The primary goals of oncological therapy are the compassionate care of cancer patients, eradication of disease, and palliation of symptoms. Advances in various targeted therapies such as highly conformal and image-guided radiotherapy techniques, sentinel lymph node dissection, and molecularly targeted agents hold the promise of allowing those goals to be reached with fewer treatment-related complications. Unfortunately, certain side effects remain problematic due to the inability to completely avoid injuring normal tissues.

In oncology, the most common etiology for the development of lymphedema is the impaired or disrupted flow of lymph fluid through the draining lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes, usually as a consequence of surgery and/or radiation therapy. If the uninjured lymphatic vessels are unable to accommodate the increased lymphatic load, an accumulation of lymph fluid develops in the dependent tissues. Without intervention, lymphedema can lead to progressive swelling, fibrosis of the soft tissues, neurologic changes (e.g., pain and/or paresthesias), and infection. Early identification of the signs and symptoms of lymphedema should be integral to the management of all patients who have received surgery and/or radiation, and are thus at high risk.

Lymphedema, a chronic conditionthat occurs as a result of the body’s inability to drain lymphfluid from the tissues, is a common treatment-related side effectexperienced by cancer patients. Topographically, there are 2 separate systems of lymphatic drainage.The superficial system drains the skin and subcutaneous tissues,and the deep system drains the tissues deep to the fascia. Thelymphatic vessels in the superficial system are located in thesubcutaneous fatty tissues, whereas those of the deep system follow the blood vessels. These two systems are connected via perforating vessels that traverse the fascia; the lymphatic system comprises the following structural components: lymphatic capillaries, pre collectors, lymph collectors, and lymphatic trunks.  The lymphatic capillaries of the superficial system are interconnected and cover the entire surface of the body. They are structurally different from blood capillaries in that they are larger and their endothelial junctions more permeable; this enables them to absorb fluids and macromolecules from the interstitium. These vessels are able to stay open even under high interstitial tissue pressures through a structural support network called “anchoring filaments.” These filaments connect the subendothelium of the lymphatic vessel with the surrounding connective tissues. Whenever fluid builds within the interstitial tissues, increasing tissue pressure develops causing the tissues to expand and pull on the anchoring filaments. As the anchoring filaments stretch, they open the lymphatic endothelial junctions, thereby allowing the interstitial fluid to enter the lower pressure.

Pranayama as well as Panchkarma are very effective in improving the lymph drainage process and thus the intensity of lymphedema can be considerably reduced. We thus need to prevent initiation of cancer.  If it still does initiate, we must significantly tone up our immune system and the lymph drainage system.

Alternative Medical Science Treatments

Based upon the findings that cancer cells/tissues do not breathe adequately and also that the environment is highly acidic, practioneres of the Alternative Medical Sciences suggest a program that aims at making the cell environment alkaline and ensuring the proper respiration of the cells/tissue. It is as follows:

  • Since the cancer cells cannot survive in presence of high levels of Oxygen, the following possibilities may be explored.

(a) Oxygenate the tissue by intravenous injection of hydrogen peroxide, use of hyperbaric    Oxygen tank, light exercise with hyperbaric Oxygen. Dietary supplements such as Dimethylglycine increases utilization of the Oxygen in hypoxic tissues. Unfortunately, there is not enough clinical data to support or reject these methods.

(b) Stagnation of lymph flow may cause stowing of uric acid, lactic acid in the intercellular space. To the extent possible cancer patients should perform light exercises, yogasasanas etc to ensure the circulation of the lymph. The tissue environment can be made alkaline with dietary supplements rich in Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium. At pH = 8.5 environment, cancer cells get destroyed.

(c) Avoid damage due to free radicals. Free radical is an ion that has + ve electrical charge whereas electrons have – ve charge. Due to the + ve charge, the free radicals attract electrons from other molecules thereby damaging them. Sources of free radicals include chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides), some prescription drugs, processed foods, cigarette smoke, environmental pollution, alcohol abuse, EM radiation and the stress.  Ayurveda, a component of Indian medical science (Vedic medical science) calls the free radicals as Ama which according to them is a sticky substance that clogs myriads of tiny tubes that make up the entire body. One of the objectives of the detoxification program, called Panchkarma, aims at removal of Ama from the body. The free radicals can damage any part of the body including the DNA. There is great deal of agreement amongst scientists and the practicing doctors on the theory that the damage to DNA is one of the prime causes of cancer and in absence of Oxygen, the DNA repair mechanism in the cell does not function. The detailed examination of the DNA of the cancerous tissue shows extensive damage by free radicals. The free radical damage can be inhibited to a certain extent by supplementing the diet with anti oxidants such as Selenium, Glutathione, Iodine/Iodide, and Resveratol, A, C & E vitamins, Bioflavonoid, Carotanoids and co-enzyme Q10. Selenium and Glutathione together protect fatty tissues such as breast, liver and prostrate and regulate the P 53 tumor suppression gene. The data available shows that this can cure about 50% of cancers.

(d) The detailed examination using high technology scanning electron microscopy has shown that the cancer cells have a coating of proteins and sugar. This coating is made up of mucous and fibrin. The mucous is glycoprotein (sugar + protein) while the fibrin is protein floating in blood that allows the blood to clot. These coatings camouflage the cancer cell. This appears to be the real reason for the inability of the body’s immune system to identify the cancer cells. Japanese scientists believe that the enzyme Natto Kinase dissolves clots and fibrin deposits in various parts of the body and thus can remove the protective coating on the cancer cell so that the lymphocytes of the immune system can recognize and destroy them. The natural sources of this enzyme are the Papaya and the Pineapple. Of late pineapple juice has become a hot topic of research interest and discussions. Similarly a lot of serious research is ongoing regarding efficacy of sprouts, wheatgrass in treating the cancers.

(e) Some researchers are of the opinion that one of strongest reasons for initiation of cancer is the exhausted (tired) pancreas and the adrenal glands. The exhausted pancreas is unable to produce pancreatic enzyme which is required to fight the cancer. Similarly the exhausted adrenal gland produces less of Aldosterone that is required to maintain the proper balance between the Sodium and Potassium levels in the body. These factors lead to cancer and the water retention (edema). The edema is caused by the body retaining the fluid in order to dilute excess salt. An interesting question is that when liver, pancreas and the adrenal glands are exhausted, where does the blood sugar go? The answer is that the tumor eats it. It should be remembered that one of the most important causes of exhaustion of pancreas as well as the adrenal glands is the stress. In fact, removal of mental stresses or at least minimizing their effects should be first and foremost step in the treatment of cancer. As repeated at several places in this blog, drugs cannot achieve this while the Pranayama yoga does achieve this very successfully.     

(f) Some researchers are strongly advocating use of vitamin B 17 for cancer treatment. They claim that vitamin B17 is nature’s own chemotherapy with least side effects. Vitamin B17 is found in appreciable quantities in Apricot kernel seeds. Other sources of these vitamins are bitter almonds, wheatgrass, flaxseed, maize, millet and seeds of apple.

(g) A new concept called “biologically closed electric circuit “(BCEC) is being talked about in curing cancers. Bjorn Nordenström, a qualified European radiologist discovered that the electric potential at the center of most tumors is positive with respect to the normal tissue surrounding the tumor.  He realized that a wound, or tumor, had a considerable amount of cell degradation (lyses) occurring at its center, making this region positively charged and highly acidic.  Therefore, in relation to the surrounding normal tissue, the wound or tumor site had the properties of a wet cell battery, producing a positive potential between the center and periphery of the wound or tumor. Using a suitable electrical circuit, a closed-loop circulating current and energy flow is accomplished by the transport of charged particles (ions and electrons), producing slowly varying electric currents in the human body. For this, various conductive pathways (interstitial fluid, blood vessels, nerve fiber, muscle, etc.) are utilized.  The healing currents are found to be slowly varying with respect to time. It is claimed that using external source of electricity, the environment in the cancer cell changes to alkaline and the cancer cell gets destroyed

Role of Pranayama yoga in cancer treatment

There are several other treatment methods which claim to be totally curing the cancer. There is however, no sufficient clinical data to prove or disprove them. A detailed article by Haltiwanger (http://www.royalrifer.com/haltiwanger) gives the details of electrical properties of cancer cells.

An article “Scientific Basis of Energy Healing by Carol L. Bowman describes how the human body is surrounded by various energy bodies which are not perceptible to the normal organs of human perception. The paper shows that the paradigm of treating human diseases by drugs is based upon incorrect concept of considering the human body as just a biochemical unit.

The basic principle behind the Pranayama yoga is that the human being is a physical body surrounded by various energy bodies. These energy bodies are connected to the physical body at points called the chakras. The chakras are the points along the spinal column where sympathetic (Pingala Nadi) nervous system and the parasympathetic (Ida Nadi) cross or make a plexus. These Nadis are the channels through which the life energy flows. The energy bodies derive the energy from the omnipresent cosmic life energy and pass it on to physical body through the chakras. If both of the Nadis carry equal energy (balanced condition), the life energy gets equally distributed over the entire body and at cellular level. This energy enables the cells to vibrate enabling them to carry out the cellular processes correctly as per the needs of the body.

The energy derived from the food through the Oxygen metabolism then supplements the total cellular processes. On the other hand, if Ida and Pingala nadis are not balanced at a particular chakra causing the blockage/distortion in the chakra, the connected physical body starts suffering from complex diseases such as cancer.

This also shows Pranayama yoga is an energy healing procedure since it removes the blockages in the chakras so that physical body receives the cosmic energy through the energy bodies and no cell/ tissue is starved of energy. The figure shown below aims at clarifying the above concepts

Life Force

Breath Connects Us to The Cosmic Energy

Just because cosmic life force (energy) surrounds the entire universe does not necessarily mean existence of life. It is quite similar to the case where we have electrical transmission system around us but our own house is not connected with it. It is necessary that the life force is inducted into our body through a certain connection process. Humans get connected with cosmic energy through breathing which also activates the heart (a most important condition for life) and charges the chakras. In order to understand the role played by various chakras, it is very important to know what happens during breathing and how the life current starts.

From Where Do We Get Energy?

The energy required for sustaining the human life comes from two sources. The first one is the energy from the cosmic life energy field and the other is from the food. Both of these sources have certain strong relationship with breathing. 

  • Most of the people have a doubt as to how the cosmic energy through breathing reaches the entire cellular structure of the body. The Fascia shown in the figure is the  connective  tissue  present  in  the body which surrounds every muscle, bone, organ, nerve fiber, blood vessel and the skin.It  can  absorb/transmit   electromagnetic   fields  at each   of  its   building   blocks (cells) . Thus, the entire body can receive the cosmic life energy through fascia.
  • The Fascia can also transport the externally applied pulsating electromagnetic fields to the cells which are located in the most remote locations in the body.  The fascia can also transport the externally applied pulsations which can be pressure pulsations, acoustic waves, thermally generated waves. It has been proved beyond any doubt that pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEFT) can regenerate the damaged tissues of the knee and other joints. Another example, which can cited is the successful application of enhanced external counter pulsation (EECP) technique for removal of coronary blockages.

All the organs and physiological systems which include the nervous system, respiratory system, circulation system etc have their own natural rhythms. Also the entire cosmos has certain rhythms some which have been discovered only in last few decades


Natural Rhythms

The modern science has discovered some natural rhythms in the cosmos. Some of them are listed below:

  • Charged  particles  produced  by sun   oscillate  back and forth  in a frequency  range 1-40 Hz  well  within  physiological  frequencies.
  • The spectrum of earth-ionosphere cavity resonance, called Schumann resonance covers 1-30 Hz with an average value around 7.8 Hz.
  • 0.1Hz (6 cycles per minute) is natural frequency of human circulating system. This also corresponds to natural frequency of respiratory system as well as that of autonomic nervous system.
  • 7.8 Hz is frequency of hippocampus region of human brain.
  • 10 Hz corresponds to circadian  rhythm (pineal gland)
  • Brain alpha wave frequency is around 8 Hz.

Research has shown that our entire body, starting from cells, has piezoelectric, semi-conducting and ferromagnetic characteristics. They thus easily receive universal life energy which exists in wide frequency band. The depth and frequency of  breathing  can  be  adopted such  that they  match   with or  in  near   neighborhood  of  these natural frequencies – resonance condition.

Effects of ElectroMagnetic Waves Generated during Pranayama

  • In resonance phenomenon, the frequency (ies) of applied force match with natural frequency of the system. In such condition, there is great amplification of the force.
  • For example, if we keep our breathing rate 5-6 breaths per minute, it will excite and also cause the resonance of the circulatory system whose natural frequency is around 0.1 Hz (6 per minute). Due to this the force of blood circulation will be high thereby by removing blockages. This, being natural frequency of the respiratory as well as the autonomic nervous system, breathing at rate ~ 6bpm is extremely beneficial. It is called coherent breathing. In the above case 5(6) breaths per minute is the fundamental frequency of breathing pattern. This also causes resonance of higher frequencies. This has been proved by research. This Pranayama is called the Bhastrika Pranayama.
  • Breathing pattern of Kapalabhati  Pranayama where we do soft inhalation  followed by  forced exhalation at the rate, say 60 strokes per minute (1Hz),  we  excite the  natural frequency of  brain alpha waves  as  well  as natural frequency of circulatory system  (0.1 Hz). This fact can be proved mathematically by Fourier analysis of the wave pattern of breath in Pranayama exercises. 
  • In both of the above breathing exercises, the energy level in the entire body, even at microscopic/cellular level, increases tremendously. This increased level of energy works more effectively than chemical drugs and also the immune system becomes so efficient that it kills all invaders.
  • The Anulom-Vilom Pranayama greatly balances the working of the brain hemisphere. Additionally a rhythm of about 5-6 breaths per minute greatly help in working of the immune system of the body. Recent research at All India Institute of Medical Sciences has shown remarkable increase in the NK as well as T cells in the human blood when Anulom-Vilom Pranayama is practiced for 15-20 minutes every day.
  • In my own practical experience, Pranayama also shows a significant increase in the hemoglobin level in the blood of people who were reported to be anemic. Also the bones, having crystalline structure, respond extremely well to EM waves generated in Pranayama exercises. The research done in China shows a significant increase in the red marrow of the bones and substantial.The Chinese researchers call this process as bone marrow washing process.
  • The cancer and its treatment has been the subject of intense research all over the world and billions of dollars are being spent. We shall discuss this in details in this blog in later posts. The most glittering finding of cancer research is the hypoxic condition of the tissue and the acidic environment at the site of the cancer. Pranayama yoga is one of the most effective ways of avoiding tissue hypoxia and ensuring the acid-alkali balance in the body.
  • Pranayama essentially is an Energy Healing Technique and is being categorized in the list of alternative medical practice despite strong fundamentals on which it is based. For that matter, even the action of a drug takes place at molecular vibration level but unfortunately they may produce undesirable side effects by affecting the natural rhythm of other systems in the body. This effect is more pronounced while treating the hypertension with drugs that enlarge the narrowed blood vessels or treating diabetes with hypoglycemic drugs which interfere with other body systems resulting in some side effects.

The Role of Pranyama on Cerebro Spinal Fluid

What is Cerebro Spinal Fluid(CSF)?

Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear, colorless body fluid very similar in chemical composition to blood plasma and seawater. These constituents render battery fluid like properties to CSF. It flows primarily within and around the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) .

Functions of the CSF

CSF supplies nutrients and eliminates the waste products. It provides the liquid cushioning effect and thus physically protects the brain and spinal cord. On account of its highly current conducting property, it serves as a medium for the flow of energy and information. It is the most conductive fluid in the body.

The CSF contains large concentration of Neuropeptides. Neuropeptides (nerve-proteins) are the informational molecules that are produced mostly in the brain. They are found primarily in the cerebrospinal fluid, and secondarily in the blood. They are called “messenger” molecules, because they transmit and distribute electrical/electrochemical information throughout the body, and thus coordinate practically all life processes on a cellular level.

All the systems of the body (digestion, respiration, elimination etc.) are made up of glands (adrenal, mammary etc.), and organs (heart, liver, lungs, etc.). Glands and organs are comprised of tissues, (fat, bone, muscle etc.), and tissues are composed of cells. Cells, therefore, are the fundamental functional (physiological) and structural (anatomical) parts of the human body which require proper information required for carrying out the cellular function.

Neuropeptides are one category of the essential body chemicals called “ligands (from the Latin word ligare, “that which binds”). Ligands are natural or man-made substances that bind selectively to a specific receptor site on the surface of a cell. For example, if we consider its analogy with a golf ball, the tiny depressions on the surface would be receptor sites. However, unlike the number of dimples on a golf ball, each human cell has hundreds of thousands of receptor sites for Neuropeptides, and nerve cells do have millions of them.

It is the function of ligands to transmit a message to the cell that coordinate body functions such as metabolism, (digestion and elimination), and respiration on a cellular level. These cellular processes in turn bring about dramatic functional changes in tissues, glands, organs, and entire body systems.

The life of the cell, and hence in a large part the life of the individual, is determined by the actions of Neuropeptides. The scientists have discovered almost one hundred Neuropeptides circulating within the body. Almost all-physical activity, behavior, even our emotions are defined by microscopic physiological (functional) changes on a cellular level involving Neuropeptides. These physiological changes result in changes in our mental emotional state in a cyclical process, where changes in our mental-emotional state also produce changes in our physiological state.

Candace Pert, Ph.D., an eminent, world-renowned neuroscientist, calls Neuropeptides as the “molecules of emotion”. In Dr. Pert’s ground breaking book by the same title, she uses the analogy of the cell as an engine that drives all life processes, where the receptor sites are the buttons on the control panel, and the Neuropeptides is the finger that pushes the button and starts everything. Dr. Pert feels the standard scientific key fitting into a lock analogy, (where the Neuropeptides is the key and the receptor site the lock), is too static an image for this dynamic process. She uses the description of two voices, ligand and receptor site, hitting the same note, and resulting in a resonance that rings the doorbell of the cell to open it.

An example of the interplay between ligands and receptor sites would be “endorphins”, which are Neuropeptides in the opiate group. Endorphins are natural body chemicals produced in the brain in response to pain. They are a “pain-relieving” Neuropeptides that raises the threshold of the mind-body to pain. A mentally or emotionally stressful condition may prevent endorphins from reaching their opiate receptor sites on the cells to relieve pain. Under these conditions a man-made substance, such as heroin or morphine, can also function as a ligand, and bind with the opiate receptor site and relieve pain.

The circulation of cerebrospinal fluid is of paramount importance because it contains the greatest concentration of the “messenger molecules” (Neuropeptides) as they circulate throughout the body. The largest volume of cerebrospinal fluid in the body is found within a space between the layers of the meninges – a very thin, saran wrap-like, multi-layered covering of the brain and spinal cord. The recent scientific research suggests the CSF also flows outside the brain and spinal cord in the peripheral nervous system, and within a micro-circulatory system in the neuroglical connective tissue of the body. Connective tissue is aptly named because it “connects” and supports literally everything in the body.

As per the recent hypothesis, the Neuropeptides, circulating in the cerebrospinal fluid, reach their cellular destinations via the central and peripheral nervous system vis a vis CSF filled connective tissue tubules within the nervous system called neuroglial cells.

“Glial” is from the Greek word meaning glue. This is quite a misnomer because Glial cells (the largest number of cells in the brain) are much more than a supporting structure for the nervous system. They also serve a nutrient function. Many physiologists claim that they form a communication network of their own, which could serve as a transportation system for the all-important Neuropeptides.

Although some Neuropeptides also circulate in the blood, the cerebrospinal fluid is the major medium utilized by the “messenger molecules”. Neuropeptides can travel the nervous system thousands of miles over the Glial cell/CSF network to bring about dramatic changes in the mind-body on a cellular level. Consequently, as the major pathway of Neuropeptides, the unimpeded flow of cerebrospinal fluid is of paramount importance to the optimal functioning of the mind-body.

Another aspect of CSF circulation and the beneficial effects of Pranayama , involves substances called electrolytes. Electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity when in a solution, and the CSF contains two such substances, sodium and potassium. These electrolytes in the CSF maintain an electrical balance that controls the functioning of the nervous system. It is an established fact the nervous system behaves as per the principle of flow of electricity. The nervous system regulates and coordinates all the body’s systems. Therefore, the optimum functioning of all body parts is directly related to the proper balance and circulation of the aforementioned electrolytes in the CSF.

Circulation of CSF

Cerebrospinal fluid is circulated around the brain and spinal cord by two pumping mechanisms at the top (cranium) and the bottom (sacrum) of the spinal column. The diaphragmatic breathing practiced in Pranayama activates the CSF sacral pump at the bottom of the spine. This occurs as dome shaped diaphragm muscle contracts down on the sacrum on inspiration (breathing in) pumping cerebrospinal fluid up around the spinal cord into the brain. As the Pranayama practitioner concentrates on breathing diaphragmatically, it evokes a succession of contractions and relaxations of this powerful muscle pumping CSF through the rhythmic movement of the sacrum which is the foundation of the spine.

This flexion and extension (forward and backward movement) of the sacrum also affects all the spinal bones above it. The connecting joints between each spinal bone and vertebrae, (aptly called “articular pillars” because they look like pistons), move in an up and down motion in coordination with the diaphragmatic contractions and relaxations. Thus the sacrum pumps, due to the action of the piston-like joints between each vertebra, also pump cerebrospinal fluid up into the cranium.

How Pranayama Helps in Effective Circulation of CSF?

Other types of Pranayama such as alternate nostril breathing and Kriyas (advanced Pranayama) affect the other CSF pumping mechanism within the cranium itself. In alternate nostril breathing (Anulom-Vilom) as the practitioner inhales and exhales, the diaphragm muscle pumps CSF via the sacrum. Also as the nasal passages fill up with air, the spheo-basilar cranial bones behind the nose (the cranial pump) are activated, and oscillate in a rhythmic motion. This movement propels the CSF down the spine through the hollow vertical tube of the central canal of the spinal cord within the spinal column.


Pranayama-The Most Powerful Technique of Enhancing Circulation of CSF

Kriya Pranayama effect both the sacral pumping mechanism and the to and fro oscillations of the spheno-basilar bones. Kriya breath stimulates the spheno-basilar bones to vibrate propelling CSF down the spine, and also activate the sacral pumping mechanism. Thus, as the Kriya Pranayama enables working of both the cranial and sacral pumps, it is the most powerful technique of enhancing circulation of CSF around and within the brain and spinal cord.

Another aspect of Pranayama that facilitates CSF circulation occurs as the practitioner gently holds their breath for brief interludes (kumbhakas), or breathes in a circular pattern up and down the spine (called the Sushumna breath). Temporarily holding the breath (kumbhaka) or doing Sushumna breathing increases pressure within the chest cavity as the lungs fill up with air. This enlarged air volume in the chest area, caused by the expanded lungs, exerts a slight pressure on the CSF flowing around the spinal cord and thereby facilitates circulation. Temporarily holding the breath, or doing Sushumna breathing also causes Neuropeptides to quickly release in to the CSF from the respiratory centers at the base of the brain.


How to Enhance Our Ability to Maximize Our Potential as Human Beings Physically, Mentally and Emotionally

Serotonin is a natural body chemical, which enhances mood and our feeling of well-being (euphoria). It is released from the cells that line the walls of the ventricles, two cavities within the upper part of the brain where CSF is produced. It is also secreted from the supraependymal cells that line the central canal of the spinal cord, the major pathway of CSF. As the cerebrospinal fluid flows more freely around the brain and spinal cord, it stimulates the above-mentioned cells to release serotonin.

When endorphins are released from the brain into the CSF, the result is a feeling of euphoria, bliss and expanded consciousness. Therefore, the combined effect of these two body chemicals circulating more naturally in the CSF creates physical feelings of joy and well being as well as a sensation of expanded consciousness.

When the cerebrospinal fluid is circulating freely we are truly “in the flow”, as the Neuropeptides are able to go where they need to go to coordinate life processes on a physical and emotional level. This enhances our ability to maximize our potential as human beings physically, mentally and emotionally. Pranayama Yoga works because it facilitates the circulation of the “fluid of life”, “the liquid light” called cerebrospinal fluid, and thereby enhances the functioning of the all-important Neuropeptides.