Many are curious about the mind-body connection… They have an experience of it for themselves, and yet can’t really explain it. I believe Ayurveda has the most elegant explanation for this phenomenon.
Ayurveda describes the human being as a series of channels: channels for nourishment, for the elimination of wastes, for the creation and maintenance of tissues, and for the mind. There’s a channel for every function of the human being.
In this channel system (known in sanskrit as srotas) three of the main channels permeate the entire being – they go everywhere! These are the channels of nourishment (rasa vaha srotas), breath and prana (prana vaha srotas), and the mind (mano vaha srotas). The Ayurvedis understood that every cell needs nourishment, oxygen, prana and consciousness and so the channels that deliver these must permeate the entire body.
The channels of nourishment build the body – without food and water, there are no building blocks to support and maintain our physical self.
The channels of breath and prana circulate, support and maintain the energy in our body and mind. This might sound like a strange example, it comes from my days as First Aid/Ski Patrol. It is believed that the difference between a corpse being artificially respirated (being given CPR and AR) and someone who is alive is that the person who is alive has prana – the vital life energy which animates us. Without breath and prana, we lack aliveness.
The channels of the mind circulate, maintain and support the functions of mind – processing sensory information, memory, and consciousness. Without mind, we cannot navigate in the external or internal world.
Ayurveda describes each channel as having a root (a starting place), a pathway (the channel itself) and an opening (a way to get things in and out). The part that fascinates me about these three channels that permeate everywhere, is that they share a root. All three of these channels, nourishment, breath and mind, are described as being rooted in the heart. This shows us that Ayurveda believes not only is there a body-mind connection, but a body-breath-mind-heart connection!
When channel systems intersect somewhere, then these channels influence each other. Knowing that the channels of nourishment, breath and mind root in the same location (the heart) means that each of these is going to affect the other. What we eat affects our prana-energy levels and the function of our mind. How we breathe affects our sense of nourishment and thought patterns. How we think affects body and breath… The body, breath, mind and heart are all connected, which means that when something shifts in one area, it will likely shift in another.
Next time I’ll write more about how Yoga, as a sister science to Ayurveda, knows about and works with this connection 🙂 Until then spend time noticing the connection between your body, breath, mind and heart.
Om shanti & prema (peace & love),