With the rapid advances in technology over the last century, the use of machinery to measure changes in body and mind and to delve into the workings of the complex structure of our body has proliferated. While the scientist finds himself having difficulty in catching up with the latest technological trends, the layman is completely left behind It is for this reason we are presenting the following sketch of currently used research apparatus, perusing and pursuing the many varied fields of interest in order to give a wide, though incomplete, picture of the equipment used in research.
The heart muscle, like all muscle in the body, is stimulated by electrical energy generated in the nervous system. The electrical energy is generated by chemical changes in the nerves and can be detected by electrodes (conductors of electricity) placed either on the heart itself or at strategic points on the surface of the body. The electrical changes generated in the heart muscle are conducted via body fluids to the body surface, and can be translated via an electrocardiogram into visible signals, either on a cathode ray oscilloscope or on to graph paper for a permanent record called an electrocardiograph. ECG's are used extensively in clinical work in hospitals and by heart specialists. The EGG shows us a pattern on paper which represents the action of the heart. By placing electrodes at different parts of the body, we can interpret many things that are happening to the heart, for example, the rate of contraction, strength of contraction and so on. They are a reflection of events going on within the chest.
EGG's are used extensively in yogic research to determine the effects of various yogic practices, such as asana, pranayama and meditation, on the heart. We can then correlate this information with other information gained through various sources to pattern a more complete picture of what yoga does to the body and thereby derive greater understanding.
By placing electrodes on the scalp and sending wires to various amplifiers, cathode ray oscilloscopes or graph paper, a record is obtained of the electrical activity of the brain in much the same way as ECG's are taken. Of course, the pattern is different.
What the EEG represents in terms of the source of the electrical energy that we measure is not understood. The gray matter of the brain and nuclear masses of the thalamus make important contributions. The waves recorded are found to correlate with various physical and mental states. In 1902, Hans Berger, a German medical doctor, observed that the EEG of human subjects varied in frequency (number per given unit of time) and amplitude (height), and bore a relation to changes in consciousness, such as wakefulness, dreaming and sleeping.
Basically and simply speaking, the EEG measures the electrical activity of neurons (cells) in the nervous system, the rhythm of pulses fired by the neurons. When groups of neurons fire their electrical charge at the same time, the EEG record shows low frequency and high amplitude. When the pulses are out of synchrony the EEG records high frequency low amplitude.
There are four types of brainwaves:
Doctors mainly use EEG's in the identification of epilepsy, brain tumours, mental illnesses and other neuropsychological and psychiatric disorders. Researchers are using EEG's in studies on yoga, zen, meditation, hypnosis, sleep, attention, ESP, creativity, learning, hyperkinesis in children, psychology of music, left/right hemisphere synchronization, and the effects of tranquillizers, stimulants, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, psychedelics and other drugs.
This machine is connected to the lungs to form a circuit. Each inhalation and exhalation is recorded as to its composition, volume, strength, etc. A bell suspended in water moves up and down with each breath. This movement pushes a pen on a graph paper making a permanent recording. More sensitive equipment is used to determine the composition of the air breathed etc. From this sort of equipment we can gain such information as the oxygen used per breath and per minute.
This complex piece of machinery is used to analyse oxygen carbon dioxide and other components of the blood. The available blood is usually simultaneously analysed to determine, by various other tests, red and white blood cell counts and measurement of such substances as blood urea, nitrogen, minerals, lactate.
This instrument measures the pulse, its amplitude, rate and regularity by determining and registering variations in the volume of an organ, part or limb, and in the amount of blood present or passing through it. It is also used to record variations in the amount of blood supply and volume of parts. Some plethysmographs consist of a glass jar into which the hand and wrist are inserted.
One currently popular field that uses a great deal of research equipment is biofeedback, the process of controlling a system by using its past performance as a means of regulating its present performance. Feedback from different parts of the body goes on continually. The eyes, ears, nose, touch and taste relay messages to the brain which then sends out signals as to the best way to act in the given situation. Learning about the body and its different functions has led technologists to devise machinery capable of sensing subtle body processes and translating them into perceivable signals. The following are some of the machines used in biofeedback.
All the above mentioned instruments are not confined to any one field of research. They are used extensively and form the parameters or quantities measured in all the fields of research. In yoga research they measure the effects of yogic practices such as asanas, pranayama and meditation on the heart, lungs, blood, brain, digestion, etc.
Other researchers are inventing their own specialized instruments to cover their field of work. One of the best known examples of this is the kirlian photography device. This non-conventional photographic process sets up a high voltage alternating current energy field between two condenser-like plates to reproduce a corona or auric field around material objects such as hands, plants, coins, etc. Some researchers claim that this field is merely the electric field affecting the photographic emulsion, while others suggest that it is the reflection of the pranic field in the electric field. The use of this machine is still in its infancy but its potential is incredible. It may open up the whole psychic network of the body to scientific observation and discovery, and improve diagnosis and healing on all levels.
The field of science has opened itself up wide to new ideas and inventions. In Japan, Hiroshi Motoyama has developed a chakra machine capable of picking up electromagnetic radiation emitted from the body at the points corresponding to the chakras in the psychic body. He has also developed machines capable of measuring the amount of energy (prana) in the acupuncture meridians.
In America Itzhak Bentov has utilized a capacitive probe apparatus to measure the motion of the blood through the circulatory system, as a sensitive measure of body prana and kundalini awakening. The measurement is of the waves generated by the blood in the aorta, rebounding up into the skull and setting up interference (coherence) waves. This is correlated with the chest due to respiration.
Wilhehn Reich developed an orgone (pranic) accumulator capable of directing healing energies to the body. The Russians have also been developing very similar equipment in this field, some of which are called psionic generators.
The search for new and more sensitive equipment goes on. Though technology advances into more and more complicated and sophisticated equipment, researchers should not lose sight of the fact that the human body is the best instrument for picking up, detecting and observing. The mind is the most sensitive device to interpret, and the intuition the most exact and refined measuring scale on which to weigh the wonders of nature and the fruits of our labour. The body and mind can be made more sensitive, powerful and subtle through the techniques of yoga. As we refine ourselves and come to a deeper understanding of how the body and mind work, we enhance our ability to use the technology that is being discovered and developed through inner inspiration. At the same time the results of our research work become easier to interpret and more meaningful, as they are a reflection of inner experience. Research becomes a means to enhance inner growth and create a better world to live in. Through the one pointedness that emerges from yogic practice, we can delve into the heart of nature and all her marvels.