Studies on Bhujangasana

The importance of fully understanding the various yogic techniques before prescribing them cannot be overestimated. One must have a thorough knowledge of the yogic discipline, both practically and theoretically, in order to fully grasp the mechanisms being applied. A thorough knowledge of the disease condition is also essential so as to aid its natural resolution. This combination of medicine and yoga appears to have a valuable and important role to play in advancing the healing profession's ability to effectively manage many conditions hitherto thought to be beyond our reach.

In understanding the role of healing it is important to examine each component of the armament in order to assess its physiological and psychological effects. Dr. M.V. Bhole of the Division of Scientific Research, Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti, Lonavala (India) has researched various aspects of bhujangasana and reported his findings to the First Conference on the Applications of Yoga in Rehabilitation Therapy held in Czechoslovakia, 21-23 June 1978. *1

Bhole selected 12 healthy male volunteers aged 25 to 30 years. They were trained in bhujangasana with different modes of breathing, plus other yogic routines, for 4 months before the experiment began. Then a thin rubber balloon was swallowed and inflated in the stomach so as to record the intragastric pressures. Measurements of this pressure were then recorded while using various breathing rhythms.

The results of the experiment showed that before the asana was performed the mean pressure was approximately 2.75 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). After the asana was performed the following readings were taken:

  1. with deep inhalation - approx. 12 mm Hg
  2. with deep exhalation - approx. minus 2 mm Hg
  3. with normal breathing - approx. 4.75 mm Hg 4.. with normal inspiration - approx. 6.88 mm Hg
  4. with normal expiration - approx. 0.83 mm Hg
  5. deep breathing throughout - approx. 11.4 mm Hg
  6. when sarpasana was performed (bhujangasana but with the hands held behind the back) the readings ranged from 20.2 mm Hg on deep inhalation to 1.44 mm Hg on deep expiration.

The author notes that, "It is conceivable to observe positive pressure developing in the stomach as the individual is assuming a position of hyper-extension of the spine against the force of gravity. But it is surprising to find sub-atmospheric pressures developing in this asana with certain modes of breathing." He states that because the asanas are maintained for some time and the body musculature is relaxed, the pressures will act on the body in a different way to other forms of exercise. He then goes on to develop guidelines for the use of bhujangasana in the field of rehabilitation to be used along with the established rehabilitative and medical techniques:

  1. Circulatory conditions such as hypertension would appear to benefit by bhujangasana performed during exhalation as this is said not to put a strain on the heart. A sluggish circulation however will respond better to bhujangasana after deep inhalation, or continued deep breathing.
  2. Respiratory conditions such as emphysema would benefit more from bhujangasana with exhalation while pockets of alveolar collapse or poor ventilation would benefit more from bhujangasana with deep inspiration or deep breathing.
  3. Gastrointestinal conditions such as sluggish liver and other forms of congestion, constipation, and so on will benefit from inhalation and deep breathing as compared with conditions such as irritable colon, hernia or prolapse in which deep or normal exhalation are required.
  4. Mental tensions in the form of depression would appear to benefit more from inhalation while anxiety and hyperactive states would benefit more from exhalation, according to Bhole.

All the above conditions should only be treated under the guidance of an expert yoga teacher and a qualified medical practitioner. In the hands of such experienced people the correct use of combinations and permutations of asanas, pranayama and relaxation/meditation techniques may prove useful in a variety of disease conditions.

References

*1. M.V. Bhole, "Importance of Scientific Research in Yoga: Intragastric Pressure Changes in 'Bhujangasana' with Different Modes of Breathing". 'Abstrakty', reprints of the First Conference on the Applications of Yoga in Rehabilitation Therapy, 21-23 June, 1978, Czechoslovakia.