When man came to know that within him there was an organ which controlled his physical actions and reactions, called the brain, he decided to investigate it. When he realized that he had a power within him which controlled his brain, body, actions, emotions, feelings, etc., known as the mind, he decided to investigate this also. Yet there are very few pioneers who have made a systematic investigation on the whole physiology and psychology of the human being.
One of the important needs of today is to lead a tension-free life. Man wants to be happy, but still he is not capable of unburdening himself from frustrations, stresses and anxieties. He wants to manipulate the world to suit his needs, desires and ambitions. As a result, phobias, complexes, inhibitions and psychological traumas manifest. It is in this area that man has to divert his attention, if he is to integrate the various phases of human personality and overcome terror, insecurity, passions, fright, uncertainty, suspicion, etc. which constantly influence physiological, emotional, mental and psychic behaviour patterns.
All the various systems of the body and the activities that go on in them are directed by the brain. The mind as conscious and subconscious has direct influence on the brain's activity, and this can be seen in the form of brain waves. When the conscious mind directs the activity of the brain, then beta and alpha rhythms predominate, reflecting in a state of mental activity, alertness and relaxation. When the subconscious mind directs the activity of the brain, then theta and delta rhythms predominate, reflecting a state of concentration, one-pointed perception, awareness and introversion. When there is intense activity in an emotional, physical or mental frame, then brain waves can in some ways influence the whole system positively or negatively. They do this by blocking the perceptions of the conscious and subconscious mind, which then turn into tension; or by bringing the whole system to a state of intense sensitivity, receptivity and activity by developing the creative capacities in man.
Apart from all this, there are many more reasons for the unknown influences on physical, emotional, mental and psychological behaviours which bring problems and diseases in man's life. But one point to remember is that diseases, ailments, or any type of problem on any level of human personality originate with a state of imbalance. Physical body and brain are affected by the mind and vice versa. It is the sentiments, emotions, feelings, objectives, passions, stresses, desires and ambitions in the mind which create physiological changes. A thought can and does influence the body, and a limb pain caused by a minor or major injury can and does project tension into the mind.
Recent investigations prove that within each individual lies the key to relief from mental, physical, psychological and emotional disorders. Awareness, harmony, mental clarity and inner balance are the principal factors in establishing a state of balance in man. Yoga techniques such as asanas, pranayamas, relaxation, concentration and meditation help the individual to attain awareness, balance and harmony.
Within the body are currents of energy, which travel from top to bottom, circulating all throughout. These are known as bio-plasmic energy channels, nadis, electromagnetic currents or pranic passages. The whole body is a composition of prana and mind. Subtle pranas are responsible for our physical actions and motions in life, while mind is responsible for thinking and feeling. These are the two great twin forces in our system. If they lose their balance, then corresponding imbalance is created in the physical and mental behaviour. The practices of raja yoga and hatha yoga are based on these twin forces. Through the practice of asana and pranayama the energy or pranic force is balanced, and through the practice of concentration, relaxation and meditation, the mind is balanced.
Clinical and scientific investigations done by Bihar School of Yoga and scientists such as Dr Aleksandrowicz, T. Pasek and W. Romanowski in Poland, M. A. Wenger and B. K. Bagchi in India, show that with the practice of asanas an aspirant has higher scores in the evaluation of autonomic balance and lowered sympathetic activity. Heart beat, blood pressure and blood flow become synchronized and constant, which helps to create a type of resonancy in the inner involuntary body functions. Skeletal, muscular, endocrinal and nervous systems then respond in a highly sensitive manner to ensure proper function and maintain health.
Further investigations on pranayama have revealed that practitioners have decreased adrenocortical activity, which can be interpreted as increased ability to resist stress. The brain's activity is dominated by alpha waves, suggesting less nervous irritability. Aspirants also showed less neuroticism, decreased mental fatigue, improved awareness as well as lowered oxygen consumption and use of full lung capacity. Cardiac and respiratory function improved and there was a marked increase of physiological resistance.
There are pranayamas which stretch and squeeze specific areas of the body, restoring optimal nervous connections to the vital organs, including the endocrinal glands. Certain other pranayamas alternately stimulate and inhibit the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The endocrinal glands related to these nerves are therefore systematically relaxed and activated, and better function results. Since these glands are often in a state of over activity, pranayama gives them the rest they need to work properly and harmoniously for better health and physical well being.
Practice of more forceful pranayamas involves hyperventilation and there is a rise in oxygen concentration in the cerebral tissues and cerebrospinal fluid as a result.
In the atmosphere both negative and positive ions are found, and through pranayama techniques these are selectively absorbed into the system to enrich the bloodstream, heart, lungs, brain and other tissues and organs with vitalizing energy. This brings about a change in the coordination of physical functions and mental attitudes. Pranayama practice also influences the higher functions of the brain, such as cognition, perception and memory.
The brain is made up of millions of nerve cells or neurons, each of which has its own function and duty to perform, yet each one is related in some way to all other cells. The brain receives messages from the outside world via the sensory organs, as well as from the internal organs of the body and muscles. Then the brain decides on how we must act and how we must not, according to our previously recorded experiences and memory.
The brain is a very complex computer, and the 4 types of waves reflect its character. Usually the beta wave frequency (30-13Hz) is related to the active functioning of the brain. The alpha rhythm (12-8Hz) is related to the receptive state of the brain. The theta rhythm (7-4Hz) is related to the concentrated one-pointed frame of mind. The delta rhythm (3-5Hz) occurs almost exclusively during deep sleep.
In an adult human being who is at rest with the eyes closed, allowing the mind to wander freely, the most prominent component of the EEG is a fairly regular pattern of alpha rhythms which are characteristically synchronized. However, the frequency of alpha rhythm may also occur due to certain imbalances in the body such as low blood glucose level, low body temperature, low level of adrenal gluco-corticoid hormones, and high arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide. When the body is totally free of stresses and is functioning in a state of profound metabolic balance corresponding to its peak capacity, then the receptivity of the mind pertains to the alpha rhythm. At that time, man has the ability to think, act, and discriminate optimally, and all the mental capacities coordinate perfectly with each other.
The influence of sound vibrations upon the brain has also been investigated. Sound is a form of energy that influences the mind and the awareness without having to be intellectually understood within the system of categories. The science of vibrations or mantras is a systematized knowledge of sounds and their effects on the human personality. Specific sound vibrations have been shown to influence metabolic functions of the body, other sounds reduce anxiety and mental restlessness, and so on. Research at Barcelona University revealed that alpha wave synchronization and intensity increases at certain sound frequencies, while the vibrations of Om induce theta activity in the brain.
Asanas, pranayamas, concentration, relaxation and meditation, channel, coordinate and synchronize the activities of the brain and the physiological systems. This influences the conscious mind to act and to expand its capacities. As awareness is developed by the practice of yoga, greater harmony is achieved between the different dimensions of the human personality. Expansion of awareness takes place when one becomes simultaneously aware of the conscious and subconscious perceptions. As the actions, feelings, desires and sentiments are coordinated, the mind evolves; it begins to open other dimensions and unites the various phases of consciousness together. In every realm of personality, in every state of awareness, in every dimension of consciousness, there is total harmony, balance and coordination, leading to free expression of the personality and inner being.