Introducing Marma Yoga

Swami Vishwashakti Saraswati and Swami Omkarmurti Saraswati

Yoga was created with the highest aim ‘to make the quality of life better for humankind and to minimize mental and physical suffering’. As such, from the beginning, the holistic science of yoga was in fact the science of the self-healing process.

Marma yoga is based on the knowledge of Samkhya philosophy, pancha mahabhutas, gunas, koshas, and the ida-pingala qualities of prana shakti, prana or vital energy, nadis or vital energy channel network, marmas or vital energy points and chakras or vital energy centres. Using this subtle knowledge, marma yoga creates the system of self-healing.

Marma yoga provides us with knowledge and awareness of pranamaya kosha or the vital energy field of our system. Pranamaya kosha is composed of the flow of prana shakti, the nadis, chakras and marmas.

Marmas are points of the vital energy or prana shakti, aligned on the nadis or vital energy channels. Through the pressure on marmas, it is possible to change the condition of prana shakti or vital energy, its flow through the nadis, and the condition of the flow itself. It means that through marmas we can affect the pranamaya kosha. This action of pressure further changes the condition of pranamaya kosha, and harmonizes the condition of prana shakti or vital energy. This harmonized condition of prana shakti or vital energy then restores the balance between the body, mind and pranic systems. The pranamaya kosha or our energy level acts as a bridge between annamaya kosha or the physical level and manomaya kosha or the mental level.

Annamaya kosha is the physical dimension of our consciousness and energy, which contains body organs, processes and systems. Manomaya kosha is the mental dimension of our consciousness and energy, which contains our mental, emotional and psychological perception. Pranamaya kosha is the energy dimension of our consciousness and energy, which contains prana shakti, nadis, chakras and marmas. An action of pressure on pranamaya kosha automatically causes changes and harmonizes the condition of the pancha tattwas or five elements, which changes the pranic and functional condition of our body organs, systems and processes, and the pranic and functional condition of our mental system and emotions. This is the result of the subtle pressure on marmas.

The first reference to marmas and nadis we find in the Atharva Veda. The great trinity of ayurveda, the rishis Charaka, Sushruta and Vagabata, were familiar with the knowledge of marma chikitsa or marma therapy, and they used this knowledge as a healing technique. Rishi Sushruta, one of the fathers of ayurveda, created the marma chikitsa system or the system of healing through the vital energy points. This was the beginning of the acupressure healing system which today is popular worldwide.

Later on Rishi Sushruta launched the suchi chikitsa or marma bhedan chikitsa, which today is known worldwide as the acupuncture healing system. It is evident that the other two fathers of ayurveda, rishis Charaka and Vagabata, used the subtle knowledge of marmas and suchi veda, as shalya chikitsa or piercing through the marmas for healing effects. Today we can find some references on nadis and marmas in Shiva Swarodaya, Charaka and Sushruta Samhitas, Shandilya and Chudamani Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, Yoga Sutras, and other texts. Unfortunately, they are not very complete or systematic.

Marma bhedan or acupuncture means piercing marmas or vital energy points, and chikitsa means healing. This piercing can be done through different techniques: through the pressure of our fingers, by needles, electric energy, laser, magnets, crystals, massage, or through marma yoga.

In marma yoga, through different techniques of yoga, we apply pressure directly on marmas, which are aligned along the nadis, and we change the pranic and functional conditions of the body, mind and energy systems. Therefore, it means that we need to apply some kind of subtle mental or physical pressure, which will build up a certain amount of energy and then apply it on our pranic system. On this base operate all pranic therapeutic techniques. So marma yoga is not a new system of pranic healing, it has existed from the time of the Vedas.

Today we have chakra puncture therapy, which is based on yogic chakra theory and we use the principles of marma yoga therapy. Only the modern pranic healers use needles, laser, electricity, colour rays, massage or fingers to apply the subtle pressure on chakras, instead of yogic asanas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas. The principles are the same and the results are the same.

It does not matter which method or technique is used to apply the subtle pressure of energy on marmas or chakras. The main subject is the energy of the subtle pressure. Even when we are practising meditation with the aim to change the pranic and functional condition of the body, mind and energy systems, we need some kind of subtle pressure of manas shakti or mental energy, which is a part of the prana shakti.

When we focus our consciousness, our mind and awareness on a certain point, we apply a subtle pressure of manas shakti on that point or region. This we could also call the pressure of prana or energy of our mind. Even when we practise mantra japa or mantra meditation, we focus and concentrate mantra shakti or energy of the sound vibration on a marma or chakra, and that subtle pressure changes the condition of our body, mind and energy systems. In kriya yoga of the Satyananda Yoga system we find that different techniques are used for piercing the chakras, with the aid of breath, mental energy, mantras and positions of body parts. It is also an aspect of marma yoga, though in a higher realm.

While we are practising bandhas we apply subtle pressure on a specific region of the chakra and marmas. That pressure accumulates prana shakti in the specific region of the chakra and marmas and changes the condition of prana shakti of that specific region. As the result of accumulated prana shakti in that specific region, further changes of directions of the pranic flows through the nadis occur. These changed directions of prana shakti flow will be redirected from that specific region to sushumna nadi and the flow of prana shakti will ascend through sushumna for higher purpose. At the same time, we will receive a lot of physical and mental benefits as secondary effects.

In yoga we often use techniques of pranayama and breath as the medium to transport prana shakti. We focus and concentrate the breath in a specific nadi, chakra and marma or in a specific region. It accumulates the pressure of prana shakti, which further changes the conditions of the tattwas, and levels of prana shakti in the nadic flow. As the nadis carry energies of the tattwas and are linked with the physical and mental body, so changes of physical, mental and emotional conditions take place. The kumbhaka or breath retention works through the same principle.

Even when we sing kirtan we stimulate our marmas by moving our bodies and clapping our hands. The sound of kirtan stimulates the vocal cords and the marmas on the nadis of the throat and chest region. We could say that to change the condition of our annamaya, manomaya and pranamaya koshas we need the subtle pressure on marmas and chakras or ‘marma chikitsa’.

Therefore, we can see that the marma yoga or the marma therapy of yoga is a heritage of the ancient vedic Indian medical system. It is a gift of our vedic ancestors. Marma yoga as an integral part of the ayurvedic subtle healing process belongs to the cosmic healing system.

Published in Marma Yoga, Yoga of Pranamaya Kosha, Book 1