WHEN PHYSICS MEETS YOGA
A classical twist of Physics and Yoga
Some of them are casual associations. In this post I have combined my love for science and Yoga. Geeky Yogis, take a deep breath and get ready to time travel to high school physics..
At an asana level, macro physics principles like Newtonian Physics, Lever and Centre of Mass seem to be applicable.. Interestingly, as we dive into Kriyas and Pranayama more advanced aspects like hydraulics, thermodynamics, power management, fluid mechanics and resonance is seen.. In higher stages of Astanga Yoga like meditation and Samadhi it seems to be Quantum Mechanics in Play..
Newtonian and Galilean Physics
The dynamic Dhanurasana roll is quite a challenge even for experienced yogis. It involves perpetual pendulum like back and forth swings performed with agility and grace.. Beginners confuse it with strength training and try to lift both the ends simultaneously.. I remind my friends of Newtonian Physics.. Let the pelvic bone act as a pivot and gently use the weight of the head to gather momentum and steer.. And the swing is established thanks to Inertia of Motion. Once the extreme swing is reached, the body obeys Galilean Physics and oscillates back to the opposite side establishing a near perpetual motion.
Centre of Mass — The balancing act
The point where the weight is averagely distributed is called Centre of Mass. In postures, there is either horizontal or vertical asymmetry causing the centre of mass to deviate.
Take the case of simple one legged Dhruva Asana. For a standing body, the centre of Mass is around the navel region. As we raise our hands, the centre of mass moves upwards. When there is an asymmetry, the balance can be restored through proper posture alignment and force.. broadening the fingers and toes and pressing the feet increases the mass in that area..
While practising Utkuta Konasana aka the goddess pose which needs horizontal stretch of both the thighs outward, my friends were finding the balance hard. The trick is to distribute the weight of the upper body backwards.. This can be done by wringing the arms backward like a goddess blessing or by slightly tilting the head upwards.. Ardha chandrasana too similarly calls for balance and slow tilt of head to coherently send the feedback to the brain.
There are 3 phases in perfecting the equilibrium — proper alignment and weight distribution, power of muscles and constant neuro-muscular adjustments. Changes in gyro orientation are reported to the brain by the eye and liquid in the ear… No wonder balancing poses call for visual concentration and and brings lot of calmness..
Principle of Lever
Lever is a tool used to simplify the task of carrying a heavy object. Lever system comprises of a lever, a pivot point and a force is used. Depending on the placement of load, fulcrum and force, there are 3 types of levers.
In similar fashion — our bones, ligaments and muscles work as a lever system and enable postures. The bones form the lever, the joint forms the fulcrum and the muscle the force to lift the weight of body. In Upavishita konasana, trikonasana bends, the bones of the hands act as the lever.
In arm balance series such as bakasana, seershasana, the elbows and wrists are the super levers, the force is beared by Triceps, Deltoids and Trapeze and the lower body acts as resistance or weight on the shoulders..
I had a debate with a friend recently on HandStand and other arm balance series that triggered this post.. By techniques, is it attainable by all? For a person with low weight in upper body-hands and high weight in lower body, is it not a risk? I think a rabbit cannot balance an elephant in a finite lengthened see-saw.. I am still looking for an answer or technique.
Simple Machines — Pulley System
Our body is like a machine spanning from levers to pulley systems. For instance, the quadricep thigh muscles help in extending the leg. They connect with the shin bone through knee cap which acts as a pulley.. Think of the force needed for keeping the knee straight in standing asanas and seated forward bends.. Another pulley system is the hip flexor. In seated balances like navasana, the torso and the legs are bought close to each other against gravity.
Aerodynamics and Buoyancy
As a beginner for getting into Headstand, one does not randomly come into the pose.. From dolphin pose, slowly the feet come close to the head.. The legs are slowly curled and with the power of the core and the stream lined shape of the legs, an aerodynamic lift takes off the feet from the ground.
In Matsyasana, the body assumes a very buoyant structure.. legs crossed in padmasana and the chin pointing upward.. It is a very relaxing floating pose in the pool indeed.
In Surya Namaskara and other Vinyasa sequences, the swift transition from one asana leading to another is quite a flow of kinetic energy involving extension or flex of the spine and muscles all the time..
Torque and Elasticity
Be it in standing twist like Parivrutta Trikonasana, seated twists like Vakrasana or supine twist like Markatasana, the left and right muscles work in opposite direction bringing a torque to twist the spine. Needless to say, yoga brings in flexibility and elasticity to the muscles.
Energy Conservation and Power Management
Unlike regular workouts which increase the breath rate, heart rate and cause energy expenditure, yoga postures is done with complete calmness and is Energy harvesting..
Drawing an analogy with embedded power management in devices like smart phones.. Our breath is like the clock.. Everytime we breath, we engage our respiratory muscles and expend some energy for the movement.. It is therefore best to take deep, slow and continuous breaths.. It is said to increase the life time.. Remember the fast panting rabbit has a short life span and the slow breathing tortoise can live upto 100 years..
In smartphones, there are independent power sub systems like the camera, video and graphics. While watching a video, it does not make sense to switch on the camera unit.. Likewise, in asanas, only the required muscles and bones need to be engaged.. There is no need to show tension in the face and upper body for example while doing Dhruvasana.
An intriguing concept of Kumbhaka.. When we close our smart phone, the clocks and power is almost cut.. Like a hibernating Polar bear, Ancient seers used to attain Samadhi where they suspend the respiratory and other energy expending activity for a few days and take deep rest..
And some short analogies….
The cleansing action and lifting of the diaphragm in the nauli practise seems quite like a hydraulic lift and vacuum cleaning.. Ujjayi deep breathing, Kaphalabhati, Bastrika also seem to be doing the Ciphoning act.
Sound Waves and Resonance
The primordial sound OM starts resonating first with the lower body, abdomen and then the face as we chant AA-UU-MMMM. During Omkara and Brahmari chanting, the sound waves seem to penetrate into the organ systems and cells creating a divine healing and experience.
After a fast paced Surya Namaskaras, medium paced asanas.. the pranayama and meditation restore the thermal equilibrium of the body. Like the dogs pulling out their tongue and allowing evaporation and heat exchange to adapt to hot environments.. Shitali, Sadanta and Seetakari cooling pranayamas also help in cooling the body.
The various energy flows in our body — respiratory, excretory, levitational and circulatory.. akin to pancha vayus — prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana
When it comes to Chakras.. The intersections of energy channels around the spine and sublimation of energy upwards.. I wonder which all principles it encompasses? Fractals.. Fluid Dynamics..Audiometry..Optics ?? Definitely the Bij mantras associated with invocation of each chakra is a very scientific audiometric trigger of the source of generation and activation.. Infact the Sanskrit and many Indian alphabets are organised as a matrix of sound generated along the throat, tongue, teeth and lips..
Circuit Theory, Antenna and Signal Systems
Mudras are finger gestures enabling neural circuits at finger tips that have rich nerve endings. In chin mudra, the first 2 fingers form a perfect loop between fire and air element in the body and the remaining three fingers kept close and taut seem like discharge points.
The rudram or tulasi bead seems like spherical conductor of positive vibrations generated out of meditation.. And when the bead string is worn back after meditation, it discharges the energy back to the body..
This is one of the most intriguing and unexplored path for us.. How does the nervous system respond to meditation.
In any deep observation process, there are 3 finite entities.. The observer, the object and the observation process.. It is said that in Samadhi phase, the observer, the object and the observation all of them merge into one and the observer gains all information about the object without ripping it apart.. This is how our sages gained profound information on the world around us. Even today, it is believed that some people are gifted of visualising things happening in remote places.. A dual play of Wave and Particle nature??
Source of Images
BKS Iyengar Yoga