SACRED GEOGRAPHY OF THE YOGA BODY
Ayurveda and Yoga detail the anatomy and physiology of the body in terms of energy rather than matter. The foundation of Ayurvedic and Yogic practices is that energy comes first, and it is this energy that makes up matter (the physical body). Quite simply put, in Ayurvedic terms, ‘Energy matters’. The relatively new field of Quantum Physics is now seconding that motion. Quantum physicists say that atoms are nothing but vortices of energy, constantly vibrating and spinning. Yoga (and Ayurveda) use the manipulation of Prana/energy within the body to maintain good health and prevent disease via Yoga asana/pranayama /meditation, massage, lifestyle and food. The pathways that Prana move via are called Nadi and the primary places for interruption, disruption and good management of this Prana are called Marma.
Marma means ‘vulnerable point’. Knowledge of marma enlightens us as to the places in the body where stress and tension within the body and the mind may reside and the most important points to focus on to create health. These vulnerable points are places of both power and weakness, depending on which direction our shifts of balance happen. We can invite more strength into the body by encouraging a flow rather than blockage within these powerful points, bringing harmony and balance. On the flip side, an injury, stagnation or lack of care around these points can have far reaching effects.
The practice of asana (posture), one of the eight limbs of Yoga, is one way of ensuring correct flow through the body via these numerous marma areas. Many main marma are located within joints and areas where tendons, muscles and bones meet. In fact, Marma are defined as ‘the junction of veins, tendons, joints, muscle and bone’. A variety of Yoga postures can squeeze and release around these crossroads within the body, ensuring a smooth flow of the traffic of Prana, nutrients and elimination of waste. There are 107 main marma within the body (108 according to some teachings, either including skin or mind as a marma).
There are three ‘Mahamarma’ or ‘Great Marma’ according to Ayurvedic tradition are:
In simple terms, these three points can be linked to Kapha, Pitta and Vata dosha respectively. These Sanskrit terms denote the way that Prana is reserved in the body, transformed in the body and moved around the body. Knowing the importance of these Mahamarma can greatly enhance your daily Yoga practice.
Techniques such as Mulabandha, Ashwini mudra, Nauli and seated poses (lengthening the spine) can help to ensure a healthy flow through the bladder marma (Basti Marma) encouraging correct quantity, quality and function of Vata dosha which includes the nervous system and mind.
Heart opening poses such as Bhujangasana (Cobra), Matsyasana (Fish) and Dhanurasana (Bow) and twists can release accumulation and tension from the heart marma (Hrdya Marma), benefiting Pitta dosha which includes the Agni (digestive power), intellect and vision.
Many inversions and forward folds insure free flow of Prana to the head, specifically, the area between the eyebrows (Sthapani marma). Using Bhrumadhye Drishti (gaze point between the eyebrows) and poses such as Adho mukha svanasana (downward dog) and Prasarita Podottanasana (wide legged standing forward fold) benefit Kapha dosha, enhancing immunity and strength of body and mind and also creating a stabilizing force, insuring better balance of Vata dosha.
As well as including the suggestions above during your Yoga practice you can try this sequence before or after your next Yoga session or on its own, to release blockage and to create a surge of life giving Prana via important marma areas.
- Roll out your mat and lie down. Make sure you are warm and comfortable and that you won’t be disturbed.
- Squeeze all your toes tightly and release 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Flex feet slightly to right, then to left 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Flex feet to the centre 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Lock knees and release 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Lock thighs, lifting the heels very slightly 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Squeeze buttocks, slim the area of the hips 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Squeeze into navel, pulling belly button backwards to the floor 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Squeeze shoulder blades together 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Make fists and release 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Squeeze arms tight to your sides 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Take Simhasana (lions breath) 3x whilst breathing smoothly and deeply
- Rub hands together briskly and cover eyes
- Stroke hands through hair lightly past ears and towards the back of the skull 3x
- Lie as still as you can with no tension for 10 deep breaths – don’t rush your exhales and note the pause after each exhale