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0 Comments | Jun 14, 2011

Health, Yoga and Vital Energy

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Although there are various forms of traditional exercise from the east, they appear to share one thing in common: the belief in the existence of an invisible substance that permeates and vivifies the whole body. This has been called vital energy, prana or chi. According to the teachings of traditional Oriental medicine, we can gain better health and longer life if we nurture it properly in our bodies.

Vital energy is believed to travel the human body across a network of channels known by different names, such as meridians in Chinese medicine and sen in Thai medicine. Techniques such as physical exercise and massage were developed to help the energy along these channels. Wherever there is an imbalance or a blockage, that part of the body and what’s connected to it develops illness.

There are different kinds of exercise that harness the vital energy, such as:

  • Hatha Yoga, the widely known type of Indian yoga that is most familiar to westerners. It involves exotic poses, stretches and breathing techniques. Hatha Yoga has complicated breathing techniques called pranayama that are designed to manipulate the flow of energy in the body and help in meditation. Because of its extreme, often difficult postures, Hatha Yoga can cause injury when practiced without the help of a teacher (and perhaps even then).
  • Thai Yoga is simpler and humbler in comparison to the Indian version.  Also called Ruesri Datton, this type of yoga uses similar postures, a simpler breathing method and repetitions. An understanding of the Thai theory of sen (energy) lines helps one better understand the benefits of each posture. You can learn Thai yoga from an instructor in Thailand where Thai massage is also taught.
  • Tai Chi Chuan is a popular internal martial art from China. It makes use of slow, graceful movements to guide chi through the whole body. Tai Chi has many styles and can be used for health, meditation or as a means of self-defense.

Vital energy has more than purely physical benefits. When the body is healthy and strong, the mind becomes clearer and more fit for meditation. This is one of the higher aims of Oriental yogas and martial arts. However even applying these techniques at a basic level can have considerable health benefits if done correctly. Find a competent instructor so you can practice safely.

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