I'm a yoga teacher who owes my life to Western medicine, however I do like to think about other ways of considering our relationship with our human body. Western medicine is very much about joints, muscles and dividing things into systems: the endocrine system, circulatory, muscular-skeletal, digestive... and seeing any disorders as isolated issues that need fixing. The body is a functioning machine made up of separate systems, that is itself separate from the mind. Rather than seeing all these systems as uniting into one glorious whole that needs to be kept in balance (sometimes the medication that we are given to fix one system can throw another one out: painkillers for muscular pain that cause constipation, for example).
I'm also a Shakespeare fan and I'm sure I've had to write the same essay about Hamlet at GCSE, A-level and degree level (why didn't he kill Claudio at the end of Act III). At the start of Hamlet, he tells Horatio "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Meaning that modern science can't quite explain everything. And, perhaps, there are still more mysteries to uncover.
I think that the Chakral system is a useful way of explaining how we experience our bodies, and how our bodies and minds are intertwined. The Chakras are 7 spinning wheels of energy that are situated in different positions from the tailbone up to the crown of the heads. Each Chakra is represented by a different colour of the rainbow, and also represents a different aspect or need. They pretty much line up with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The base Chakras relate to basic needs of safety, a source of energy, pleasure, and the higher Chakras relate to love, connection and self actualisation. In yoga poses we can focus on different Chakras and use the poses to keep our Chakras in balance.
This genius depiction of the 7 Chakras is given by Darrren from https://muladhara.store - please check out his lovely crystals and other goods.
Last month I attended a workshop at BWY Sangha, which was run by Janet Long of Rainbow Healing Therapies. She introduced us to crystals and how they relate to our Chakras. In the simplest terms, the colour of the crystal relates to the corresponding Chakra. Crystals, she says, are "the most stable form of matter" and we can use them to "work with our energies".
This might start to sound like mumbo jumbo, but wait until you hear what happened next. Janet used a pendulum, with different coloured crystals chained together, to 'dowse' for the Chakras of a willing volunteer. The volunteer lay on the ground while Janet dangled the pendulum over each Chakral point, and we waited to see if it would rotate. Sure enough, it did. It went in a clockwise direction over one Chakra, and anti-clockwise over the next. Janet said that this is normal as the Chakras spin in alternating directions as you progress up the spine. We all watched like hawks for any micro movements in her muscles but if there were any, she was blooming good at hiding them.
I wanted to have a go myself and bought myself a pendulum. It's pretty and if nothing else I like having it. It's hard to dowse on yourself but I had a go. It was (and still is) pretty freaky. It's like there is a magnet pulling the pendulum. When I move from one point to the next, I can feel it pulling towards the centre of the point I was just at, before it resets itself and starts to rotate the other way.
I came home and tried it out on my kids. I tried it out on my cats. It turns out that cats have a slightly different Chakral system. It did indeed rotate and the cats looked slightly annoyed, like they could tell I was interfering with their energies and wished I would stop.
"Is it real?" my son asked.
What do I say? If you dissect a corpse, you wouldn't see any Chakras or nadis (channels through which prana flows) so it isn't something real that you can grasp. Is it something I feel? Is it something I experience? Am I subconsciously making that pendulum rotate, or is there really a flow of energy pulling at it and drawing it round?
Will Western science 'discover' the idea of energy flow, that is separate to the circulatory, nervous or respiratory system, and just confirm what yogis have known for years?