Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Models and Mechanisms in Yoga Research

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Models and Mechanisms in Yoga Research

Article excerpt

Byline: T. Srinivasan

It is necessary to think of models and mechanisms when we are carrying out research in holistic areas wherein these two are not fully developed. We need to know what a model is and what mechanisms are. American Heritage Dictionary defines a model as follows: "A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics". [sup][1] Thus, in science we use many models for understanding the overall characteristics of a system. For example, we have a model of an atom. This means we think of an atom as consisting of a central nucleus and a set of electrons orbiting around the nucleus in much the same way as planets revolve around the sun. Is this a good model? Yes, as this model has been used to understand the interaction between atoms and molecules of many substances. Has anyone seen an electron running around an atom at breakneck speed? No, but the model works! If science concludes that the model does not work under some conditions, then the model must be expanded or changed. The model of light as a particle did not explain the pattern of interference seen in one experiment. Hence, a wave model of light was introduced that could explain the new observation. Both the new and the old models could be used as each explains certain properties of light propagation! Thus a model is only a rough approximation of the observation of nature and it gives us a working hypothesis of what we are studying.

In Yoga, a typical representation of the human system is provided by the five layer model -panchakosa model - of the humans. [sup][2] These are annamayakosa (covering made of food, namely the physical body); pranamayakosa (prana sheath, body-mind nexus); manomayakosa (mind sheath); vijnanamayakosa (intellect sheath); and finally, anadamaya kosa (the bliss sheath). Have the five layers been measured? We know something about the body and the mind, but the rest is still an enigma. The most interesting is the body-mind nexus; but more about this at a later date.

Now, what is a mechanism? The dictionary provides the following: It is basically the arrangement of linked parts which makes a machine work. In philosophy, it is the doctrine that all natural phenomena are explainable through mechanical principles alone; it does not need a principle such as the spirit, or atma for its activity. There has been controversy in modern science for many centuries regarding the mechanism of life itself. Two major views that have dominated the debate are the Mechanist and the Vitalist views. The mechanist would say life is only a mechanistic process and if we probe deep enough, we can find all parts of the body working together which could be 'fixed' through mechanical and biochemical means. The Vitalist would say that there is a subtle principle - call it atma, prana or by any name - that is the driving force in systems that possess the quality of life. These views alternate in popularity as modern science and contemporary philosophy go through search and extension.

Let us look into popular - and unquestioned - mechanism in the biochemical paradigm of modern medicine. The brilliant scientist and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi proposes four dimensions that a biologist should be concerned with. These are macroscopic, microscopic, molecular and sub-molecular or electronic. In his view, the first three areas have come into focus of biologists while the fourth, namely, the electronic has been totally forgotten. [sup][3] In the electronic model, he proposes that "The living state is the electronically desaturated state of protein" [3, p. 17]. At the other end of the spectrum, he says "Taking out electrons irreversibly means killing". These are very powerful statements giving a fundamental role to electron transport mechanisms in biological systems. However, unfortunately, the mechanism and activity of electrons in human at the most fundamental level is not available. …

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