What do Yoga and Chinese herbs have in common? This is a question that has puzzled many as these two healing modalities are actually similar in many ways. My life’s mission has been to educate people about stress and adaptogenic herbs. Everything I’ve learned in yoga and Chinese herbology points back to the same thing – stress and how it drains your life force.
I’ve been a practitioner of yoga almost as long as I’ve been an herbalist and the veil between them is almost non-existent, but I’m going to help you understand their similarities. Yoga is usually associated with the system of Ayurvedic medicine and Tantra. This system has it’s own set of herbs and I know this because I use some of them in my own formulas – Inner Peace and TianChi.
Yoga is just India’s way of describing a program of movement and meditation designed for self-realization. In China they have their own system of movement and meditation within Taoism called Tai Chi, Microcosmic Orbit, and sitting meditation. Both are based on the idea that to reach full potential humans must become aware of themselves beyond the physical.
Rhythmic breathing, movement and meditation provide the bridge between the experience of your physical being and yourself as a being of energy. Done consistently and with presence, it can begin the process of shutting off the stress response, the first step in any program of healing and awareness.
So what is this bridge I’m talking about? It’s the connection to the energy field surrounding you, the field that holds the blueprint of how every cell in your body organizes itself. Thousands of years ago this was only talked about in spiritual practices. Every spiritual discipline had a unique way of connecting to it. This connection was considered the first step to seeing life beyond the physical – a needed step to personal transformation.
Today, thanks to theoretical quantum physics this layer of energy is scientifically referred to as the morphogenetic field or the vital body. Five thousand years ago in the Bhagavad Gita, it was simply called Pranamaya Kosha or “life force”.
Don’t let all these new terms throw you off of what this is really all about. The key here is realizing that as we age and stress out we lose full contact with our life force. Once that happens, we become weaker and prone to physical maladies. No matter how you describe it, we lose touch with reality when we stress out. This happens because the activation of the HPA Axis, our hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal complex, goes into survival mode and shuts us off from our life force.
It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking Chinese medical theory, Ayurvedic medicine, yoga or western nutrition, everyone recognizes the adrenals are the gateway to energy loss. They are the pivotal point in your reproductive system. In other words, the adrenals and the HPA Axis hold the key to regulating life force.
Stress drains your life force. The same HPA Axis that drives the survival system is the one that opens you up to experiencing transformation, to awareness of the bigger picture of who you are. Adaptogenic herbs feed this system, allowing it to function the way it was meant to – flowing in and out of experience, saving your life and then opening you up to deeper experience.
HPA Axis may forever be linked to the stress response but the other side of it is that provides a stabilizing effect on the hemispheres of the brain and tunes the neurological system. Try to think of it as a homing device, helping you to wake up and find the way home to yourself.
That may sound like a daunting task but it begins with the simple awareness of the present moment and the ability to use stress as a tool of awareness instead of getting stuck in the experience. This is exactly what yoga and adaptogenic herbs are all about.
My experience of Yoga and the Chinese healing arts allowed me to put the knowledge I obtained about herbs to work in unique ways to for dealing with stress. Inner Peace and TianChi are my way of blending both worlds for the benefit of mankind.