This is the second part of my summary of Masahiro Oki’s article ‘Principles for Living a Healthy Life’, which was written in his Japanese monthly magazine ‘Yoga’ issued in December 1967. Two native English-speakers, Junko Furugori and Hiroyuki Mori, assisted me by correcting and polishing up my English translation.
1. Animals passively adapt to the environment, whereas humans actively and consciously adapt to it. Humans have searched and devised ways of adapting to the environment and gradually expanded their habitat. However, the way of our adaptation has not been by changing ourselves, but by adding the convenience of other things to ourselves. This has allowed us to live a cultural life, but on the other hand, weakened our strength. This is one of the causes of human weakness. How can we live, continue to evolve, and also lead a convenient life without losing our own adaptability? Yoga is something that has been researched based on this wish.
2. We are not simply alive, but we are alive because the life force is working in our body. The life force is a cooperation between the function within our body, which is trying to live, and the function outside our body, which is trying to enable us to live. Food or air on its own, for example, does not make us live. Even if there may be infinite air, people will die. Feeding the dead does not bring them back to life. Where the inner living force and the outer enabling force unite, the life force functions. Yoga teaches a way of cooperating with this work of the life force to the highest degree.
3. In this regard, the first and foremost important thing is correct nutrition for both body and mind. Food for the body makes blood. Blood nourishes and builds up our body. Likewise, intelligence builds up our mind. In both cases, the correct nutrition comes from a balanced diet.
4. Our body started from one germ cell, and this single cell gradually divided and proliferated to form all the cells needed, where they were needed. Because the whole works as one and takes the overall balance that is needed to live, it cannot be thought of as separate parts. Therefore, even when it comes to the strength or weakness of some part of the body, we have to look at it from a holistic view.
The function of the life force knows all the ways necessary to maintain this wholeness and is able to perform them. Therefore, when we put our lives, our whole body and mind, in good order, the life force in us naturally restores us. That is, a truly healthy state arises.
5. Many people unknowingly live a habitual life and do not even realise that it is not good for them. Suffering is an appeal. It is a teaching of the life force that is telling us to be aware of mistakes. Also, it includes guidance that shows the right direction.
6. How many people have a good understanding of the physiological, physical, chemical and psychological implications of breathing? One’s psychological state, physiological state, and lifestyle are all manifested in the way one breathes. The depth of breath determines the state of metabolism in our body. In yoga, breathing control is an important training. Actually for all arts, breathing control is regarded as the most important skill.
7. We live with the environment’s cooperation. In our body, it is the nerves that work to adapt to physical stimuli from the environment, and the secretory glands that work to adapt to chemical stimuli. Pioneer practitioners of yoga grasped these workings of the nerves and secretory glands through experience and afflatus. Yoga training methods have been systematised based on that. Of course, what they grasped was not studied academically as it has been in modern times, and so it is not explained in physiological details. They sensed, rather than thought, this truth and named the nerves ‘Kundalini’ and the secretory glands ‘Chakras’. These two must work perfectly in order for our body to adapt to stimuli from the outside world, for our body to maintain the holistic balance as one whole, and for us to be united with the universe.
Our individual differences arise from differences in the functions of the nerves and secretory glands. Tendencies of the nerves and secretory glands come from different environmental stimuli. When stimuli are changed, the way the nerves and secretory glands function will change, and the temperament and constitution will also change. This is the principle of a method for self-reformation. The nerves and secretory glands work normally only when balanced stimuli are given. For this reason, each discipline of yoga is devised as a method to bring a balanced stimulation. To live a balanced life is to cooperate with God, or the life force. Since ancient times, it has been said that our body has the innate healing ability. The essential elements of this innate healing ability are the nerves and secretory glands. It is said that curing with drugs may be accompanied with adverse effects. It is because drugs have a detrimental influence on the nerves and secretory glands.
8. It is a mistake to look at illness separately from humans and human life. What we should see is not illness itself, but a sick person, the environment which creates the illness, and the pathological lifestyle.
9. All the phenomena that manifest in this universe are inevitable, and none are accidental. Yoga says, “There are causes for all phenomena.” Whether it is illness or disaster, there must be some changes before it occurs. Therefore, to be able to interpret these signs and prevent illness or disaster is to hear the voice of the universe, or the voice of God, which signifies true academic advancement.
10. Human life is easily affected by overwork both in body and mind, which may be said to be the cause of physical and mental abnormalities. Overwork in both body and mind comes from the continuation of unnatural tensions. To live a life which does not lead us to overwork, we should
- neither do too much nor too little within our range of possibility at any time,
- develop resistance by constantly giving ourselves appropriate stimuli in order to maintain the body’s self-defence function, and
- know how to relax our body and mind.
In yoga, the way to relax the body and mind is an important discipline.
This continues to Part 3 of 3.