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   Table of Contents     
ORIGINAL ARTICLE  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 88-94
Effect of lotus posture on acupuncture meridian energies: A controlled trial


Division of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

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Date of Web Publication2-May-2017
 

   Abstract 

Background: Many studies have assessed Yoga practices using instruments such as AcuGraph, which measures conductances at Jing-Well points of acupuncture meridians. Such studies find that participation in Yoga programs ranging from a weekend to many months systematically increases subtle energy. Here, we report comparison of Jing-Well point conductances before and after sitting in Lotus Posture with those before and after sitting in a chair. Methods: This was a controlled study conducted on 52 male Yoga practitioners (mean age in years 23.03 ± 3.23), all with >1 year experience of Yoga practices. Participants were alternately assigned into two groups, sitting in Lotus Posture and sitting in a chair. Each was measured on 3 successive days, before and after sitting as instructed for 10 min on the 1st day, 20 min on the 2nd day, and 30 min on the 3rd day. Results: The two groups yielded completely different results: those sitting in Lotus Posture for 30 min showed increases in subtle energy levels (E_Ls) in all acupuncture meridians; those sitting in chair produced universal decreases. Results for 10 and 20 min showed how these changes in energy values took time to build up with increasing time. Conclusions: Sitting in Lotus Posture is held to strongly stimulate subtle E_Ls, so results agreed with the experimental hypothesis. Nevertheless, decreases in E_Ls of those sitting in a chair were surprising since the rest might be expected to have no effect.

Keywords: AcuGraph, acupuncture meridian energies, Asanas, lotus position, Yoga

How to cite this article:
Ghosh K, Hankey A, Srinivasan T M. Effect of lotus posture on acupuncture meridian energies: A controlled trial. Int J Yoga 2017;10:88-94

How to cite this URL:
Ghosh K, Hankey A, Srinivasan T M. Effect of lotus posture on acupuncture meridian energies: A controlled trial. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Dec 8];10:88-94. Available from: http://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2017/10/2/88/205511

   Introduction Top


Traditional knowledge systems in India and China make consistent distinction between “gross” and “subtle” energies. The Vedic system of ancient India denotes “male” and “female” subtle energies as prana and shakti, respectively,[1],[2] while the Chinese system term them Yang Qi and Yin Qi.[3] In the Vedic system, Yoga practices such as physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation restore well-being by improving autonomic function,[4] improving ability to focus,[5] improving memory, reducing anxiety,[6] and reducing stress.[7],[8] Yoga enhances human well-being by improving and regulating practitioners' levels of vital energy.[9]

Yoga postulates that vital energy (prana) flows through channels called nadis [10] forming the human vital energy system. Similarly, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says that blockages in energy flow cause physical, mental, or emotional disturbances and disease.[11] Restoring personal well-being is achieved by improving prana through Yoga postures (Asanas), breathing techniques (Pranayama), and meditation (Dhyana).[12]

In TCM, the concept parallel to prana is known as Qi [1],[2] and is said to flow along “meridians.” Each meridian is connected to many points on the surface of the skin called acupuncture points which reflect aspects of meridian function.[13] TCM uses 12 pairs of meridians (left and right), six in each limb with bilateral symmetry.

TCM and Yoga represent two different methods that claim to improve level and balance of Qi/prana in order to restore or improve individual health. In TCM, acupuncture, acupressure, and qigong are major methods for removing blockages and allowing free movement of Qi.[3],[14],[15] Acupressure is a technique where physical pressure at acupoints stimulates meridian activity.[16] In Yoga, a science with eight limbs (angas), Asana is the limb using particular positions of the body combined with recommended attitude of the mind, which exerts a profound influence on an individual's physiological and health parameters.[17],[18] Asanas promote revitalization of specific muscle groups and activate prana, increasing pranic energy and efficiency of its use.[19]

In terms of TCM, the various joint and spine movements involved in Yoga Asanas are recognized to stimulate meridians.[20] The text AcuYoga [21] gives detailed descriptions of effects of various Asanas on each meridian. Regular practice of Yoga Asanas balance meridian energies.[20] Many studies have been performed on Yoga practitioners' subtle energy levels (E_Ls) using instruments such as Electro Photonic Imaging [22],[23] or the electro-acupuncture instrument AcuGraph,[9],[24] which measures conductances at Jing-Well points of acupuncture meridians. Such studies have established that participation in integrated Yoga programs of various lengths ranging from a weekend to many months systematically increases acupuncture meridian energies.

Previous studies have used AcuGraph to measure effects of Yoga programs. A first assessment [24] concluded that AcuGraph is better suited to make measurements on groups of study participants rather than individuals; changes in group means are more accurate indicators of the outcome of a Yoga program than changes in values for individual participants. A second study concluded that regular practice of Yoga programs for 21 days systematically decreases group standard deviations, indicating improved quality of regulation of acupuncture meridian energies.[25] This idea was confirmed by a second improved study comparing results for different genders.[9] A study on children with HIV noted that the sick exhibit poorer regulation of acupuncture point energies than normal children.[26] A study of similar subjects by four operators concluded that values of AcuGraph measurements depend on the style of use of the probe by individual operators; when this is accounted for, overall patterns of acumeridian energies remain the same.[27] A study of a 5-day Yoga program for business executives concluded that overwork systematically lowered their meridian energies and was probably injurious to health, and the 5-day integrated Yoga therapy program restored only half the deficit.[28] A study of those attending Vedic ceremonies found that attendees were energized preferentially in lower meridians,[29] a valuable observation since most patients are deficient in lower meridian energies, which are otherwise difficult to remedy.[27]

While AcuGraph studies of groups attending health improvement courses,[9],[25] either simply being characterized through acumeasurements,[26],[27] or undergoing Yoga treatments,[28],[29] are of interest, the logical next step is a study of a single Yoga posture. Would significant changes be seen pre- and post-performance of a single Asana for various periods of time? For reasons given above, Padmasana or the Lotus Posture was a natural choice; particularly as an authoritative text, Hatha Yoga [30] identifies that it stimulates subtle energies in the body to the greatest extent.


   Methods Top


Subjects

Fifty-two male Yoga practitioners were selected for the study (mean age in years 23.03 ± 3.23). All had >1 year residential experience of regular Yoga practice, having previously obtained their Yoga Instructor's Certificate. Out of 52, two practitioners dropped from the study due to sickness and personal commitment.

Inclusion criteria

Yoga practitioners with >1 year residence at the Yoga University were included in the study.

Exclusion criteria

Persons with physical disability, mental disturbance, or inability to sit in the Lotus Posture were excluded in the study.

Study procedure was explained and consent was obtained from all the participants. The study was approved by the university's Ethics Committee.

Design

This was a controlled study with practitioners reporting on the 1st day being alternately assigned to two different groups: One sitting in Lotus Posture and the other sitting in a chair. Consort flow diagram is displayed in [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Consort flow diagram

Click here to view


Assessments

The first author made measurements using the AcuGraph 4 model from Miridia Acupuncture Technologies in Meridian, Idaho, USA. He assessed each subject between 06:00 and 07:30 am on 3 successive days at the Jing-Well acupuncture points on the fingers and toes, related to main organs: Lung (LU), pericardium (PC), heart (HT), small intestine (SI), triple energizer (TE), large intestine (LI), spleen (SP), liver (LR), kidney (KI), bladder (BL), gallbladder (GB), and stomach (ST). Instrument probe pressure, location, and position were kept uniform [27] using a single operator.

Some practitioners find Lotus Posture uncomfortable; hence, the degree of pain experienced by those sitting in the Lotus Posture was assessed on a visual analog pain scale of 1–10 after each session.[31] However, this was not considered experimental data, only a precaution to ensure participants' well-being as time of sitting was increased day by day.

Measurement procedure for AcuGraph 4: Participants stood comfortably with feet on a mat. After damp cotton wool had been applied to regions of Jing-Well points on the fingers and toes to balance conductivity, the participant held the “ground bar” in hand opposite to where the AcuGraph probe was applied. The monitoring computer records readings at specified points in a standard sequence.

Interventions

The first group sat in Lotus Posture on a Yoga mat for periods of 10, 20, and 30 min on consecutive days, while the second group sat for the same periods of time on a chair, with their feet resting on a similar mat. Lotus Posture requires the practitioner to sit cross-legged and then place each foot on top of the other thigh with soles of the feet facing upward, one shin crossing the other. Youth who have been brought up without tables and chairs and used to squat or sit cross-legged on the floor find it easy to perform.

Statistical analysis

Analysis was performed using Excel, GraphPad QuickCalcs, and SPSS- 19. Raw data from participants in the same group for each day comprising 24 readings were recorded. Further, ten AcuGraph analyzed data – such as overall E_L and upper-lower (U_L) imbalance – were entered into Excel sheets for each group and period, six sheets in all. Pre-post difference data were then prepared for meridian data on each sheet. Mean and standard deviation for each group were calculated for pre, post, and pre-post differences. Appropriate blocks of data were then exported to SPSS for repeated measures analysis of variance used for between and within group comparisons. Further calculations were of variances for total data blocks of 24 meridians (12 left and 12 right) for each group for each day. Means were compared to average E_L for each data block as a cross check (they have to be equal). Variances were also calculated for U_L meridian blocks. The advantage of these last calculations is that the increase in degrees of freedom for a block of data greatly increases the significance to given values of Fishers F statistic for comparison of variances. Finally, significances of differences between pre-post changes observed in the two groups for each time value, 10, 20, and 30 min, were calculated using SPSS-19, and some were checked on GraphPad using paired t-test.


   Results Top


Results are set out in [Table 1]a,[Table 1]b,[Table 1]c, [Table 2] and [Figure 2]. [Table 1]a,[Table 1]b,[Table 1]c displays means and standard deviations for conductances at each of the 24 acupuncture meridian Jing-Well points (12 left and 12 right), giving statistical significance of changes observed in each meridian. Although the changes in individual means from pre to post show individual meridians with significant changes, changes in overall mean for all meridians together for each of the six experimental conditions (2 groups × 3 time values) are consistent and of most interest. For sitting in a chair, overall means changed from 57.46 ± 27.78 to 49.99 ± 26.37 for 10 min, from 57.31 ± 27.51 to 53.79 ± 25.75 for 20 min, and from 52.54 ± 25.36 to 48.25 ± 25.05 for 30 min; while for Padmasana, means changed from 57.92 ± 31.25 to 57.09 ± 30.29 for 10 min, from 51.19 ± 28.44 to 56.37 ± 29.57 for 20 min, and from 48.51 ± 30.88 to 57.68 ± 31.42 for 30 min, a completely different pattern of change with increasing time. One sample t-tests with test value zero were performed on post-pre data columns prepared in Excel (equivalent to more laborious paired sample t-tests). Changes in overall mean and accompanying standard deviation for the changes in mean: For sitting in a chair, overall mean changed by −7.47 ± 14.83 for 10 min, 3.52 ± 16.71 for 20 min, and 4.29 ± 15.84 for 30 min; for Padmasana, overall mean changed by −0.83 ± 14.81 for 10 min, 5.18 ± 16.38 for 20 min, and 9.17 ± 17.45 for 30 min. All values were significant with P< 0.0001, except sitting in Padmasana for 10 min (which was not significant).
Table 1:

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Table 2: Contingency tables for increase/decrease in meridian energies

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Figure 2: Influence of Padmasana and chair sitting on meridian readings at 3 time points. The values are overall meridians' mean differences (post-pre at each time point) at 10, 20, and 30 min session

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Between-group comparison: For 10 min sitting in Padmasana and sitting in Chair upper meridians LU_R, SI_R, LI_L and lower meridians SP_L, LR_L, KI_L, and KI_R showed significant difference. For 20 min sitting in Padmasana and Chair, upper meridian LU_R, and all lower meridians except KI_L, BL_R found significant difference. For 30 min sitting in Padmasana and Chair, upper meridian LU_R and all lower meridians showed significant difference.

In upper meridians: LU_L and LU_R, HT_R, and SI_R and in lower meridians: Except SP_L and SP_R and KI_L were found to be differing significantly across the 3 time points, across the sitting in Padmasana and sitting in Chair. [Figure 2] displays the result of influence of Padmasana and Chair sitting on meridian readings at 3 time points.

[Table 2] summarizes the number of increases and decreases in these mean values in the form of contingency tables for each group of measurements, pre and post 10 min, pre and post 20 min, and pre and post 30 min. It is striking that the 20 and 30 min contingency tables are very highly significant with P< 0.0001.


   Discussion Top


Results clearly indicate that the two kinds of sitting positions, in a chair on the one hand and Lotus Posture on the other hand, have completely different effects on the human physiology. They also support the experiential observation that sitting in the Yoga Asana, Lotus Posture, has an energizing effect on the human physiology at a subtle level of the meridians.

In this light, it is significant that the increase in E_Ls took time to increase enough to be clearly observed. That more Jing-Well point conductances decreased for the Lotus-Posture group after 10 min, and all for the Chair-sitting group, suggests that just sitting and resting do not in itself immediately increase levels of subtle energy. The summary in [Table 2] shows that while this decreasing trend continued for the group of controls sitting in a chair, it decisively reversed for the group in Lotus Posture, which showed postmeasurements on all meridians greater than or equal to premeasurements, for the 20 and 30 min time periods. The experimental group showed completely different trends in values of subtle energies from controls for these 2 time periods, in accordance with statements in the ancient literature about the value of Lotus Posture,[30] which adds that sitting in Lotus Posture is most suitable for meditation because it tends to increase subtle E_Ls more strongly than any other asana position,[30] the only disadvantage being that some may find it painful as reported by three subjects.

The results clearly support our experimental hypothesis that Padmasana increases subtle E_L but suggest that the increase takes time to build-up. One would however expect that resting in a chair would also restore depletion of subtle E_Ls caused by activity such as walking. There was a decrease in E_Ls of the second group after sitting in a chair, which was an unexpected result. Further, it is interesting to observe that E_Ls in the Lotus Posture group showed a decreasing tendency over the first 10 min, and took 20 min to reverse this trend. It follows that E_Ls are not instantly changed by sitting in Lotus Posture but that they build up steadily once the posture has been adopted.

Strength of the study

This was a first study to document energy changes through practicing a single Asana using AcuGraph. It obtained definite results with good statistical significance and high power. In the contingency tables, the presence of zeros meant that odds ratio effect sizes could not be calculated. The ability of Lotus Posture to increase acupuncture meridian energies is well documented by this study.

Limitations of the study

The study was not formally randomized. In addition, the important result that just sitting in a chair tends to decrease acumeridian energies was not hypothesized but was a post hoc discovery from analysis of the data. However, this result seems to be quite robust.

Future possibilities

It would be interesting to obtain effects on acupuncture meridian energies of sitting in other single asanas, such as Vajrasana, Diamond Posture, a simple kneeling position, and others that can similarly be held for long periods of time, for example, the much recommended, Siddhasana, the “perfect posture.”


   Conclusion Top


Sitting in different positions affects the subtle energies of the body in different ways. Sitting in a chair tends to decrease the subtle energies while sitting in Padmasana or Lotus Posture has a universal energizing effect on the body's subtle energies, but only after a period of about 20 min.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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Correspondence Address:
Kuntal Ghosh
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Eknath Bhavan, 19 Gavipuram Circle, K. G. Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0973-6131.205511

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