What do Yoga and Physics Have in Common?
Our popular contributor Kara-Leah shifts focus this week, looking at how yoga and physics have more in common than you might think.
by Kara-Leah Grant, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice.
Both yogis and physicists both seek to understand the true nature of reality – one looks outward and one looks inward but in the end, always the twain shall meet.
In his book, The Elements of Yoga, Godfrey Devereux uses physics to explain how our perspective can limit our understanding of ‘reality’.
“While we perceive a tree as solid, if we change our frame of reference and perceive a tree from the viewpoint of an electron, a neutrino or any of the elusive sub-atomic particles which populate the Universe of quantum physicists, it melts into a vortex of dancing, scintillating energy. …
Material objects, viewed as fields of energy, do not have the limitation they appear to have when experienced as solid objects planted firmly in the three dimensions of space. We see a solid object in isolation from it’s background. But when we experience it as a vortex of energy we can no longer make this separation.
While there may appear to be many, different, separate objects, they are ACTUALLY all particular momentary concentrations of a single vast energy field.”
Read that last sentence again, slowly, because you gotta give it time to sink in. Change what he’s saying from objects to people.
“While there may appear to be many, different, separate people, they are ACTUALLY all particular momentary concentrations of a single vast energy field.”
What is a “particular momentary concentration”?
- Particular – Separate and Distinct
- Momentary – Of this instant only
- Concentration – Converging at a common center
Let’s try an experiment right now.
Let’s consciously shift our perception of the world – something we usually see in terms of material and solid – to moving and energetic.
Like a physicist would do when studying sub-atomic particles, or a yogi would do when tuning into prana.
Pick up an object close at hand, something solid and real.
Look at it closely. Study it’s physical outline.
What do you see?
I’ve picked a ceramic sake cup, and I see solid, straight lines and a vessel capable of holding liquid.
- Is this true?
- Is this what the sake cup really is?
Well… yes and no.
From our limited human perspective it IS true. We experience reality through our central nervous system, which perceives MATTER as REALITY.
But if I were an electron, and I was observing that sake cup, what I would see is something completely different.
What does an electron perceive?
It sees all the other electrons inside that sake cup shooting around left, right and centre.
We all know that the basic building blocks of life are predominantly space (emptiness) and energy. That’s all an atom actually is – with a smudge of matter thrown in.
So collectively, the many millions of atoms that make up that sake cup contain mostly energy. And that energy is not confined to our perception of the material outline of the cup either… it spills out slightly into the surrounding air.
And what is that air?
Is it just empty space as we perceive it?
No, it too is made up of energy – energy that comes from all the matter-bound objects in the near vicinity, plus the chemicals that reside in air – oxygen and carbon dioxide (and who knows what other chemicals are leeching into the air from our cleaning products and man-made materials…)
Shifting perspective from a limited human vision of matter to an electron’s view of energy is like shifting from seeing a photo to seeing a negative.
Both are ‘true’ representations of what is… but they are the opposite of each other.
That sake cup is not solid at all… it just appears to be. Yet it is also solid.
All of the atoms that make up that sake cup have a tendency to exist in the same locale, in the same shape. The exact properties of the cup depend on the substance with which it is made. The sake cup has a particular momentary concentration.
It’s moving. It’s still.
It’s confined to it’s borders. It’s leeching out beyond into the air.
Now bang your object on the table. What happens?
When you banged it, did you perceive the flow of energy that followed the matter like the tail of a comet? Did you see the bounce of the energy as the matter constraining it came to an abrupt halt on the table?
Now throw that cup against a concrete floor and watch it smash.
Ever wondered WHY?
Because when the matter of the cup hits the matter of the concrete, matter stops matter… but the energy of the cup keeps going and explodes out skidding along the surface of the concrete… taking it’s particles of matter with it and suddenly the cup is broken. Yet the cup still exists – just in many pieces.
Today, experiment with being an electron. Stop seeing matter and space (emptiness), and instead see only ENERGY.
Remember – it’s like taking a black and white photo and staring at the negative version… suddenly the familiar looks completely different.
This shift of perspective will help you to understand the energetic nature of life… and then with this understanding will come greater knowing and belief about the way the world really works.
Because when you truly start to see everything as energy… that sake cup, the table, the computer, the plants, and mountains, the lake, the people…
You start to see how the energy of each perceived fixed-space entity actually leeches out and mingles with the energy of every other perceived fixed-space entity…
When you and I sit and talk… the energy that makes us up is mixing and intermingling… we are feeling each other on an energetic level.
My consciousness is bounded largely by the matter that makes me up – my body. Yet my field of consciousness of awareness also leeches out beyond my body.
The practice of yoga teaches us to look within to discover the truth of life. We look within at the physical sensations we experience, at the emotions we experience, at the thoughts we experience… and in witnessing all that we experience within… we realise the We are something else. We are the eternal unchanging awareness.
Once this concept is experienced, the yogi can then stay with themselves as Awareness and shift their focus to the external world. In doing so, he or she perceives the Awareness that permeates every other living thing on this planet. In the perceiving of this Awareness, a great truth becomes clear – none of it is separate.
Awareness, or Consciousness is one giant field containing many seemingly separate objects all connected via this awareness.
Which takes us right back to:
“While there may appear to be many, different, separate objects, they are ACTUALLY all particular momentary concentrations of a single vast energy field.”
This is what is means when it is said that All is One.
Energy/awareness/consciousness/divinity knows no boundaries. All IS connected to ALL. And by practicing yoga and meditation, we can actually experience this. We can feel it, see it, understand it, know it.
See – yoga and physics aren’t so different after all :-)
Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29.
Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga. She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel.
She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and has just published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice. She’s also a regular contributor to the Elephant Journal.
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