If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.Niels Bohr
Over a century ago, quantum physics discovered the shocking truth that what we call matter is nothing but an illusion. An atom consists not of hard matter but of vortices of vibrating energy, spinning according to their own, unique signature. So the cliché “everything is energy” is a scientific fact, or at least an incredibly accurate scientific theory, but one so difficult to grasp that we continue to live as if matter actually is static stuff that we can grasp and accumulate. In yoga terms, we say, we are all blinded by maya, the veil of illusion that gives the appearance of a static, multi-formed world, whereas actually the universe is a vibrating energy field.
A Galaxy Inside
For me personally, the first time I experienced this was in a yoga class. I am sure you’ve had this experience too: I had had a really, really bad day. Frustrations at work, fights at home, feeling lost and misunderstood and pretty sorry for myself. I went to class almost as an escape, a way of putting my attention on something else for 90 minutes. Being the obsessed being I used to be – ok, still am, but way less – I gave it my all. During class I was still struggling with the same emotions, but when we arrived at Savasana – the relaxation at the end – I literally felt like every single cell in my body was vibrating, dancing, singing even. It was an inner feeling, like my skin was the frontier of this inner landscape where universes were orbiting, plunging, resurfacing. I remember staying in Savasana way after everybody had left, remember walking home and imagining that those universes were in everybody, everywhere. I felt I was made of energy, something my brain could repeat but my perception had not been able to fully comprehend until that moment.
Feeling that we are made of energy immediately puts us into a relationship: energy, unlike matter, only exists in ecosystems, in environments where other energies are also vibrating. Energies influence their environment and each other, they are the very essence of life and movement. Our energies are constantly interacting, influencing, transforming. Every touch, every movement, every breath is vibrating life, interweaving and spinning across the galaxies.
As far-fetched as this all may seem, the more I deepened my studies in yoga, anatomy, biology, physics and philosophy, the more it all made sense. We now know that there is an actual landscape inside of us, a network of fibres ranging from the microscopic to the rope-like; they interweave with each other in every possible direction, coalescing into structures or continuing, cotton candy-like, on their journey. They can be so fine as to penetrate the membrane of a cell, and so strong that the force of two cars pulling them apart would not be able to stretch them. This inner landscape is responsible for our health, our immune system, our responses to the world within and without, our movements and, as Jaap van der Wal so beautifully says, “our whole innerness”. We call this network fascia, and honestly, I wish we were taught that in school.
The fibres that form this inner landscape create a world of architectural wonders: they connect structures to each other and separate them into compartments. Their tonus and pliability manifest as free movement and natural healing. Their stiffness and densification manifest as limitation, discomfort and disease. The internal structure of all organs is made of this material, as is every surface that envelops and protects us.
Within this network, a mysterious and wonderful substance is produced. It is a sugar – as so many wonderful things are – and it does two amazing things: first, it attracts water to itself, in big quantities. Then it gives structure to this water, making it into a gel. All over the fibres where this substance is present, we have channels of structured water running literally everywhere in the body. As you can see, this architectural tissue is really a full landscape, complete with swamps, rivers, pools and oceans.
And what lives in water? Life. In all its glory and complexity, life needs a medium to circulate and manifest. Life energy: that’s what circulates in these fibres. The Chinese call it chi, the yogis call it prana: the miraculous combination of energy and consciousness that makes life possible. And life is not only something we get at conception and lose at death; life is continuously reaffirming itself every single moment of our lives. We make 2 million new blood cells every minute, regrow a new liver every six months, the regeneration metabolism of our bodies is astounding. The brain and the intellect have nothing whatsoever to do with this, and neither does DNA. DNA is encoded information that needs to be triggered by the environment, as new researches in epigenetics tell us. To say you “don’t believe” in energy is to say you don’t believe in science. The more science progresses, the more we need to acknowledge certain things that yogis and Chinese medicine have been saying for many centuries.
Yet again, trust yoga to make all these concepts a lived experience: when we do our yin yoga stretches, after staying in a pose for some 3 or 4 or 5 minutes, we often take what we call a rebound. That simply means that we lay back, and allow the resonance of what we’ve done to take over. And what we feel is pure energy. It circulates everywhere and has so many faces; it can be a warmth, or a tingling, or a “oh-my-God-is-that-ok?” kind of feeling. It can bring mysterious tears or a honey-coloured embrace of deep comfort and safety. It may leave us deeply vulnerable, sleepy, irritated, blissed-out. And all it is is vibrating energy circulating in our fascia.
The most wonderful thing? We can affect this energy, this inner world of ours. By what we eat, what we breathe, sure. But also by what we say, how we love, how we think. By learning to influence yourself, you change how you will relate to everyone and everything around you. By being environmentally friendly inside we make it possible for this friendliness to actually take shape outside too.