“Marshalling the information needed to optimize our own development runs counter to the program of our technical-scientific culture, which prefers to believe that degeneration is programmed, while emergent evolution is unforeseeable. But, if an optimization project is presented as a way to forestall the “programmed degeneration,” it might succeed in becoming part of the culture.”
alpāhāro yadi bhavedaghnirdahati tat-kṣhaṇāt |
adhaḥ-śirāśchordhva-pādaḥ kṣhaṇaṃ syātprathame dine || 81 ||
kṣhaṇāchcha kiṃchidadhikamabhyasechcha dine dine |
valitaṃ palitaṃ chaiva ṣhaṇmāsordhvaṃ na dṝśyate |
yāma-mātraṃ tu yo nityamabhyasetsa tu kālajit || 82 ||
“If he stints his diet, the fire quickly consumes [the body]. On the first day he should stand for a moment on his head, with his feet above.
After six months, the wrinkles and grey hair are not seen. He who practises it daily, for one yama (3 hours), conquers death.”
-from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swatmarama (in reference to the Headstand / Viparita karani Mudra).
So yet again those degenerate Hatha Yogis obsessed by the body and materiality are making outlandish and absurdly inflated claims for their circus tricks, before we saw how they claimed pranayama can cure all disease, now they expect prudent and reasonable human beings to believe that standing on your head will make you immortal, whatever next, yoga can turn you into an Elf?
If you believe in a biology crafted out of the random chance errors of a clockwork horror story “red in tooth and claw” then the claims made by some Hatha Yogis as well as other devils might appear insane, however taking another perspective on biology the picture is very different. In an organismic model where the liquid crystalline structure is generated and supported by the controlled coherent fire of the respiratory whirlwind, where processes are interconnected across all scales, then it might be possible to make creative use of local effects to generate systemic changes which further modify local processes. A range of relatively simple techniques for generating creative constructive adaptation that is capable of overcoming the organism’s assimilated inertia might make themselves available.
I believe that Hatha Yoga is an art that has discovered such creative techniques, and increasingly the evidence exists to make this case.
The Natriuretic peptides are a class of hormones secreted by the heart, while they are named for the observation that they can increase the urinary elimination of sodium they have a range of much more interesting effects. A major stimulus for their release is the stretching of the chambers (atria and ventricles) of the heart (Espiner et al.1995).
There is some evidence that inversions (turning upside down) cause an increased stretch in the chambers of the heart, as might be expected. A study examining the circulatory effects of the head down position showed increases in stroke volume, and cardiac output and a decrease in pulse rate (Wilkins et al. 1950). A study looking specifically at the yoga postures Sirshasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) found a significant increase in early left ventricle filling, a shortening of the isovolumetric relaxation time and an increase in heart rate (Minvaleev et al. 1995). If inversions are stretching the hearts chambers then they should be stimulating the release of the Natriuretic peptides, as far as I am aware no studies have looked at this possibility so there is some speculation here.
The Cardiac natriuretic peptides include six hormones stored as three separate prohormones, Atrial Natriuretic peptide (ANP), B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), and C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP). ANP contains: long-acting natriuretic peptide (LANP), vessel dilator, kaliuretic peptide, and ANP (Vesely 2006).
The Natriuretic peptides have a wide range of effects, they have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, ANP reduced the secretion of inflammatory mediators produced in response to bacterial endotoxin /lipopolysaccharide (Kiemer and Vollmar 2001). Both ANP and CNP reduced the expression of COX-2 and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in response to lipolysaccharide (Kiemer et al. 2001). Anti-fibrotic , mice lacking BNP develop multiple fibrotic lesions (Tamura et al. 2000), BNP also appears to inhibit the profibrotic TGF-ß and increased collagen 1 and fibronectin proteins (Kapoun et al. 2004). ANP appears to have a tissue stabilising effect that prevents leakiness, ANP inhibited VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), protected the integrity of the blood-retinal-barrier of rats, ANP also significantly reduced the damage done by laser injury (being a lab rat sucks) ( Lara-Castillo et al. 2009). ANP has been found to defend the endothelial barrier from histamine induced permeability (Fürst et al. 2008).
These cardiac peptides appear to have some significant anti-cancer activity, in 24 hours, Vessel dilator, LANP, Kaliuretic peptide and ANP decreased the number of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in culture by 65%, 47%, 37% and 34% respectively. Vessel dilator completely stopped the growth of human pancreatic adenocarcinomas in mice, further decreasing the size of even palpable large tumors, after 1 week vessel dilator decreased the size by 49%, LANP by 28%, and kaliuretic by 11%, in placebo treated mice the tumor had increased in size by 20 fold.
These hormones also decreased the number of breast adenocarcinoma cells by 60%(vessel dilator), 31%(LANP), 27% (kaliuretic), 40% (ANP). Other cancers; decreased cell numbers of small cell lung cancer, squamous lung cancers, and malignant tumors of the heart (Vesely 2005).
A study examining the effects of CNP on proliferating smooth muscle cells found that CNP induced growth inhibition and promoted re-differentiation into highly differentiated smooth muscle cells rather than the less differentiated proliferative phase, CNP improved healing accelerating re-endotheliazation preventing neointima formation (Doi et al. 2001).
The cardiac peptides also decrease some hormones associated with stress, perhaps most interestingly prolactin (Samson et al. 1998), but also ACTH which contributes to cortisol (a catabolic hormone released by stress) release (Fink et al. 1991). Swatmarama states that headstand can reverse greying of hair, and prolactin has been implicated in hair loss (Foitzik et al. 2006).
These effects of the cardiac peptides, anti-inflammatory, tissue stabilising and anti-cancer suggest that it might be appropriate to view these hormones as in some sense bioenergetic kosmotropes that increase the coherence of the organism, as “Energy and structure are interdependent, at every level”* then substances that increase structural coherence should in some way increase energy as an increase in structure should allow for an increase in energy flow which would in-turn allow for structural complexification.
ANP and BNP have been found to induce mitochondriogenesis (making new mitochondria) , and to increase “uncoupled” respiration, that is to increase respiration without producing ATP, instead increasing heat production, and increasing energy expenditure. White adipose tissue appeared to become more like brown fat tissue, brown fat contains more mitochondria than white, and is especially abundant in infants, increased levels and activity of brown fat has been linked to resistance to metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity (Bordicchia et al. 2012). A separate study found that BNP protected against diet induced obesity and insulin resistance and increased muscle mitochondrial content (Miyashita et al. 2009).
With the prevalence of mechanical thinking in biology some people might think that increased metabolism means increased wear and tear on the lumbering bio-robot that is piloted by their consciousness (probably an illusion generated by those selfish genes), if the organism is generated by the metabolic flow of energy, the increased metabolism would be expected to result in increased renewal and rejuvenation. In mice individuals with higher metabolisms and greater mitochondrial uncoupling lived longer (Speakman et al. 2004). Somewhat obviously disuse of a tissue results in atrophy, and mitochondria demonstrate increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and decreased respiratory enzymes.
Given the evidence for the role of intensified metabolism in evolutionary progress it seems especially difficult to take seriously any attempt to market torpor as a preferable biological state. Mammals have more intense metabolisms than reptiles from 2 to 5 times more, possibly even greater in the case of some humans, mammals also have greater thyroid activity than reptiles (Hulbert and Else 1981). This increased metabolic activity in mammals has required adaptative complexification of the cardiopulmonary system to support it, this is one of the clearest examples of aromorphosis (a raising of the shape making a higher level of function available), an increased metabolism and increased oxygen use required a development and complexification of the Heart and circulatory system, the generation of a four chambered heart made it possible to operate at a higher, more generous energy level. Generally, fish have a two chambered heart, amphibians three chambers, two atria and one ventricle, from here things get a little more complicated as many species of reptile have varying degrees of ventricular septation, meaning that blood flow can complexify and increase in efficiency but not to the degree of birds, and mammals which have four chambered hearts (Jensen et al. 2013).
I think the case can be made that the cardiac peptides are sorts of morphogen, substances that are involved in biological structure generation and regulation, which would be dependent on available energy, decreased energy tends to result in a sort of organismic shrinking, and poor circulation, the effects of an energy surplus can be felt after a large meal, a sort of pleasant expansive, metabolic flush, an increase in circulation, pranayama also can produce such an effect, which should result in increased stretch being experienced in the heart. It seems reasonable to suggest the heart as sort of morphogenic regulator.
These Cardiac peptides are higher in the foetal circulation than adults, and the foetal heart expresses higher levels of these hormones than the adult heart. Peaks of ANP and BNP during gestation coincide with significant moments during cardiac morphogenesis (Cameron and Ellmers 2003).
These peptides also appear to play a role in bone remodelling, CNP is a potent stimulator of osteoclast activity demonstrating a role in bone remodelling (Holliday et al. 1995). CNP also stimulates chondrocyte proliferation, cartilage matrix production and long bone growth in foetal rats (Mericq et al. 2000).
If these cardiac peptides are sorts of morphogen then they might be expected to be increased by other signs of increased energy availability, such as increased thyroid activity and steroid hormones this appears to be the case, thyroid hormones T3 and T4 (T3 being more active) and testosterone dose dependently stimulated ANP (Matsubara et al. 1987). ANP at least in some studies stimulates testosterone production (Pereira et al. 2008), I think this points to the possibility of some self-intensifying positive feedback loops at least when energy is available to nurture them. Life appears to desire to be ever more.
“Energy is the only Life…”
*apologies to Ray Peat for totally overusing this quote (the “Energy and structure…”one), and also for the neural architecture I stole, you can’t have it back, and anyway I fear it’s been irreversibly warped by my own context.
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