Body and Consciousness




"The body and the conscience are equally the residence of well-being or illness.

What determines the health and harmony of the human being is their harmonious interaction".

(excerpt from Ayurvedic wisdom)


Every human being, whether healthy or sick, is endowed with body and mind. That is why any disorder or disease necessarily affects both body and conscience.

A few decades ago, psychosomatic medicine became a scientific discipline that began to study the relationships between biological and psychological aspects of both human health and illness.

Researcher Rene Dubos significantly stated that "whatever the causative factors and its physical manifestations, almost any disease affects both body and mind, and these two aspects are so linked that they cannot be separated".

Physiological effects of emotions

Popular language is peppered with many expressions that highlight the intimate connection between body and mind. We often catch ourselves saying that we "see red in our eyes" because of a state of anger or that we can be "blinded by anger". At other times we say we can "go stiff with fear". Frequently people say that "love is blind". At other times, being overwhelmed by the experience of love, we may speak to our lover "with a trembling voice".

Traditionally, the heart is considered to be the place of emotions. Depending on the good or bad nature of one's emotional experiences, one may feel 'heart-full' when feeling joy, or suffer from 'heartache' or 'heartbreak' when feeling sad. At other times, fear can make the heart "go up into your throat" or "go into your stomach". Also because of fear, people say they can become 'paralysed' with fear. Emotions also express themselves relatively quickly on the skin. A young woman may blush with shame or embarrassment or indignation. The skin may react to fear byexcessive sweating or the appearance of small red spots. Fear can also cause muscles to contract. Some able-bodied people are said to 'get under the skin' of others. Those with a boiling temper may be said to 'burn with impatience to do something'.

Some emotional disturbances can make our "knees shake" or "legs go soft" or cause "teeth chatter". Other times, ina state of stress, of inner clenching, you can "grit your teeth". Fear and disgust often cause dry mouth. This is why it is sometimes said that disgust and fear can make us sick. Some people can't 'swallow' a situation. Others feel "a lump in the throat", "a heaviness in the chest" or "a knot in the stomach". The inner feeling of relief is commonly communicated by the expression "mi s-took a weight off his heart".

Research and observations on the relationship between body and mind

In the 18th century, the scientist John Hunter (1728-1793) observed and then directly experienced the effects that the mind can have on the body under certain conditions. He even "prophesied" that if a man's mind is agitated and unrestrained, his life could be in the hands of any malefactor who could annoy or upset him. Hunter made this statement because he noticed that his angina attacks appeared almost every time his mind was agitated.

In 1884 William James, a Harvard psychologist, suggested that certain stimuli in the environment produce organic responses and that these visceral responses, from internal organs, from the heart, stomach, lungs or intestines, cause the mind to react with specific emotions. James summed up his theory in the famous and surprising statement: "we are afraid because we run, we do not run because we are afraid".

Around the same time a Danish scientist, Carl Lange, put forward a similar idea about the appearance of emotions. The two theories were unified and known as the James-Lange. This theory has been a landmark in understanding the nature and influence of emotions. Almost immediately this theory became the target of vehement criticism. The most critical was Walter Cannon, who argued that emotion is a state of heightened arousal of the organism, and that it is part of an activation system.

He believed that the activation extended from sleep to panic. Together with P. Bard, Cannon formulated a theory of activation that holds that emotions are part of a specific alarm system for activating the body. The Cannon theoryBard was opposed to the James-Lange. According to the Cannon-Bard, the locus of emotions was the brain, the thalamus. The thalamus receives external stimulation and sends specific impulses to both the cerebral cortex and the viscera, preparing the body for action. The two considered emotion to be the result of brain excitation.

Modern research has shown that these early theories expressed inin a highly simplified way the complex reality of emotional experiences. Most modern theories emphasise the cognitive or thinking element in the formation of emotions. For example, when people are told about a particular situation, they tend to manifest the correct emotion that correlates with that situation, whether or not they know the situation directly. This observation would indicate that most emotions tend to 'exist in the eye of the beholder'.

A perspective on knowing emotions

To study emotions in detail, they must be carefully and lucidly observed, then ordered and accurately described. One of the main difficulties in the descriptive analysis of emotions is that emotions are usually most relevant in the context in which they occur, and even then they vary in intensity and nuance.

In general, feelings of pleasure and displeasure, called hedonistic feelings, are considered the basic fundamental emotions. The main pleasurable emotional feelings are joy, well-being, andmood and contentment. The main unpleasant emotional feelings are fear, anger and resentment. Every emotion, pleasant or not, is characterised by intensity.

To determine emotional intensity psychologists measure physiological changes in the body: pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate and skin conductance. The electrical conductance of the skin, called the 'galvanic skin response' (GSR), provides valuable indications, particularly in relation to states of anxiety. Normally, almost any emotion is accompanied by a rapid drop in RGP. The lie detector, for example, works on this principle. Rapid brain waves are also characteristic of an increased emotional state.


In the ancient science of AYURVEDA, emotional experiences are analysed in detail and ordered according to certain fundamental energetic factors in the being. This form of direct knowledge of our emotional nature allows us to gradually shape our emotional experiences in a beneficial way, in order to harmonise the relationship between mind and body as much as possible.