SOMATOMETRY AND AYURVEDA
MEASURING THE HUMAN BODY
Somatometry can be simply defined as the discipline that deals with measuring the dimensions of the human body and its constituent parts. The information provided by the science of somatometry is nowadays mainly used in areas where medicine interferes with art, culture, psychology or technology, such as for example in artistic anatomy, anthropology, physiognomy or ergonomics.
Somatometry provides objective, reliable, reproducible data for successive, accurate measurements, which are then used in imaging medicine, e.g. the dimensions of internal organs in ultrasound, anatomical topographic sectioning in computed tomography, image measurement in tumour pathology, cystic pathology or lithiasis.
On the other hand somatometry uses a correlative-intuitive-statistical interpretation of data, as in physiognomy. For example, it has been found that people with larger ears or taller people are generally found to have a higher latent longevity potential. The last mentioned interpretation, although relatively subjective, perhaps more subjective than the objective data used in current imaging, and the subjectivity comes precisely from its predictive nature, is nevertheless important for clinical practice and has proven its validity in concrete situations.
In modern conventional medicine the diagnosis is often made on the basis of a somatometric analysis, which can be relevant and particularly useful.
Pulmonary emphysema can be clinically diagnosed from the plastic image of a "barrel chest", with increased diameters, a more open subcostal angle, narrowed intercostal spaces and a reduced distance between the thyroid cartilage of the larynx and the sternum. Other uses of somatometry are in the fields of history, archaeology and anthropology (estimating the height of ancient populations by measuring the size of skeletons). The careful correlation of physiognomy with psychology and statistical data processing has made it possible to develop computer programmes that can recognise or confirm the existence of personal skills in detailed psychological tests. As is precisely indicated in the tradition of the Ayurvedic system, the proportions of the body indicate the existence of certain physical potentialities.
Somatometry can provide insights into the vital dynamic and energetic aspects of the human being that are useful in determining the level of health and bodily physical performance.
Linking traditional Ayurvedic data with somatometry can enhance these traditional data, as has already been done for example in sports or in astronautical medicine.
The dimensions of the body and its segments, as indicated by the science of Ayurvedic typologies (dosha-prakriti), can indicate very important data for natural healing, data which are useful in determining the exact personal specificities, in assessing the vitality of the human being, in estimating the probable degree of reaction to certain potential disturbing factors, in assessing the vital potential which can be mobilised during the healing process.
The age-old science of Ayurveda, as well as acupuncture and acupressure practiced in both India and the traditional Chinese healing system, is based on the practical aspects of somatometry. The millennia-old practical wisdom of the Ayurvedic system has led to the establishment of specific, proportional body measurements for each individual human being, seen as a large and complex whole, made up of multiple proportionalities. In the field of natural healing, Ayurveda uses the information provided by somatometric methods, and it has come to be known as a distinct health discipline.
The basic measure used in Ayurveda is called angula and the one used in acupuncture is cun. Both Ayurveda and acupuncture and acupressure in the Chinese tradition routinely use the practical aspects that are specific to somatometry to assess the size of internal organs by measuring the distances between certain landmarks in the body.
Body measurements made in the traditional manner indicated highlight a number of essential aspects of the proportionality of body composition and thus provide valuable data which then prove to be particularly useful for assessing the health of the human being.