Nature’s shrewdness in combining several duties into one, and also in rendering necessary duties pleasant (and thereby likely to be performed) is illustrated in numberless ways. One of the most striking examples of this kind will be brought out in this chapter. We will see how she manages to accomplish several things at the same time, and how she also renders pleasant several most necessary offices of the physical system.
Let us start with the statement of the Yogi theory of the absorption of Prana from food. This theory holds that there is contained in the food of man and the lower animals, a certain form of Prana which is absolutely necessary for man’s maintenance of strength and energy, and that such form of Prana is absorbed from the food by the nerves of the tongue, mouth and teeth. The act of mastication liberates this Prana, by separating the particles of the food into minute bits, thus exposing as many atoms of Prana to the tongue, mouth and teeth as possible. Each atom of food contains numerous electrons of foodâ€”prana, or food energy, which electrons are liberated by the breaking-up process of mastication, and the chemical action of certain subtle chemical constituents of the saliva, the presence of which have not been suspected by modern scientists, and which are not discernible by the tests of modern chemistry, although future investigators will scientifically prove their existence. Once liberated from the food, this food-prana flies to the nerves of the tongue, mouth and teeth, passing through the flesh and bone readily, and is rapidly conveyed to numerous storage-houses of the nervous system, from whence it is conveyed to all parts of the body, where it is used to furnish energy and “vitality” to the cells. This is a bare statement of the theory, the details of which we will endeavor to fill in as we proceed.
The student will probably wonder why it is necessary to extract this food-prana, as the air is heavily charged with Prana, and it may seem like a waste of effort on the part of Nature to use so much energy in order to extract the Prana from the food. But here is the explanation. Just as all electricity is electricity, so is all Prana simply Pranaâ€”but just as there are several forms of the electric current, manifesting widely different effects upon the human body, so are there several manifestations or forms of Prana, each of which performs certain work in the physical body, and all of which are needed for the different kinds of work. The Prana of the air fulfills certain offices; that of the water others, and that derived from the food still a third set of duties. To go into the minute details of the Yogi theory would be foreign to the purposes of this work, and we must rest content with the general statements here given. The main subject before us is the fact that the food contains food-prana, which the human body needs, and which it can extract only in the manner above stated, i. e., by mastication of the food, and the absorption of the prana by the nervous system by means of the nerves of the tongue, mouth and teeth.
Now, let us consider Nature’s plan in combining two important offices in the act of masticating and insalivating. In the first place, nature intended every particle of food to be thoroughly masticated and insalivated before it was swallowed, and any neglect in this respect is sure to be followed by imperfect digestion. Thorough mastication is a natural habit of man which has been neglected owing to the demands of artificial habits of living which have grown up around our civilization. Mastication is necessary to break up the food that it may be more easily swallowed, and also that it may be mixed with the saliva and the digestive juices of the stomach and small intestines. It promotes the flow of saliva, which is a most necessary part of the process of digestion. Insalivation of food is part of the digestive process, and certain work is done by the saliva which can not be performed by the other digestive juices.
Physiologists teach most positively that thorough mastication and proper insalivation of the food are prerequisites of normal digestion, and form a most necessary part of the process. Certain specialists have gone much further and have given to the process of mastication and insalivation much more importance than have the general run of physiologists. One particular authority, Mr. Horace Fletcher, an American writer, has written most forcibly upon this subject, and has given startling proofs of the importance of this function and process of the physical body; in fact, Mr. Fletcher advises a particular form of mastication which corresponds very closely to the Yogi custom, although he advises it because of its wonderful effect upon the digestion, whereas the Yogis practice a similar system upon the theory of the absorption of food-prana. The truth is that both results are accomplished, it being a part of Nature’s strategy that the grinding of the food into small bits; the digestive process attending the in-salivation, and the absorption of food-prana, are accomplished at the same time an economy of force most remarkable.
In the natural state of man, mastication was a most pleasant process, and so it is in the case of the lower animals, and the children of the human race to-day. The animal chews and munches his food with the greatest relish, and the child sucks, chews and holds in the mouth the food much longer than does the adult, until it begins to take lessons from its parents and acquires the custom of bolting its food. Mr. Fletcher, in his books on the subject, takes the position that it is taste which affords the pleasure of this chewing and sucking process. The Yogi theory is that while taste has much to do with it, still there is a something else, an indescribable sense of satisfaction obtained from holding the food in the mouth, rolling it around with the tongue, masticating it and allowing it to dissolve slowly and be swallowed almost unconsciously. Fletcher holds that while there remains a particle of taste in the food, nourishment is there to be extracted, and we believe this to be strictly correct. But we hold that there is that other sensation which, when we allow it to manifest itself, gives us a certain satisfaction in the non-swallowing, and which sensation continues until all, or nearly all, the food-prana is extracted from the food. You will notice if you follow the Yogi plan of eating (even partially) that you will be loth to part with the food, and that, instead of bolting it at once, you will allow it to gradually melt away in the mouth until suddenly you realize that it is all gone. And this sensation is experienced from the plainest kinds of food, which do not appeal particularly to the taste, as well as to those foods which are special favorites of your particular taste.
To describe this sensation is almost impossible, for we have no English words coined for it, as its existence has not been fully recognized by the Western races. The best we can do is to compare it by other sensations at the risk of being accused of presenting a ridiculous comparison or illustration. Here is what we mean:
You know the sensation which one sometimes feels when in the presence of a highly “magnetic” person-that indescribable feeling of the absorption of strength or “vitality.” Some people have so much Prana in their system that they are continually “running over” and giving it out to others, the result being that other persons like to be in their company, and dislike to leave it, being almost unable to tear themselves away. This is one instance. Another is the sensation which one obtains from being close to another whom one loves. In this case there is an interchange of “magnetism” (thought charged with Prana), which is quite exhilarating. A kiss from the loved one is so filled with “magnetism” that it thrills one from head to toe. This gives an imperfect illustration of what we are trying to describe. The pleasure that one obtains from proper and normal eating, is not alone a matter of taste, but is largely derived from that peculiar sensation of the absorption of “magnetism” or Prana, which is very much akin to the examples above mentioned, although, until one realizes the similar character of the two manifestations of energy, the illustration may evoke a smile, or possibly ridicule.
When one has overcome the false Appetite (so often mistaken for Hunger) he will masticate a dry crust of whole-wheat bread and not only obtain a certain satisfaction of taste from the nourishment contained within it, but will enjoy the sensation of which we have spoken very keenly. It takes a little practice in order to get rid of the false appetite habit and to return to nature’s plans. The most nourishing of foods will yield the most satisfaction to the normal taste, and it is a fact to be remembered that food-prana is contained in food in direct proportion to its percentage of nourishmentâ€”another instance of Nature’s wisdom.
The Yogi eats his food slowly, masticating each mouthful so long as he “feels like it;” that is, so long as it yields him any satisfaction. In the majority of cases this sensation lasts so long as there remains any food in the mouth, as Nature’s involuntary processes gradually causes the food to be slowly dissolved and swallowed. The Yogi moves his jaws slowly, and allows the tongue to caress the food, and the teeth to sink into it lovingly, knowing that he is extracting the food-prana from it, by means of the nerves of the mouth, tongue and teeth, and that he is being stimulated and strengthened, and that he is replenishing his reservoir of energy. At the same time he is conscious that he is preparing his food in the proper way for the digestive processes of the stomach and small intestines, and is giving his body good material needed for the building up of the physical body.
Those who follow the Yogi plan of eating will obtain a far greater amount of nourishment from their food than does the ordinary person, for every ounce is forced to yield up the maximum nourishment, while in the case of the man who bolts his food half-masticated and insufficiently insalivated, much goes to waste, and is passed from the system in the shape of a decaying, fermenting mass. Under the Yogi plan nothing is passed from the system as waste except the real waste matter, every particle of nourishment being extracted from the food, and the greater portion of the foodprana being absorbed from its atoms. The mastication breaks up the food into small particles, allowing the fluids of the saliva to interpenetrate it, the digestive juices of the saliva performing their necessary work, and the other juices (mentioned above) acting upon the atoms of food in such a way as to liberate the food-prana, thus allowing it to be taken up by the nervous system. The motion imparted to the food by the action of the jaws, tongue and cheeks in the act of mastication, causes it to present new atoms to the nerves ready to extract the food-prana. The Yogis hold the food in the mouth, masticating it slowly and thoroughly, and allowing it to be slowly swallowed by the involuntary process above alluded to, and they experience to the full the enjoyment attendant upon the extraction of Prana. You may get an idea of this by taking into the mouth some particle of food (when you have plenty of time for the experiment), and then slowly masticating it, allowing it to gradually melt away in the mouth, as you would a lump of sugar. You will be surprised to find how thoroughly this work of involuntary swallowing is performedâ€”the food gradually yields up its food-prana and then melts slowly away and reaches the stomach. Take a crust of bread, for example, and masticate it thoroughly, with the idea of seeing how long it will last without being “swallowed.” You will find that it will never be “swallowed” in the usual way, but will gradually disappear in the manner we have just mentioned, after being reduced to a pasty, creamy mass by degrees. And that little mouthful of bread will have yielded you about twice as much nourishment as a piece of equal size, eaten in the ordinary way, and about three times the amount of food-prana.
Another interesting example is had in the case of milk. Milk is a fluid and, of course, needs no “breaking-up,” as does solid food. Yet the fact remains (and is well established by careful experiments) that a quart of milk simply allowed to flow down the throat yields not over half the nourishment or food-prana that is derived from the same quantity of milk sipped slowly, and allowed to remain in the mouth a moment until it “melts away,” the tongue being moved through it. The babe drawing the milk from the nipple of either the breast or the bottle, of course, does so by a sucking motion, which moves the tongue and cheeks, and produces a flow of fluid from the glands, which liberates the food-prana and has also a chemical digestive effect upon the milk itself, notwithstanding the fact that true saliva is not secreted in the young babe, and does not appear until the teeth show themselves.
We advise our students to experiment with themselves along the lines just pointed out. Choose an opportunity when you have plenty of time, then, masticating slowly, allow the food to gradually melt away, instead of making a deliberate attempt to swallow. This “melting-away” of the food can only be possible when the food is masticated into a cream-like paste, thoroughly saturated with saliva, and the particles thereby converted into a semi-digested state, and having had the food-prana extracted therefrom. Try eating an apple in this way, and you will be surprised at the feeling of having eaten a fair-sized meal, and at the sensation of increased strength which has come to you.
We understand fully that it is quite a different thing for the Yogi to take his time and eat in this way, and for the hurried Western man of business to do the same, and we do not expect all of our readers to change the habit of years all at once. But we feel sure that a little practice in this method of eating food will cause quite a change to come over one, and we know that such occasional practice will soon result in quite an improvement in the every-day method of masticating the food. We know, also, that the student will find a new delight-an additional relish in eating-and will soon learn to eat “lovingly,” that is; to feel loath to let the mouthful of food pass away. A new world of taste is opened up to the man who learns to follow this plan, and he will get far more pleasure from eating than ever before, and will have, besides, a much better digestion, and much more vitality, for he will obtain a greater degree of nourishment, and an increased amount of food-prana.
It is possible for one who has the time and opportunity to follow this plan to its extreme limit, to obtain an almost unbelievable amount of nourishment and strength from a comparatively small amount of food, as there will be practically no waste, as may be proven by an observation of the waste matter which is passed from the system. Those suffering from mal-nutrition and impaired vitality will find it profitable to at least partially follow this plan.
The Yogis are known as small eaters, and yet they understand fully the necessity and value of perfect nutrition, and always keep the body well nourished and provided with building material. The secret, as you will readily see, is that they waste practically none of the nourishment in the food, as they extract practically all that it contains. They do not burden their system with waste material, which clogs up the machinery and causes a waste of energy in order that it may be thrown off. They obtain a maximum of nourishment from a minimum of food-a full supply of food-prana from a small amount of material.
While you may not be able to follow this matter up to the extreme, you may work a great improvement in yourself by following the methods above given. We merely give you the general principles-work the rest out for yourself-experiment for yourself-that is the only way to learn anything, anyway.
We have stated several times in this book, that the mental attitude aids materially in the process of absorbing Prana. This is true not only of the Prana absorbed from the air, but also of the food-prana. Hold the thought that you are absorbing all the Prana contained in a mouthful of food, combining that thought with that of “Nourishment,” and you will be able to do much more than you can without so doing.