The breath of life (or energy)

In yoga, instructors are always talking about breathing; one of my instructors goes so far as to say “it’s not yoga if you’re not breathing”. I’d say you’re dead if you’re not breathing – but that’s a debate for another day.

Meditation is generally focused around breathing too. If your mind wonders, just focus on your breath. Some yoga instructors consider the art of yoga a moving meditation.

I figured I’d look a little deeper into this breathing thing and see if there might be some connections that would lead us to some real sources of energy.

I’m starting too really like the Wikipedia. Since yoga refers to it as Prana, let’s see what a well respected definition says:

In Vedantic philosophy, prana is the notion of a vital, life-sustaining force of living beings and vital energy, comparable to the Chinese notion of Qi. Prana is a central concept in Ayurveda and Yoga where it is believed to flow through a network of fine subtle channels called nadis. Its most subtle material form is the breath, but is also to be found in blood, and its most concentrated form is semen in men and vaginal fluid in women.[1] The Pranamaya-kosha is one of the five Koshas or “sheaths” of the Atman.

Prana was first expounded in the Upanishads, where it is part of the worldly, physical realm, sustaining the body and the mother of thought and thus also of the mind. Prana suffuses all living forms but is not itself the Atman or individual soul. In the Ayurveda, the Sun and sunshine are held to be a source of Prana.

What could be more vague than “… a vital, life-sustaining force…”? This seems a little more tangible; “Its most subtle material form is the breath, …”

I’ve always associated breath and Prana as one in the same thing. Well, ok, not quite. I figured that the air’s about 20 percent oxygen, and because the body needs oxygen to metabolize sugar, the ‘energy’ that we receive is simply oxygen. So to me, when someone’s said “breathe in prana” I’ve always translated that statement into “breathe in oxygen”.

But I’m not sure about that direct mapping any longer.

In the definition of Prana above, they mention Qi. Here is what Wikipedia says about Qi.

In traditional Chinese culture, qi (…) is an active principle forming part of any living thing.

It is frequently translated as “energy flow,” and is often compared to Western notions of energeia or élan vital (vitalism) as well as the yogic notion of prana. The literal translation is “air,” “breath,” or “gas” (compare the original meaning of Latin spiritus “breathing”; or the Common Greek πνεῦμα, meaning “air,” “breath,” or “spirit”; and the Sanskrit term prana, “breath”).

On the surface, Prana and Qi appear to be circular in definition. Reading into the definition a bit, we find that it is referred to as “the life-process or “flow” of energy that sustains living beings…”

Could there be more to this then just feeding the body oxygen to … energize it?

Water molecules acting as little megnets in their liquid state

Let’s take a closer look at the water molecule. The Wikipedia describes it as:

Water is the chemical substance with chemical formula H2O: one molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to a single oxygen atom.

And, when you follow the link to the covalent bonding we find:

A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms, and other covalent bonds. In short, the attraction-to-repulsion stability that forms between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding.

Covalency is greatest between atoms of similar electronegativities.

And that last link (electronegativities) shows us:

Electronegativity, symbol χ (the Greek letter chi), is a chemical property that describes the ability of an atom (or, more rarely, a functional group) to attract electrons (or electron density) towards itself.[1] An atom’s electronegativity is affected by both its atomic weight and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus.

This to me is the most interesting part “…the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus”. We’ve seen that before.

Let’s look back at water one more time. Yet this time, let’s look at its bonding:

Each hydrogen nucleus is bound to the central oxygen atom by a pair of electrons that are shared between them; chemists call this shared electron pair a covalent chemical bond. In H2O, only two of the six outer-shell electrons of oxygen are used for this purpose, leaving four electrons which are organized into two non-bonding pairs. The four electron pairs surrounding the oxygen tend to arrange themselves as far from each other as possible in order to minimize repulsions between these clouds of negative charge. This would ordinarily result in a tetrahedral geometry in which the angle between electron pairs (and therefore the H-O-H bond angle) is 109.5°. However, because the two non-bonding pairs remain closer to the oxygen atom, these exert a stronger repulsion against the two covalent bonding pairs, effectively pushing the two hydrogen atoms closer together. The result is a distorted tetrahedral arrangement in which the H-O-H angle is 104.5°.

So now, after looking at all of this, the standard water molecule looks to take a particular form were the hydrogen attach at the most probable angle of 105 degrees. But what if the location of the electrons were to change out of their standard ‘water’ configuration? What if the electrons were to get elevated to higher orbits in the atom? Might that change the properties of water? Might that change how the hydrogen atoms arrange themselves particularly if the repulsions were different because the electrons orbit the atoms differently?

Let’s reflect back upon information that we discovered in a previous article (Is food another form of light?).

So, in the process of Cellular respiration, it looks like energy is released that has been stored by the electrons that have been in higher molecular orbits. If reverse logic holds, the atoms that were combined during the photosynthesis must have been atoms with electrons in lower molecular orbits and when light is introduced, the electrons are moved to higher molecular orbits that allow for different atomic arrangements – sugar.

Notice that the basic idea here is that light is introduced and the atoms that make up Carbon Dioxide and Water get their electrons elevated so that they want to bond, thus producing sugar.

What if this same principle holds with Water? What if sun light were to interact with water changing its makeup just enough for it to behave differently?

Let’s consider evaporation. Using the same trusty dictionary we find:

Evaporation is a type of phase transition; it is the process by which molecules in a liquid state (e.g. water) spontaneously become gaseous (e.g. water vapor). Generally, evaporation can be seen by the gradual disappearance of a liquid from a substance when exposed to a significant volume of gas. Vaporization and evaporation however, are not entirely the same processes.

And if we follow the link to Water Vapor we read:

Whenever a water molecule leaves a surface, it is said to have evaporated. Each individual water molecule which transitions between a more associated (liquid) and a less associated (vapour/gas) state does so through the absorption or release of kinetic energy.

And the vaporization link reads:

Evaporation is a phase transition from the liquid phase to gas phase that occurs at temperatures below the boiling temperature at a given pressure. Note: evaporation usually occurs on the surface.

Even though it’s labeled kinetic energy above, we have to wonder about plain old sun light energy. Could the addition of sun light elevate the electrons in a water molecule so that we get the same affect?

One of the common properties of water is, that because the hydrogen line up off center, the molecule gets a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other. Like a small magnet. As shown in the above diagram, this magnetic property helps to hold water together.

What if the addition of sun light were to elevate the electrons in the water molecule so that the molecule were to become neutral with regards to its charge? One might think that the molecules at the surface might no longer be as ‘sticky’ and be more likely to leave the collection – evaporate.

I haven’t been able to find anything in my searches that can say anything about the composition of a water molecule while in its vapor form. The only thing is that it took energy for the molecule to get out of its liquid state.

With a different feel, but along the same line of thinking, let’s look at lightning for a minute. Everyone knows that lightning is caused because of an electrical imbalance between one location and another. Here is an article from buzzle that talks about it a bit, but I’m most interested in this:

Electric Charge Formation and Ionization
During thunderstorms, what happens is that strong air currents cause the water particles and ice particles inside the cumulonimbus clouds to collide against each other. Scientists believe that these collisions in the clouds create an electric charge: positive and negative. Further, the positive and negative charges separate from one another, wherein the negative charges moves towards the bottom of the cloud and the positive charges dwell in the upper and middle regions of the cloud. The negative charges cause positive charges to develop in the area surrounding the cloud and on the ground below. The electric charges get stronger and makes the cloud negatively charged and the surface of the Earth positively charged. The electric charge caused between the Earth and the cloud serves as the perfect platform for the occurrence of lightning. [Bold italics mine]

I’m sure the scientists are still studying if this is exactly what occurs. I’m starting to think that there might be a link between sun light, water vapor and lightning.

So, what are my guesses?

What if the interaction of sun light shining on the surface of the earth transforms the water, from its dominate form into a higher energy form where the electrons are in higher orbits.  This water then is not as ‘sticky’ and it becomes water vapor that then travels through the air and gets absorbed by people breathing. Now, like sugar, this water vapor molecule has electrons in higher energy states that allow the body to use this molecule to build other molecules that regular water doesn’t work for or the extra energy can be used by the body by reducing the high energy state water into the standard lower energy state water.  This reaction might be similar to the electromagnetic energy given off when the body breaks down sugars.

If this holds, Prana would be more than just oxygen, but rather the extra energy carried via water vapor that can actually be used by the body.

Well, I might have made some debatable logical inferences above, but when you relate what happens inside a plant when light energy is used, it creates higher energy atoms that have an affinity to combine into the stable sugar molecule that stores the energy for the body. One has to wonder if that same process might happen with other molecules like water.

So breathe deep, there may actually be energy in the molecules that you breathe in.