Traditional Tibetan Medicine གསོ་བ་རིགཔ་ From East to West
Home 2017 December

Subtle and Gross Winds in Tibetan Medicine

December 27th, 2017 Posted in Articles

Three human bodies showing different organs, also separate figures of the vertebral column and of the solar plexus and the system of channels connected with the five senses and with consciousness. Along the top, twelve great teachers of medicine. Tibetan.

Nashalla G. Nyinda Menpa © 2017

Meditation and mindfulness are increasingly popular and studied in systematic western approaches. The focus is shifting from examining primary mental-emotional health benefits to looking at precise changes within the nervous system, brain tissue, cardiovascular system and many other essential bodily functions of long-term meditators. This exciting area of research brings with it an increasing need to both directly interface and correlate how results of meditation and health conjoin. This is best articulated by familiarizing oneself to the origins of the body-mind connection as presented for thousands of years in Asian medical systems. To incorporate the benefits of meditation and provide such practices as viable healthcare options within a general population, it becomes imperative to educate western scientists on the origins of the subtle and gross body. Navigating why meditation practices influence the gross body guides one into deeper integration with fundamental Buddhist theories of interdependent origination and the subtle body.

Formation of the body and influence of the elements

In the Tibetan model the primary driving force responsible for the formation of the gross body, as well as a subtle body are elements. The predisposition of a basic nature or elemental dominance is known to shape mental states. In fact, all aspects of the gross body fall under this sphere of influence. Centuries of analysis reveals that in both disordered and corrective states, the influence of meditation directly acts upon elements in a macro and microcosmic way.

In fact, every physiological response of the body relates back to the origins of the elements, their classified behaviors and their direct relationship to the host organism. This level of understanding what elements do on a physiological level, as well as how to alter and affect the elements for leaning towards homeostasis, have been the backbone of the healthcare management model for Tibetan physicians for centuries. The Tibetan medical system and mechanisms for correcting imbalances vis-à-vis mediation as a treatment mode work directly with altering elements. Fusing the principles of Tibetan medicine to sciences makes meditation even more useful as it becomes naturalized into western medicine treatments for depression, anxiety, hypertension, stress management, and neurological disorders.

The nervous system is composed of many divisions, the central, peripheral, somatic, autonomic systems all which influence not only basic physiology and life-sustaining functions, but also relate to mental wellness and cognitive functions just now being understood in western science. This is an example of the Buddhist relationship to interdependence. Here the nervous system is an entire bodily system instigating widespread body-mind regulation. You cannot separate one aspect of governance from the other; they depend on one another. The management of the whole organism both in states of illness and homeostasis link directly back to the influence of the elements being in the correct proportions functioning well within the entire system.

It is no wonder that many Asian systems, not just the Tibetan relate with how to use elements to harmonize the organism. Many highly refined methods are employed to modulate our internal elements in Tibetan Medicine. A physician will work with the environment, seasons, foods and composition of medicines. In prescribing meditation practices to work with the elements, the Tibetan doctor may also determine necessary treatments of diet, behavior, and what medicines may benefit. In a real sense, a person is always present with one’s sense perceptions and the so-called mind. Thus working with those aspects of mind, sense perceptions through meditation are medicine treatment. Some highly trained Buddhist masters will say Dharma, and the training of one’s perceptions to enter into a merging of non-dualistic understanding of the dependent origination of all phenomena is the greatest of medicines.

Interdependence and emptiness

According to Buddhist cosmology, interdependence is the relationship between our consciousness and reality as we perceive it. What we attribute to the phenomenal world through perceptions is not intrinsic to the object itself. If we examine the physiological responses here, such reactions are a result of our mind acting as a filter. The physical connection is within the nervous system, cranial nerve functions, and sense organs, therefore physiologically, the filter is our own idiosyncratic perception. What is important to note here is that the same ‘reality’ can, in fact, appear differently according to cultural background, education, definitions of language, and education.

Within this theory of interdependence we come to understand that objects, as we perceive them, are actually void of inherent sovereign properties, thus lacking solidity and permanence. This relates to a classic Buddhist view that all things are empty of nature. It is essential to understand that in this example in Buddhism ‘emptiness’ is not nothingness; it is not a nihilistic view. Here emptiness is the absence of independence and autonomy for the objects we perceive.

Specifically, due to this law of interdependence,  the potential and capacity for all phenomenon varying in an infinite number of ways exist. This means phenomena as we perceive it can develop in unlimited possibilities. Therefore, the only real nature of phenomena is their interdependent nature. Emptiness here is the ultimate nature of all things precisely because phenomena are void of permanent existence, they only appear to exist due to the observer’s perceptions.

To further explain this Buddhist concept, you can look at the two categories for what Buddhism defines as reality. The first is what one might consider as conventional, or ordinary reality. This relates to the reality of our daily lives, the functions we perform in a bodily form and so forth. The second is that of ultimate reality, which has this quality of emptiness.

Conventional reality concerns the transformations and changes to things in the phenomenal world. Here changes are governed by causal laws similar to the physical laws discovered by the sciences. These are what science is measuring when they see the tangible benefits of meditation practices. In the Buddhist model of conventional reality, phenomena can be measured by physicians by palpitation, observation, perception, and how elements in the body are known to behave physiologically. However, the primary difference is that in addition to these physical laws, Buddhism introduces a law of causation known as karma. This means that consequences of our acts, either positive or negative, lead unavoidably to our future happiness or suffering. A Buddhist knows this conventional reality is based on mere perceptional appearance.

Phenomena in the most profound Buddhist viewpoint does not have an objective existence. Examples given in the Mahayana Buddhists sutras compare reality to mirages, dreams, and illusions. If one considers the interdependence of one’s sense perceptions received through the sense organs – including vision, sound, smell, taste, and touch – it is possible to discern that these realities do not exist independently. These perceptions, therefore, serve as received mental objects, empty of independent nature and thus are just like a dream, empty of nature.

Meditation, elements and the three primary energies

Often meditation practicers dismiss the direct physiological bodily aspects when initially seeking meditation practices for mental wellbeing. However, I assert that if the body is a vehicle for enlightenment, as I often tell my patients, how can you pursue enlightenment without knowing your own elements? Furthermore, beyond merely identifying the elements, how can you better interact with them? Habituating in a direct way exactly how elements serve as a micro and macrocosm for the human organism provides the mediator with a complete set of tools. This means the meditator must initially learn how to relate to the elements on the body-mind-spiritual level for a whole picture of better health and stable meditation to develop.

Longchenpa, a great Tibetan meditator was known for mastering control over his body to such a degree that he could subsist solely on bcud len or rejuvenation pills for years at a time. He thought that enlightenment was impossible unless you gain control over the elements. This level of meditation mastery is possible only by first knowing how the elements both act and co-create either homeostasis or disordered states of the body-mind, and second by being able to learn how to control them.

Accomplishing control over the bodily elements relies squarely upon understanding the gross and subtle aspects of the ‘winds’ or rLung as presented within gSo wa Rigpa གསོ་བ་རིག་པ་, otherwise known as Tibetan Medicine or the Healing Sciences of Tibet. In brief, there are three primary energies in Tibetan Medicine, all which are both a source and expression of derivations of the five elements. This points to why it is vital to understand the nature of dependent origination. Without the five elements and ones own habitual karmic propensities, to even obtain the precious human body is impossible. The combined karma and elements uniting with the three root poisons appear throughout all Buddhist systems as originating in the basic unknowing or ignorance known as Ma Rig pa. Simply, without formation of the three root poison arising from basic ignorance, the fusion of the three poisons and elements could not occur; nor could our minds or consciousness function or merge with any solidified physiological state.

From basic ignorance the three root poisons reflect further solidification of this most distant cause for disorder and imbalance. Ignorance gives rise to more ignorance, which in turn creates the Bad kan It is primarily a mixture of the earth and water elements. Ignorance also gives a ground for the second root poison, known as aggression or aversion to arise. With the nature of heat and fire, this aggression poison mingles and forms the mKris pa energy. The third root poison which emerges from ignorance is attachment, or desire and mingles with the air, or wind element, producing the rLung energy.

Meditation as medicine

This papers focus is primarily on the rLung energy as it relates to the subtle and gross body but the background is essential to understand how these winds work. This serves to help the reader to take meaning in the basic formation of the channels, primary to facilitation of proper meditation and progression along the path towards full enlightenment. Another focus in more advanced meditation practices is the cleaning and opening of said pathways within the subtle body. The channels being open and receptive to subtle winds movement actually works in conjunction with various mental states. The preliminary aspects of meditation training to seat the mind is often the focal subject of mind training. This prepares the meditator to move the consciousness without the distraction.

The preliminary practices are crucial, whose aim is to teach mind placement. Unless one learns to focus one-pointedly without distraction, without self-judgment, without continually following thoughts of the past, future or even thoughts of the present, capacity to manipulate our primary elements, their natural expressions and subsequent influence upon our gross and subtle channels and associated root poisons is impossible. Therefore, the clearing and opening of channels and fully transforming subtle wind movements requires mediation stabilization. For this reason preliminary practices exist.

This gradual opening and refining of one’s subtle bodily pathways and chakras alongside the bodies elements give the mind and consciousness a system in which to both travel and ‘be seated’ in the static human form. These channels, pathways, and chakras in which the consciousness must move need refining and training to become open and clean. This also is another aspect of why preliminary practices need cultivation. Shamatha or calm abiding is a meditation technique that cultivates mind placement without distraction.

Conceptually this sounds simple, but the reality expressed and experienced by many who embark on the path of meditation as a transformational system know this is indeed hard work. This is why it is called ‘mind training.’ By training the mind, or learning to settle ones discursive and unending waves of thoughts, past, present, future is but only one aspect of meditation. The other aspect is the proper flow of the subtle energy in the body so one begins to master the elements themselves.

By training the mind to steady itself, only then can one in train the more subtle aspects of the inner elements. Ripening and transformation require steadiness. rLung or wind energy has a tremendous capacity to transform by its very nature of being light, mobile and subtle. Furthermore, the same nature makes one also easily scattered, distracted, ungrounded, anxious, unstable mentally or physically. Therefore the control of the winds themselves requires familiarity with both formation and function as they perform on gross and subtle aspects of the body.

Primary winds and their functions

The second half of this paper serves as an outline to the rLung energies and winds as related to the gross physical channels enumerated within the Tibetan Medicine tradition. There are whole volumes of commentaries written about the chakras, channels, the way in which winds and subtle bodily substances move throughout the human form. This is a rather broad overview of these central aspects encountered within Tibetan medicine, yet will help both beginning mediation practitioners as well as point out specifics for those who have cultivated a meditation practice for many years under the guidance of a qualified master. Seeking a qualified teacher or meditation instructor to help you realize and work with the more gross and subtle aspects of the winds and channels is imperative.

Life Sustaining WindSrog aDzin rLung སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་

Location - Crown of Head

Pathway – Pharynx & Esophagus

Functions – Swallowing, inhaling, sneezing, spitting, belching, clears perceptions of the sense organs and the mental constructs, governs and integrates the mind/body/spirit system. If this wind is disordered, a variety of physical or mental issues may arise. Specific examples mentioned within the Four Tantras include confusion, hearing sounds, hallucinations, one may easily lose balance or even experience loss of consciousness.

Ascending Wind - Gyen rGyu rLung གྱེན་རྒྱུའི་རླུང་

Location – Torso / Chest

Pathway - Nostrils, throat, and tongue

Functions – Speech, clear complexion, regulation of body color, stamina, clarity of mind and memory, awareness in general and the ability to focus and with diligence. Disordered states of this wind Malfunctions of this wind cause disorders of the upper part of the body, such as lung disorders, breathing difficulties, loss of voice, neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches.

All Pervasive Wind – Khyab byed rLung ཁྱབ་བྱེད་ཀྱེ་རླུང་

Location – Heart

Pathway – Runs through and pervades the entire body via the blood vessel channels

Functions – Governs all body movements, muscle functions: walking, stretching, lifting, movement, contracting. The opening and closing of orifices and verbal, mental and physical functions rely upon this to function well. The manifestation of a disordered state for this particular wind results in loss of balance, stress and anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations and discomfort or disease, shoulder and back pain presenting as a mixed wind disorder in including blood circulation diseases.

Fire-Accompanying WindMe mNyam rLung མེ་མཉམ་རླུང་

Location – Stomach *Note: Traditionally the text only states ‘stomach’ I assert however that as in the case of the other three digestive powers, this may also include the duodenum*

Pathway – Runs throughout the alimentary canal

Functions – The primary function is regulating the digestive system. By separating nutriment from waste, it aids in the digestive process and ripens the successive objects of harm (feces, urine, and sweat). In a disordered state, you see both acute and chronic digestive disorders, constipation, low metabolism, poor absorption, and a variety of indigestion states found in combination with other energies, primarily Bad kan (earth and water) disorders.

Downwards Voiding WindThur Sel rLung Wind ཐུལ་སེལ་རླུང་

Location – “Secret Chakra” Area / Anal canal / Urethra / Vaginal canal

Pathway - Large Intestine, urinary bladder, reproductive organs, and thighs, rules the body functions below the navel.

Functions – Facilitates the function of holding and releasing feces, urine, sperm, menstrual fluids, fetus and placenta. Malfunctions of this wind demonstrate as lower body blood circulation disorders, lower abdominal disturbances, particularly in the reproductive function and abdominal organ prolapse.

Tibetan tantric view of yoga

Tantric yoga introduces practitioners to developing control over aspects of the body-mind and subtle channels. This is facilitated by directly engaging in a variety of meditative practices to both recognize and control these winds. This familiarity enables the practitioner to learn to manage the five consciousnesses, as well as mental consciousness.

1 Visual (eye) consciousness མིག་གི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ Mig gi rNam shes

2 Auditory (ear) consciousness རྣ་བའི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ rNa ba’i rNam shes

3 Olfactory (nose) consciousness སྣའི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ sNa’i rNam shes

4 Gustatory (tongue) consciousness ལྕེའི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ lCe’i rNam shes

5 Tactile (body) consciousness ལུས་ཀྱི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ Lus kyi rNam shes

6 Mental (of mind) consciousness ཡིད་ཀྱི་རྣམ་ཤེས་ Yid kyi rNam shes

Depending on the tantra referenced, there are either 72,000 or 84,000 different channels which correspond with the 72,000 or 84,000 different mind states. The gross and subtle aspects of all the winds move in these numerous channels throughout the body. The basis of the subtle or energetic body consists of channels, known in Sanskrit as Nadi, and in Tibetan as rTsa, in which the rLung or winds flow. Also to consider are the primary points of intersection, commonly referred to as chakra points in which these channels, or rTsa come together. In the Indian system, there are seven chakras, wheres in the majority of Tibetan tantras, there are only five chakras.

Regarding specifics, the rGyud bZhi, or Four Tantras, the foremost medical text dating back to the twelfth century enumerates four main classifications or types of rTsa རྩ་ channels with numerous functions. The primary point of tantric yoga is bringing control and concentration of these winds. Through meditative practices, tantric yogis refine their physical and subtle bodies. Briefly summarized, the four main types of channels discussed within the medical tantras, are those central both medicine and in spiritual yogic meditation application.

What is the definition (nature) of rTsa རྩ་ or channel

རླུང་ means ‘wind’, Khrag (pronounced trak) ཁྲག་ means ‘blood,’ in this way the seven bodily sustainers carry the དྭངས་མ་, nutriment or purest substance derived from our nourishment throughout the channels. The wind and blood and all the seven bodily sustainers need healthy channels to functions correctly. The rTsa རྩ་ in this way is a pathway or a channel to run the blood, seven bodily sustainers throughout the system, just like an intricate web. This is the definition of rTsa རྩ་.

Initially, the rTsa རྩ་ relate directly to the creation of the body, next the elements will emerge, then increase. Between those two aspects of the elements developing and increasing, the body is sustained and stabilized through these channels. This is in essence homeostasis. Lastly, the elements disintegrate, and the life force channel collapses.

The four main types of channels are as follows, first the ‘Channels of Formation,’ second ‘Channels of Existence,’ third, ‘Channels of Connections,’ and the fourth ‘Channels of Longevity’ otherwise known as ‘Channels Wherein Longevity Abides.’ These four classifications of channels appear in numerous commentaries regarding their categories, roles, mechanism of action, connection to the innumerable auxiliary channels and the subtle tantric body.

1 Channels of FormationChags pa’i rtsa ཆགས་པའི་རྩ་

These three channels form during the embryonic formation of the gross and subtle body. They extend up, down, and outward from the navel. These channels of formation are what is directly worked with the five-channel winds practice known as rTsa rLung.

The first channel forms the brain and the ‘white channels’ or rTsa dKar རྩ་དཀར་ also known as rTsa rKyang ma རྩ་རྐྱང་མ་ associated with the nervous system and the primary energy the Bad kan (earth and water). This channel is associated with the lunar energy and pathway.

The second is the ‘black channels’ rTsa Nag རྩ་ནག་ also known as rTsa Ro Ma རྩ་རོ་མ་ located on the right side of the body and associates with specific vessels and the primary energy of mKrispa or bile. It relates to heat solar energy pathway.

The third and often considered a primary channel, the ‘life channel’ Srog rTsa སྲོག་རྩ་ also known as rTsa dBu ma རྩ་དབུ་མ་ which relates to the genitals and the primary energy of rLung or wind. This life channel forms during the 6th week of gestation when the gender is said to be determined.

2 Channels of ExistenceSrid pa’i rTsa སྲིད་པའི་རྩ་

Located in the brain, heart, navel, and genitals. The channels of existence govern the sensory experience, memory, clarity, and sharpness of the cognitive functions, growth of the body, and the respective continuation of one’s lineage via reproductive functions.

There are four channels within this category. The first one is the དབང་པོ་ཡུལ་ལ་འཆར་བའི་རྩ་ dBang po yul ‘char ba’i rtsa (pronounced Wangpo yul-la char way tsa.) and relates to the brain. This channel facilitates sense organs to function correctly, therefore it relates to cranial nerve function. There are twenty-four channels/nerves which extend to five-hundred branch channels.

The second in this classification is དྲེན་པའི་དབང་པོ་གསལ་བའི་རྩ་ Dren pa’i dbang po gsal ba’i rtsa (pronounced Ten-pa wangpo sell way tsa). This channel is related to the heart and the functions of the cognition mentioned prior. There are twenty-four channels which extend out to five-hundred branch channels.

The third is the ལུས་ཀྱི་ཕུང་བོ་ཆགས་པར་བྱེད་པའི་རྩ་ lus kyi phung po chags par byed pa’i rtsa (pronounced Lu key phung who chag par je-pa tsa) which is related to the formation of the body and thus directly related to the navel, containing twenty-four channels which extend and become five-hundred branch channels.

The fourth and last in the category of the channels of existence is called བུ་ཚ་རིགས་རྒྱུད་འཕེལ་བའི་རྩ་ bu ash rigs rgyud ‘phel ba’i rtsa (pronounced U-tsha rig gyu phel way tsa) and related to the secret chakra (root chakra), the reproductive organs (sam se’u སམ་སེའུ་ ) and genitals. It allows for healthy sexual satisfaction and desire function, as well as actual reproduction of humans. Like the previous there contain twenty-four channels which extend and become five-hundred branch channels.

3 Channels of Connections‘Brel ba’i rTsa འབྲེལ་བའི་རྩ་

The channels of connection are somewhat complicated to describe because their nature is all about the relationship to the whole organism. Thus the branching is too numerous and extensive to enumerate. Essentially these are a set of sub-channels which arise as branches from the main central life force channel, previously described as the Srog rTsa སྲོག་རྩ་. There are various types of this life channel. From a western anatomy point of view, you might consider these as originating traditional as the circulatory system of blood vessels and nerves alongside the spinal cord. These are known as the ‘black’ (blood) and ‘white’ (water) channels. Initially, these connecting vessels and nerves are a part of the life channel. They then bifurcate and become two, either the white (water) or the black (blood) channels.

In actuality, three life force channels exist. First, we consider there is the white life force channel, which relates to the nerve system as ‘water’ channels. Secondly, we know there is the black life force channel, which relates to the blood vessels. The third life force channel is the red life force channel, which are the arteries. At six weeks when the primary life force channel is said to form, these three exist within the main channel. You should understand that the red life force channels (arteries) are already functioning. In Tibetan medicine, the red life force channel starts from the thirteenth vertebra; in western anatomy, this is the twelfth thoracic vertebra – in the Tibetan system counting begins from the seventh cervical as the first. In the Tibetan system, the thirteenth vertebra connects to the naval channel. It is interesting to note that the western anatomy states that the twelfth thoracic vertebral nerve is the strongest and thickest in the body.

It is essential to understand the red life force channel is the originating force behind the so-called blood channels. From the original two white and black channels. Next we focus on the black (blood channels).

Black (blood) channels:

There are twenty-four different channels which arise from the original black channel, which serve to create blood and flesh. There are another eight channels arising from this main channel which connect between hollow and vessel organs. There are also sixteen additional channels which connect to the appendages.

Within these black channels, there are one-hundred-eighty-nine points connecting the inner and outer body. Seventy-seven of these channels are used in standard bloodletting therapy. Additionally, there are one-hundred-twelve vital points in the body which originate via these channels. These inner and outer one-hundred-eighty-nine points are considered to form due to the seventy-seven and one-hundred-twelve mentioned above.

From there onwards you deal with what is known as the outer, inner and in-between channels. We begin with the outer, which is as counted as one-hundred-twenty, relating to skin and muscle. The middle serves and represents bone and bone marrow, also counted as one-hundred-twenty. The inner set, numbering as one-hundred-twenty, is connected to the hollow and vessel organs. In this way, there are a total of three-hundred-sixty in the category of outer, inner and in-between.

From the three-hundred-sixty, further bifurcations and branching occurs outwards, totaling seven-hundred branch channels. The seven-hundred form in the following way. The outside skin and muscle have two-hundred-thirty-four channels, the inner solid and hollow organs are two-hundred-thirty-four in number, and the middle bone and bone marrow also number as two-hundred-thirty-three.

From these seven-hundred outward branch channels, you have endless amounts of capillaries, described in the Tibetan medical text as ‘nets’ or ‘as if there are so many pours in the body they are uncountable.’ This concludes the enumeration of the black channels. In general, one should picture the back channels as coming upwards, as if the flow moves towards the head, which is, mostly the opposite for the white channels, which in most typically branch downwards from the brain.

White (water) channels:

The white channels are called the ‘water channels’ and relate to the brain and intricate nervous  system. The text describes the brain as ‘an ocean of nerves, which just like a root going down so too do nineteen channels branch downwards from the brain and innervate.’ These channels govern the movement of the appendages and indeed the movement of the whole body.

After the initial nineteen channels branching down form the brain, there are thirteen inner organ nerves. The thirteen are said to come in this way: From the small intestine and heart, there are four nerves which produce the wind. There are four nerves from the lungs, large intestine, liver, and gallbladder which provide the primary energy of mKris pa (bile). There are another four channels which come from stomach, spleen, kidneys and urinary bladder which produce the primary energy of Bad kan (earth and water). Lastly, there is one nerve from the reproductive place (samse’i སམ་སེའུ་).  These thirteen white channels are considered ‘hidden nerves.’

More apparent, on the outside are six water channels which form in this way. Two are the water channels known as Chu rTsa sBu Gu Can ཆུ་རྩ་སྦུ་གུ་ཅན་ these come from the brain stem to the seventh cervical vertebra. ༼ བོད་ཀྱི་གསོ་རིག་སློབ་དེབ་སྟོད་ཆ་ ༡༩༠༽. The next set of two is the so-called ‘Ja’ byed འཇའ་བྱེད་, which arises from the ‘hair swirl area’ just below the occiput. It then goes to the seventh cervical vertebra. The last two of the apparent outer channels are called the Ratna རཏྣ་ channels. It is vital to note that the seventh cervical vertebra is known as the ‘general wind point.’

4 Channels of Longevity – Tshe’i rTsa ཚེ་འི་རྩ་ or

Channels Wherein Longevity AbidesTshe gNas pa’i rTsa ཚེ་གནས་པའི་རྩ་

There are three channels of longevity. Of these three, one is sDod rTsa སྡོད་རྩ་, the second ‘Phar rTsa འཕར་རྩ་ and the third bLa rTsa བླ་རྩ་ which I explain briefly.

The sDod rTsa སྡོད་རྩ་ is related to the previous discussion of the black (blood) channels. It is responsible for circulating both the blood and the fire element (warmth) throughout the body. Throughout the body, the head and limbs and every portion of the body are pervaded by this channel which spreads the fire energies ‘just like the veins on a leaf.’ This channel is related to the solar energy.

The ‘Phar rTsa འཕར་རྩ་ is related directly to the red life force channel (aorta and arteries) and thus associated with the element of rLung, (wind). Thanks to this channel respiration functions are performed. Normal respiration is considered as five beats pulse per the normal healthy doctor breath in and out while reading the pulse. This diagnostic tool is applied in pulse reading techniques.

The third channel of longevity is the well known and slightly misunderstood bLa rTsa བླ་རྩ་, related to the white (water) channels (nervous system) and to the water element itself and lunar energy. This explains why the bLa is said to rotate with the moon. It travels from the big toe to the tip of the head between the new and full moon. The channel itself is related to bodily movement, sense feeling and the basic functions of the nervous system.

The word bLa བླ་ gets mistranslated as ‘soul.’ I prefer the term ‘consciousness’ for this word. Some may be familiar with the ceremony of ‘bLa ransoming’ or ‘calling back the bLa’ This is not a ‘soul retrieval.’ Instead, in this ceremony, we call the force and vitality associated with our life force channel home, thereby increase longevity. Likewise, the Tibetan physician may read this ‘life pulse’ or ‘longevity pulse’ to determine if, and when your elements will dissolve and you will die.

Relating to the seven-point meditation posture of Vairochana

Each of the five rLung (winds) can be related and balanced with the seven-pointed postures. When doing basic meditation, the posture helps calm excess circulation of one type of wind, and supports the settling of mind.

1. Legs crossed *in vajra (full lotus) position or crossed sitting.
2. Hands in meditation mudra, left hand under right at the level of the groin.

  • These first two postures work directly with the functions of the Thur Sel rLung Wind ཐུལ་སེལ་རླུང་ the Downwards Voiding Wind.

3. Spine and back straight (as if vertebra are a stack of golden coins, just as is described in yoga practices) to allow the flow of the wind more easily.

  • This third posture regulates and harmonizes the Me mNyam rLung མེ་མཉམ་ Fire-Accompanying Wind.

4. Jaw relaxed, tongue against pallet.

  • This works with our Srog aDzin rLung སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་ Life Sustaining Wind.

5. Head chin tilted very slightly forward and down (to open the throat and straighten the back of spine).

  • The chin tilted elongates the neck and very clearly will help work with our Gyen rGyu rLung གྱེན་རྒྱུའི་རླུང་ Ascending Wind.

6. Shoulders level and relaxed, scapula’s (wings) laying down the back.

  • Khyab Byed rLung ཁྱབ་བྱེད་ཀྱེ་རླུང་ All Pervasive Wind is nicely balanced with the shoulders relaxed, allowing for the energy to the arms and the legs to flow more freely.

7. Eyes slightly open, gaze directed downwards or twelve or so inches ahead fro the tip of the nose.

  • The gaze is very important for calming the wind, or preventing stupor. In placing the gaze at the appropriate location for your primary energy the Srog aDzin rLung སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་ Life Sustaining Wind is assisted in remaining in its own location.


This article presents a general overview of the origination of the subtle and gross body as it is formed and related interdependently to the elements and sense perceptions as demonstrated in the traditional Tibetan medical model. Concepts of the commonplace and ultimate reality as understood in Buddhism are essential for relating and deepening the science behind how mediation affects the body-mind and spiritual aspects of our wellbeing. While meditation practices are as varied and diverse as the 72,000 or 84,000 different bodily and mental energies we work with during meditation; all trace back to the three primary energies, five elements, three root poisons and main distal cause of illness and mental affliction: ignorance. By understanding how the gross and subtle body form, and how this relates to Buddhist concepts of emptiness and co-arousal of perceptions; meditators and modern scientists both have an opportunity to deepen meditation practices and understand why meditation leads to greater control over physical wellbeing and bodily systems.

Word of caution: It is vital to receive proper transmission of these more advanced yogic practices form a qualified teacher and lineage, only as they see you are ready, otherwise any practice can be harmful, but this is especially true regarding wind and subtle body or Tantric yogic practices.


(Publish date unknown) Bod kyi gso rig slob deb stod cha — བོད་ཀྱི་གསོ་རིག་སློབ་དེབ་སྟོད་ཆ། Tibetan Healing Sciences Book (Top Part or Book I), Men Tsee Khang བོད་གཞུང་སྨན་རྩིས་ཁང་གསོ་རིག་མཐོ་སློཔ་སྡེ་ཚན།

Gonpo, Yuthok Yonten 1982, 2002 rGyud bZhi — རྒྱུད་བཞི་ The Four Tantras, Tibet / China: bod lzongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang

This article is an expanded version originally written as a handout for a teaching given at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in December 2017. Feel free to share with proper credit to the author.   blog: © 2017