- THE 108 MARMAS: VITAL JUNCTION POINTS -
This article presents compiled and generic material: as such, I have borrowed some content and illustrations from Shandor Remete, a source I enjoy and respect and whose writings I recommend. Knowledge of the human body and its vital regions was an important aspect of military science in ancient Vedic times. The knowledge was applied simultaneously on the battlefield, as well as in medicine and surgery. We find 108 vital junctions over the surface of the body. They appear at the intersections of different muscular patterns, joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, arteries, veins, nerves and subtle energy currents. They are vulnerable areas as well as key points to different energetic centers of organic activity.
The word Marma is derived from the root mrt, which means death. The vulnerability linked to the Marmas has been utilized in Kalaripayyat, the Indian martial art dealing with the science of striking and reviving, and in Ayurvedic massage. The Marmas respond to different patterns of muscular use, movement and breathing. Each Marma relates to a specific Vayu or wind, Dosha or constitutional type, Dhatus (nature of the tissue involved) and Shrotas (vehiculing channel).
The Marmas of the Indian system should not be confused with Chinese acupuncture points. Yet many parallels can be found within the two systems. In a similar vein to the Nadis, the subtle energy channels to be found within the body, of the 108 marmas, 12 are said to be of vital importance, while the remaining 96 have a supporting function in relation to the 12. The twelve vital centers are situated between the center of the perineal floor (Yonisthana) and the crown of the head (Adhipati), and they include the seven Chakras.
We suggested that the 96 medial life centers are peripheral to the core. Thirty-two govern the nerves and soft tissues, while sixty-four affect the blood and the many blood vessels. The ninety-six peripheral centers are linked to the eight Nadis (channels) which move the Prana (life force) through the peripheral areas before feeding back into the central channel. The eight Nadis are:
- 2 channels from the eyes to the corresponding big toes.
- 2 from the ears to the corresponding big toes.
- 1 from the throat to the head of the genitals.
- 1 channel from the neck to the anus.
- 2 belt channels encircling the abdomen, one from left to right, the other from right to left.
When good peripheral activity is achieved, the 8 channels are clear and unobstructed and the energy flows through them unhinged. This energy then feeds back into the central channels.
A correct activation of the Marmas will enhance all the functions performed by the Nadis above, while an incorrect activation may harm them. As an example, the Marmas in the wrists, ankles, and neck govern the tendons and connective tissue throughout the whole body, and are therefore responsible for overall flexibility. A failure to correctly activate these Marmas can easily result in injuries in other joints and tissues. The information in the Marmasthana suggests that the appropriate use of the arms and the legs increase the circulation, space and support for the joints. If neglected, the decrease in joint mobility can lead to injuries, both to the joints concerned and the organs associated to those joints.
When we start reading the natural patterns of bodily activity through the lens of the system of the Marmas, the energy pathways are easily rediscovered and the energy flow mastered without injury. When the map of the 108 Marmas is memorized and put to work in the practice of asanas, the practitioner will derive direct benefits to the execution of kriyas, bandhas, pranayamas and mudras. The Marmas do not solely affect the physiological functions, but exert great influence over the pranic forces in the thirteen Nadis. In return, the pranic force eventually pierces through the 7 chakras (subtle inner energy centers), neutralizing their active vortexes.
Once the Chakras are made passive, the prana is no longer dissipated and the change in regime of the Pranic energy that ensues is termed the Shakti. As the practice of the Yogi gradually progresses closer to meditation, the Marmas all over the body are brought under voluntary control. When this level of control is reached, the Marmas can be closed at will, turning the whole surface of the body into a protective armor. This furthers conserves Energy and increases Shakti, the inner latent power.