Yoga works. Meditation works. Conscious breathing works. By “works” I mean that these practices have positive effects for people who observe them. They can help build and retain strength and flexibility of both body and mind. The fact that they work shouldn’t be entirely surprising, given that these practices have been developed over thousands of years through trial and error by millions of people. The persistence of these practices by itself provides devidence of their effectiveness.
But does that mean the theories frequently cited to explain these practices are also valid? Do chakras and energy flows exist? I don’t want to rule this out – there have been various attempts to map chakras to the nervous and endocrine systems – but I think it is much more likely that these are pre-scientific explanations not unlike the phlogiston theory of combustion. I will refer to these as “internal theories,” meaning the theories that are generally associated with the practices historically.
Interestingly, we are now developing scientific theories that explain why these practices work. I will call these “external theories” as they are often developed outside the mainstream community of practitioners. For example, there is a great recent study that looks at changes in the brain from intense meditation.