The Science Of Yoga
Western science is beginning to find evidence and catch up with a lot of what is Eastern philosophy has known for a really
There’s actually something very powerful in what’s going on in here. And that’s worth investigating.
The more control we have in our mind the more power we have in our life, the more
Yoga has really the capacity to change your brain.
I think there’s four components that really make yoga what it is. One of these, of course, is the most obvious one, which is the physical postures, the stretching, the exercises, the movements, the breathing techniques, the relaxation techniques, these are an important component that’s working the body to affect our global functioning. Another critical area is the idea of self regulation, the ability to control our internal stress response to controller emotion response. This is basically reflected as resilience to stress and equanimity in the face of emotions, and that leads to a psychological self efficacy. Another really key area is the cultivation of mind body awareness. The sense of being able to feel and experience what’s going on in the body, and also to experience what’s going on mentally to be able to observe the flow of thought. And this kind of cultivation of mind body awareness leads to an increase Mindfulness that can change behaviors in a very positive way. And then the final component, which is really reflecting the traditional origins of yoga, is the idea of experiencing these deeper states. These spiritual states, if you will, transcendent states, even if they’re short term, these kinds of experiences that you get in deep meditation can really be transformative for people and bring them to a positive lifestyle to have them gravitate towards positive goals in life to improve and enhance their life, meaning and purpose.
For those who have experienced the benefits of yoga for themselves, they don’t need any evidence. They don’t need any research to convince them that yoga can help. However, there are others who do like a little bit more of a, you know, a robust, scientific, systematic way of looking at what’s happening. Going on rather than, you know, the anecdotal evidence that suddenly people get. So what I’ve been doing recently is research in the field of yoga for depression and anxiety disorders. The most significant result that we found was the reduction in measures of depression. So we compared the group of people who were doing the yoga practice, it was done over six weeks, and the control group was continuing with a regular treatment. And we saw a significant difference between the two groups, we saw a 33% reduction in the group of people who are doing the yoga practice, we saw a significant reduction in scores in anxiety in overall psychological distress. We saw an increase in resilience that’s a really important measure in in mental health. We saw increases in the frequency of positive experiences that people reporting and conversely, a reduction in the frequency of negative experiences the average amount of yoga that people were doing was 12 minutes. on a regular basis most days of the week, over six weeks, probably the most important measures were the reduction of the depression and the anxiety scores. But each of the other measures gives us a much more overall picture of improvements in mental health. The evidence supports the whole idea that if people do something that includes movement, breath, mindful attention, and relaxation. Using the framework of yoga a little bit each day really does bring out some pretty significant results.
The most important scientific principle on which the whole philosophy of yoga rests is prana with space?
I’m sure you’ve heard this term very often give me some space. Yeah, but actually we need to create that space in the body, we need to create that space in the mind. So when your mind is clogged with thoughts, you need to flush them out, remove them, and that’s what meditation is all about to empty your mind. Similarly in a body, when we are doing asanas, what are we doing we are stretching out the body, we are creating that much needed space. So we need to give this intercellular space and when space is there, prana flows and when there is prana, there is wellness.
The most important thing that I see in terms of yoga, on the physical level is to establish connections in the body and the connections come through the channels in that in our body. In yoga they call Nardis. And what moves through these channels is energy and information which in yoga they call prana, and Chitta. But physically these channels are blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic vessels, acupuncture meridians, just to name the main ones. And prana is things like heat, electrical, electromagnetic or electrochemical energy flooding through the different channels of the body, and also energy carrying molecules like glucose, ATP, then of course, inflammation or Cheetah is the inflammation that might flow through nerves and also electro magnetic energy that flows through the body carrying information and also information carrying molecules such as hormones, neurotransmitters, immuno transmitters, and so physically and energetically, we have energy and information flowing through the body, and to enhance the flow of energy and information through these channels in the body. That’s the most important thing to make a yoga happen in the body.
One thing I like to say to people is that Yoga has obviously proved itself over 10s of thousands of years, right Yoga has had a chance to prove itself over time. But it is important for a lot of people to really have that belief in yoga, that they have an understanding of it from the western scientific point of view and model.
In terms of the evidence that’s there for the psychophysiological effects of yoga practices. I think historically, even going back to the 50s. There’s a lot of research that shows the ability of these practices to enable people to manage their stress response, the stress system, and this is one of the major reasons why yoga people practice yoga, it’s to enable them to cope with stress and emotion. in a big way. It’s one of the biggest reasons why people come to yoga classes is to cope with stress.
breath is the most powerful tool that everyone has within their reach to bring their stress response right under their control. The most direct way of doing that is by taking fewer breaths within a period of time. And trying to fill your lungs and expand your lung volume with every single breath and trying to increase that as far as you can, from one breath to the next. When we look at studies of people who perform pranayama breathing, or yogic breathing, where they prolong every breath so they breathe less frequently and deeper, we find that it’s possible to reduce blood pressure by controlling breathing now, blood pressure governed by the sympathetic nervous system. And the sympathetic nervous system is the messenger of the stress response. So you can see what we’re doing to the stress response simply by modifying breathing. Now within the yoga postures as we go from one pasta to another, and we’re creating challenge that our mind has to constantly deal with, so if you’re standing on one leg or massless contracting, and we’re having to bring our thought right back to one of the things we can do to help ourselves is controlling breathing, because as the prefrontal cortex or parts of it are working to redirect attention, we are also trying to get to grips with the stress response and calm ourselves down and using breathing as a tool adds to this. So breathing plus the effort of regulating your thoughts, both enhance the parasympathetic signal and bring the simple Static nervous systems signal down. And hence moving out of the yoga studio. This reflects on life in general. So, when we are faced with a stressful situation, we remember to do exactly the same thing we did in that yoga room, which is control the breathing, and redirect attention using our mind using the parts of the prefrontal cortex. So breathing is an extremely powerful two which can be applied both within and outside of the yoga room. But we can practice using it within every yoga posture.
So yoga, it strengthens the power of the mind. And the more control we have in our mind, in a sense of the conscious mind covering or actually controlling subconscious programs that take us off track, the more power We have in that mind, the more power we have in our life, to control not just our physiology, but where we are in the world and how we connect with the rest of the world. Because it’s all through the nervous system. The biology that I teach epigenetics, the new science is all revealing that the mind is the ultimate control of our health and our biology. And we’ve been looking at genes as the issue it turns out only 1% of illness is related to genes 90% of illnesses related to stress and what stress it’s the mind, overworking in a sense of fear and, and just being lost in the world of so many things going on. And yoga brings it into a focus.
I think the most interesting thing is what it shows about neuro science, neurology, and how Yoga has really the capacity to change your brain. And if it changes your brain, it changes your neurology changes your nervous system. It changes your physiology. It could potentially change anything inside of you that might need changing or transforming.
The two areas of research that are really cutting edge currently, one of them is neuro imaging, the ability of these large machines that computer right into the brain activity and look at very discrete areas of the brain and look at changes in brain activity, and also changes in brain structure. And what we’re finding is that these meditative practices can indeed change brain activity. When you focus your attention, you change brain activity in a very discreet way. Not only that, but over time you actually change brain structure through what’s called brain plasticity. And that means you end up with a brain that is conducive to the benefits and the practices that come along with contemplative practices like yoga and meditation. And you can see changes in the stress system as reflected in the nervous system. And then finally, the the other cutting edge area of research and yoga is molecular biological. approach this is looking at the action of neurotransmitters, looking at the action of actual molecules in the brain. So for example, there are studies that show that a major neurotransmitter is affected after a single yoga class. And there’s other studies that show that the expression of our DNA, the activity of our genes, is actually reflected as changing with these practices. And you actually change gene activity, you enhance gene activity that’s good for you. Things like immune responses improved, and you down regulate gene activity that is sometimes bad for you, if you’re under chronic stress, things like inflammation. So these are the two cutting edge areas and they’re, they’re bringing yoga into the biomedical modern world. We’re starting to see that that Yoga is not just a hobby, not just something that you practice on the side. This is real biological stuff. You’re really changing the activity of neurons in the brain, you’re changing function with In the body, at the cellular, and even the molecular level. So it’s very exciting. And this research is really exploding at this point in time. So it’s very exciting to see this validation of what we’ve experienced on the behavioral level, now manifested in the scientific research.
What would be great to see is, is a recognition in medicine and in science, that this is something worth looking at more carefully. So I wouldn’t say it’s a simple instant outcome that it would be great if medicine saw yoga in this way. But I think what’s really important is that medicine and other research recognizes that there’s something in here that’s worth investigating.
There’s an enormous amount that we can learn through conventional biomedical research on yoga. In fact, biomedical research itself is evolving to be able to allow us to peer into the body in the brain. in ways that were inconceivable just decades ago. And so as this modern science evolves with things like I’ve described and neuro imaging, molecular biological approaches will allow us to use these tools to evaluate exactly how Yoga is working. And that’s fantastic. And that is going to proceed in an exponential way, every week, there’s a new publication coming out evaluating some aspect of the physiological effects of yoga or on yoga as a clinical intervention. And I think one area that probably may not manifest in my lifetime is to look at some of the subtle things that historically Yoga has been associated with. These are sort of the so called celled subtle energies. In the field of complementary and integrative medicine, this have been referred to as energy medicine. There’s a number of aspects of yoga that are hypothesized the flow of sort of internal energy throughout the body. There’s these energy centers are called chakras that are said to be there in the body that are affected by yoga practice. And we currently don’t have the instruments that can really measure this energy flow or these energy centers if they exist. And that is going to be difficult to measure. But I’m not too concerned about that because what we’re really getting with the biomedical researchers what we really need right now practically speaking, and that is the evidence to show that these practices have real and powerful changes, and and they can make people’s behavior go in the proper direction for health, well being and actually behavior in society.
began as a reaction against the urban environment and the enslavement and exploitation of animals and damming of rivers. Around 10,000 years ago, when we human beings shifted from living aligned with nature and in harmony with nature, to wanting to control nature, there was a group of us who said, I don’t know if that’s the way is going to ultimately bring happiness. And they held back. And as more and more cities developed, those people we call Yogi’s now retreated into the forest and the jungles and the mountains,
to see if there was a better way
to achieve happiness and bliss and the knowledge of who we really are.
Yoga has a great capacity to help people heal and help people overcome challenges. But I think it’s also important that we don’t, let’s get stuck there. Because ultimately, yoga is about self realization. So let’s use it to get better. Let’s use it to heal. But then let’s keep going with yoga to really get To the juice of yoga, which is to really know the truth of who you are. And I don’t know if you can really quantify that through Western science. So it’s great that Western science is bringing more people to the practice. Because it’s giving them a language that they need in order to enter. Yeah.
For me, the yoga practice went from the physical mental realm to the energetic emotional realm to the psychic, symbolic, it was a very practical practice that evolved emotionally and then opening up spiritually. And at one point there was just Well, now what and it was surface it was always surface it was take everything that you’ve learned and take it off the mat, get it out of your house and bring it down into the world where it actually matters.
A lot of the teaching of yoga is about invisible realities that have been seen by deeper faculties. This is where modern science doesn’t quite see what Yoga is seeing. What they’re seeing is interesting, but they don’t see that there are other faculties of seeing
The word data from which he overcomes means to see and gives us video. And what a guru gives or a teacher gives us Darshan, a vision that might not have been obvious at first.
The tremendous transformative
power of yoga it offers these techniques to move through emotional mental blockages and challenges, and really allows you to find your true seek power, your sense of yourself.
Integrated integrates the mind the body in the spirit so people reconnect with their soul and soul purpose. And it clarifies things for in people’s lives. It helps people fulfill personal destiny. It’s a very deep spiritual, devotional practice. At the same time, it’s this beautiful physical practice that creates worlds Being
what I feel is everything you know exists for a reason sometimes in the West especially, it’s a very