Self-Regulation and Kundalini Yoga
Good morning yogis, I want to talk about a few interesting facts I gleaned from the Webinar with Dr Sat Bir Singh last week. He is an assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Director of Yoga Research, Yoga Alliance and Director of Research, Kundalini Research Institute, to include but a few of his titles.
He explained that yoga had grown exponentially, especially after the dawn of the age of Aquarius going from 20million practioners in 2012 to 36.7million in 2016. (Yoga Alliance).
He went on to discuss the mainstream health benefits yoga could have, but in order for it to be used in the workplace, healthcare system and in schools we needed to have research which could show yoga was safe and effective. I want to therefore summarise the important highlights of the research on the Psychophysiology of yoga. Essentially the mind/psyche effects on the body. In 1957 Bagchi and Wenger started doing research on how yoga can affect the mind/bodies ability to self-regulate. Experiments were done with yogis who could change the temperature of each hand just by using their mind to change the blood flow to the capillaries in their circulatory system (Beyond Biofeedback, Green E, Green A, Knoll Publishing Co. Inc., 1977).
They found that the key ability to self-regulate, i.e. change the bodies physical systems through mind control could have great health benefits. For example they found that monks who practiced pranayama had more effective breathing and high levels of blood oxygenation compared to Sherpas living in the Himalayas. (Bernardi L, Passino C, Spadacini G, BonWchi M, Arcaini L, Malcovati L, Bandinelli G, Schneider A, Keyl C, Feil P, Greene RE, Bernasconi C, European Journal of Applied Physiology 99:511–518, 2007).
The benefits of respiratory exercises to slow respiration in the practice of yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm.
Physical asana practiced also had an effect on mood beyond the effect derived from normal exercises. For example backbends where the asanas which increased happiness the most (Mood Changes Associated with Iyengar Yoga Practices: A Pilot Study, Shapiro D, Cline K, International Journal of Yoga Therapy 14:35-44, 2004).
The most interesting thing I found was the finding of how our emotional response depended on how concentrated our mind could be. Everyone’s mind is constantly wondering regardless of what they are doing. However this wondering about past and future which gave us the ability to learn from our past mistakes and plan our next move during human evolution creates a stress response. It puts our sympathetic nervous system on alert of possible dangers therefore increasing our stress hormones in our body. It was found that people were less happy when their minds were wandering. In long term mediators who could concentrate for longer periods the cerebral blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, thalamus, putamen, caudate, and midbrain was increased. The cerebral blood structures that underlie the attention network are also those that relate to emotion and autonomic function of the nervous system. This reduced autonomic nervous systems stress response makes them happier. (Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: A fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states, Hasenkamp W, Wilson-Mendenhall CD, Duncan E, Barsalou LW, Neuroimage, 59:750-60, 2012).
In short start working on your attention to improve your mood and quality of your life. Next week I will continue about how mood effects the types of diseases you develop.
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