Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Tag

Neuroscience Perspectives-Yoga and Energy Centers Called Chakras

If you have gone to a yoga class more than once, chances are, the word “chakra” has crossed your path. Chakras are psychic energy centers that govern the human body. Chakra in Sanskrit means “wheels”. Chakras are supposedly located in seven different parts of human brain anatomy beginning from the medulla going up to the right and left cerebral hemispheres.

Doctors will tell you that there is no scientific basis for the chakras. There are no actual wheels of light rotating inside human body. Sages might have been talking about circulations than actual wheels. That said, it is safe to interpret the chakras as seven circulations of vital activities within human brain.

Dr. Alfred Penfield identified the functions of specific parts of the brain that run our bodies. He called this body map. Neuroscience knows which part of the brain thinks of certain things. We now can see which part of the brain lights up (MRI flares) when we think of food, sex, or religion. There are the parts of the brain consistent with the thought processes of the chakra groupings and the exact anatomical equivalents of the human body.

The seventh chakra is the connection to the divine. The location is in the pre-frontal cortex, a feature of the human brain more developed than our ape cousins is the command center. The higher states of concentration, free will, feelings of “oneness” and altruism are found in this region. The pre-frontal cortex is the crown of the brain and is located on the forehead, but not on the crown. As a chakra, the crown is where we connect with the Divine. If you are connected to a higher power, you feel “one” with the universe resulting in altruism and harmony.

The sixth chakra which is the center that governs foresight is in between the eyebrows. Next to the pre-frontal cortex is the rest of the frontal brain that is divided into two hemispheres, namely, the left and the right hemispheres, each governing visual and verbal inputs. Information from the eyes and ears, namely, sound and sight perception of the outside world is integrated and interpreted within a thin membrane between the right and left cerebral hemispheres known as the corpus callosum. The pineal gland that lies right below the corpus callosum has been linked to third eye experiences. The sixth chakra also known as the third eye governs sight and perception. It is the chakra that is responsible for seeing within the mind’s eye. It is further described as the channel where Ida, the female nadi and Pingala, the male nadi meet. Descriptions of nadis in various yoga texts depict it as a kind of vessel of consciousness. A “female” and “male” in esoteric terms pertain to negative and positive energies. To be more scientific, the force that gathers is associated with the female and the force that gives or focuses is considered male. These are traits that could aptly describe the hemispheres, with the right brain governing the left side of the body and the left brain governing the right side of the body.

The fifth chakra is the domain of self-expression located in the region of the throat. Broca’s area is a small portion in the frontal brain, right below the frontal eye field. It is the region of the brain that helps us produce speech. It works with Wernicke’s area situated at the bottom of the parietal lobe to produce speech and decode language. The throat Chakra is associated with communication and expression.

The fourth chakra governs love and harmony and is located in the heart. Beyond Broca’s area, deep in the medial brain is the thalamus region where the hypothalamus is situated. The hypothalamus is the heart of the brain. It is the conductor of the orchestra of the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for the circulation of hormones, the way heart circulates the blood all around the body. This area connects with all parts of the brain; the front with the bottom and the left with the right together. The hypothalamus is enabler of all deliberate movements and the thermostat or body temperature regulator of the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for the generation of emotions. Below the throat chakra is the heart chakra that rules commitment and relationships.

The third chakra is the seat of courage that is located in the solar plexus. Below the medial brain are the three lobes called the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. This area governs and orchestras the limbic system that part of the brain which mediates emotions and memory. The parietal, occipital and temporal lobes perceive sensation of time and space. With the help of memory, spatial and emotional associations influence action. We know where we are and who we are in relation to the world. The body has a mind of its own. The parietal, occipital and temporal lobes’ capability to interpret reality or what we call facts, gives these lobes power to influence our perception. We literally become what we think we are, not what we are in actuality. The third chakra found below the heart and the stomach is associated with self identity. It is also the seat of courage. In the human brain, the amygdala is found within the temporal lobe and the amygdala is where flight or fight responses are decided.

The second chakra is the center of human creativity and power that is situated in the reproductive area. Below the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes and separated from the cerebrum is the cerebellum, also called the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is responsible for the desire for social dominance, lust and other unpleasant human traits. The pons is the part that connects the two halves of the cerebellum just as in the way the thalamus region connects the right and the cerebral hemispheres. Pons is responsible for self-protection and the meeting of bodily needs. The second chakra is where primal energy is derived from. In fact, the kundalini, a powerful primal force in yoga, is found here. Usually portrayed as a coiled serpent, it is believed that when the kundalini rises to the crown, mastery and awareness is achieved. Neurologically speaking, the reptilian brain is in charge of body memory. Driving a car, riding a bike, playing the piano becomes an automatic thing in this part of the brain. Perhaps, when altruism and forward thinking becomes an automatic process in your brain that is when you have achieved the awakening of the kundalini.

The first chakra is body’s connection to the earth and is the energy center for survival that is located at the base of the spine and the feet. The last part of the brain is the part that connects the brain to the spinal column. It is called brain stem. The brain stem regulates involuntary functions of the brain that keep brain and the body going. It also controls sleep-wake cycles, respiration, heart rate, and excretions. The first or the root chakra is also the chakra of survival. When your basic needs are met, root chakra will be healthy. Food and shelter problems weaken the first chakra and cause bodily pains and diseases.

Exercise and brain are directly connected. To be mentally fit one has to be physically fit. Healthy mind cannot live in a disease-ridden body. The actions of the body change the wiring of the brain, clinically substantiated in patients overcoming mental disability. Through persistent exercise, the brain can heal itself. This has been said before by mystics from the Upanishad period, thousands of years ago. This gave rise to the practice of yoga and the knowledge of the energy centers called the chakras. Science and ancient wisdom are converging. How was it possible for the ancient mystics to arrive at the same conclusions we are only beginning to observe today!? Perhaps the answer is; consciousness knows its own nature. If you bother to ask your consciousness the question, it will give you the answer in the language that you can understand.


Posted January 24, 2017 by dranilj1 in Buddha

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Combined Effort of Neuroscience and Yoga Aids Us Solve Problems In New and Indispensable Ways

The human brain is a complex system of the highest order, representing a multitude of capacities that are critical to normal and everyday functioning. To live a healthy life undoubtedly entails, having a healthy brain and nervous system. It is responsible for our most fundamental abilities, for instance cognition, memory, planning, emotions, and body function regulation. In addition to the ability of the brain to process these features that we take for granted as part of our everyday experience, within this powerhouse laid the very foundations for maximizing our functionality and potential as human beings. This applies to the basic functions such as those above as well as features not normally accessed nor widely known or understood. To tap into this wealth of resources within ourselves, we have the perennial technology of yoga as guide.

Yoga is a scientific technology that harnesses the innate capacity of the human being to realize that of which it is truly capable. Yoga is comprised of many formalized systems formulated in cultures all over the world, each presenting a different angle and emphasis. In the West, the system of yoga postures has become the most popular with this being but one aspect of the art and science of yoga. As a whole, yoga is a way of being that uses the existing capabilities of the human mind and brain, both in individuals and in collectives, to align us with our highest potential.

The principles derived from harnessing our current state using yogic technologies are seamlessly applicable in traditional yogic practice as well as in everyday relationships, business, and beyond. Yoga is not what we do, but how we do something. The various methods developed throughout the ages across the world’s myriad yogic systems are merely isolated techniques if not taken in consideration with the goal in mind and tailored to the unique makeup or configuration of the individual or group applying them. With such an abundance of styles and systems, it has now become more critical than ever before to have an integrally-informed approach to contextualizing which modalities are useful for particular needs and configurations. If knowledge of the brain and yogic principles are dovetailed appropriately, an integral practice can be developed that fits any application.

As has been known from the modern research and for ages from those who have themselves enacted yoga, the application of yogic principles and techniques literally affects how the brain works and can lead to lasting changes by taking advantage of the plasticity of the nervous system, to be exact, malleability of the body due to varying degrees of mental and environmental influence called neuroplasticity. It is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the nerve cells in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.

Brain reorganization takes place by mechanisms such as axonal sprouting in which undamaged axons grow new nerve endings to reconnect neurons whose links were injured or severed. Undamaged axons can also sprout nerve endings and connect with other undamaged nerve cells, forming new neural pathways to accomplish a needed function. For example, if one hemisphere of the brain is damaged, the intact hemisphere may take over some of its functions. The brain compensates for damage in effect by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. In order to reconnect, the neurons need to be stimulated through activity.

Neuroplasticity sometimes may also contribute to impairment. For example, people who are deaf may suffer from a continual ringing in their ears called tinnitus, the result of the rewiring of brain cells starved for sound. For neurons to form beneficial connections, they must be correctly stimulated. Neuroplasticity is also called brain plasticity or brain malleability. This plasticity is the basic entryway for hacking our nervous system to elicit higher performance and function. Yoga allows this to occur through internal means, whether applied in one aspect of life or another. In a practical sense, yoga is a tool for preparing the raw material of the current state of our mind, body, and spirit for further processing into more refined and efficient forms.

With a higher intention in mind, the ordinary components of the body, mind, and spirit can be progressively upgraded to enable higher functioning and performance. In tandem with these internally generated changes also arise external changes that may include environment, circumstances, and relationships; a phenomenon in line with the inherent laws of consciousness, which operates across boundaries frequently assumed to be concrete. Taken far enough, it is realized that the seeds for the maximum potential of any authentically desired goal lay within reach, waiting for the right tools to activate them.

By activating the capabilities of the nervous system through the use of yogic principles, the process of reaching a goal can be optimized by modifying how we direct our efforts. Neuroscience and yoga together induce the changes necessary to propel us on our paths and applications.

Game Plan for Transformation

To the eternal question of understanding the basis of what makes us human and to find out the fundamental essence that allow us to be, express, and function in all the wondrous ways that we do, one should understand the most complex and mysterious organ in the body and the one that holds the most promise for unearthing the origin of our unique species. We are mesmerized by the wonders of the brain.

It is important to realize that consciousness itself is not to be limited to being found in the brain. All human endeavors that have ever reached greatness, from elite athleticism and creative genius to humble expressions of grace through service have touched a deep strand of humanness, lodged within the metaphorical heart. As amazing as the brain is, we should be aware that consciousness had to be lived and directly experienced.

To be active, incorporate regularly those habits that would help you develop physically, mentally, and emotionally, and also touch this ineffable essence itself. Busy schedule of study and research will not allow for simultaneously doing various workouts and activities to these ends, so we can set the intention of finding a single activity that would address these needs together. This is pivotal moment that yoga could strike a deep chord in mind. There is marked increase in immediate and long-term physical strength and flexibility, mental calmness and overall peace both inside and outside the actual practice.

Neuroscience has repeatedly demonstrated the capacity of the brain to rewire itself through experience, known as neuroplasticity. In a practical sense, this means that every moment of experience creates grooves in the landscape of the brain, which then affects the way we relate to the minds and bodies of ourselves and others, as well as to the environment around us. Our changeable brain is also a hackable brain. In other words, by understanding some of the rules of brain function, it is possible to learn how to use its capacities more effectively in order to deliberately bring about positive change.

This deliberate act is part and parcel of yoga. Yoga is a scientific technology that harnesses the innate capability of the body as a vehicle for transformation. It is a technology, a human art, purposefully crafted to serve as a tool for maximizing the health and potential of the human being. Yoga has been popularized by its physical aspects, which are an integral component of the larger science of yoga. The system as a whole, which includes techniques that address many aspects of the human being, works the brain and nervous system in a synchronized and harmonious manner. The techniques are manifold, but they are based on core principles. These can be unpacked in a digestible manner using exercises that improve fitness and well-being if appropriately applied.

Yoga is the process of harnessing the brain’s capacities to naturally evolve into the art of living well. The negative habits, patterns, and influences within ourselves and from the outside are progressively dropped in favor of more sustainable ones. Yoga is a way of life. It is not about what we do, but how we do things. Principles of yogic science and brain science interlock to create a blueprint for transformation. There is tremendous power in combining a technology that has stood the test of thousands of years of human evolution with a rigorous science of the most complex and fascinating organ in the human body.

I have just focused on why we can and ought to be interested in this subject. One can look forward to exploring principles that dovetail the insights of brain and yogic sciences into sets of techniques tailored for growth and that can be applied to our daily life and fitness routine. So, we will practice with the brain in mind.

Credits: Gabriel Axel

Keep Calm Stay Focused

Meditation is a mystery to many in the Western world. Sure, they have all heard of it, but most say they "don’t have time" to slow down for it and others say they simply don’t know how or they’ve tried it and couldn’t do it "right." Some even misunderstand it as being against their religion or think something crazy might happen, like they’ll start levitating during a session. While I actually think that levitating would be pretty cool — no, that’s not going to happen! What will happen is a slew of positive health benefits. Regular meditation produces a sense of calm, peace, balance, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. Meditation also enables you to stay more focused with longer attention span and better thought control than one would without meditation. Other side effects include increased happiness, more creativity, and deeper self-awareness and acceptance. If the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.

Despite all of the fantastic benefits, statistically, less than 10 percent of Americans have a meditation practice. The reason why is quite simple. As a whole, they don’t know any better. They live in a very fast-paced society and have it ingrained in their brains that if they slow down, they are going to get passed up and plowed over. Further, as a society, they are over-medicated and taught that the cure for pretty much everything lies within a pill. Therefore, they have lost faith in their own bodies and its amazing abilities to heal. If doctors wrote out prescriptions to start a meditation practice and fuel bodies with healthy nutrition, then miracles could happen. Since science and technology is advanced in US that they overlook the basics that are right in front of them and easy for all to achieve. There is no money to be made in telling people to meditate, and Americanism is a very profit-driven society.

Americans can all become spiritually rich if they turn to tools like meditation, which help them to raise their mental vibrations and those of the world around them. A meditation practice helps one to get to the core of our being. By stilling mind and silencing the overwhelming abundance of thoughts wildly dancing through at any given time, one is able to hear the voice of our loving inner guide over that of one’s fear-based ego. Once one is able to loosen the tight grasp that the ego mind has on you, you can swap out unpleasant insecurities, anxieties and fears for peace, happiness, and fulfilling our destinies.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour. At first, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to Americans. But, anybody that has had a meditation practice will say, "I totally get it!" When we’re super busy, we usually feel tense and high-strung, which is our body’s normal reaction to stress. Meditation helps us to feel calm and thus allow stress to melt away. Meditating is not going to make our schedules any less hectic. However, it will make us more clear-headed and able to deal with whatever life tosses our way so that we actually begin dancing joyfully amidst the chaos. We’re essentially training our brain how to relax and deal with things in a much more level-headed and peaceful manner.

If this all sounds good to you, but you still have no idea where to begin, here is simple starter pack. Try to set up a little sacred spot in your home to go to every time you meditate. Put a few articles out that inspire you or that you have a spiritual connection too. If not, don’t let that stop you. That point is to just get it in when you can. If you have something specific that you want to meditate on, think or pray about it before you begin your session. You don’t want to try to force or control your thoughts while meditating, so if you have something that you’re seeking guidance on, it’s best bring it up beforehand. Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably. If you have kids, you might need to sneak out of bed before the rest of the house wakes up or do it after they go to bed. You might try headphones with some relaxing music to drown out the noise. Just find a way to make it work with your schedule and lifestyle. Decide how long you will meditate for. Beginners might want to start with just a few minutes a day and gradually increase. Five minutes is better than zero! Just like working out, the benefits will compound over time. Generally, the more frequently and longer, the better, but don’t discount the short sessions. Thirty minutes a day is an excellent goal to strive for. Set a timer. There are many apps you can download for phone or table that have timers, keep logs, and play chimes at the beginning and end of your session. Close your eyes and focus on your breathe. Inhale deeply into your diaphragm and slowly exhale. Don’t force the breathe, but just let it flow naturally as your allow your attention to draw there. Don’t worry if thoughts come while you are meditating. That is going to happen, especially if you’re new to it. Just try to observe the thoughts without judgment. Continue this until your timer lets you know the session is up. Don’t quit early!! Completing your full session time is going to help you build the discipline needed for an ongoing meditation practice. If you stick with it daily and increase your session length over time, you’ll soon notice some positive changes in your life. Try journaling afterwards to log any major insights or an especially great feeling. You will feel so wonderfully grounded, peaceful, and ready to conquer the world!

Healthy Lifestyle for Kids

It is not only adults who experience stress. Children can also experience stress. We all know stress is not good for us physically or mentally. Stress can lower one’s resistance to infections and can put one at risk for developing gastric ulcers.

For children, stress can be experienced in school or from peers. Difficult tasks, fear and anxiety from class and inability to relate with school peers are some of the stressors for children. If they are exposed to such situations for a extended period of time, it can interfere with learning and goal accomplishment.

You can incorporate relaxation strategies in your daily routine. You can start with yoga and Tai Chi. Although these relaxation techniques are mostly used for adult stress management, we can tailor the exercise regimen for children. Consult with an expert on age appropriate exercises. While doing the regimen, incorporate play as well to entice and encourage the child. Example, you can instruct a child to do a relaxation pose similar to that of a wriggling snake. Let the child imagine and do snake like movements. We can teach proper breathing techniques by incorporating storytelling.

Exercise is essential in all age groups. Sadly, statistics show that as children become older they become less active. Prevent this one by incorporating exercise in day-to-day activities. Simple play activities such as classroom exploration, scavenger hunts, dancing to music, brisk walking and playing with siblings and other family members right in the comforts of one’s own backyard, are activities that can involve exercise.

A key to living healthy is eating healthy. Start this habit while the child is still young. Instead of chocolate bars and candies, opt for healthier choices such as fruit smoothies. There are numerous ways to prepare a child’s snack into something healthy. Start introducing your child with healthy versions of snacks, such as fruit salads and kebobs, vegetables in yogurt dips. You can even grow your own small garden where you and your child can identify fruits and veggies and pick them for a meal or a snack. Instill a sense of health in children by taking them to farmer’s markets where they can learn about different vegetables and their health benefits.

Please, do not forget to support the child mentally and emotionally. This can only be done through effective communication. Communication can be done in almost any activity possible, you can simply invite the child to prepare food, and take this time to talk about the day’s activities and plans. Let the child help with household chores, limit the time spent on watching TV and playing video games, go outdoors together and celebrate birthdays as a family. These open communication lines and are great venues for developing self-confidence and emotional stability.

Yoga Dog

I won’t think about Monday

I hate to think about Mondays too…in the meantime, I shall practice this yoga position, maybe it actually helps.

Posted September 20, 2012 by dranilj1 in LOL

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Life is Limitless

Life is Limitless

Life is Limitless

The notion of being in the present moment forms the basis of so much wisdom and spiritual guidance. We hear it in Yoga class and read about it in books on meditation but putting theory aside, how does being in the present moment actually manifest itself in real life?

When we open ourselves up to the idea of being in the present moment, I think that the universe aligns to present us with ample opportunities to practice that very idea and it does so exactly at times when we feel least able to do so.

I remember what I read months ago in a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. In it he talks about worry being a projection of an imagined future and that when we focus on asking ourselves how we are doing in this present moment, then worry ceases to exist. Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of our life.

Manage to hold onto present moment and stop mind racing ahead to broken promises, costly repair bills and lengthy explanations to anyone. Staying in the present allows us to stay calm and think straight. You will walk slowly and without stress, calmly explain the situation. Fully being in present, will give us a real sense that everything is okay; not that it would be okay in the future but that in that very moment all is good.

The universe, God or whoever is in charge of doling out life lessons, didn’t see fit to leave it. Staying in the present moment means managing to stop mind flooding with doom and gloom. Honoring the present moment mean to look around and see the funny side of the situation. You feel totally at ease with the fate. It is incredibly powerful staying consciously in the present moment. It is about acceptance of what is rather than hoping, wishing or fantasizing about more and it’s acceptance of the present situation rather than predicting, betting on or prophesying less.

I also believe that when we feel the least inclined to be fully present is precisely when we need to do so the most. Sure, it’s easy to enjoy the present when you are lay, rocking in a hammock without a care in the world but when we can honor the present moment even when the present doesn’t feel all that great and when all of our instincts want to escape it, that’s when I believe we get to the good stuff.

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the simplest action. So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.

Find what opportunities for embracing the now have you had recently? Can you apply the principles I’ve mentioned to bigger and more important situations in life?

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