How do neuroscience and yoga intersect? Why is it important and how do their synergy help us solve problems in new and Integral 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 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 lay 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 to guide us.
Yoga (from Sanskrit meaning to "yoke") is a scientific technology that harnesses, or yokes, 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 asana, or postures, has become the most popular. This being but one aspect of the art and science of yoga, as a whole it 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 laboratory 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, i.e. malleability of the body due to varying degrees of mental and environmental influence. 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.
What occurs when yoga is enacted deliberately to change one's makeup or constitution is called alchemy. With a higher intention in mind, the ordinary components of the body, mind, and spirit are 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.
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