Which are the most compelling results of yoga research so far?
Research shows that yoga fosters changes on an amazingly broad spectrum of human function, notes Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard, in this free download.
Dr. Sat Bir is editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy and a leading researcher in body-mind medicine. In this talk, he offers an overview of what he considers the most important benefits of yoga for the mind and the nervous system.
One of the great benefits of yoga is that it enhances self-regulation and allows us to change our internal psychological and physical functioning, says Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa.
Changes don’t just take place on the physical level; we also see enhanced regulation of stress and emotion, increased mind-body awareness, and the experience of deeper spiritual states.
The two most important areas of self-regulation that see immediate improvements are stress regulation and emotion regulation.
With practice over time, people develop greater resilience, tolerance to stress, and emotional equanimity. Dr. Sat Bir says this leads to an overall psychological self-efficacy, which is really important.
Many of these changes happen through the meditative component of yoga, notes Sat Bir.
“When you pay attention to what you’re doing and focus your attention on a target, whether it’s an alignment point in asana or a mindfulness practice, you’re engaging the attention networks of the brain. You’re learning to focus your attention.”
With practice over time, he explains, you become more masterful at regulating your attention. As we become more skilled at focusing our attention, it’s common to come to the realization that we have the ability to self-regulate our thought processes, and particularly, our reaction to our own thought processes.
And so you start to realize that you are NOT your thought processes, notes Sat Bir. And that is called metacognition.
“This is a very important realization because most people don’t have the ability to realize that a thought is really just a thought. And with that, we have the choice of what to do with that thought, whether to react to it, and how.
The other thing that happens with regular practice explains Sat Bir, is that when you engage the attention networks, you start to regulate your central nervous system.
In the research studies, people start to report experiences of tranquility, peace, harmony, and flow, and that deepens over months and years.
“People start saying things like yoga changed my life,” notes Sat Bir.
In short, he notes, the research shows that yoga fosters changes on a broad spectrum of human function. Changes don’t just take place on the physical level. We also see enhanced regulation of stress and emotion, increased mind-body awareness, and the experience of deeper spiritual states.
In short, the research makes it really clear that when we are practicing yoga, we’re not just working on the level of muscles and connective tissue. Yoga really has a very broad spectrum of benefits, even to the deepest spiritual level that humans can experience.
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You might also be interested in Sat Bir’s course: YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM ON YOGA – HOW YOGA HELPS BALANCE MIND AND BODY.