Science of Yoga: Understand the Anatomy and Physiology to Perfect Your Practice
As the daughter of a NASA scientist I was raised to have an analytical mind. A part of me craves method, data, and evidence. I started journaling at the age of seven, carrying my notebooks everywhere. I ï¬lled them with charts, graphs, observations, and plans concerning everything from what I ate that day to what to rent at the video store.
I was a curious child, constantly asking, â€œWhy?â€ My parents would send me to the trusty encyclopedia to look up the answer.Â At the same time, I have always been artistic, creative, and interested in spirituality. My notebooks are also ï¬lled with elaborate stories, poetry, and colorful drawings.
My undergraduate studies in art led to burnout. Like many people, I came to yoga hoping to relieve stress and anxiety during a diï¬ƒcult timeâ€”with the added bonus of staying ï¬t. I didnâ€™t expect that yoga would transform me in an ineï¬€able, seemingly magical way. When I started practicing, I aimed to make the picture- perfect poses. I slowly realized that yoga isnâ€™t about performing the pose â€œperfectly,â€ but instead about being perfectly okay with my body and mind in the moment. Now I know that many of the most profound eï¬€ects of poses transcend my anatomy of muscles and bones to shape my neurology, psychology, and energetic body.
I vividly remember lying on my mat at the endÂ of a yoga class with my eyes wide open, looking impatiently around when I was supposed to be relaxing. I thought â€œWhat a waste of time; I have work to do!â€ With practice, I started to enjoy the way relaxation and meditation practices made me feel.
Now, through reading research, I know that whenÂ I meditate, I am literally reshaping my brain. Ultimately, I am impacting every single system of my body, and optimizing function. What more important work could I possibly do?
My shifting mindset drew me to the Himalayas to study yoga, massage, and healing arts. My teacher, Yogi Sivadas, renewed my interest in science. I returned to the US and completed the pre-medicine courses, in pursuit of understanding how and why yoga works in such life changing ways.
I will never forget the ï¬rst time I held a human brain in the cadaver lab. The experience was neither antiseptic nor clinical, but deeply spiritual. That three-pound folded gray mysterious mass once both computed mathematics and felt the depths of love. Holding that brain, I knew that the mind-body connection was a key mechanism behind yogaâ€™s beneï¬ts.
Science of Yoga is the book I wanted to read when I ï¬rst started practicing yoga. In classes, teachers oï¬€erÂ (sometimes conï¬‚icting) cues and claimsâ€”â€œCalm your nervous system by elongating your exhales;â€ â€œThis pose will boost your immunity;â€ â€œAlign your knee over your ankleâ€ and I constantly wondered, â€œWhy?â€
For the past decade, through workshops, reading research papers, and completing my Master of Science in yoga therapy at Maryland University of Integrative Health, I have continued to ï¬ll my notebooks withÂ facts, ï¬gures, sketches, and stories. Science of Yoga summarizes the notes I found most fascinating as a yoga student and teacher. This book is intended as neither a comprehensive text on human anatomy and yoga, nor a medical reference book; it is just the beginning. My intention is for this material to spark more curiosity and discussion about the science of yoga, and lead to more inspired yoga practitioners and professionals, more rigorous research, more public policies that encourage yoga in schools and healthcare, and, ultimately, more accessibility and acceptance.
Through my research, scientiï¬c principles and evidence have demystiï¬ed so much of the practice. Surprisingly, this made my transformative experiences feel even more magical. There is just so much more to discover. In the grand scheme of scientiï¬c inquiry, yoga research is in its infancy. However, now is an exciting and pivotal point in the ï¬eld, with a remarkable increase in the quality and quantity of yoga research papers in the past few decades;Â the evidence supporting yogaâ€™s beneï¬ts continues to grow rapidly.
Science can explain the hows and whys of many things, but research studies, no matter how rigorously conducted, cannot compare to your personal, experiential evidence of healing and transformation. Only you can harness the power of yoga through practice. As with any scientiï¬c inquiry, I hope this book leaves you with more questions than answers, and brings out your inner child to playfully enquire, â€œWhy?â€
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|May 30, 2020|
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