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Neuroscience, Life Success & Yoga

The 7 Powers Yoga RetreatTM is a journey of self-discovery & self-mastery

Neuroscience & Self-knowledge

The starting point of all personal progress is increased self-knowledge and self-awareness. We are the only species who can actually observe and understand the principles and mechanisms which govern our thoughts, emotions and behavior and we can use that knowledge for self-mastery. Your true freedom, your ability to choose your response to any given situation is the result of your capacity to properly understand and control your mind and your underlying physiology. Learning how to manage your mental, emotional and physiological state will enable to choose a life of success and fulfillment.

Today we know more about our being, our brain and nervous system and how it creates our personal world; we know more about how our physiology regulates our emotions and behavior than ever in history. And today we know how to use that knowledge to change our habits, achieve our goals, build successful relationships, increase our willpower and become the person we would like to be.

Thanks to the exciting new field of neuroscience, we can chart the workings of the brain and the rest of the nervous system in remarkable detail to explain how neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters, and other biological processes produce all the experiences of everyday life, in every stage of life. From the spectacular growth of the brain in infancy to the act of learning a skill, falling in love, getting a joke, revising an opinion, or even forgetting a name, something very intriguing is going on behind the scenes. Contemporary neurosciences have provided us with new insights about the laws and principles that govern our functioning and the 7 Powers Yoga Retreat will give you an unparalleled and effective User’s Manual for the Brain.



Neuroscience & Life Success

For example, groundbreaking research in the past few decades can help you to develop better understanding of yourself and achieve breakthrough success in many areas in your life:


  • Willpower: Willpower is more than a metaphor; it's a measurable trait that draws on a finite mental resource, like a muscle. While you have a consistent willpower capacity throughout life, you can strengthen it through training - again, just like a muscle.
  • Decisions: Studies of decision making at the level of neurons show that your brain has often committed to a course of action before you are aware of having made a decision - an apparent violation of our sense of free will. Now you can learn to actively manage the neurons thus making better decisions.
  • Relationships and emotions. We have a neurobiological explanation for how we are affected and how we affect other people around us. As social animals, we have evolved to be highly sensitive to the needs and emotions of others in our group. Researchers are beginning to understand the profound capabilities we have to feel empathy and how important interpersonal skills are to our health and survival. The key to this are mirror neurons which are triggered in the body unconsciously as we perceive not only the actions of others but also their facial gestures and emotions.
  • Religion, spirituality and mindfulness: Three mental traits appear to be essential for the development of organized religion: the search for causes and effects, the ability to reason about people and motives, and language. Mystical experiences also trace to specific activities of the brain.

 

The 7 Powers Yoga Retreat will open your eyes to how neural processes produce the familiar features of human existence. You will explore the brain under stress and in love, learning, sleeping, thinking, hallucinating, and just looking around - which is less about recording reality than creating illusions that allow us to function in our environment. The program will provide you with and upgrade of your brain’s current operating system which will help make you the best person you can be. Tune up your brain!

Neuroscience & Yoga Practices

Yoga is one of the oldest personal development practices, with more than 3000 years of experiences, research and insights and today, increasing numbers of people are practicing yoga asanas and meditation to achieve greater inner peace, release stress, but also to develop mindfulness and become a better person. Neuroscience research is discovering how exactly these mind/body disciplines such as Hatha yoga, Buddhist mindfulness practices, and contemplative prayer can focus and entrain the mind in ways that are helpful in cultivating the natural plasticity in the brain. A 2007 study called "Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference" by Norman Farb at the University of Toronto, broke new ground in our understanding of mindfulness from a neuroscience perspective.

Farb and his colleagues discovered that people have two distinct ways of interacting with the world, using two different sets of neural networks. One network involves what is called the "default network", which includes regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, along with memory regions such as the hippocampus. This network is called default because it becomes active when not much else is happening, and you think about yourself. If you are sitting on the edge of a jetty in summer, a nice breeze blowing in your hair and a cold beer in your hand, instead of taking in the beautiful day you might find yourself thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight, and whether you will make a mess of the meal to the amusement of your partner. This is your default network in action. It's the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating. This default network also become active when you think about yourself or other people, it holds together a "narrative". A narrative is a story line with characters interacting with each other over time. The brain holds vast stores of information about your own and other people's history. When the default network is active, you are thinking about your history and future and all the people you know, including yourself, and how this giant tapestry of information weaves together.

The study shows there is a whole other way of experiencing experience. Scientists call this type of experience one of direct experience. When the direct experience network is active, several different brain regions become more active. This includes the insula, a region that relates to perceiving bodily sensations. The anterior cingulate cortex is also activated, which is a region central to switching your attention. When this direct experience network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or future, other people, or yourself, or considering much at all. Rather, you are experiencing information coming into your senses in real time. Sitting on the jetty, your attention is on the warmth of the sun on your skin, the cool breeze in your hair, and the cold beer in your hand.

A series of other studies has found that these two circuits, narrative and direct experience, are inversely correlated meaning that if you think about an upcoming meeting (narrative) while you wash dishes, you are more likely to overlook a broken glass and cut your hand, because the brain map involved in visual perception is less active when the narrative map is activated. You don't see as much (or hear as much, or feel as much, or sense anything as much) when you are lost in thought. Fortunately, this scenario works both ways. When you focus your attention on incoming data, such as the feeling of the water on your hands while you wash up, it reduces activation of the narrative circuitry. This explains why, for example, if your narrative circuitry is going crazy worrying about an upcoming stressful event, it helps to take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. All your senses "come alive" at that moment.

Experiencing the world through the direct experience network allows you to get closer to the reality of any event. You perceive more information about events occurring around you, as well as more accurate information about these events. Noticing more real-time information makes you more flexible in how you respond to the world. You also become less imprisoned by the past, your habits, expectations or assumptions, and more able to respond to events as they unfold.
In the Farb experiment, people who regularly practiced noticing the narrative and direct experience paths, such as regular meditators, had stronger differentiation between the two paths. They knew which path they were on at any time, and could switch between them more easily. Whereas people who had not practiced noticing these paths were more likely to automatically take the narrative path.

Also a study by Kirk Brown found that people high on a mindfulness scale were more aware of their unconscious processes. Additionally these people had more cognitive control, and a greater ability to shape what they do and what they say, than people lower on the mindfulness scale. If you're on the jetty in the breeze and you're someone with a good level or mindfulness, you are more likely to notice that you're missing a lovely day worrying about tonight's dinner, and focus your attention onto the warm sun instead. When you make this change in your attention, you change the functioning of your brain, and this can have a long-term impact on how your brain works too.

The phenomenon is similar in mind/body practices such as Hatha yoga. The framing and focusing of the mind begin with calming the mind. Patanjali begins the Yoga Sutras with the famous basic premise to guide the yogi: "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuating patterns of the mind." In Hatha yoga and Buddhist meditation practices, the practitioner first learns to observe the mind as it cycles through patterns of thought and emotions. When the waves of thought begin to subside, a positive intention is then introduced – a mantra. The asana poses are strengthening and challenging not just your body, but your nervous systems and brains as well.  The more mindful you become, the better decisions you will make, and the more you will achieve your own goals, rather than other people's goals for you.

As a result of this increasingly clear link between the benefits of mind/body practices and recent discoveries in neuroscience, many psychiatrists, psychologists, and educators are studying the applications of meditative practices in classrooms, therapy, and correctional institutions. Today mindfulness techniques are thought to senior executives, to deans of medical schools, to MBA students from dozens of countries. So it's not surprising that we are seeing a renewed interest in the benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and other practices that involve integrating the mind and body. Mind/body practices are real pragmatic applications for cultivating the potential of all of the body's many forms of intelligence. The excitement of these new scientific discoveries is now finding it’s way into practices which can help you to cultivate the wisdom you already possess. The ancient system of yoga and modern neuroscience can help you unlock your full potential and to live a life of balance, love and fulfillment.

 

 

 
 
 
 
Himalayan Yoga Institute. Mount Pleasant Road, London N7 6JQ, UK. Phone: +44-7969-157994 Email: info@himalayanyogainstitute.com