Inspiring Yoga Studies

Here are two yoga endeavors that I find very inspiring. The first is a story about three brothers from Baltimore, Andy Gonzales, Atman and Ali Smith, whose father taught them yoga when they were kids. They came back to Baltimore as adults after finishing college, and found their suburb of Baltimore vastly changed – the community feeling they had when they were growing up had been replaced by violence, open-air drug markets and vandalism. When approached by a local school to coach football, they asked if they could teach yoga instead. The results were astoundingly positive. MSNBC has three video segments devoted to the story of these brothers, and are worth watching. I have included the one here that focuses on the studies that are being done on their program.

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The second is a story about two women, Emily Holick and Heather Mason, who have created a yoga class for Medical students at Boston University. The class has a very interesting set-up (from the course description):

*One-hour of yoga/mindfulness practice with a specific theme
*15-minute discussion between lecturer and students
*15-minute lecture on the neurophysiological and psychological mechanisms underlying the practice of the day, tracing relevant and up-to-date research on the theme of the evening, and its potential relevance for doctors and their patients.

All the students enrolled in the course will become part of a study on yogas effect on their psychological and physical well-being.

The class sounds like it is a very balanced mix of yoga science and modern science – Holick credits yoga melissa joan hart pokies with transforming her life as a stressed out Med student – and Mason, a yoga therapist, has an abiding interest in the neuroscience of yoga. She understands that yogic principles of practice, like slowing down ones breathing rate, cannot help but have both physical, mental and emotional benefits:

Mason asks them to count their breaths per minute. She knows that the ideal count of five or six has been shown to increase heart rate variability, which can ameliorate problems like depression, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cardiac disease.

Also, as she embarked on her project, she saw the greater implications of teaching yoga to Med students:

… the first goal of MED Yoga was to let doctors know how yoga could help their patients, but then she realized how it could help the doctors themselves.

This is something that Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Initiative is working towards, too. The strength of these programs are in sync with the Medical maxim: physician, heal thyself. Why? Because after one has understood their own nature, and worked to bring oneself into a state of health and balance, the ability to help others heal comes with a much greater efficacy, level of compassion, and understanding.

It is clear from these two examples that there are indeed yogis who have embedded themselves in the world of science and education, and are making a difference from the inside out. The mind-body connection is not lost on them. Sometimes we need to know what it is that we are studying before we can make an honest appraisal of its benefits, or lack thereof.