Last summer, a study found that for some patients, a belief that they had taken a painkiller was enough to make their brains release natural painkilling endorphins. On today's Please Explain, Dr. Herbert Benson, the founding president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, and Dr. John Sarno discuss the mind/body connection on Please Explain.
In the discussion, the two doctors talk about the difference between "psychosomatics" of times past and modern Mind/Body medicine. The two doctors come firmly down on the side of such practices as prayer, meditation and yoga as they trigger what they refer to as the "relaxation response" which works against the deleterious effects of stress on the body's immune system.
Fascinating stuff and worth checking out.
Click here to download an mp3 of the show.
I love it how the religious people cannot conceive that atheists are capable of any form of morality.
I've become obsessed with Cesar Millan, star of the National Geographic Channel's show, The Dog Whisperer. I grew up with dogs, Great Danes, so initially I was enjoying the show on that level, but there was one episode which made me begin to think about his techniques in terms of yoga. In this particular segment, he brought in one of his own pack to educate a small, overly yappy dog, probably a pomeranian. Cesar's dog walked in completely casually and the pom went into overdrive, yapping up a storm. Despite the noise and aggressive behavior, Cesar's dog remained absolutely calm and unaffected by the whole display. It struck me, then, that this was the canine equivalent of enlightenment. The dog was calm, serene, engaged and yet not disturbed by its environment. If only human psychology were as simple as dog psychology. It would make it that much easier to reach a state of emancipation. (And I'd be out of a job!)
Cesar has three principles that he says all dogs need every day, in this order:
If a dog gets enough of these in that sequence, Millan says, the dog will be in balance in a calm, submissive state. I thought that sounded pretty good. If I get all of those in a given day, I consider that a good day. I'd like to propose that these three principles might work for humans to bring us into our own calm, balanced state.
Posture in yoga is used as a vehicle for inquiry into the self. Especially in Iyengar yoga, it becomes an intellectually rigorous practice of mental conditioning. But there is nothing wrong with using the physical postures as a vehicle for physical conditioning as well. A practice of the body may not get you any closer to emancipation (kaivalya), but it will keep you healthy, your muscles strong and elongated, your joints flexible and your physiology healthy. Getting yourself good and tired burns off stress and anxiety and frees the mind for healthy digestion, elimination and recuperation. Though you wouldn't necessarily want to practice vigourously every day, it is an important thing to work into your routine.
This really applies to your whole life, not just your asana practice. Have the discipline to focus intensely in at least one pose, to sit and meditate, or even to do any of the little chores around the house that you might slack off on. Have the discipline to behave well towards others, even those you might not like. Have the discipline to see to the needs of those you love or of who depend on you. Have the discipline to do your job well. Have the discipline to treat yourself well. (Moderation in all things, including moderation itself.)
Affection is food for the soul. Take the time to be with, or at least communicate in some way, with those you love. Interact with the world around you, especially with like-minded individuals that will love you back.
Fit each of these things into your day, every day, and I'll wager that your life will be rich and balanced.