I know many of Flametrees yoga students have purchased ‘THE PSYCHO-PHYSICAL LAB’ and have enjoyed exploring The Mind Body Problem that is presented in the book, but for those who have not bought the book or who were not able to attend Eyal Shifronis workshop when he taught in Darwin here is an extract.I thoroughly recommend the book. There is lots to explore here.
In the section below, from Eyal Shifroni’s new book, his co-author Ohad Nachtomy explains how yoga postures impact feelings, as well as mental and emotional states.
“…Our feelings and emotional states are strongly related to our bodily states and behaviour.
If this is indeed so, then working with our body will affect our mental and emotional state. This connection is very evident when we feel down or even slightly depressed.
Usually, such a state has clear physical (bodily) and behavioural manifestations: the shoulders drop and tend forwards, the chest closes and constrains the breath, the back curves, and the gaze tends downwards.
The tendency to curve our spine and drop our shoulders is most evident in the long hours we spend sitting (for many of us, working in front of our computers).
In practicing yoga, one constantly works against such tendencies. We seek to straighten and elongate the spine; and to create space in the chest by rolling the shoulders back and down, and moving the shoulder blades forward (toward the back ribs).
As anyone who practiced yoga knows, this can have a sharp and immediate effect on mood…. The immediate effect is clearly felt. But there are also more subtle long-term effects that are perhaps less noticeable.
Given this immediate connection between our posture and emotional state, it is probably no exaggeration to say that one can help to combat a tendency for slight depression by seeking to open the chest and roll the shoulders back.
But, is it really this simple? To a degree, yes. And this can come as a revelation, since many of us suffer such moods. Of course, this applies mainly to lighter forms of down feeling, and we certainly do not want to suggest that this method should be taken as an easy remedy for depression in general.
At the very least, if one suffers from more severe depression, one is unlikely to have the energy and desire to work consistently on posture.
Indeed, we are not thinking of severe or clinical depression here, but of the more transient negative moods that affect most of us from time to time.
Accordingly, what we want to suggest is that persistent yoga practice can be very effective in dealing with non-clinical mood issues of this kind, such as feeling down or loss of energy.
For example, I often get up in the morning with a sense of disorientation, feeling down, and a lack of purpose. But when I manage to sit down, straighten my back, and open my chest, an immediate change begins to take place.
The rest almost happens by itself. A sense of orientation and optimism slowly reigns over fatigue and disorientation.
At this point, a desire to practice usually kicks in, and this fills me with energy that helps me start the day in a much better mood.
Over the years, I’ve learned that starting each morning by practicing yoga not only has a positive effect on that particular day, but also has a long-term effect.
It has also taught me a skill that allows me to deal better with episodes of something like slight depression or negative mood that come up from time to time.
Thus, when I’m feeling tired and crushed, I do a few poses (I usually do a headstand followed by Viparita Karani, or Legs Up The Wall) and, most of the time, this suffices to recover my energy and regain a positive attitude.
Since the psychophysical connection in this case seems fairly clear, explaining the long-term effects is also straightforward. If we can improve our regular posture, so that the spine is kept straight, the shoulders rolled back, and the chest open, we breathe with more ease and tend to feel better.
…. A practice along the lines described above gives us a skill to help deal with such recurrent moods of fatigue and feeling down.”