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BOOK REVIEW  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 258-260
Model, methods, and perspectives in yoga


Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry, India

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Date of Web Publication3-Sep-2018
 

How to cite this article:
Bhavanani AB. Model, methods, and perspectives in yoga. Int J Yoga 2018;11:258-60

How to cite this URL:
Bhavanani AB. Model, methods, and perspectives in yoga. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Oct 19];11:258-60. Available from: http://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2018/11/3/258/240319


Author: Prof. TM Srinivasan

Publisher: Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashana, Bengaluru, India.

Year: 2017

Pages: 296

Price: Rs 250



Very rarely does one find someone who truly breathes yoga and science at the same time, and that too with such beauty, skill, and dignity. Such a unique human being is Prof. TM Srinivasan, one of the great yogi scientists of modern India. Currently, serving as honorary professor of yoga and physical sciences at S-VYASA, he has seamlessly brought together in his life vast experience in yoga as well as modern science in the field of biomedical engineering, having served with distinction at both the IIT, Madras and the Fetzer Institute in Michigan, USA.

This book is a compilation of 45 papers published by him in Yoga Sudha, the monthly magazine from S-VYASA in recent years and are arranged as 45 chapters divided into three parts, namely, model, methods, and perspectives in part I, II, and III, respectively.

In part I, he brings forth some interesting models that can enhance our understanding of yoga as the original science of holism as it deals with a multidimensional model of the human being encompassing the karana, sukshma, and stoola aspects of consciousness, mind, and the body. Many concepts from quantum physics are explored as he leads us through the journey of understanding that what matters, is more than just the mind. He repeatedly emphasizes the true nature of yoga as a holistic science that deals with direct perception (pratayaksha), logical inference (anumaana), and intuitive learning through reliable testimony (aagama). He compares and contrasts yoga and modern science and even goes to the extent of aptly termed modern medicine as “trauma medicine” while extolling yoga as “Lifestyle Medicine.” He stresses the need to redevelop our inherent and intrinsic connection with nature, especially if we are to evolve as a race. Intriguingly, he refers to both the so-called exact sciences and spiritual sciences as both being experiential and stresses the need for internal consistency for anything to be valid. In Chapter 3, he actually goes to the extent of categorizing yoga as being “objective” and contrary to common belief labels modern science as being “subjective.” This is surely something that may rankle many diehard scientists but will immensely gladden the hearts of anyone who has experienced the deepest levels of yoga where vairagya and metacognition play a great role. He substantiates this argument by further stating, “In the last hundred years, the scientific paradigm has changed completely from a deterministic world to a probabilistic one”.

He gives ample space for his discussions on energy medicine and stresses the need for entraining the biological systems for health, wellbeing, and holistic wellness. I enjoyed his new look at many traditional concepts, and this is well brought out in his discussion on the importance of using the new term “homeodynamics” rather than the traditional homeostatic concepts as the sense of dynamics most vital in living systems. Similarly, his introduction of the novel perspective of asana being a noninstrumental feedback system is very well taken. Similarly, his statement that the autonomic functions in the body can be changed through proper thinking reiterates Maharishi Patanjali's teachings of pratipaksha bhavanam and chatur bhavanam (maitri-karuna-mudita-upekshanam). I am also very glad that he called a spade a spade when he states, “what normally passes as meditation in English language is really concentration or focussed awareness.” Someone has to bell the cat, and he does so in a very distinguished manner.

He goes on to give numerous models that would be useful for young yogi scientists in the future including the lateralization of brain functions in swara yoga; the role of muscle stretch in rehabilitation; cerebral hemodynamic changes in pranayama, as well as theoretical postulates of quantum mechanics and consciousness. In this, he reveals his role as a visionary mentor who is laying the groundwork for the young scientists of the future to follow with zeal. He motivates us further by stating, “Sciences separate, quantum mechanics interconnects, while true spirituality integrates.”

As a medical doctor and yoga therapist, I have often been surprised at the seeming lack of common sense in our clinical practice. Even when magnetic resonance imaging scans of patients report that their intervertebral discs are dehydrated, no doctor tells them to drink more water! No one ever tells them to learn to breathe efficiently! Yet these two, good hydration and efficient respiration, are the foundations of optimal health. I am heartened to hear him state the same and also connect it with the copious supply of elections that can prevent free radical damage. He also goes on to recommend barefoot walking, and this will help in so many ways as we have for most part divorced our inherent connection to our Mother Earth.

He ends Part I in a beautiful poetic flow describing the components of the mind: “Chitta are the waves of the ocean that are seen on the surface, ever present and ever restless. Manas is like the depth of the ocean wherein there is no movement, even physical light penetrates only partially. Buddhi is like the total silence at the depth unaffected by even a storm at the surface”.

The second part of the book deals with various methods and includes novel approach toward somatic dysfunction, use of vagal nerve stimulation through pranayama, the role of mirror neurons and ample discussion on the electromagnetic fields highlighting the positive and negative implications of these “subtle rays” that are part and parcel of our modern life. Concepts of epigenetics find a pride of place as this is now a current hot topic and he details the role of yoga in manipulating the mind-body complex to recast genetic information right down to the cellular level. He quotes, “The foods we eat and the lifestyle behaviours we choose are literally instructing our genomes.” He goes on to a later state, “Practising yoga regularly strengthens through neuroplasticity, one's positive attitudes to society, and environment.” It is heartening to hear him state that in all the yoga programs at S-VYASA, lifestyle changes are introduced as a vital method to control and overcome many psychosomatic problems. He postulates that yoga practices designed to cater to the five-layer model of humans should be practiced along with fasting and behavioral changes to positively influence genetic, epigenetic, and pregenetic problems.

He does not limit his methodology to the higher “spiritual” aspects alone and dwells deeply into concepts of muscle activity in yoga asanas, body mechanics, and even the important aspects of fascial yoga dealing with the stretching of the superficial, deep, and internal fascia layers through yoga comparing and contrasting it with similar mechanisms in Qigong. His section on spinal mechanisms and role of the paraspinal muscles in protecting the core makes interesting reading and gives indications for future work in this field. Information transfer between cells and the role of yoga in enhancing such a seamless processing of information “within” and “without” the system are brought out in an understandable manner.

A very practical application of yoga is indicated in the Chapter on cardiac assist through yoga practices wherein he details the possible applications of yoga techniques in enhancing cardiac perfusion. He recommends pawanmuktasana and all inverted postures and suggests that any asana that compresses the abdomen could achieve a backflow that in turn could improve cardiac blood supply. He mentions the use of kapalabhati in this regard and suggests further studies to elucidate both mechanisms and potential benefits. Similarly, in Chapter 35, he gives well thought-out suggestions on using forced unilateral nostril breathing to induce a functional vagotomy and reduce intraocular pressure, thus minimizing the occurrence of glaucoma, one of the preventable causes of blindness.

I personally enjoyed his description of “self-adjustments” through yoga where he suggests that sensory input such as pressure at different levels of the spinal cord may elicit spinal waves that would be useful in health and disease. He goes on to postulate that this can be done as a “self-therapy” through yogic breathing, abdominal pumping as well as through neck flexion and extension done in various forward and backward bending asanas. Such practices could thus facilitate healing and recovery in those who have suffered spinal injuries and this would be a great asset in rehabilitation.

The third part of the book deals with perspectives and rare gems such as “science separates, spirituality unites” are found here. He elucidates concepts of quantum physics in a lucid manner, and we realize that “interconnectedness” is a major concept that helps bridge the scientific and spiritual worlds through holistic medicine and holism. He dwells deeply on how yogis try to “go against” nature in their search for liberation (pratiprasava heyah/gunavritti virodachcha) and at the same time have deep respect and gratitude for nature as their Mother. The journey from the “undifferentiated to the differentiated” in the context of Yoga and Sankya is elaborated, and he provides a new interpretation of the tanmatras as being of the nature of energies such as magnetic (gandha), electrical (rasana), electromagnetic (roopa), kinetic (sparsha), and gravitational (shabda) rather than merely smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound. In the Chapter on “Psychology and Vedanta,” he makes a statement that may be controversial to many when he says, “There is no answer to the problems faced by a person if one follows the model of modern psychology.” It will be interesting to see how modern psychologists take to this statement. He does, later on, admit that a one-to-one comparison of concepts from across cultures is always fraught with difficulties (p. 268). He makes a very valid point when toward the end of Chapter 42 he says, “Unlike in the West, in the Eastern outlook, there is a complete lack of conflict between religion and science.” He quotes Jung as attributing this to the fact that “Eastern religions are not based on faith but have a character of a kind of cognitive religion or religious cognition.” To this extent, he provides an in-depth elaboration of the concept of Lord Nataraja, the dancing Shiva in Chapter 43, “Yoga of Divine Dance” where he defines the Lord as the dancer who is the activator of the dancing particles!

Many phrases brought a smile to my face and one that really stood out was in Chapter 4 where he talks about the “Molecules of Ananda” and terms N-arachidonoylethanolamine as the Anandamide! I also found a sense of lightness manifest in my heart when I read his ideas about the need to grow and develop our happiness quotient after having focused for long on our intelligence, emotional, and spiritual quotients, respectively.

All in all, this is a marvelous book that will inspire, motivate, and provide a framework for the young yogi scientists of the world to future explore the great breadth and depth of this art-science-philosophy-psychology-lifestyle that has stood the test of time.

As said by Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri, “May we all be blessed by Yoga, the mother of all sciences.” Hari om tat sat!



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Correspondence Address:
Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_21_18

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