The Western approach to yoga varies widely:
The Western approach lies more on dialectics rather than calling upon experience.
Yoga, on the contrary, makes use of all available doctrines – religious or philosophical – in order to structure, analyse, and extend observations that provide a regular practice of meditation, and physical techniques that favour further practice. Please note that meditation is not a discursive process, on the contrary. It aims at emptying the mind rather than stimulating the memory, the logic and even intuition. It aims more at a state of complete peace of mind “ataraxy” rather than the glistening of emotions.
As for the conscience, it concentrates, centres itself around an area either more and more focused, or more and more evanescent. It reduces to itself and surpasses itself up to forgetting itself, so that experience may occur without any witness at the moment when it reaches its climax, or upon return. It is followed by a taste, a light, a presence, or sound of silence comparable to an indescribable metaphor.
As for science, it consists mainly in finding the means to observe as much as possible, physiology, cerebral activity, and therapeutics linked to these experiences.
Reduction of the metabolism, accompanied with extreme relaxation of muscles, circulation breathing and endocrinal processes.
Reduction of cerebral rhythms by synchronisation, responding to a simplification of mental life
This relief is beneficial to health
Hatha Yoga and meditation appear complementary rather than alternative therapies for the promotion and maintenance of a good health. They offer an excellent example of the existing connexion between the body and the mind.
With the use of postures or asanas, and in combination with breathing techniques or pranayama, Hatha Yoga brings a balance, on both physical and emotional levels.
Meditation and guided day-dream, not only reinforce physical and emotional activity of postures and breathing exercises, but open the doors to self realization, and enable the thoughts, the body and the mind to be unified. (Gimbel MA, 1998)
Research and Results
Yoga has positive effects on the psychic state of those who practice:
Sensation of Well-Being
Malathi (2000) asked 41 subjects to answer SUBI questionnaire (Subjective Well Being Inventory) before and after a 4 months period during which they practiced yoga. He observed a significant improvement on nine of the eleven scales of the test.
Energy and humour sensations
The works of C. Wood (1993 - Department of Experimental psychology, University of Oxford) focused on the effects of three different procedures (stretching through postures, breathing exercises, and visualization during meditation. He assessed the changes obtained on the physical and mental energy perceptions as well as the positive and negative states of humour. The subjects were normal volunteers (N= 71, age range 21-76).
Within the tested protocol, Pranayama appeared to have the highest effects, producing an increase in mental and physical energy, more vigilance and a stronger feeling of enthusiasm. (P<0.05)
Relaxation and visualization made the subjects slightly more sleepy and slow than with pranayama (P<0.05).
The 30 minutes yogic programme including stretching and simple breathing exercises (which can even be done by elderly people), had a noticeable “strengthening” effect on the perception of mental and physical energy as well as the humour of the subjects.
Shell (1994) compared two groups of women (yoga – lecture in a comfortable position), and observed no difference with regards to endocrine parameters and blood pressure. However they observed a reduction of the heart frequency during yoga, more satisfaction, more extraversion, less excitability, agressivity, emotionality, opening and somatic complaints, a better stress and humour management.
Space orientation capabilities
Telles (2000) tested a group (n=31) practising yoga over a period of 30 days. (test group). He observed that the yoga group obtained better performances within the labyrinth in comparison to the results of the same test applied 30 days later. This could be due to the composition of the group (faster students), but also to the effects of yoga itself.
Evaluation of dexterity
Telles (1993) observed the improvement of average static tremometric performance of yoga students.
She applied similar tests to a group of adults before / after 10 days of asanas, pranayama, meditation, devotional practice and tratakas (N=20;20). Tremometric task: inserting a stilet through holes
è contact = error; significant reduction of errors in the yoga group and nothing to report on Telles tests (1994)
Manjunath (1999) observed dexterity after yoga practice: with the standard manipulation of small objects with “tweezers”. The scores obtained by the “yoga” test group were significantly higher where as the standard test group remained stable.
Speed in neuro-physiological processes
The finger “tapping” task was used in order to assess the motric speed of both hands on 53 adults and 152 children (before and after yoga training), in comparison to 38 adults who did not practice yoga and served as reference. All test participants were right handed. Tapping was assessed after 10, 20 and 30 seconds. The results were improved after 10 days of yoga practice for children and 30 days for adults. However improvement concerned the first 10 seconds and not the following. This means that yoga improved speed but not endurance. (Dash M, Telles S. 1999)
Spontaneous tapping is meant to measure neurophysiological rhythm. This spontaneous rhythm reduces with age without become less stable (cf. Vanneste and coll., 2001)
Critical flicker fusion frequency
Critical flicker fusion frequency or CFF) was measured by Vani (1997) on two matching groups (age, sex category, N=18: 18)
The yoga group practised asanas, kriyas, meditation, and attended devotional sessions and conferences. After 10 days no difference was observed on the CFF. However, after 20 to 30 days CFF increased (10 to 15%) in the yoga group and remained unchanged on the other standard test group.
A research conducted by Madanmohan and coll. (1992) shows that yoga practice during 3 months improves significantly auditory and visual reaction time.
Telles(1993) has proved that yoga practice (more than 3 months) on experienced physical education teachers (N=40; more than 8 years of training) had favourable effects on weight, blood pressure, and breathing functions. They also observed a reduction of autonomous excitation and psycho-physiological relaxation (reduced heart beat and breathing rhythms).
Kamei and co-workers (2000, Shimane Institute of Health Science, Izumo, Japan) highlighted during the exercises of 7 yoga teachers, an increase of alpha waves and a reduction of seric cortisol. These two phenomenon were highly correlated (r = -.83).
Hans C. Lou and co-workers (1999) at the Royal Hospital of Copenhagen, tried to examine which parts of the nervous system were modified in a reproducible way during Yoga Nidra meditation activities, and whether these modifications differed to those obtained during standard rest.
Evaluation of cerebral blood flow through position emission tomography PET (150-H20) was carried out on nine young adults, highly trained yoga teachers. In the same time, a spectral analysis EEG was carried out on two of them as well as the measurement of the cerebral blood flow (CBF).
In the state of standard rest, a differential activity was observed on the frontal cortex (dorso-lateral and orbital), the anterior cingular gyrus, left temporal gyrus, left inferior parietal lobe, striatum, thalamus, cerebellum, and other structures implied in the executive attentional network.
During meditation, a differential activity was observed on sensorial and associative posterior cortex , known for their participation to imagery activities, with a notable exception in the primary visual area ( streaked area close to the calcarine sulcus, or Brodman area 17 ).