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New model of self-regulatory mechanisms for Yoga

How does yoga work? Is there a benefit to doing a bunch of postures, breathing, and meditation techniques while being crammed in a room full of Lululemon Athletica? A group of interdisciplinary researchers gathered at Kripalu Yoga center to discuss the potential mechanisms associated with yoga practice in contemporary settings, while also acknowledging the traditional, historical framework of ethically-motivated practices.

The manuscript (LINK) specifically poses a novel theoretical model of the potential self-regulatory mechanisms by which yoga facilitates adaptive reactions to physical and mental stress.

yoga_self-reg-_2014_1212

To give you a sense of what this model is depicting, I summarize below:

This systems network model includes the major limbs of yoga, represented as a skillset of four process tools: ethics, meditation, breath regulation, and sustained postures. As depicted in the model, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and autonomic output in response to a stressor is modulated by a number of regulatory processes (yellow boxes) proposed to be influenced by the process tools (limbs of yoga, blue boxes). A stress response is often accompanied by cognitive, emotional, and behavioral output that includes emotional reactivity, negative appraisal, and rumination. In addition, autonomic output such as vasoconstriction, pain and/or tension, and inflammation often accompany maladaptive stress responses; (see solid black arrows). In chronic forms of such stress responses, negative, long-term consequences on health across bodily systems are often the result.

Our model proposes that yoga facilitates adaptive output (dotted lines), including long-term psychological and physical well-being, musculoskeletal strengthening, and prosocial behavior, through four primary factors in the context of stress: (1) an emphasis on interoception (body awareness) and bottom-up input (processing of information coming from the external and internal senses), (2) more efficient bidirectional feedback and integration with top-down (cognitive) processes, (3) increased phasic inhibition (red lines) of maladaptive forms of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral output (e.g., reactivity, negative appraisal, rumination) as well as autonomic output (e.g., vaso- and pulmonary constriction, inflammation, and muscle tension/pain), and (4) perceptual inference (using perceptual information from the body) rather than active inference (cognitive processing) for improved prediction (of the world) and Error Correction (less bias from previous mental habits). These four factors optimize self-regulation and improve the communication and flexibility by which top-down and bottom-up processes inform behavioral output in the context of physical and emotional stress. Through repeated yoga practice, there is a resulting skillful optimization of autonomic control in response to stressors on and off the yoga mat – keeping arousal at lower levels during stress-mediated challenge, maintaining positive appraisal and reinforcement, helping the practitioner stay relaxed with less effort, and facilitating rapid recovery of bodily systems under stress. A number of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and autonomic mechanisms are proposed along with the underlying high- and low-level brain networks that support such mechanisms.

The takehome point: Yoga facilitates improved stress response modulation on and off the mat. 
There are a number of methodological considerations that also must be taken into account when interpreting the existing data on yoga research. Colleague and friend, Grace Bullock comments upon the status of limited research recently here: [Link]. Co-Author and Kripalu faculty member, Angela Wilson, blogs about the take-home points here: [Link]

Contemplative Science & Mindfulness Meditation Centers Across the World

The following list includes Education, Dharma, and research-related centers across the world interested in mindfulness and meditation

Contemplative & Mindfulness-related Resources (Centers and websites)

1. Mind and Life Institute [Link]

2. UMASS – center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (JKZ) [Link]

3. UK Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy – [Link]

2. Mindful.org – A Shambhala Sun publication [Link]

3. Mindfulness.org.au – [Link]

4. Mind Body Awareness Project [Link]

5. Mindful Research Guide (David Black) – [Link]

6. The Mindfulness Center [Link]

7. Mindsight Institute [Link]

8. Shinzen Young – Meditation in Action [Link]

9. Upaya Zen Center (Roshi Joan Halifax) [Link]

10. Metro-Area Research Group on Awareness & Meditation (MARGAM) [Link]

Mindfulness-related Research Centers

1. Harvard Medical School –

a. Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (BWH) – [Link]

b. Benson Henry Institute for Mind-body Medicine – [Link]

c. Lazar lab (MGH) – [Link]

d. Neuroscience of Meditation, Healing, and Sense of Touch  (Kerr lab) – [Link]

e. Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders (Hoge Lab) – [Link]

f. Khalsa Lab on Yoga Research [Link]

2. Roemer Research Team at UMASS – Boston [Link]

3. Emotion, Brain & Behavior lab at Tufts University [Link]

4. Center for Investigating Healthy Minds – University of Wisconsin (Richie Davidson lab) – [Link]; Lab for Affective Neuroscience[Link]

5. Stanford cCARE – Center for Compassion & Altruism Research & Education [Link]

6. Stanford Center on Stress and Health [Link]

7. University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain – Saron Lab (Shamatha project) [Link]

8. Britton lab (Brown) of Contemplative, Clinical, and Affective Neuroscience [Link]

9. University of California, San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine [Link] and Department of Psychiatry [link]

9. Kent State University – Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation (Fresco) lab  [Link]

10. The Jha Lab – University of Miami – Exploring the Stability and Mutability of Attention & Working Memory [Link]

11. Penn Program for Mindfulness [Link]

12. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill – Integrative Medicine [Link]

13. University of California – San Diego Center for Mindfulness [Link]

14. University of Toronto – dept. of psychiatry (Zindel Segal) – [Link]

15. Atlanta Mindfulness Institute [Link]

16. Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches (Germany) [Link]

17. Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies [Link]

18. Seattle Pacific University Lustyk Lab [link]

19. University of California, Los Angeles Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) [link] & Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology [link]

20. University of California, San Diego Center for Mindfulness [link]

Mindfulness-related Clinical-based Research Centers

1. Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy – Boston [link]

2. Society for Clinical Mindfulness and Meditation [link]

3. Duke Integrative Medicine [link]

4. Center for Mindfulness and Psychotherapy – LA [link]

5. Center for Therapeutic Neuroscience – Yale (Jud Brewer) [Link]

6. Center for Mindful Eating [link]

7. National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine [link]

7. Mindfulness Practice Center at the University of Missouri [link]

8. Mindfulness Practice Center at the University of Vermont [link]

9. Mindfulness Training Institute of Washington [link]

10. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (Univ. of Washington) [Link]

11. eMindful Evidence-Based Mind Body Wellness [Link]

12. Mindful Living Center [Link]

Mindfulness-related Education Centers

1. Association for Mindfulness in Education [Link]

2. EDUTOPIA – The George Lucas Educational Foundation [Link]

3. SMART – Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques in Education [Link]

4. CASEL – Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning [Link]

5. Brown University Contemplative Sciences Initiative [Link]

6. Center for Contemplative Mind in Society [Link]

7. Garrison Institute – CARE – Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education [Link]

8. Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education [Link]

9. Lifespan Learning Institute [Link]

Mindfulness-related Dharma Centers

1. Insight Meditation Society (IMS), Barre, MA  [link]

2. Spirit Rock Meditation Center [Link]

3. Cambridge Insight Meditation Society [Link]

4. Boston Rigpa Meditation Center [Link]

5. Still Quiet Place [link]

Mind-Body Research Consortium

The Mind-Body Research Consortium is a multi-institution, multi-investigator, collaborative group of psychologists, medical professionals, neuroscientists, clinicians, contemplative practitioners and teachers, and ‘contemplative practices-inspired’ intervention specialists who aim to better understand the basic cognitive and affective changes that occur during contemplative mind-body interventions. Amishi Jha is the principle investigator behind this consortium and is implementing online methods of cognitive and behavioral testing for participating researchers.

Check it out HERE.

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