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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]
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Some Statistics RE: explosion of research in Contemplative Sciences

Hi all,

Through my work with the Mind and Life Institute, I kept some statistics on the number and types of grants that were being awarded in the area of contemplative science. I also kept track of publication records. Here are some of those statistics (through 2010) to give you a sense of where this field is coming from and the steep slope indicating where it may be going.

Allocation of Grants from NIH - keyterm "meditation"

Allocation of Grants from NIH - keyterm "mindfulness"

Allocation of Grants from NIH - keyterm "yoga"

Peer-reviewed Publications (through 2010)

Peer-reviewed publications as referenced by PubMed (through 2010) is indicated. Pubmed is a division of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health. It comprises more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites. The dotted line indicates when the Mind and Life Institute’s Summer Research Institute began in 2004.

NIH Grant funding (through 2010)

The graph above represents the number of grants awarded by the NIH through 2010. The RePorter database reports data and analyses of NIH research activities

Training in Spiritual Care – NYC Zen Center for Contemplative Care and OM Yoga

The Co-Founders of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, along with the Founder and Director of Teacher Development of OM yoga, are collaborating to bring you a year of rich training in contemplative care for those facing suffering, old age, sickness and death.

This innovative new program is designed for yoga teachers who are inspired to integrate contemplative care with yoga teaching skills in order to help people in hospices, hospitals, mental care facilities, private clients or any place where spiritual care is needed.

You will receive foundational training in spiritual care: attending the sick and dying; offering meditation, yoga and pranayama care; and performing ritual.

A unique aspect of this training is a firm grounding in meditation and yoga practice, which will give you the ability to work from the inside out, assessing a variety of situations and offering what is needed, including simply being present.

At the completion of the nine month program, consisting of 100 educational hours and 100 hours of volunteer caregiving, you will have gained the skills and confidence needed to give solace and be of benefit to those in profound transition.

AREAS OF TRAINING

  • History of Contemplative Care: applications and setting for spiritual care; engaged spirituality
  • Contemplative Care Skills: purpose and functioning of a caregiver, establishing spiritual care relationships, active listening, spiritual counseling, verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Contemplative practices related to health care.
  • Cultural competency.
  • Use of Self: when to disclose and not to; boundaries and ethics of conduct; personal safety; sexual feelings in spiritual care relationships.
  • Guided and silent meditation instruction and practice for patients and families.
  • How to deconstruct yoga asanas to create simple healing movements.
  • Therapeutic use of pranayama: anatomy of pranayama and nervous system, breathing techniques.
  • Developing sensitive quality of touch
  • Learning about the lymph system and yogic methods for moving it.
  • Working with pre-and post-operative patients.
  • Yoga, pranayama, and meditative methods for stress reduction, anxiety and depression.
  • Offering movement as meditative experience.
  • Self-care for the yoga teacher.

http://www.zencare.org/chaplaincy/yoga/index.html

This reminds me of the Bardo Thodol – Tibetan Book of the Dead