Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Science backs claims that Yoga changes brain chemistry, reduces anxiety, and improves mood

Dear Readers,

I just came across this article on the power of Yoga to change mood and alleviate anxiety published in the The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) supplementation has long been used to treat anxiety and mood disorders, but a 12-week study lead by Chris C. Streeter of the Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues has demonstrated significant increases in thalamus GABA levels in subjects after doing Yoga, as well as decreases in anxiety and improvements in mood.  GABA has long been regarded as one of the primary "feel-good" chemicals in our brains.

The study compared similar metabolically matched 60 minute sessions of either walking or yoga, 3 times a week, with the subjects performing yoga reporting better moods and more reduced anxiety levels than their walking counterparts.  The findings were corroborated by magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans.

This is the first mainline study proving a direct correlation between yoga and increased GABA levels, and is huge leap forward towards validating claims of therapeutic intervention via mind-body methods like yoga.


Chris C. Streeter, Theodore H. Whitfield, Liz Owen, Tasha Rein, Surya K. Karri, Aleksandra Yakhkind, Ruth Perlmutter, Andrew Prescot, Perry F. Renshaw, Domenic A. Ciraulo, and J. Eric Jensen. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. November 2010, 16(11): 1145-1152. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Spinal Release - Part 3

Quick Spinal Release - Part 3

Opening the Heart:

The arms serve as an anchor to hold open the portal of the heart you opened drinking in the horizon. You will extend your presence along the horizontal dimension now, carrying or expressing into the world (through your arms), the energy flowing through the heart and central vertical channel (through the spine, head and legs).

There is a release of energy when the wave moves through the thoracic spine, making space between vertebrae. When you drink in the energy through your arms, the space in the armpits opens, floating the arms freely in space. As you channel it down through the elbows, wrists and fingers, the energy will flow unobstructed through both the horizontal and vertical channels. The arms will elongate, opening the joints, lengthening the muscles. Thus, the arms will hang more like pendulums rather than at foreshortened angles due to habitual tension.

Without this unobstructed flow, the space between the vertebrae that emerged in the wave of elongation will collapse back in on itself. It is this collapsing of the energy that densifies the structure. When the energy is able to flow unobstructed, the structure sheds its density.

Instructions: Right Arm
On the wave of your next breath, extend your presence through your right arm as described above. As the elongation moves down your arm, maintain the space in the armpit. Savor this for several breaths.

What did you notice as a result of this practice?

Does your right arm feel different than your left? What about the throat? Can you sense a difference between the right and left sides? If you make an open throated sound like an “A,” do you sense a difference in vibration from one side to another? Does your right eye and ear feel more open than your left? Does it feel lit up, like a monitor came on?

Left Arm: Repeat channeling the wave through the left arm. Then integrate both arms.

What did you notice as a result of this practice?

Do you will feel more openness in your chest? less density in your upper back? more energy flowing through your arms and hands?

Variation: Using Weights

Instruction: Placing a light weight (1–3 lbs) in each hand, repeat the elongation. The weight can vivify the anchoring through the hands, to help you sense the elongation along the entire length of the arm. If you have ever seen a salt-water taffy machine, you may remember how the weight at the bottom lengthens the taffy.

Now without the weights, repeat the elongation imagining invisible weights in your hands.

This series' was excerpted from the book, Awakening Somatic Intelligence by Dr. Risa Kaparo. (North Atlantic Books, 2012).

Videos were filmed by Richard Quinn  http://richardquinn.com/

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quick Spinal Release - Part Two

Quick Spinal Release Part Two
Breathing & Spinal Elongation

Practice Suggestions: Begin with Calling through the Horizon Practices. (See last week’s video post – Part One)

 To find Neutral Position in Standing please see standing practices in chapter 9 of Awakening Somatic Intelligence. (Amazon.com)

Instructions: Leave the mouth closed with the jaw relaxed. Imagine for a moment that you had a bellows extending from the floor of your pelvis to the base of your skull.

Exhalation: Now empty the bellows without tensing the muscles of your back, especially activating the pelvic diaphragm at the floor of the pelvis. Do not strain to push all the air out using pressure—just let the bellows empty as fully as possible without straining.

Inhalation: Then slowly relax and feel how the bellows fills up with air on its own- without straining to suck air in through your nostrils. Gradually relax the diaphragms and any muscular tension that you find to receive the breath more fully. Repeat several times- emptying the bellows and letting the breath come to you without effort.

Now place your hands over your kidneys at the base of your rib cage in back. As you exhale follow the movement of the bellows closing with your hands, empting out from your sides at the level of your kidneys. Again, when you come to be empty, relax and slowly let the breath come to you. Do this several times until you feel your lungs empty smoothly and gently from the base all the way to the top.

Now combine both the vertical and horizontal flows to feel yourself rhythmically emptying from all directions and filling out into all directions effortlessly. Allow the exhalation to be more active and the inhalation to be more passive.

How can you assess your practice?
Do you feel more freedom and aliveness?
e.g. is your breathing fuller or deeper?
Does more of your structure move with your breath?
Do you feel more relaxed and more alert at the same time?
Is your mind quieting down?

Quick Spinal Release: Standing

This is an extension of the spinal elongation that utilizes the flexing of the knees to amplify the omnidirectional wave going through the spine. We will anchor the wave through the arms as well.

Quick reference: take a moment to bend your knees slightly as you regularly would to have as a baseline for later comparison. As always, make sure you do not strain yourself. Do not overdo. (Bigger is not better!)

Notice: where does your weight fall in your foot? How much weight is in your knees? Does your body go down when you bend and up when you straighten your knees?

From a neutral standing position, imagine that you are being held up from a string attached to the top of your head that does not let your head go down as your knees bend. Your spine will elongate to make the extra space needed to bend the knees.

Exhaling—initiate the emptying from the pelvic floor (see instruction on restoring natural deep breathing.) As the sacrum anchors, slowly soften the knees so they bend naturally, but only slightly.

By anchoring, I mean, extending your presence beyond your structure as you sense gravity pull you toward the center of the earth. Sense the anchors as portals, opening you, to an immediately apprehendable felt/sense of your connection to both heaven and earth, and all that is.

Notice that your weight does not go into your knees- but transfers through them- and goes down through your heels. Inhaling- relax everything completely and sense the breath coming to you as your relax your diaphragms—let the bellows open on its own—as you rest with your knees slightly bent.

Now slowly extend (straighten) your knees while you sense the force of gravity anchoring you. Even though these instructions are given sequentially ultimately you will practice them all at once. Initially, you can try one quick spinal release (through a sequence of two exhalations and two inhalations which constitutes one knee bend as you are both bending and extending the knee on one exhalation each.) Focus on each of the anchors to ground them.

1.     Anchoring of your sacrum—amplifying the wave up the spine. The anchoring of the sacrum will pull the lower couple of lumbar vertebrae downward, while the upper two lumbar vertebrae will ride the wave releasing the spine upwards. Thus, the center of the omnidirectional wave occurs around the waistline. Anchor the base of your skull (occiput and jaw)—amplifying the wave up through the head. Rather than the head bobbing like one ball over the spine, finding the subtle anchor of the skull, engenders movement throughout the cranium. Thus the 22 bones of the face and skull can gently open like the petals of a lotus flower.
2.     Anchor through your heels—amplifying the wave through the legs and the base of the spine. This enables us as bipeds to enjoy a connection to the ground through our spine, similar to quadrupeds. All 28 bones of the foot elongate and root into the ground like a tree. The heel sends a large taproot, while the other bones grow a finer lace of roots, deeper and deeper into the earth.

Inhaling—relax everything completely and sense the breath coming to you as you relax your diaphragms—let the bellows open on their own.

Now sense the omnidirectional wave through the spine as a whole, while you repeat the quick spinal release. While the primary wave moves vertically, from the waist down and from the waist up, you can sense the convergence of these waves moving omnidirectionally through all parts.

How Can You Assess Your Practice?

At this point, you may feel your spine elongating in both the bending and extending of your knees.

Do you feel more freedom and aliveness? Generally when our knees are bent our lower back relaxes and extends. With this practice, we learn how to elongate our spine, so that even in an extended knee position—the lower back remains open.

Note: This is essentially the same as the Quick Spinal Release from supine position that appeared in the bedtime practices. The difference is the change in your relationship to the gravitation field from lying to standing.

The practice vivifies the reciprocal relationship between your knees and your lower back. If your lower back remains open- the knees cannot lock no matter how much you extend them. Conversely, if you compress your lower back, your knees will lock or bare weight. This is why anchoring down from your sacrum is so important. It holds your lower back open.

This series' was excerpted from the book, Awakening Somatic Intelligence by Dr. Risa Kaparo. (North Atlantic Books, 2012).

Videos were filmed by Richard Quinn  http://richardquinn.com/

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Calling through the Horizon from Standing Position

Calling through the Horizon from Standing Position
Receiving through the Eyes
Duration: Two minutes
To feel greater freedom and aliveness by inviting more space into our structure.
Look through a window with an open view of the horizon. Or you can just imagine the horizon in front of you as far as you can see. Imagine the horizon coming to you, through your eyes and through the back of your head. Let the horizon in front of you connect with the horizon behind you. Keep your gaze relaxed, without trying to focus your eyes on any- thing. The eyes act as a lens, but the seeing is occurring from the visual cortex, at the back of the head.
If you are finding this a challenge, try it with your eyes closed. Now open your eyes slowly as though you were opening the shutters on a cam- era and just letting in the light.
How can you assess your practice? If you measure yourself against an image of how you think you should look from the outside, you will start compensationally adjusting and thereby perpetuate the violence inherent in this disassociated orientation. It will prove more valuable to sense from the inside.
Do you feel greater freedom, e.g., does the head feel less fixed or held? Do you feel greater aliveness, e.g., more energy, more flow, more connection? You may feel like your head is floating—like a bobble-head doll. You might even notice a change in the position of your head without trying to adjust it muscularly.

Receiving through the Navel
Bring the horizon through your center—just below your navel and out the other side.
Try cupping a hand and placing it on your lower back. Sense the energy overflowing your hand. Now remove your hand but keep sensing the energy flowing through—you can invent an imaginary partner that helps you, and their support can be as real as your imagination is vivid. Another way to think of this exercise is to imagine an ocean in front of you, and you are drawing it through your navel, as if drinking it in through a straw.
Assessing your practice
Do you feel greater freedom, e.g., does the sacrum gently release when you bring the horizon through your center? Do you feel greater aliveness? You may feel like your pelvis is floating on top of your legs.
You might even notice a change in the curvature of your spine or less tension in your legs, back, neck, shoulders.
Receiving through the Heart
Drink in the horizon from as far as you can imagine behind you as it enters through your thoracic spine (at the level of your ribs) and over- flows through your heart and lungs, pouring out your chest wall and kissing back the infinite. Savor the spaciousness you presence by sensing the omni-directional convergence of inexhaustible emptiness and luminosity in embodied mindfulness.

This series' was excerpted from the book, Awakening Somatic Intelligence by Dr. Risa Kaparo. (North Atlantic Books, 2012).

Videos were filmed by Richard Quinn  http://richardquinn.com/