In an age where people are seeking new and more poignant answers to the questions of existence, research into yoga and allied disciplines is attracting more and more adherents. This research is beginning to unravel many of the mysteries previously thought to be insoluble enigmas and inaccessible to modern scientific method. The popularity of the inner sciences is now so great that the 1980's may prove to be an explosive era of breakthroughs and rediscoveries about our inner universe. An indication of this was shown recently at the Festival for Mind and Body in London. More than 100,000 people attended the 10 day festival which included scientific presentations and a variety of lifestyle, spiritual, esoteric and occult exhibits. Bernard Levin of The Times (London) wrote:
"They were all seeking something, something that would give them not certainty... but understanding of themselves and their place in the universe."
If we are to judge future trends by past experience the majority of research is moving towards a new science of mind and energy. Consciousness research is pushing asana and pranayama research into second place. This has occurred because of the recognition of the reality of mind, or consciousness, and its effects on our bodies and life. Since the time of Freud, great strides have been made in the understanding of mental and emotional mechanisms and with the meeting of eastern meditative techniques and western psychology, a new and fresh approach to the question is forming.
Perhaps the work of Barbara Brown, an internationally recognized biofeedback worker, summed up the trend at the 1978 Explorers of the Human Mind Conference held at Los Angeles, USA.*1 Her research has led her to believe that all human beings possess capabilities of mind that are 'literally beyond genius'. She. states that synthesis, creativity, insight and intuition, once thought to be the prerogative of a few specialized and brilliant minds, exist in every mind though they are usually latent or frustrated. The outcome of her work was the postulation of certain 'laws':
Biofeedback, which is teaching us so much about the connections between the body and mind, is being used to heal various disease conditions by the power of the mind alone. At the Pain Congress held in Montreal this year use of biofeedback in the treatment of disease was discussed. A five year study by the Diamond Headache Clinic of Chicago, USA, surveyed 407 patients and showed that 32% of all patients experienced long term improvement, 39% transient improvement and only 29% no improvement.*2 Other researchers are showing that yoga can extend these benefits through its use of similar, but more powerful methods than biofeedback, combined with its systematic approach to the body, emotions and deeper aspects of life.
The exploration of consciousness and the inner being progresses slowly but surely, however, the facts and figures gained seem only to be useful from the point of view that they inspire others to actually bring this knowledge into practical application. This is happening in the realms of healing where holistic health organizations are being formed by interested professionals in the healing profession. Their own view is to incorporate yoga and other healing disciplines into traditional methods.
The current trend reflects a great demand for change. People want to know not only what the theory of altered states of consciousness is, but also how to attain them. Practical method is required and yoga is the practical application of philosophy of being, expounded by the sages and pundits of our modern world, the doctors, scientists, lawyers, engineers and professors. Yoga is becoming so popular that in America it is even possible to dial (212) 526-1111 and hear a spiritual master reciting a taped meditation practice.*3
Many breakthroughs have been made in the field of consciousness. ESP (telepathy, psychokinesis, and so on) is now considered to be a proven phenomena by many workers. The mind as a tool for healing has been documented even before Jesus the Christ performed his 'miracles'. Much of the initial work is over, and scientists, while waiting for the next stage to fully ripen, are returning to the body, to asanas, pranayama, mudras and bandhas, in order to determine just how much effect the body has on the mind and our states of consciousness. The body is emerging as the doorway to expanded consciousness.
A series of fascinating experiments is demonstrating that our feelings, thoughts, energy level, power of concentration, moods, sleep and waking, fantasies, ability to digest and almost all the components of our existence are dependent on our inner rhythms, the inner drummer to which we all march. A new branch of medicine, chronotherapy, is being developed to handle the new information gathered on our internal cycles. Yoga's role is also being examined and research points to the fact that asanas, pranayama and other techniques all help to tune us so as to be in harmony with the larger cosmic cycles, thereby enhancing our health and creativity.
Other areas of research delineating the value of yoga in our lives are in the fields of music therapy, emotions and their effects on the body, education, psychic phenomena, physiological effects of asanas, pranayama and meditation, and so on. All these topics will be covered by us in the forthcoming year in an effort to show how much yoga, ayurveda and the other fields have to offer to future researchers so as to gain insight and new ideas as well as to make our lives better.
In the field of music therapy, for example, therapists are being taught to help clients get in touch with their creativity and feeling through guided imagery and music. This is similar to the yogic techniques of yoga nidra and nada yoga (kirtan and so on). The use of music and the yoga nidra-like technique of Suggestology have been successfully used all over the world to accelerate learning. The use of Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching in Iowa (USA) schools shows that children from both lower and middle socio-economic groups made significant gains.*4 Over 2 years the children were coached in more sensitive perception and emotional communication. 'They were urged to enlarge their abilities to trust, to have high expectations, to overcome biases, to get across their intentions in a non-manipulative way... They were helped to develop a 'more honest, self-accepting, self-assertive and dynamic style.'*5
Perhaps the most exciting research going on in the world today is in the region of the brain and endocrine systems. Scientists are asking: "What is it that makes this most fantastic of all computers work? What generates the power behind its function?" These may be some of the most important questions posed today for their ramifications will have a widespread effect on almost every facet of life, from baby care, education and gerontology (the science of old age) to politics and socio-economics. The questions being posed today as to the various functions of the left and right sides of the brain, the ability to manipulate pleasure and pain centres, the role of brain waves and their reflections on various states of consciousness, all lead scientists and doctors to wonder at the marvel that nature has provided each one of us with.
As each new fact unfolds, one thing remains certain. A method is required to help us to not only better understand the brain but to better control and adjust it. Yogic techniques, especially the kundalini kriyas, are designed for just such a purpose and their implementation can only serve to make our lives happier and more peaceful. The kriyas, for example, charge the brain with energy so as to enhance intelligence, perception and conceptual ability. Dhyana opens the inner eye so that we can directly perceive the inner world of which the brain is only a fraction. All this, and much more, proves to make 1979 and our entry into the 1980's one of the most interesting, dynamic periods in the history of consciousness.
*1. "Earthwatch", New Age, September 1978.
*2. "Brain Congress in Montreal Sees Mind as Factor X", Brain-Mind Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 2, October 2, 1978.
*3. "Earthwatch", op. cit.
*4. "Suggestology-type approach succeeds", Brain-Mind Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 20, September 4, 1978.