This blog is about both scientific, societal/political, and yoga-related issues - individually and considered as different aspects of the same problem/solution. A longer description is found in the first blog entry, and all old posts are found in a structured way here. The blog is an extension of my main home pages yoga-link.se and isbgroup.eu. Twitter: @gunnarcedersund
"Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn't a good sign", says Hermione Granger to Harry Potter, shortly after this scene, taken from the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets". I think it is easy to to agree with her. However, most things in life have two sides - and can be seen from both a positive and a negative side. In the case of Harry Potter, his hearing of voices meant that he got access into the mind of Lord Voldemort, and thus was able to understand and ultimately defeat him. And in the case of voices as the development of a mental disease, I think it is like with all diseases: disease symptoms are the natural consequence of you not seeing the more subtler signs of imbalance, which thus have become bigger, so that you more easily can notice them. In that way, disease signs can quite generally be thought of as more visible and helpful indicators of your state of being, which thus help you decide if these imbalances are things you want to keep, or if these imbalances are things you may want to choose to change. In the below TED talk, a girl who have heard real voices in her head gives a very insightful talk about how she got the symptoms, how they grew and became more severe, how she at last found people who helped her understand them for what they were, how she thus could start to listen to them in a more sound sense, and heal the underlying problems - until she now is completely free of the problematic symptoms, and even can beneficially help others. If you are interested in this phenomenon, or in the human mind in general, I can really recommend this video: its also only 14 minutes long.
yoga: theory and materialPosted by yoga-link.se May 08, 2013 18:48 Jaws is one of the most well-known blockbuster horror/thriller movies. One of the key characteristics is that you actually see the terrible shark only very rarely in the movie. In other words, it is mostly sensed as a scary presence, e.g. through the background music. This illustrates how much of the scare effect in a horrible monster depends on not looking at him directly, and how sounds and vibrations can contribute both for the good and for the bad in improving your mode. In this blog post, I talk about how our inner sounds, nada sounds, can be used to release tensions, and how the yoga acceptance principle of Pratyahara has been rediscovered scientifically when investigating successful treatments of tinnitus.
Nada yoga is a branch within yoga that works with the inner sounds - the nada sounds - that all of us hears from time to time, even though many people don't think so much about them. You most often hear these sounds late at night or early mornings, and they are also activated by certain types of activities, like running, standing on the head, taking a sauna, etc. Most importantly, perhaps, these sounds are an important gateway to meditative states, and when you start to go deeper, these sounds often appear - and you can then also use these sounds to go even deeper, to go into mental states that detaches you more and more from the physical dimension, i.e. into the Inner Space, also called Chidakasha. To listen to these sounds is also beneficial in many other ways, and can be used to release physical pain and imbalances. The most remarkable thing with this Nada yoga tradition is perhaps that it requires very little of your physical position (you can basically be in any position, as long as you hear the sounds) and because the techniques tend to let you bypass many of the "unpleasant" thoughts that you otherwise have to pass through and see before you can release them: you here simply change your state and "vibrate" the thoughts away in a much more subtle way.
However, there is one type of inner sound that nada yoga does not deal with, and shouldn't be confused with, and that is the sounds that you hear in tinnitus. Even though both tinnitus sounds and nada sounds can be activated by the listening to loud music, there is an important distinction: nada sounds are normal, healthy and beneficial, whereas tinnitus sounds are the result of an injury to your hearing apparatus. You can also know which sound is which, from the physical position from which the sounds originate: if the sounds come from the top of the back of the head, or some more diffuse place in the inner space, they are nada sounds, and if they come from one of your two ears, they are tinnitus sounds. With this said, I should anyway say that nada sounds can be used as a treatment to tinnitus. Some people who have tinnitus can listen to them in a nada way, and then make them blend into the nada sounds, and in that way release the problematic feeling associated to them.
This latter tinnitus treatment aspect is also the main reason why I am writing this blog post. A few weeks ago, a Ph.D. thesis was defended here in Linköping, which dealt with treatment of tinnitus. A recent press release from LiU stated the following statements:
"Thus it appears that conscious efforts to control a sound like
tinnitus have the opposite effect – we become more disturbed by the
noise – and this can be counteracted with an alternative inner approach
that emphasises acceptance of the experience.
In a number of other studies, Hesser and his colleagues have shown that
a modern form of CBT treatments built on acceptance (ACT, Acceptance
and Commitment Therapy) works well on those who suffer from tinnitus and
can potentially be a valuable alternative treatment for people
demonstrating a high level of experiential avoidance.
“The basic idea is simple,” says Hesser. Avoidance leads to more suffering
and the remedy is to avoid avoidance. There is much indicating that
people who use a lot of control and avoidance strategies both suffer
more and derive greater benefit from training in acceptance strategies.”
These statements are remarkably close to yogic statements. In particular, there is a technique within yoga that is called Pratyahara. This technique is based on the acceptance of problems (tensions, thoughts, etc that you deem to be problematic), and where this acceptance allows you to release the problematic feeling. A scary thing that you see head-on loses its fear, and a tension that is observed starts almost automatically to release and transform into something else. This is useful both when it comes to physical tensions and pain associated to yoga poses, and when it comes to the handling of disturbances, such as noise and pain in the knee when meditating in the lotus pose. And - as the research above has chosen - the technique of Pratyahara also seems to help many patients with tinnitus.
I like when yoga principles are re-discovered in a scientific setting, and I am looking much forward to myself doing research on yoga in the years to come.
falling down, and forming layers after layers on the ground, and in a
lake, is often a symbol of thoughts that come into your mind, which in a
similar way forms layers after layers, which you in your meditation can
move yourself through, and digest. A bit like if you by your attention
to the thoughts, like an earthworm turns the leaves into earth. When
your meditation is regular, you will have digested many of the daily
thoughts from your ordinary life, and you will be able to see far down
into the lake.
Yesterday we at last started with the first lesson of this year's rendition of the intermediate/advanced yoga class. Now there are some of the students who have been with me for quite some time. Several of them have even been on my summer retreats, and there is none of these students who are not eager to learn more, and to go deeper with their meditation and yoga practice. I have therefore decided to pick it up a notch, and will this semester for the first time have some long-term over-arching plans for the semester, which also will include some homework, and some assumptions of an increasing and basal level of their own practice when they come.
To understand this last statement, I should say that the big difference between an intensive summer retreat and a weekly evening-course is that at the weekly courses you are almost always starting from "scratch". By that I mean that I almost always assume (and see) that the students who come are stressed and tired, and even though I certainly differentiate between how deep and long I go with each pose depending on the level of the student, I spend most of the class just doing things to get them back to a nice harmonious state, which allows them to go on with their lives. In contrast, at the summer retreats, I know that as the course goes on, their level will gradually increase, because they are not spending a relatively long time between each yoga practice, but are all the time improving their state in a gradually evolving process, that lasts the entire course. This does not mean that there is not pretty much up-and-down in terms of moods at such courses - it is! - but it does mean that their level at the different yoga-parameters improves, and that I can take them to places that are much deeper and more far-from-ordinary than is normally possible during a shorter process. For instance, I know that at the end of the course, they are able to sit for quite a long time in meditation, and that many of their daily "stress and just daily-digestion"-thoughts are out of their system - that deeper layers have started to emerge, and that a greater level of peace is available to them. These levels of depth and peace are available to you when you are home from the retreats as well, but typically not if you do not meditate regularly; there are then too many daily thoughts that needs digestion that lies on top of the deeper layers. The same goes for all the other parameters: breathing exercises, yoga-poses, etc.
So, this semester, I will have an evolution that is similar to that in a summer retreat, in the sense that I will try to make a progress over the semester. However, this will then, as I argue above, imply that I will have to inspire them to also do a little "daily digestion medition" at home, in between my weekly classes. If it works out, it will be really cool, and it will allow us to do some really cool stuff. One of the things that I plan to do is to go through all the six steps in Antar Mouna. They do that outside of the summer retreats also in Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School. But in those Antar Mouna courses, they only teach meditation, and do not mix it up with yoga; which means that you often feel like your body would need attention to first, before you can fully enjoy the meditation. Also, they do not assume anything about the progress in between the classes. In other words, if I succeed with the above strategy for the intermediate/advanced class this year, I will really have obtained an important improvement. It will also mean that I can help them do something that is not possible even during the summer courses: to get depth and clarity also into their everyday life, and to get a healthy relation also to their everyday thoughts. Both of these are things that are really to the heart of what I want to achieve with my yoga school: to get yoga out of the ashram and into the everyday life, without loosing any of its depth! In other words: it will be really exciting to see how this will work out! :)
One of the most important topics - and which one talks about way too seldom in yoga-classes - is how to return to your own yoga-practice once you lost it. The most important thing in yoga is not to do it a lot in a short period, but to not let the breaks of a few days go into weeks, months and years. Because of its importance and normal lack-of-attention, I will therefore start with this. The topic is huge, and there is so much to say, so consider this a first blog-post of many.
The first and probably best advice I can give is to just start. Don't think about it, just start. Right now. Don't keep reading, but just lie down on the floor. Or, alternatively, keep reading, but start to do some yoga movements while reading. Do some easy movements you can do at the same time, or start to breath a bit differently. Do the psychic breath (ujjayi), or take a deep breath, close your eyes, and hold the breath for a while. Or put on a recording of yoga-nidra (which you can do easily and without resistance if you have it as a file on your computer). Either of these things are likely to activate just a tiny bit of your physical body-memory of doing yoga. And this tiny activation of the yoga-vibration will be like a mirror, and like a doorway, which you can go in through. It will make you remember what you are looking for, and it will be something that you can just keep doing, while settling down on the floor and then perhaps moving into a real session.
This leads to the second, and also very very important topic: work *with* the law of attraction, and not against it. The law of attraction is another utterly important and fascinating topic on its own, but for now it is sufficient to say that it is another way of describing how the mind works, and what association actually is all about. Shortly: when you think a thought, any thought, for ~17 seconds or more, it will start to gain a sort of momentum, or attraction, which means that it will start to attract other thoughts that are of a similar vibration (feeling, state-of-resistance/allowance, character, etc). In other words, in any given time, you have typically been thinking a certain type of thoughts for quite some time, and that means that you only have access to that kind of thoughts. If those thoughts are far away from a state of well-being, you will not be able to think about yoga and well-being at the same time, because those thoughts are too far away (just like objects in physical space, thoughts are structured in a sort of distance too). Instead, when thinking about yoga from a state of resistance, you will probably label it "boring", "too time-consuming", or some other similar thing. The trick is therefore to choose a thought that you do have access to, which feels just a tiny bit better (try out a few thoughts, and go to the one that feels the best, and hold that, no matter what thought it may be). When you have done that for 17 seconds, you will start to have access to thoughts that are on both sides of that thought, i.e. some thoughts that appear will be a little bit better than the one you've already picked. Then choose that one, and notice how you already now feel a little bit better. Do the same thing for a little while longer (perhaps a minute or so), and you will already then feel considerably much better (a feeling of resistance is helpless against just a little short while of focusing, if you just know how to apply it). Most importantly, you will have re-gained a sense of power over your own situation, and that will allow you to move even quicker to a place where yoga - which inherently is associated with a vibration of well-being - will be something you are attracted to, and that you will again feel like doing. You will want to start feeling good again.
Another way of using the same gradual-change principle is to do the same thing, or complement the above, with actions. Start to do things which gradually - slowly and non-fightingly, but still with a consistent movement - moves you in a direction of yoga-mode. Perhaps take a shower. Start to clean a little bit. Or sit and do nothing for a little while. Re-arrange the room into yoga-mode, role out the yoga-mattress, or take out your yoga-outfit. This gradual easing is what is so inherent in all rituals, and it is very much built into good yoga-sessions as well, as it is in all the ingenious tantric rituals. What I am trying to say here is simply that this ritual actually starts before you do the first yoga-pose.
Finally, some thoughts about this label "boring", which it is so common and easy to label yoga with, when you are not in a yoga-mode. Boring is a thought, and not a fact. It is an attitude and a perspective, and not an inherent property. In fact, another way of describe the state of boring is to say "non-present". A moment - any moment - that is fully experienced, where you are wholy present, cannot be boring. There is simply no room for that feeling in your mind. Fill yourself completely with what you are doing, with the movement you are doing in the yoga-programme, with the awareness of the body and the breath when you are in meditation, and your yoga-programme will be the most exciting journey you ever made.
Or...use the feeling of boredom to your advantage. Turn off the computer, and the TV. Don't log in to facebook or check your mails when you get the urge to do so. Sit and just do nothing a little while, even though it feels boring. Gradually, or perhaps even suddenly, something behind the previous throng of distractions will appear. Perhaps you will suddenly feel like doing that very important thing that you always wanted to do, but never seem to have the time for. Or...perhaps you will notice that you are really tensed in different places in your body - and that it would actually be a very nice thing to do some yoga!
I am a yoga-teacher in the tantric tradition, but also a scientist, and an engaged citizen. Politically, I am engaged in e.g. democracy, internet freedom, human rights, alternative economic theories, and environmental issues. Scientifically, I am working with systems biology, and the study of complex systems on all levels (isbgroup.eu). Yoga-wise, I am teaching and interested in classical yoga, where you take a holistic view, and merge not only physical exercises with breathing exercises and meditation, but also those things with karma yoga (harmonious working), dancing, music, sex, and all the rest of it. See http://yoga-link.se Twitter: @gunnarcedersund