Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

To find an answer to our questions, it is natural to turn to the Appendix and the 73 verses describing YV’s vision of yoga. It is here that the YV condenses and provides an overview to the path to liberation. Reading them, at first glance the answer seems inspired by Buddhism. As in Buddhist schools of mindfulness, the answer seems to be found in our cognitive and perceptual apparatus (Dasgupta 1922, 1991 ed.). It is the attachment to desire which is our root problem and keeps humankind trapped in a dreamlike world. Only when consciousness is re-configured into an ultimate state, where there is experience of neither pain nor pleasure, then there is a release from samsara (re-incarnation). Karma has lost its fuel supply and samsara stops. Thus liberating wisdom is the mindful insight into our human apparatus of perception and cognition. This is what this jnana-yoga initially appears to be is about.

But if the 73 yoga verses say that we should focus on our way of filtering and thinking about reality, why does the main corpus of the YV then tell endless stories, thought to have a liberating effect? Based on these stories would we not instead expect that Vasistha’s yoga in its condensed form advised us just to listen to its stories until the curtains of delusion suddenly fall? In other words we would expect its yoga method to be for the audience to listen to narratives composed in such a way that they create insight into non-duality. Many scholars have accordingly drawn the following conclusion about the YV: the motivation behind the author telling endless stories – repeating more or less the same message – is that this will reveal maya. We just need to hear these stories enough times to become liberated. This is the underlying model of liberation of the main corpus of the text.

However, this is not the conclusion to draw from studying the 73 verses On the Seven Stages of Yoga  in the final liberation chapter. The jnana-yoga described here is not about listening to enlightening stories. We encounter instead a yoga which is a long and strenuous process stretching over several lives. This process is described as consisting of seven stages.

Another DBRPC study of 12 healthy subjects given a mental arithmetic Head-to-Knee Forward Bend task as a stressor found that those given L-theanine had reduced heart rate, reduced Head-to-Knee Forward Bend salivary immunoglobulin A, and attenuation of sympathetic nervous system activation Kimura, Ozeki, Juneja, & Ohira, 2007. These antistress effects could be due to inhibition of cortical excitation. However, studies in normal subjects may not be applicable to those with anxiety disorders. L-theanine has been reported to increase alpha waves, which are associated with a relaxed, alert state of mind. In a high-density electrical mapping study, L-theanine increased attention-related anticipatory alpha over the right parieto-occipital areas during a demanding attentional task Gomez-Ramirez, Higgins, Rycroft, Owen, Mahoney et al., 2007. In clinical practice, the authors find that theanine can be helpful in mild to moderate anxiety, particularly in patients who are highly sensitive to side effects of other agents.

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