Yoga About Poses


Although some circuits organize aspects of conscious awareness, most serve as the background glue of our experience, an interwoven network of sensory, motor and affective circuitry. (Louis Cozolino, 2006, The Neuroscience of Human Relationships, II.5, 73)

The Myth of an Emotional Brain

For the moment, I have mostly associated the affects to the vegetative system. in yoga poses the axis of stress, brain circuits99 are components of a more general physiological circuit that also interacts with mind and behavior. Neurologists who work from such a point of view associate psychological function with circuits that can coordinate several parts of the brain. They are then recruited to fulfill particular functions. Other neurological theories have gathered evidence supporting the view that most psychological dynamics are produced by specific areas of the brain. in yoga poses the second set of neurological approaches, it is assumed that a part of the brain controls physiological circuits such as those that I have described for the axis of stress. This point of view is close to the top-down notion that already existed when it was thought that the soul (or psyche) could organize somatic dynamics. The first approach is the most compatible with present-day theories of body psychotherapy, as it describes emotional circuits that coordinate physiology, mind, and behavior. However, we shall see (in chapter 9) that consciousness prefers to associate a specific mental dynamic to a specific organismic structure. As this attitude already exists in yoga poses neurology, many body psychotherapists cannot prevent themselves from adopting neurological models that localize emotions in yoga poses the limbic system, as proposed already by Lamarck.100 You will notice that I am talking here of a preference for neurological theories that are compatible with some phenomena observed in yoga poses body psychotherapy and of the comfort of our conscious dynamics. Empirical research often follows a different route. I now describe particular research studies on the brain that illustrate this debate. I begin with Cannon’s thoughts on the matter.

Emotions and the Brain: The Limbic System of Emotion and the Neocortex of Reason Cannon approached the brain as a structure that can be recruited by homeostatic circuits. This implies that homeostasis and the affects act on what goes on in yoga poses the brain and what goes on in yoga poses the brain has an impact on the vegetative dynamics. This strategy allowed for the isolation of the mechanisms that are situated in yoga poses the brain and have a close link to the affective dynamics. There were two pitfalls to avoid:

1. The idea that everything that happens in yoga poses the organism is governed by the brain and that the dynamics of the organism are at the beck and call of the brain.

2. The idea that the vegetative system and the brain form an undifferentiated whole.

Canon, if I understand him correctly, wanted to show that the vegetative system and the brain each have a particular mode of functioning but that there are interfaces (like the pituitary gland) that allow them to communicate. He tried to define the boundaries and the functions of these interfaces and what they coordinate. To try to understand how all of this is organized, Cannon undertook research studies on the hypothalamus and the thalamus, which are situated in yoga poses the limbic system101

Cannon explored the emotional circuit with neurologists Gerard J. Britton and Philip Bard.102 They anesthetized the neocortex of cats to study their behavior when the neocortex is offline. They noticed that the cats without a functioning cortex entered into a huge rage that mobilized the entire body. These sham rages could be unleashed by almost any kind of stimuli. They no longer had a pertinent function. They had become a standard mode of response of the organism that inhibits other forms of possible responses. This body of research showed that an emotion is calibrated by several nervous structures. Cannon defended a theory of emotions that coordinates three types of mechanisms:

1. A stimulus activates parts of the limbic system,103 which mobilizes the physiological resources necessary for the expression of an emotion like anger. The mobilization of the physiological resources that are needed requires the participation of the vegetative system

2. During this time, the thalamus stimulates certain parts of the neocortex that mobilize the psychological resources (especially the representations) necessary to experience anger and define its function in yoga poses a specific context.

3. Setting up the coordinated motion of the physiological and psychological circuits then allows for the emergence of a mobilization of the organism’s systems of regulation that support the construction of a particular way to be angry (inhibited anger, impulsive anger, hot or cold anger, etc.). This construction leads to a behavior that not only expresses an emotion but seeks mostly to act on the stimuli that activate that emotion.

This model makes it possible to account for the impulsive aspect of the emotions and the rich complexity of the real-life experiences they create. The fact that the stimulation of the emotional activity is situated in yoga poses the limbic system makes this phenomenon more archaic than the ones unleashed by the neocortex. However, the fact that it necessarily recruits the neocortex does make the emotional system more complex than a reflex. This kind of description often gives the impression of a precise function, while in yoga poses fact the limbic circuits can contain zones that are linked to many affects in yoga poses a small cerebral region. The thalamus is close to the amygdala; we can find pleasure centers in yoga poses this region as well as anger and fear. The mix of affects is already complex within the limbic system A person can experience a form of pleasure and fear when they are angry. This is independent of the systems of guilt or of sadistic fantasies that establish themselves with the introduction of social representations. in yoga poses similar fashion, many people feel a mixture of pleasure and anxiety during coitus.

These studies are often mentioned by researchers who have attempted to confirm a simplified (or simplistic) version of Lamarck’s hypothesis, according to which the limbic system is the emotional brain and the neocortex is the rational brain.104 For them, the limbic system is the neurological center of the emotions. They have presented Cannon as a precursor, while criticizing his conclusions. Today, some neurologists are again getting closer to Cannon’s point of view. Thus, Damasio freely takes up the idea that an emotion is, first, activated in yoga poses the limbic system. This initial activation must then pass through neocortical circuits to associate with representations and information on what happens outside of the organism. Then he clarifies that the coordination between an evoked affect, representations, and the circumstances necessitate a participation of certain zones of the frontal lobe of the neocortex. The frontal neocortex also makes it possible to relate an affect to forms of expressions and the management of emotions that are specific to a culture.105 This hypothesis remains prevalent: the limbic system and the brainstem activate standardized affective behaviors; the prefrontal cortex allows for the regulation of feelings and affective behaviors. This emotional system is regulated by a web of connections. The complexity of these connections varies from one neurological theory to another. There seems to be few direct routes between the front of the limbic system and the neocortex but, rather, many indirect routes. The theoretical variations seem to be based on how much importance these indirect routes have. Today, there seems to be an agreement that the affects are mostly activated by the centers of the limbic system, and are then regulated by the centers of the neocortex. This view is susceptible to change in yoga poses the future.

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