CONSCIOUSNESS WEDGED in yoga poses BETWEEN THE SPEED OF THE AUTOMATIC RESPONSES AND THE PROCESSING OF COMPLEX INFORMATION
It is now possible for me to refine the model of the affective systems discussed in yoga poses the preceding sections. It is such that the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex can end up with a different set of analysis about what should be done. This is often the case, as the neocortex analyzes a larger amount of information using more complex and lengthier procedures. But the dynamics of the limbic system access behavior more easily, especially via the sensorimotor cortex. This speed is possible because the analysis of the sensory signals occurring at the level of the limbic system is rudimentary and the envisaged motor responses are automatic. We have seen that these stereotypical behaviors sometimes had relevance in yoga poses certain animals but are not necessarily relevant for a human being living in yoga poses a sophisticated social milieu.
It sometimes happens that a standardized reaction has already been activated, while more complex forms of management are beginning to realize that this action is counter-productive. Nonconscious procedures must now alert conscious procedures that a different course of action must be found. However, there is a difficulty, because the frontal neocortex needs to recruit limbic structures to influence conscious procedures, as it cannot do this directly. Even if Fradin’s neurology is arguable, the result of this analysis is known by all teachers: the student, whatever his age or intelligence, first needs to grasp simple ideas close to his automatic thinking. Only subsequently can intelligence elaborate more complex connections, starting from simple ideas that initiate a reflection or a dialogue with another. We have here an example of a sound psychological model that tries to look respectable by presenting itself as a neurological model. However, as the neurological model Fradin uses has become obsolete, the psychological model based on it loses some of its strength.
Fradin’s neurological metaphor assumes that when the information processing systems of the neocortex detect that the body and consciousness are about to take a wrong road, it must pass through the limbic system’s standardized reactions to alert the ongoing conscious processes. If there is an emergency, its only recourse is to activate a state of crisis in yoga poses the limbic system, which is experienced as stress. A state of panic ensues that impedes the motor functions from having a coherent behavior and thus slows down the course of action that had been activated. This procedure is about the same as the one that alerts consciousness with pain when the body is sick or wounded. A feeling of anxiety invades consciousness, more and more explicitly, as if to incite it to concentrate more thoroughly on a new course of action. As for the circuits of stress described by Selye and Laborit, this salutary action does not always have the means to succeed because the organism grows in yoga poses complex social environments that do not always allow a relevant calibration. Anxiety, for example, puts the mind on alert but just as often prevents an appropriate reflection. That is why individuals who are anxious, depressed, or stressed spontaneously seek an environment that could help them escape a vicious circle created by the limits of their organism’s systems of auto-reparation and the destructive aspect of their social environment (the link between harassment and stress is an unfortunate current example). Often, an individual does not have the means to know which social environment fosters an adequate social support.
In his therapeutic recommendations,137 Fradin (2008,1) shows that the understanding of the expressive behaviors activated by the limbic system is not always crucial. What is important is to help the conscious subject contact the internal contradictions and escape from the hold of the automatic procedures.
It seems to me that one of the problems of the standardized reactions activated by the limbic system is that they function mostly through assimilation. The anxious reaction must be taken as a signal of a profound dysfunction, unleashed by the prefrontal cortex to impose the necessity to reflect and to arrive at a new form of accommodation to the events that the organism’s current habitual procedures cannot handle. Fradin shows that when the anxiety is approached as a signal of an inadequacy that necessitates a reflection and a behavior more complex than usual, it becomes possible to reduce the anxiety. The exercises proposed by his team encourage an enhanced attention to the multisensory perceptions that accompany these moments of crises as much as a more subtle analysis of what is happening. Briefly, as the Taoists and Spinoza already suggested, Fradin shows that to incorporate the nonconscious wisdom of one’s brain permits everyone to auto-regulate more effectively and efficiently. This an example of why cognitive therapists often appreciate approaches derived from Buddhist mindfulness.
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