The findings of modern brain science utterly enthrall most people. And today’s journalists have gotten quite adept at trumpeting scientific findings in ways that captivate and simultaneously mislead the masses. Search the word “yoga” and “neuroscience” on Google and you’ll find an amalgam of sexy-sounding articles… everything from “Researchers find God-spot in the brain” to “Yoga heals the brain from depression.” Sounds pretty fantastic.
And unfortunately, yoga practitioners are some of the worst about falling prey to the antics of hype-loving journalists. As much as I love that there’s such an interest in science in our community, I have to say that most articles attempting to explain the findings of neuroscience to yogis irritate me to no end.
I think part of the problem is that when we run across a scientific finding that appears to confirm our existing view of the world we are less likely to rationally assess the claims being made. And what we don’t realize is that those headlines have a set of unwieldy assumptions hidden behind the words.
So before you go re-posting that next ‘Science Proves ____ Works’ article, consider these 5 things all yogis should know about science:
The very premise that neuroscience rests most of its claims upon is this: The mind is the brain. Simple as that. There’s no “vital energy” that gives you life, no Higher Self that’s reincarnated from body to body. You are, very simply, your flesh. Take a look at what Francis Crick, the Nobel-prize winning discoverer of the DNA molecule, had to say about who (or what) “you” are:
“You—your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will—are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
According to neuroscience, if it can’t be measured… it doesn’t exist. And since “chakras,” “prana,”, and other esoteric-sounding concepts the ancients referred to in their texts on yoga don’t reveal themselves using the current tools of neuroscience, most researchers would deem them a bunch of hooey. So when “Science proves yoga works” (who is this Science guy anyway? I’m dying to meet him!)…. well, not exactly.