Contemplation, Ashtanga, science and evolution
It may be my Western mind, but I’m finding talk of the marriage between science and yoga — Ashtanga specifically — to be fascinating. Judging by comments here, and emails we’ve received, I don’t seem to be alone.
Just to recap the highlights: In the past few weeks, there has been news about the $12-million gift from the Tudor Jones (of Jois Yoga fame) to the University of Virginia to establish a center for contemplative studies. And I saw news of a study on yoga and meditation’s effects on hypertension that includes Eddie Stern’s input.
Now I see that Richard Freeman is teaching during the upcoming week at the International Symposium of Contemplative Studies in Denver. Here is a description of the event:
The purpose of the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies is to bring together academics and other interested attendees for presentation, discussion, and collaborative networking in the fields of contemplative basic science, contemplative clinical science, contemplative philosophy and humanities, contemplative education, and those domains of contemplative practice that relate to and interact with these fields of research and scholarship. These distinct, though overlapping fields of contemplative study each focus on advancing our understanding of the human mind and how training the mind through the use of contemplative practices can lead to a reduction in suffering, enhanced health and cognitive/emotional functioning, greater happiness, and increased social harmony.
There has been growing consensus on the need for a regular and recurring venue in which researchers, scholars, and students in these emerging contemplative fields can come together to share new research and scholarship and network with established and potential collaborators. Such a venue is intended to be the most important vehicle for shaping and encouraging an interdisciplinary and cohesive field of contemplative studies in which basic and applied science, scholarship, and contemplative traditions collaboratively develop an integrated way of knowing in which first- and third-person perspectives are equally and synergistically included.
There is yoga each morning on the schedule; I’m not sure if he is leading any of that. But here’s what he’s listed on the program as doing:
Concurrent Master Lectures 3
Basic Science / Neuroscience and Education
Amishi Jha – Meditation, Attention, and Neuroscience
Arthur Zajonc – Reflections on Contemplative Practice in Non-Traditional Settings
Education and Basic Social Science / Positive Psychology
Mark Greenberg – Applied Mindfulness Intervention with Parents and Teachers
Barbara Fredrickson – Positive Emotion, Social Connections and Loving-Kindness Meditation
Contemplative Practice – Yoga
Lorenzo Cohen – Yoga Research
Richard Freeman – Yoga Practice
Stephen Phillips – Yoga Scholarship
Here are some other topics:
- Contemplating the Restless Mind: How Can Scientific investigation of Mind Wandering Refine Our Understanding of the Human Condition?
Jonathan Smallwood, Daniel Margulies, Malia F. Mason and Mathew Killingsworth
- Pain and Mindfulness Meditation
Yoshi Nakamura, Joshua Grant, Fadel Zeidan and David Vago
- Mindfulness Meditation and Anxiety Disorders: Effects on Emotion, Attention, and Brain Responses
Elizabeth Hoge, Sara Lazar, Britta Holzel and Philippe Goldin
- Building a Contemplative Studies Community: Bridging the Sciences and Humanities
Wendy Hasenkamp, John Dunne, Susan Bauer-Wu, Lawrence Barsalou and Bobbi Patterson
- Bringing Mindfulness to Difficult Populations: Considering Clinical and Research Challenges, Sharing Solutions
Zev Schuman-Olivier, Judson Brewer, Sarah Bowen, Eric Garland and Zayda Vallejo
- A paradigm for contemplative practice for end-of-life clinicians: Being With DyingAnthony Back, Cynda Rushton, Roshi Joan Halifax and Susan Bauer-Wudean
- Impact of mindfulness on brain resting state connectivity
Sara Lazar, Amishi Jha, Véronique Taylor and Judson Brewer
- Mindfulness Measurement and Research
Daniel Levenson, Eric Garland, Fadel Zeidan, Anthony King and Lawrence Barsalou
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Stuart Eisendrath and Maura McLane
Sounds pretty similar to what the Tudor Jones are planning with their center at UVa.
I recognize that not everyone shares the same opinion on the yoga-science marriage. And that’s why I’m pleased to report that Eddie put me in touch with the lead of the study with which he’s involved. I’ve formulated a few questions from comments and emails we’ve received, but if you have any questions you’d want to pose, feel free to share them in the comment section below or shoot us an email. (Email is in the About section.)
In general, I’m expecting to ask about the difficulty of measuring yoga’s effects; why it is important to provide scientific validation to yoga, meditation and mindfulness; specifics about the study; and about where this frame of research is headed (and maybe where it has been).
Posted by Steve