Surprising yourself with an unexpected asana success might be great for you

A very intriguing bit of scientific news, courtesy the New York Times. Boiled down: Experience a sense of “awe” can be really good for you. From the story:

Far less is known, however, about the health benefits of specific upbeat moods — whether contentment, say, might promote good health more robustly than joy or pride does. A new study singles out one surprising emotion as a potent medicine: awe. And happily, awe seems to be much easier to come by than many might expect, even for the busy and stressed-out.


The students then supplied saliva samples, which were analyzed for interleukin-6, a molecule known to promote inflammation throughout the body. Because inflammation is tied to poor health, researchers figured that low levels of IL-6 might signal good health.


While happy moods were collectively still associated with low IL-6 levels, the strongest correlation was with awe. The more frequently someone reported having felt awe-struck, the lower the IL-6.

“There seems to be something about awe,” says Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and the senior author of the study, who is also the faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley. (He has studied laughter, empathy and blushing, too.) “It seems to have a pronounced impact on markers related to inflammation.”

I’m intrigued because I actually took a class on the topic of awe (and the sublime) in grad school — as it relates to English literature and art, specifically. You can find it in all types of art, from a Michelangelo sculpture (and the Sistine Chapel, for sure) to a Rothko, and a bunch of stuff in between.

But I also think there’s the sense of awe we can find — I’ve at least found — during an Ashtanga practice when we do something we didn’t think we could manage: handstand, maybe, or some other arm balance or an especially tough back bend. Or any of those wacky Third Series poses I’ve been seeing Bobbie attempt.

So maybe add that to all the other health benefits from asana practice. I’d be curious if it is more true for “tougher” practices than some of the more restorative or Kundalini types.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s