All animals make choices

Blog about Yoga and Yoga Teacher Training by Ed, Lead Instructor at Yogafurie Academy.

All animals make choices: where to go to find food and shelter, how to respond to other animals, etc. They respond to their environment to improve their own survive-ability. We can explain how they do this – their nervous systems tell them what’s going on out there, and their brains process the data to make (hopefully) good decisions. They have hormones to support what they’re doing: when they need extra energy, they get a kick of adrenaline. When they need to sleep, their body chemistry mildly sedates them.

two owls

But what about the tiniest, cell single creatures that have no nervous system and no hormones? These tiny animals move to find resources and know what to “eat” and what to leave alone. How do they do that?

Recent research* suggests that there is an underlying information architecture coded into the very structure of the cell. The cell is able to perform logical operations and derive choices, a bit like a computer can, just because of the way it’s built. And when cells collect together, they cooperate by sharing information across the whole body.

picture of a yoga class in yoga teacher training

Information is energy. Yoga posits that this body-wide energy information is prana – specifically prana vayus or “winds” of circulating energy. This energy, this information is available for analysis and enquiry. Once it is brought into focus, it can be transformed. This is not simply using a mantra such as “I am calm” (although that is a great thing to do). This is a fundamental shift in the body-wide state of personal energy, a genuine change of disposition throughout the body’s entire energy network. Mindfulness is a great first step. The gift of a Yoga practice is enabling choice: choosing how to feel and how to respond. Essentially creating the space to choose a constructive approach to life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Is this for real? Can we really decide how we’re going to feel? Well, think of a physical Yoga class. Sometimes, one can go into class feeling pretty rubbish – quite down or disheartened. The practice lifts our spirits. By the end, one feels better. We haven’t covered the problems up – they’re still there – but the movement seems to have pulled us through.

smiling people in a yoga teacher training class

There are medical observations: heart rate changes, tissue stimulation, better blood flow, a fuller breath, etc. But these alone can’t explain the emotional change. One could stimulate heart rate, breathe deeply, tense and relax muscles etc just sitting in a chair or walking down the street. The same emotional change would not happen. The physiology can be the same, but the experience is different. The movements are somewhat magical: they install the body-wide energy change that I referred to above. This is why asana is one of the earlier of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of Yoga. Practice deepens through pranayama and meditation (the later limbs) as the student learns to do this without movement, and simply through attention and intention alone. Then, the movements become even more powerful for health and wellness.

lady meditating on her yoga teacher training course

We need time and dedication to start this next level of our evolution through Yoga. Teacher training is the platform from which people can begin this growth. Not everyone wants to teach, but the skill to communicate your wisdom to others is genuinely invaluable. Yogafurie’s Yoga and Hot Yoga Teacher Training program, based in Bristol, will teach you the foundation principles you need. Everything we teach is based in evidence – as you can see even from the reference in this blog.

 *Click on the link and hit “Download full-text pdf”.

a notebook with notes from yoga teacher training sessions

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