By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
If you have been practicing Yoga for many years, you might have a casual personality and a fairly balanced approach toward life. Maybe you don’t anger as easily as some of your friends. Yoga has a gentle way of bringing us toward the middle of the road.
Studies show that Yoga promotes happier, healthier living, but can yoga change behavior? Based on research, the answer seems to be yes. From children with ADHD to adults with aggressive behavior, Yoga is showing promise as an alternative therapy. While more research is needed, it appears the age-old teachings of Vedic philosophy are as relevant to the 21st century Western world as they were to India thousands of years ago.
Scientists are now saying the same thing as Yogis; they are just using different words. Medical experts say “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Indian sages teach that the way we think and act creates grooves, or “samskaras” in our brains that lead to specific reactions when triggered. The more we repeat the same thought patterns, negative or positive, the stronger the circuit becomes. Fortunately, Yoga provides the techniques needed to rewire these neural pathways.
We know that Yoga promotes self-control, improves mood and leads to a state of general well being. It also reduces negative thoughts and emotions. In “Yoga Calm for Children: Educating the Heart, Mind, and Body,” by Lynea and Jim Gillen, the authors discuss the effectiveness of Yoga in helping children with behavioral disorders and traumatic pasts to manage their anger and sadness. Readily admitting that their venture started out as a nightmare, the Gillens observed the children as they evolved into caring, self-disciplined individuals who could help each other as well as themselves.
Children who experience violence and chaos first-hand are not the only ones who can benefit from Yoga. With the educational system in financial trouble, the first cutbacks are to programs like physical education, art, and music. An emphasis on standardized, one-size-fits-all testing worsens the crisis, leaving students with learning disabilities or test anxiety to fend for themselves.
Studies in the Department of Psychology at Tufts University suggest that Yoga can also be helpful in preventing and controlling aggressive behavior in criminal offenders, and some schools have already adopted programs that incorporate Yoga into to their curriculums. Regardless of age or personal history, as more people become aware of Yoga’s positive effects on behavior, its popularity is bound to increase.
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