alan little’s weblog

gamma synchrony and yoga

18th November 2004 permanent link

One interesting point in the study of buddhist meditation I mentioned previously that may be very yoga-relevant: they talk about having to filter out signals on particular gamma band frequencies that are known to come from muscular activities, and that might otherwise interfere with measuring gamma band activity generated within the mind.

Now, one purpose of all the physical stuff in yoga is to serve as a focus point for “single-pointed meditation” – a different form of meditation, in buddhist terms, from the one being studied here.

But it’s also about training the body to be able to sit comfortably for long periods to meditate with minimal muscular activity. There’s a reason why seated Buddha figures are usually shown sitting in lotus position. Lotus, once you can do it comfortably, is the most stable, supported seated position there is. But for most people, especially most westerners who grow up never squatting or sitting on the floor, getting enough mobility in the hips, and enough strength in the core muscles of the abdomen, to be able to sit in it without strain in the hips, knees and lower back is a major undertaking. That discomfort in itself is a major distraction from meditation – it’s even worse if the muscular activity that accompanies it – tension, fidgeting – is generating interference in the very brainwave frequencies you’re interested in.

A yoga teacher I’ve studied with a couple of times, who also practices zen meditation, said he once asked his zen teacher how people who haven’t practiced yoga manage to get through long seated meditation sessions without excruciating pain. The zen teacher says the ability does come, eventually, but more slowly than with yoga practice.

related entries: Yoga

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