Monthly Message 
The Other Part of Yoga
Brian Afton
YogaBetsy Discourse #14
  We have two minds: A conscious mind, and a subconscious mind. One of them is a lot stronger than the other.

  This fact is demonstrated to our students in a compelling way when they first do the arm thing, technically described as Kinesiology. In this test a student repeats a depreciatory phrase about themselves ten times. After doing this, the individuals test muscle will collapse under a very small amount of pressure.

  This reaction has nothing to do with what they willed, or chose. Nevertheless, the mere repetition of a few words they did not even believe impacts their entire musculature and nervous system in a way which completely baffles them.

  Your conscious mind can process about 2500 bytes of information a second but, it is known that the entire brain is continuously processing several billion bytes each second. That part is, by definition, subconscious.

  So, we have two minds. One of them is lot stronger than the other and, most of the time we do not have the slightest idea what the stronger one is doing. This has profound effects on our health, our well being and what comes into our lives.

  One of the primary advantages of having a yoga practice lies in learning how to tap into the second mind, which is called the inner self in most traditions. This is a long process but it is an important one because what you are thinking affects your body, as the arm thing demonstrates.

  Conversely, your body can affect your mind too and it is that very fact which we employ when using yoga. As Swami Rama, founder of the Himalayan Institute remarked: "Between mind and body is something called breath. "    In other words we are using something we can regulate to gain control of something we can't.

  As it turns out, we can learn to regulate and change a lot more than was once believed right down to and including changes in our cellular structure.

  Now, conventional wisdom holds that such things are determined by the genetic code in our DNA, however, the truth is nowhere near that simple. The subject of DNA has been very prominent in the media in recent years. The stories have run the gamut; everything from designer dinosaurs, to germ warfare to re-engineering the human body. Interestingly, you do not need a genetic laboratory to re-engineer your body. That is exactly what a yoga practice does.

  You see, what people want when they come to a yoga center cannot be had by going out and buying something that is pasted over the old you. You have to change, which brings us back to re-engineering and DNA.

  Your DNA amounts to being a set of blueprints delineating how a structure is to be built. The nucleus of the cell amounts to being the library where the blueprints are stored. In the movies this DNA predetermines all that the organism is and ever will be but its not really that simple.

  The real brain of the cell is not in the DNA and nucleus, it is the cell membrane. The cell membrane or skin is covered with many thousands of chemical receptors and transmitters. Our brain, our organs and even our thoughts produce chemical peptides which bind to the surface of the cell and effect the way in which that cell reacts and performs.

  The nucleus of a cell, and hence its DNA, can be removed and that cell will go on doing whatever it was doing before. If the DNA really controlled everything how could the cell go on operating for days, weeks or months without it. How could a red blood cell, which has no nucleus to begin with, function at all?

  The answer is that the cell is being directed by messages it receives through the cell membrane. Now it is true that the initial structure of the cell was created using DNA blueprints, however, which blueprint is chosen and what is done with it is determined to a considerable degree by the cells environment and the messages it is receiving.

  A single element of DNA can produce many different structures, or repairs to structures, depending on what signals it receives. Some of these signals come from the external environment but they can also originate within our own minds.

  Drug addiction is the simplest example of how cellular change occurs. Substances like heroin bind to peptide receptors on the surface of the cell. This sends a message to the cell which alters the manner in which the cell reacts and performs. If this was all that happened it would not be a problem. Unfortunately, this is not unlike the situation which occurs when a teenage boy red-lines the engine in his father's car. An engine will run at 7000 RPM, for a short time, but it will never be quite the same afterwards.

  Likewise, our cells will probably survive an experience with cocaine or heroin but they will never be quite the same afterwards either. Consequently, each time an addictive substance is used more of it is required to obtain the same results.   The cell compensates by adding more receptors, but that cannot continue indefinitely because there is only a finite amount of room. Finally, the receptors for the addictive substance begin to crowd out the receptors and transmitters which are supposed to be there resulting in subnormal performance by that cell.

  Moreover, when this cell divides to make new tissue its new sister cell will have more of the addictive receptors than the original one. It will be different, subnormal and incapable of functioning at the level of the original.

  Now it is easy to look down upon the problems a drug addict, but a bad diet, bad lifestyle and even bad thinking can produce exactly the same results; it just takes longer. On the other hand, this knife cuts both ways. We can build up our bodies and lives instead of tearing them to pieces. The question is how?

  Well, you have two minds. One of them is an awful lot stronger than the other one and, the stronger one can be your ally.

  Yoga is a practical method of accomplishing this and the importance of doing it cannot be overstated. As Swami Rama explained: "All things happen in the inner world long before they happen outside. Anything happening in the external world happened long ago in the internal world."

  The most profound example of this is demonstrated by the placebo effect wherein a patient given a preparation with no active ingredients recovers from an illness because they believe the treatment will work. This is a phenomena which has been documented in scientific studies many, many times.

  Mind you, we are not talking about imaginary illnesses. The seriousness of the condition does not appear to have any bearing on the result. In fact, the placebo effect is so powerful that some of the most expensive and widely prescribed drugs are only fractionally more effective.

  It is to be hoped that everyone here will see what an important thing this is. Your thoughts do affect your body and you need to learn how direct them or they can tear you to pieces.

  Now your objective, analytical mind is very important, but in some ways its too much of a good thing. It is obsessed with solving problems. At times, it will seize on a problem which cannot be solved, even in principle, and fall into a stress feedback loop which is very difficult to stop. It also has the un-nerving habit of trying to solve problems which do not exist. But perhaps the most unfortunate thing which happens is that our western culture blinds it to the wisdom of the other, stronger mind.

  A yoga practice is like a reset button for the objective consciousness. It cannot be stopped, but it can be redirected by something else requiring its full attention. When we first start Yoga, the postures dominate our attention. Their purpose, however, lies in forcing the student to think in a different way.

  When the student straining in an unfamiliar Yoga posture is first told to relax and find their point of rest, or their center, they think you are crazy. But those who persist eventually do because their nervous system is learning to process information in a new way and virtually every cell in their body is being rebuilt. What began with instruction to the muscles expands to the mind itself.

  Meditation is the most important part of this process. A meditation is done at the end of a yoga class to allow the wisdom of the body and the gains of that session to be integrated into the subconscious.

  It may, however, do some other things. There are two kinds of meditation passive and active. A passive meditation is the kind which is typically done after a class. During that period you may obtain intuitive information from the subconscious. Interestingly, you may not become aware of that information for some time.

  As your yoga practice continues, you will be taught to raise energy from the root chakra up the governor channel and each of the remaining chakras. This is done with the expectation that a day will come when the rising column of energy will be met by a descending one resulting in what is known as enlightenment.

  But, your mind and energy system can also radiate energy outside of the body into space. Configured as we are in the lodge room this group is capable of radiating an energy into space of a far greater magnitude than we could possibly generate as individuals; an energy so powerful that if enough of these circles could be formed, the appalling conditions which exist in this world could not persist in the face of it for a single day.

  For contrary to what you were always taught, what you think, how you love, and who you are does matter.

  Let us now join together and radiate peace, love, joy and healing into the world.
 Copyright 2006  Brian Afton 2822 Grover Rd Olean, NY 14760