The definition of the word
New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise.
Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.
Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.
Neuroscientists have found that pictures gradually build up inside a person’s brain, appearing first as lines, edges, shapes, colors and motion in early visual areas. The brain then fills in greater detail to make a red ball appear as a red ball, for example.
Researchers studied the early visual areas for their ability to cause improvements in visual performance and learning.
“Some previous research confirmed a correlation between improving visual performance and changes in early visual areas, while other researchers found correlations in higher visual and decision areas,” said Watanabe, director of BU’s Visual Science Laboratory. “However, none of these studies directly addressed the question of whether early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning.” Until now.
Boston University post-doctoral fellow Kazuhisa Shibata designed and implemented a method using decoded fMRI neurofeedback to induce a particular activation pattern in targeted early visual areas that corresponded to a pattern evoked by a specific visual feature in a brain region of interest. The researchers then tested whether repetitions of the activation pattern caused visual performance improvement on that visual feature.
The result, say researchers, is a novel learning approach sufficient to cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that require visual performance.
What’s more, the approach worked even when test subjects were not aware of what they were learning.
“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said Watanabe, who developed the idea for the research project along with Mitsuo Kawato, director of ATR lab and Yuka Sasaki, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training,” he said.
The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research?
“In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome,” said Kawato. “However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way.”
At present, the decoded neurofeedback method might be used for various types of learning, including memory, motor and rehabilitation.
The breath a simple action often forgotten throughout the day is a simple way to improve your overall health, all of the body’s functions, and your emotional outlook.
By giving consideration to the purpose, mechanics and awareness of breath, we can greatly improve mind, body and spirit.
The Mechanics of Breathing
Did you know that you aren’t really breathing? It is the planet’s atmospheric pressure that sends breath into the body. With the process we call breathing, our body simply changes its shape in such a way that the pressure in the chest cavity is lowered, thus permitting air to be pushed into the body during inhalation. During passive breathing, as when sleeping, it is the universe that breathes for us. On the exhalation, we do nothing; the body tissues that have stretched during inhalation simply spring back to their original shape.
The movements of the diaphragm, the principle muscle associated with breathing, brings the body into complete alignment and coordination, because it is connected to all of the major organs in the thoracic (chest) cavity and the abdominal cavity, as well to the heart. This is the reason why a calm, full, deliberate breath can slow your heartbeat, improve digestion, decrease abdominal pains, subdue intense emotions, etc.
Once the muscles and organs associated with breathing the lungs, the tissues around the thoracic cavity, the diaphragm and its lower and upper attachments loose some of their elasticity, it is difficult for the body to exhale on its own because the tissues do not spring back. For example, compromised elasticity of the lungs results in respiratory problems such as emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.
During a typical yoga practice, we find ourselves focusing on slow, deliberate breathing, which tones the body’s respiratory system and associated muscles, keeping them healthy and effective.
Increasing Awareness of the Body
Yoga, at its core, is the practice of effective and efficient breathing. During a yoga practice, we’re not only bringing alignment and coordination to our physical systems, we’re also creating a connection between the mind and the physical body with the breath. By focusing on the areas where we need the breath most, usually following tension, we develop our ability to perceive what each part of our body requires for healthy function, increase awareness of any ailments that need attention. The mind/body connection also develops our sensitivity to the subtle energy of the body, called prana.
Yoga breathing (pranayama) long, deep inhales, active exhales, and focused awareness, following the breath in and out of the body allows you to calm the chatter in the mind and open up to the subtle dialog that your physical body has with the mind. The practice helps improve your concentration to a point that, with experience, you may become so familiar with your body that you will instinctively know which postures/foods/
The Universe Fills Us with Life’s Energy
As the universe fills us with air on the inhalation, it also replenishes us with prana the energy of the living things that surround us. But if we’re to receive this energy, we must first make space for it in within ourselves.
Much of yoga is about removing waste from the bod to prepare it for spiritual experience. TKV Desikachar, one of the great masters of modern yoga, has often claimed that yoga is 90% waste removal. With every exhale, we remove from the body what is no longer needed, physically in terms of carbon dioxide and energetically in terms of stale energy and negative emotions. Yoga breathing also unites and integrates all of the body’s systems to assist with the overall elimination process, thus bringing us closer into a state of sukha good space.
Three Yoga Breathing Techniques
In addition to the many functions and benefits of a regular deep breath used during a yoga practice, various breathing techniques called pranayama have been developed by yoga masters to help us accomplish certain objectives. The following three are examples of what we can achieve with pranayama and concentrated breath.
Direct & Guide Chakra Breathing Technique
This chakra breathing technique will help balance the energy and revitalize any of the chakras. For example, if you focus on the heart chakra Anahata, you will strengthen your sense of compassion and unconditional love, balance your feelings of joy and passion, and invigorate the immune and endocrine systems. Click here for more details on each of the seven chakra energy centers.
Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably in a chair or cross legged on a pillow on the ground, the spine straight and the wrists resting on the knees or legs, palms facing upward. Breathe naturally and bring your awareness to one of the chakras. Keep your attention on only one chakra during this exercise. Notice any feelings in the area of the chakra that you’ve chosen feelings such as tingling, warmth or buzzing. Then follow this process:
Keep your awareness on the chakra.
As you inhale, guide the energy of the in-breath to this chakra.
As you exhale, settle your awareness and once again notice any sensations present in the chakra.
Repeat for several breaths, before returning to your natural breath.
This breath is ideal at the beginning or end of your yoga practice, or anytime you need to revitalize one of your energy centers.
Ujjayi Breathing Technique
Ujjayi means victorious. This breathing technique is most beneficial when used during a physical asana yoga practice. Using Ujjayi during your asana practice distracts the mind from unwanted thoughts, with the breath acting as a mantra and helping the mind to focus. Ujjayi breath acts as a guide during the practice, and if its rhythm is broken or forced, we learn to back off, slow down or rest. Using Ujjayi also creates more postural support in the body, and is recommended during physically-demanding yoga practices such as Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga.
After you’ve warmed up and prepared for your yoga practice, follow this process to being the Ujjayi breath:
While inhaling and exhaling through the nose, partially close the throat until the breath creates a soft humming sound in the back of the throat. The physical formation of the throat and vocal cords is similar to that during whispering. The sound is often described as the hum of the ocean waves or the wind moving through tree tops.
Gently smile with each breath, allowing the breath to swirl in the back of the throat before moving down into the lungs.
Continue with this breath throughout your yoga practice.
This breath is ideal during a physical yoga practice, but it can also be used other times when you need to bring focus to the mind, such as during a walking meditation.
Kapalabhati Cleansing Technique
The Kapalabhati pranayama is a cleansing breath technique where we focus on short voluntary exhales. This technique benefits the body in many ways: it revitalizes the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems; it tones the abdominal muscles and improves metabolism; and it helps to purges your system of all negativity, including negative thoughts, physical ailments and diseases, and even damaging habits.
Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably cross legged on a pillow on the ground, the spine straight and the wrists and hands resting on the knees. You can also sit in a chair if sitting on the ground is not comfortable, with hands resting in the lap. Breathe naturally for a few breaths and relax the physical body from head, through the shoulders and torso, and down into the legs. Then follow this process:
Inhale deeply through the nose until you’ve reached the top of the breath.
Start with short, sharp exhales through nose, while at the same time squeezing the abdomen and pulling it in toward the spine, also in short bursts.
Allow the inhalation to happen passively, without any emphasis on it.
While practicing, visualize what you are expelling from the body.
After about 20-30 seconds, inhale deeply through the nose until you’ve reached the breath’s full capacity, and exhale naturally.
Observe the calmness in the mind for about 15-20 seconds, while breathing naturally.
Repeat for 2 or 3 rounds.
Start practicing the Kapalabhati breathing technique with 2 rounds for about 20 seconds each, growing up to 3 rounds for 30 seconds each. Please note that Kapalabhati is a powerful breathing exercise, so it is not recommended if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, hernia, asthma, or are experiencing dizziness, back pain or abdominal pain during the exercise.
To see a demonstration, watch here.
Yoga offers several beneficial breathing techniques that can be used by anyone to improve health, wellness and to develop peace of mind.
Written by Anna Hunt
Nuclear expert: The containment vessel at Fukushima reactor 2 has a large crack in it.
2013 is a time of wonder, discovery, and empowerment for humanity. Never has there been more of a war on our freedom of thought and never has there been a greater deception taking place in regards to the truth. With so much change taking place, people are gravitating to the divine to answer the many questions which are arising. Who are we? Why are we here? Is there more to the physicality? There are so many belief systems in our society which differ in their understanding of the universe, but what they all share in common is the notion that we have something driving our physical experience here on Earth, and that is a soul. The concept of reincarnation proposes that we are more than our physical bodies and that our higher vibrational self, or our soul, lives on after what we call “death”, and replants itself into a new body to live out the physical experience once again.
Reincarnation was and still is a major belief of the Middle Eastern theologies such as Hinduism and Sikhism. Other sublets of major religions such as Kabbalism, Scientology, Theosophy and Native American spirituality, also accept certain aspects of reincarnation into their belief systems. The central idea held in common by these belief systems proposes that our soul or consciousness is an eternal energy which uses the physical planes of existence to learn about itself so that it can continue to expand its awareness and evolve with the ever changing energies of the universe. This is but a general explanation of the concept; within each separate religion and belief system is a varying understanding of the death and rebirth cycle. With so many different doctrines accepting pieces of the reincarnation theory, one has to assume that there must be some truth to the idea. On the contrary, two of the world’s major religions, Christianity and Catholicism, both deny the notion that the soul cyclically replants itself into the physical plane, leaving one to speculate about the reason why. It is common knowledge that the Catholic Church is a major control structure which is so corrupt that it would take an entire set of articles to explain the history of its deceit, so we can openly suggest that perhaps their intention for promoting a one-and-only-life theology is taught to create fear and to control the masses on the basis that they will suffer if they do not obey.
The scientific community has also realized the undeniable and the otherwise unexplainable evidence surrounding reincarnation, with researchers like the late Ian Stevenson and Dolores Cannon leading the way in a branch of psychology called parapsychology. Stevenson was head of psychiatry at the Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years and conducted over 40 years of research studies into reincarnation, particularly working with children who claimed to have memories, emotions, and even physical markings from previous lives. Stevenson believed that at an early enough age a child’s mind was still fresh and unadulterated by the thoughts and emotions of their current life, and some of these children would tell stories about being older family members who had passed away, or even about living in another country previously. Stevenson spent much of his career traveling and trying to find the people and places that these children would talk about, and in many cases would discover that the people the children were talking about had indeed lived before exactly where these children had discussed. Even more peculiar was the fact that these young children would know unsettling details about the deceased peoples’ families and friends which were otherwise unexplainable for these children to know about. Unfortunately the bulk of the science community denied these first-hand accounts as mere coincidence and coined Stevenson as a “gullible” scientist.
Dolores Cannon is a regressive hypnotherapist, author, speaker, and parapsychologist who has written 17 books on the topic of past-life regression. Her books outline her client sessions as a hypnotherapist and contain the original transcripts from these conversations. The most interesting part to Cannon’s work is the fact that besides her clients recalling early childhood memories and past-lives on Earth, many of her clients regress to memories of non-human lives spanning other dimensions, galaxies, and universes, which supports the idea that life exists beyond Earth and that our souls are not specific to experiencing and replanting solely on this plane of existence. In her 2011 book
I see a big difference between having a word to label something, and truly understanding it. I can call this object in front of me a table, but I leave much to be understood. One place that this schism is especially apparent to me is in describing scientific phenomena. Consider