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Yoga’s Scientific Benefits, Latest From The Experts

Eddie Stern, the renowned Ashtanga instructor and owner of Brooklyn Yoga Club, has been researching the science behind yoga for 8 years. In 2012 he designed a sequence to study the effects of asana and meditation on high blood pressure, for a journal article that was written by Dr. Marshall Hagins, a physical therapist with a doctorate from NYU in biomechanics and ergonomics.

Today Stern and Hagins continue to gather and share the evidence behind yoga as an effective tool for health, sustained and regained. On May 30th, they have invited another group of experts to discuss the latest findings at Yoga and Science, a conference at Long Island University.

Stern says the event will focus on “cellular regeneration, consciousness, longevity and health,” and how they have been studied recently by these scientists with a particular interest in how yoga and breathing affects these processes. However this conference is not just for scientists or specialists. “It’s for anyone who likes doing yoga, or enjoys reading articles about why it’s good to take a deep breath, or how to hack your nervous system. If you’re interested in those things you should definitely come.”

He points out that yoga and science are not strange bedfellows, but indeed go way back in this ancient tradition. “In India, yoga is one of the 64 Vidyas, or knowledge systems,” he says. “Sometimes Vidya is translated as science. So when you see ‘the science of yoga,’ it’s what many people consider to be a literal translation.”

For the ancient yogis, “science was mainly about direct experience, or direct perception of reality. In the West our definition is slightly different: ‘Here’s an experiment: can we measure

a whole lot of people and reproduce it?’ Though it still has to do with direct perception, and with something that can be replicated under the same circumstances,” says Stern.

“One of the problems with western science is its tendency to go reductionist,” adds Dr. Hagins. “We want to know how A affects B, and how B affects C. So consequently in that process, a lot of scientists – even yogis who study science – are breaking down yoga into constituent parts. But how do you decide how A affects B when you have 500 letters in an alphabet soup? In the roundtables, this is the kind of discussion we want to get to. Dr. Neil Theise will be addressing this complexity directly.”

Other speakers include Ashtanga heir Sharath Jois; Dr. Richard Brown expert in the study of the effects of pranayama on the body and mind; Dr. Sat Bir Sing Khalsa, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard; Dr. Catherine Cook-Cottone, psychologist, SUNY Buffalo Associate Professor and founder of Yogis In Service; Paul Mills, Principal Investigator of the Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative, which examines the effects of Ayurvedic Medicine on mind and body; and Crystal Park, Professor of Clinical Psychology and co-author of Trauma, Meaning, and Spirituality: Translating Research Into Clinical Practice.

“They are eight brilliant minds in science,” says Stern. “They don’t have their finger on the pulse, they are the pulse.” Hagins hopes that the event will help to demystify science, and the relationship of Western science to yoga. “It will not only show specific examples of what science is saying about yoga, but provide a framework to better understand how yoga and science fit together.”

The conference also stems from a desire to clear things up in an era of fake news and misinformation about this discipline, says Stern “Marshall and I started seeing a lot of things coming out that weren’t really about science in yoga, but were claiming to be.” “Or were poor presentations of science in yoga that were misleading. So this conference comes out of several years of not only working together, but also reacting to the cultural presentation of science in the media. Since we don’t have that answer completely, we’re bringing in all these scientists whom we know and respect, to discuss the question.”

The conference takes place on Tuesday, May 30, from 9 am to 6 pm, at the

Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts at LIU. In order to allow as many as possible to attend, the cost is very fairly priced: $85 for teachers and $65 for students. Register by clicking here.

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