"A new assault by a leading psychologist on Prozac-style antidepressants claims they are worse than useless."
A new book by Dr Irving Hirsch, "The Emperor’s New Drugs" (Bodley Head), challenges the claims of the drug industry regarding SSRIs or Prozac-like medication. It seems that the evidence is accumulating that SSRIs are no better than placebos and in many cases worse.
David Healey, Professor of Psychiatry has exposed the often false claims regarding SSRIs in his books - " Let them Eat Prozac" 2004 and "The Antidepressant Era" 1997. We have bought into the 'myth' that depression is widespread and that it can be treated by SSRIs. Take a look! You may be very surprised.
Exercise changes the Brain
It has been known for a long time that exercise changes the structure of the brain and affects thinking. A groundbreaking finding was published ten years ago by scientists at the Salk Institute in California showing that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells. But there are still some important questions to resolve, like whether exercise should be strenuous to create new brain cells. What about weight lifting? Should it be aerobic? Are the cognitive improvements temporary or permanent?
What Exercise makes you Smarter?
The American College of Sports Medicine, studied 21 students at the University of Illinois to see how well they could memorize a string of letters and then pick them out from a list flashed at them. Immediately afterwards they were asked to perform one of three things for 30 minutes —run on a treadmill, lift weights or sit quietly, — before doing the letter test again. After a 30-minute cool down, they were tested once again. A few days afterwards, the students came back to try the other two options. The students were much quicker and more accurate after they ran than with the other two options, and they performed better when tested after the cool down. “There seems to be something different about aerobic exercise,” says Charles Hillman, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Illinois and an author of the study..
Brisk walking or Stretching?
Similarly, in studies with elderly people, performed by scientists at the University of Illinois, assigned a six-month program of either stretching exercises or brisk walking. Those who did the stretching improved their flexibility but did not improve on tests of cognition. Those who practiced brisk walking did.
Why Does the Exercise need to be Strenuous?
Why does exercise need to be aerobic to improve brain function? “It appears that various growth factors must be carried from the periphery of the body into the brain to start a molecular cascade there,” so that new neurons and brain connections are created, says Henriette van Praag, an investigator in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. To create new brain cells, “you need a fairly dramatic change in blood flow,” like what happens when you run, cycle or swim. Weight lifting, produces “growth factors in the muscles that stay in the muscles and aren’t transported to the brain,” van Praag says.
The current research findings suggest that, “It would be fair to say that any form of regular exercise should be able to maintain or even increase our brain functions [if ii is aerobic].” says Chauying J. Jen, a professor of physiology at National Cheng Kung University, in Taiwan.. What we need to keep in mind is that there are many kinds of exercise and their effects may be quite different. As we become better informed we can choose our own combination of exercise practices - aerobics, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of Pattabhi Jois, Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, swimming. tennis etc., each type for its specific contribution to health and wellbeing.
See Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times, 16/09/2009.
Psychology and Yoga
I have used psychotherpay techniques with Yoga students and many different Yoga techniques with psychotherapy clients over the past 16 years or longer. As both practices are concerned with improving individual quality of life and personal happiness and fullfilment, I see no conflict between the two.
Yoga and Freudianism were not the best of friends; but, more recent research suggests that we are not trapped by the past. We keep developing and changing with time. Our current understanding supports the possibility of personal growth and development.
American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association has published a review of some favourable studies of Yoga used in psychotherapy. So slowly divergent world views start coming closer together. Each informs the other. "The evidence is showing that Yoga really helps change people at every level," says Stanford University health psychologist and Yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD. I have quoted from their article on my web page.
Vedic Sanskrit Lost
I was giving a class the other day about the Vedic era and its particular religious expression as witnessed by the 4 Veda samhitas. I explained that we are not sure about the translation of these texts because the Sanskrit of that era is lost. Prof. Tatiana Elizarenkova , regarded as the greatest linguist of the Rg Veda, authoritatively claimed that the Rig Veda was composed somewhere in modern Russia.
Epic Sanskrit is not Vedic Sanskrit
The students objected and said that the Sanskrit grammar and vocabulary are very well established. I said yes - Classical Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of Panini (500 B.C.E.) But that is not Vedic Sanskrit nor even Epic Sanskrit, the language of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Classical Sanskrit is a dead language
The grammar of Classical Sanskrit was artificially fixed for the last 2500 years. But the language of the Vedas and the epics was a living language. "Even after some 150 years of studying the texts, a dark mist still covers the whole Vedic period." (M. Witzel 1987).
Much of Hatha Yoga is improperly taught
So many of our new students arrive poorly taught. No one has adequately corrected their asana practice. Over the years we had found that many students suffered unnecessary discomforts and micro injuries as a result of poor instruction. Simple practices such as the sun salutations if taught improperly can result in back ache and eventual injury.
Anatomically adjusted Practice
We chose to provide an informed teaching of the yoga postures in our Hatha Yoga classes. For this reason we made anatomically informed asana pratice an integral part of our Hatha Yoga teacher training programmes. We insist that our students learn an anatomically corrected yoga practice and all of our teachers are instructed how to detect a poor practice and the ways to correct it. Each student is unique. Her body has particular capabilies and limitations that must be considered when teaching Hatha Yoga. One generic practice routine is insufficient and will usually result in some students suffering unnecessarily.
What about room Temperature
Some of our students who have tried Bikram Yoga ask us about the best temperature for Yoga practice. Generally speaking a comfortable range between 20º - 25º C. is fine. The body stretches better as its muscles warm up with effort. Of course, what you find most comfortable will be quite personal.
Isn't 40º or 50º better?
Not really according to research on physical performance at Life Fitness, above a certain temperature the human body experiences thermal stress.
"Exercise can be safely performed on warm - and even hot - days. Certain precautions should be taken, however, including wearing proper attire, performing a sufficient warm-up and cooldown, ensuring adequate fluid intake and reducing the intensity or duration of workouts on extremely hot and humid days."
Robert Girandola, Ph.D.
Launching our Blog of Yoga & Health
I am proud to announce that we have finally launched our very own blog. As I headed our founders page with Heraclitus' wise words -"You can not step into the same river twice", I want to say that we at 'Yoga Center' Madrid are now stepping into a 'new waters' with our blog.
Bilingual Yoga Blog
I am launching it in two languages, Spanish and English, not only to keep you all better informed of the what is happening in the international community of Yoga, health, well being and spirituality; but, also because I can write to you more openly and freely in English and I believe that I can contribute much more if you let me speak to you in English as well as Castellano.
The Yoga Movement
I propose to share with you my opinions about Yoga, its practices, teachings and traditions. I hope sometimes to surprise you and perhaps challenge some of your favourite myths.
The Yoga community started out as a counter-cultural movement, that claimed to be above dogmatism, prejudice, exploitation and excessive consumption. It had faith in individual transformation and development, personal discipline and altruism. If, as we enter the 21st century, we don't stand up for our form of ethical humanism then we will have failed our original mission to assist in bringing global peace and universal brotherhood a bit closer for all.
I will share with you many of my personal interests and pet peeves related to our global predicament and the modern assaults against humanism.
Some of our senior teachers will also be blogging their experiences regarding teaching and practicing Yoga. Look for their blogs in the coming weeks. I have also invi¡ted important teachers and Swamis from around the world to participate.
'Yoga Center' Madrid Web Dialogue
I hope that you enjoy this web conversation. As the beginning of a new adventure, I look forward to discovering more about what Yoga and holistic health mean to you.