Botox ~ Empathy ~ Mind+Body
Believe in Embodied Cognition. Here’s Why:
Western thinkers have long thought the mind to be the driver, flying the plane while our body is just the passenger along for the ride on a one-way flight. However, studies on Botox are proving otherwise. These studies have shown that people, in this case celebrities, who received Botox on frown lines were uplifted, sometimes instantaneously, out of depression. Good for them. The unfortunate flip side, however, is that when unable to lift an eyebrow or crinkle a forehead, their ability to empathize with other people, to feel their sorrow or pain, was erased – they simply could not. We now know human connection is just as important within holistic health as anything else. All the kale in the world does not resolve inner conflict including lack of love and connection often leading to severe depression, alcoholism, and other addictions. But without the ability to empathize, how can people truly connect?
Somehow, freezing the face was creating changes in the mind. It turns out that our facial expressions are meshed into our emotions and we cannot actually have one without the other. So what occurs between our ears also happens to occur within the body - an integrated, whole-system experience. Our gut, now known as our second brain, has 500 million nerve cells, 100 million neurons, 30 different neurotransmitters and 90 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin which is responsible for mood and well-being. Ever heard of “gut instinct”? Our heart has about 40,000 neurons that work in shaping emotion, perception, and decision-making. Therefore, the body is truly co-pilot.
The old sages of India somehow knew this 5,000 years ago using the body to prompt higher states of awareness. Today, we even know from schools of acting that the posture we assume supports the emotion we want to feel in a certain situation. If you have watched Amy Cuddy’s famous TED Talk on body language, certain stances taken for only a few minutes can induce enough of a change in our psychology and physiology to quickly decrease stress and essentially increase confidence. So imagine what moving through the Sun Salutations of a typical yoga asana class could do for you?
The science is now backing why we feel such a significant shift after moving through a practice linking the deep yogic breath with movement. Eastern practices of various kinds have tapped into “energy” and therefore transcendence in a way that has seemed all to “woo woo” to the West for a very long time. However, science is finally catching up to the old sages of India. And while the West inherited the notion of the mind being separate from the body, it turns out - everything is connected.
We are currently the most disembodied generation to date with our stressful tech-heavy modern day lifestyles. But we don’t have to, and perhaps should not, first use the mind to process this craziness. We can shift it by reconnecting our minds and bodies. How? Through movements and practices of many kinds, but especially through highly embodied practices such as yoga that emphasize both strength and flexibility, balance, integration of masculine and feminine, and the most state-altering component being the simultaneous connection of the deep yogic breath with movement, truly shifting our physiology for the better. With so many options, such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and even smaller segments of the bigger picture such as myofascial release, we can tap in, turn on, and tune UP by way of our very own personal biocomputers which include our bodies and minds.
Join me this winter at Akasha Yoga in Jackson Hole, WY, Wednesdays 8am, for Vinyasa Flow rooted in Ashtanga and Iyengar practices with perpetual focus on the breath to cultivate embodied cognition. Shift your state, find your freedom.