Friday October 19, 2018

Beyond yoga and meditation: Hindu contributions that set the wheel of discovery rolling for rest of the world

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Contrary to popular perceptions that Hinduism is a mystical religion exclusively concerned with transcendental concepts of spiritual practice, it has been a wellspring for vast contributions to global civilization spanning more than five millennia.

As a religious practice aspiring to understand the eternal mysteries of existence, Hinduism has never been a regressive or closed dogma satisfied with historicentric interpretations of one holy book. Indeed, Hindus have explored the mysteries of science, mathematics and astronomy to revel in the glory of Creation. Epochal advances in metallurgy, medicine, grammar, music and dance, among other disciplines, came from early practitioners of Hinduism and its scripture is replete with practical and esoteric observations. Some perennial contributions of Hinduism:

Education The first university in Takshashila in 700 B.C.E.
Mathematics The concept of zero (200 A.D.). The modern numerical and decimal system (300 B.C.E). The value of pi (?) (497 A.D.). Area of a triangle (476 A.D.). Quadratic Equation (991 A.D.). Trigonometry.
Astronomy Concept of planets in the solar system circling the sun (500 A.D.). Earth as round, rotating on axis and gravity as a force of attraction by the earth (500 A.D.). Concept of Time as 365 days in a year.
Metallurgy Steel, iron, gold discovered in archaeological excavations dating to 3000 B.C.E.
Medicine Ayurveda, a system of allopathic and holistic medicine and now a subject of rediscovery, originated 1000 B.C.E. Detailed text called the Charaka Samhita includes anatomy, physiology and various treatments using various plants, fruits and herbs.
Surgery The Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.E.) is considered the first detailed text with seminal descriptions of surgical procedures and instruments that, with modifications, are conceptually used today.
Literature Sanskrit developed as the most ancient systematic language in the world. The Ramayan (before 3000 B.C.E) and the 100,000 verses Mahabharata (300 B.C.E.) are venerable epics that continue to inspire Hindus today.
Arts Highly sophisticated Indian classical music finds its origins in the Sama Veda, one of the four original Vedas. The four classical dance forms of India find their origins and inspirations in Hindu religious tradition.
Yoga and Meditation These are, perhaps, the most widely-recognized spiritual contributions of Hinduism to humanity. Hatha Yoga, the widely practiced system of cleansing exercises, is only one of the Yoga disciplines that encourage spiritual, physical and intellectual advancement. Meditation, a process that calms and focuses the psyche, is integral to yogic practice and recognized with yoga for its salutary effects on personal well-being.

As continuous invasions rocked the Indian subcontinent—from Alexander the Great and the heinous barbarisms of the Islamic conquests to the most recently repulsed British colonial rule—the last millennia saw the nadir of Hindu innovation. Yet the 20th and 21st century are marking a resurgence as Hindus in the diaspora, especially in the United States, strengthen their adopted lands with contributions in technology, medicine, engineering, fashion and the arts among many other disciplines.

Content: Hindu American Foundation

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  • India may very well have made contribution in all spheres of science and technology. But what good is it if Indians themselves are not either made aware of that through a specially designed education system? The Anglophonic ruling class of India are educated to become a pathetic imitation of American or British, stripped of all sense of self respect and self dignity, committed to ridiculous imitation of the West. As one watches the debates in the mainstream media, participants express their logic and opinion that are mostly second hand information regurgitated from Western Sources. They are incapable of using Indian sources or offering something original.

    Let NewsGram undertake the role of making Indians aware of what we were and hence we are much more than just an appendage of the West.

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  • India may very well have made contribution in all spheres of science and technology. But what good is it if Indians themselves are not either made aware of that through a specially designed education system? The Anglophonic ruling class of India are educated to become a pathetic imitation of American or British, stripped of all sense of self respect and self dignity, committed to ridiculous imitation of the West. As one watches the debates in the mainstream media, participants express their logic and opinion that are mostly second hand information regurgitated from Western Sources. They are incapable of using Indian sources or offering something original.

    Let NewsGram undertake the role of making Indians aware of what we were and hence we are much more than just an appendage of the West.

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New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.