"Whilst I am interested and keeping an open mind to everything I'm learning, it is not all scientifically proven and much is referenced as yoga tradition/culture. I read today about the chakras, the mantras, the kriyas, and of course the asana, nadis, and the limbs of yoga. How can I confidently speak about all of this unless there is more scientific backup? It is so different from fitness theory/sports science where everything we do is explained biologically/scientifically."
This is a great question about how to present information that does not have scientific studies around it. The first thing that springs to mind is that some things do, for example, breathing practices and meditation. There are published studies on yoga in relation to its effect on health. You might search PubMed and see what studies have been done. In terms of presenting things like chakras and the more esoteric concepts in public classes, that would be up to you and depend on the context of your class. In some workplaces, for example, teachers are asked to not talk about Chakras and other more spiritual aspects of yoga. You could opt to talk about mindfulness and breathing and use these as ways to guide your students through classes for their body and mind without ever talking about energy or chakras.
Your Yoga Flow teacher, Angela Inglis writes:
"Science is a very young "philosophy". It has a lot to offer us but it is, itself, always evolving. For example often think of scientific theories as facts and they are not facts. I have an extensive education in musculoskeletal anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. We actually know very little about how the muscles "work"; especially when it comes to sensations of stretching, experiences of pain and how these affect our minds and the muscles and pain process, themselves. Pain science, for example, is very "new". We understand very little about how to modify the subjective experience of pain. In fact, many western practitioners (chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists) are turning to ancient practices like pranayama and meditation to modulate pain. There is now some understanding of how the vagus nerve is affected by different breathing techniques, as well as meditation.
There is so much more I could say. For example, scientific studies are usually funded either by corporations that want to sell something or by government grants through universities. In order for studies to be done on yoga and its components, someone has to care enough to do a study on something that will never make money, because yoga is free; you can't sell it in a bottle; you can't patent it and only give it to those who pay. Additionally, it is very difficult to test many of these things, even if the money was somehow available to do it. And another point, there are now studies being done on "investigator bias" and the "replication crisis". These are both elements of scientific study that suggest that results of many studies are skewed by the biases of the investigators (no matter how hard they try to be unbiased). Another problem is the fact that many studies cannot be replicated because there are so many fine and specific details (especially when it comes to studies with humans, whose actions you cannot control), that the results cannot even be achieved a second time, rendering the study of dubious quality. Finally, I (respectfully) couldn't care less if there is "scientific evidence" (from the West) of the effectiveness of these practices. I have been using them for 20 years and my life is changed: I am all the evidence I need, along with the thousands of years that these practices have been used for great benefit by millions of others. Is something only valuable to practice or teach if we can test it in a lab and achieve the same results? Is a lab like real life? My suggestion to sceptics is try it. If it works for you, after sufficient inquiry and practice great! If it doesn't, try something else."
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