My last newsletter mentioned Dr Andrew Hubermann’s podcast which is highly recommended for the physiology geeks and those looking to see how and why some of the yoga “protocols” as he calls them, work to improve our performance in work and play.
How to Learn Skills Faster | Huberman Lab Podcast #20 – YouTube

I like this scientist. He is talking about yoga without being a yogi. 

People talk about their nervous system as if it is not their own, but yogi’s have always known that it is an extension of the brain and the mind. 

“Use the body to control the mind…….. Almost all self harm and unfortunate things in life are the consequence of a poorly regulated nervous system. We say the wrong thing. we do the wrong thing, we are impulsive. etc. 
” I do believe that respiration and vision are the two ways to control the autonomic nervous system in real time.” 

The last mention was about sleep and wakefulness and how to use the body and minds natural rhythms to your advantage. I spoke about,  waking up early and sunsets for example. This time I am suggesting his latest podcast which is focused on how to learn new skills most effectively. It suggests short ten second ‘timeouts” during training for learning a new skill. This makes me think of stopping for a pause in Downward dog or mountain pose during a yoga class. The research shows that pauses in between focused work are super valuable for enhancing the adaptation of our neural pathways.

That kind of seems like common sense but even more fascinating is the evidence that there are bigger learning gains to be had by lying down and doing absolutely nothing for 20 minutes at the end of a workout.

Eureka !

Savasana, the corpse pose makes even more sense now. The scientists call Savasana an NSDR (Non-sleep-deep-rest) and found that a twenty minute NSDR greatly improves retention of information and learning. So for new or experienced yoga students working on basic asana forms or on refining the intermediate forms of asana, pranayama. Like an video replay of a key moment in a sports game, the motor control centre in the brain “replays “ the new skill as a new neural pathway. Firing it again and again to get it down and program it in to the software.

  ‘That means that if you managed to hold your first ever one leg crow balance for 1 second during the class, then you are repeating the action 20 times per second deep inside the brain during your savasana.’

But here’s the amazing thing, instead of a slow motion replay, it plays it faster. In fact it replays the action at 20 times normal speed. That means that if you managed to do your first ever one leg crow balance for 1 second during the class, then you are repeating the action 20 times per second deep inside the brain during savasana. No wonder we learn so quickly. The traditional yogis say that thought is quicker than action and energy is quicker than thought. so there it is. The intention to learn taps in to this faculty

This also speaks to the importance of that deeply restful lying down or seated meditation at the end of the class. If you are one of those people who is in too much of a hurry to practice the corpse, then maybe this will convince you of it’s value.  I have always advised that even in a dynamic vinyasa practice there should be at least 20 minutes of settling down the nervous system through semi inversions and stillness followed by a ten minute or more savasana. Traditionally, it is considered the most important pose. It is a time to balance and soak in the pranic energy, and now we know to also mentally, or neurally, “digest” and assimilate what just happened.
It is all starting to make more sense!