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The Case for Yogic Breathing

The mind has a terrible time telling itself what to do. Fortunately, science is catching up with yogic breathing wisdom.Since the time of Descartes (“I think, therefore I am”), modern science has tended to divorce the body from the mind, embracing the paradigm that we are — above all — cognitive creatures who must use mental discipline to control our feelings. Certainly, this is possible when faced with a mildly upsetting situation. If you return to your car and find a $30 parking ticket, you can soothe yourself with thoughts of how grateful you are that your car was not towed. However, you need only encounter a more highly emotional situation — you realize your car has been towed, you have a $500 fine, you’re late for an important job interview, and you’ve spilled coffee on your suit — to realize that attempting to use the mind to change your emotions is useless or makes you feel worse. Daniel Wegner, psychology professor at Harvard University, has shown in several studies that the intention to control the mind often comes with thoughts that evaluate the success of that intention. Under stress or menta …

About the Author

Emma Seppala

Emma Seppälä, PhD, is author of The Happiness Track, founder of, and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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