Chemicals in Yoga


Everything is chemical. It is the basis of all matter in the universe.

It is easy to think of some chemicals as good and some as bad, but this is really a silly way to look at it, because most chemicals are useful in one form or fashion. Some interact poorly with the chemical composition of your body and this is why you view them as good, or bad, or what have you.

The truth is, that chemicals have a very real potential and a very real danger when misunderstood and mistreated. Some great examples are drugs, oil, water, food, really all of the imbalances that we perceive in our current world are chemical imbalances. But we ourselves are natural and chemical, so it is important to remember that being a human is having a mostly stable chemical composition.

So we can say that certain chemicals, especially purified chemicals, can be extremely potent to the human body and can enact change within the body, to produce a certain effect. This has become known as medicine, where we take mostly plants and process them, somehow to interact with the body.

Even the word ‘naturally’ is a corrupted word in modern marketing; synthesized chemicals are certainly natural, but people tend to think that natural means closer to nature, or less processed. But since processing itself is natural, everything is viewed as natural. So it is a repetitive word that can be ignored. But in any case, saying chemical is repetitive. Of course it is chemical.

What people really are referring to when they say they want less chemicals is that they want less processing, less synthesis and more extrapolation. Purity is becoming more and more preferable as an ideal in food and cleaning products and things that we are exposed to, which is really a transference from other aspects of culture, religiousness and such from our ancestors.

So its important to realize that there is nothing that happens inside of you that isn’t there. All of the chemicals in your brains are what create all of your experiences. Each one has happened inside of you. Drugs are not magical, they interact with the brain in very specific patterns, however, we have coined drugs as strange chemicals with strange effects, things to be feared. They are not things to be feared, but parts of your self to be understood. For each acts as a mirror, a specific poison giving you a window into the unknowable, into the deep fathoms of your unconscious mind. To fear a drug is to fear an aspect of yourself, and perhaps there is no greater fear than to fear yourself.

Drugs are really an internal interaction cause by the reaction of introduction of a new substance. Your experience on the drugs is your bodies reaction to them, the processing of them. It is not something that exists outside of you, although you have introduced a foreign substance into your body’s chemical make-up. So your body is essentially reacting and this is what you experience. This is why certain drugs have nearly no long-term effects and some have effects that can last a lifetime, because your body is more or less efficient at processing them. And it learns and adapts. This is why psilocybin can have less and less effects the more that you do it, the same with LSD, marijuana, etc. So there is really nothing happening outside of what your body is doing and how it is interacting and reaction to the substance that you have introduced to it.

This leads us to see the body as having an enormous potential and as understanding how we subjectively view things as changing us. In fact, we are changing ourselves.

To move on to some more significant discussion, I would like to talk about 3 substances, chemicals, which yoga seems to have a tremendous effect on. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Melatonin are in my opinion three of the most interesting molecules or chemicals in existence.

All three are hormones/neurotransmitters, all three are present in a vast spectrum of life, contributing to the homeostasis of lifeforms across the biological spectrum.

Melatonin might be the most interesting, seen in plants, fungi, and bacteria in anticipation for the daily onset of darkness. In humans, it regulates the internal clock, or circadian rhythm, as well as seasonal cycling. There are many popular uses for melatonin, but there are few studies on its long-term effects and there is almost no research to show usefulness as medicine, or therapy. Its long-term effects are almost completely unknown. However, it can be found in the retinas of the eyes and seems to interact in very strong ways with dopamine and serotonin, and has a tremendous effect on the immune system and for protecting specific important cells. It is used as a drug primarily to allow humans to co-exist in nocturnal environments.

Dopamine is an intrinsic part of the action-reward cycles of conscious attention and is extremely important for learning. It interacts strongly with melatonin and can be found in the retinas of the eyes as well. Melatonin and dopamine both interact in interesting ways to light, stimulating dopamine while suppressing melatonin. This is mostly affected by stimulants, such as cocaine (why users always want more), or ADD medications such as adderoll, conserta, ritalin, etc. By overstimulating the prefrontal cortex and the dopamine pathways within, you can keep hyperactive children quiet, because their brain is receiving added stimulation from the slow release of chemicals in their brain. It is what allows for beings to interact intelligently with their environment.

Serotonin is one of the most interesting hormone/neurotransmitters in the body. 90% of it is in the gut, yet it is known as the happiness neurotransmitter. Its is probably the primary communication device between the stomach and the brain. Again, the messenger is found in fungi and plants, and it is believed it is one of the primary factors in a feeling of abundance or scarcity of resources. It is also evidenced to have a role in social rank, because the availability of food signifies this. It can also have an effect in stimulating bone mass. Studies have also shown that nutrition in early life can have an effect upon the body later in life. This is the chemical that most euphoric drugs are attempting to target, with the exception of cocaine. MDMA is one of the purest ways to stimulate serotonin release from the synaptic vesicles of neurons.

Now lets talk about yoga. It’s easy to see how yoga can affect the dopamine system; rebalancing due to lack of stimulus. This is why many people find yoga to be tortuously boring, yet understand the effect of spending an hour and a half in mindfulness, or mediation, or whatever. Dopamine regulation is indeed a major goal of the yogic practice: to keep the fluctuations of pleasure and pain on an even keel. Thus you keep the mind from fluctuating.

Melatonin is something that seems to receive large effect from yoga, as sleep patterns have been clinically evidenced to improve from yoga classes while even studies on injected dopamine have not evidenced the same positive effects. Learning to cycle with the sun, or at least to adjust to the sun’s cycling is an intrinsic part of the yogi’s journey. “Sun Salutations” seem to have quite a bit more meaning in light of the melatonin system.

Serotonin, lastly, is one of the more interesting of the three. This is where nutrition in yoga starts to become a larger and larger factor. Eventually, you will begin to find more equilibrium within your digestive system to optimize time in the yoga studio, in the asana, as it would be. Your bodies nutrition can have a direct effect upon your happiness, though modern science has nearly no data on this type of emotional nutrition relationship. There is too much money to be made in between the science with fads such as fat-free, sugar-free, diet, which are really marketing campaigns for food manufacturers.

With yoga, you can find balance between the three systems, inverting the bodies fluids moving them around, heating them up in various ways and using various techniques, breathing, sitting still, and a certain concentration on nothing to allow the pleasure/pain/stimulus/reward system to re-balance.

Enlightenment, it seems, could be broken down into the consistent flow of dopamine, without fluctuation, seratonin flushing from the gut up to the brain through inversions such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, and continually folding forward, bending the spine back and forth to get the circulatory system pumping everything into a balanced state for the body to enjoy for the day. Intense yoga classes can also stimulate the adrenal glands in specific ways that allow for deeper relaxation and “letting go”.

Just some thoughts, some research that I did on Google Scholar, etc. If you would like me to post some supporting evidence I’ll be happy to!



Yoga and Drugs (part 1: Depression)

four lobes of the brain

Let me ask you a question. Do you think that the drugs out there are more complex than your body? The body is capable of healing itself, yet we are so quick to turn to products and outside assistance to fix us. My hypothesis is that depression cannot be healed by drugs, it can only be healed by the individual’s mind, though drugs can give the mind a bit of a jump-start. I recommend yoga as the best cure for depression, here’s why.

There are neurological reasons why yoga is incredibly good for your psychological functioning. There are four neurotransmitters (transmit nervous information via nerves) and one hormone (transmits chemical information via bloodstream) in particular that can provide us with tremendous insight into the neurological benefits of yoga. Please note that this is theoretical.

Five of the primary molecules of the conscious nervous system:

  1. GABA – primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in vertebrates (the nervous system’s primary function is to inhibit).
  2. Dopamine – very active in conscious behavior such as: motivation, pleasure, cognition, memory, learning, fine motor control, and neuroendocrine control (hormones). This is possibly the most relevant neurotransmitter when we discuss waking consciousness, as dysfunction causes severe psychological illness.
  3. Serotonin – regulation of cellular growth, healing, intestinal regulation, also pertains to mood, appetite, memory and sleep. 90% of our Serotonin is in our alimentary canal or gut. It is commonly targeted by anti-depressants and is popularly associated with happiness.
  4. Epinephrine – both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is activated with fight/flight mechanism. Basically ACTH starts a chain reaction that leads to mass spread of Cortisol and Adrenaline (another name for epinephrine) to activate with the entire sympathetic nervous system for the fight/flight. Adrenaline, though popularly thought to be the sole culprit behind this activation, is simply one piece to the puzzle.
  5. Cortisol – a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, activated in response to stress and increases blood sugar, suppresses the immune system, and aids in high level metabolic activity (breaking down fats, carbs, proteins). This is extremely important in maternal care and landmarks important events in youth and separation from the mother. Is likely key to psychological maturity and ability to cope with stress.

Now let’s talk about real life. Every day, when you wake up, you are actually shutting your brain down. It is more active when you sleep. GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, focuses you to see only what is in front of you, thank goodness. Now you are able to react to the current situation without distraction. But you also have memory and an abstract ability to plan, which is stored in the entirety of your body, not simply the brain. Then there are literally hundreds of thousands of the bodily processes that you are not aware of. Suffice to say that the waking brain is really filtering out a ton of crap for you to be able to react to the moment. This is GABA, inhibiting synapses that are constantly ready to fire, allowing us to get rid of the fuzziness and start to see clearly. Yoga increases the efficiency of this system, it allows for more focus and longer concentration.

Dopamine is your pleasure/reward system. Right answers get awesome candy right? This is the regulation of desire, craving, addiction, fine motor control, and most importantly learning. Yoga allows for vast improvements in learning and in the proprietary motor control system, which are key to the abolition of distractions, cravings, and destructive behaviors.

Serotonin works closely with dopamine, which is really used to regulate mood, memory, appetite, and sleep all of which are inter-related. Dopamine and Serotonin actually follow a very similar passageway in the brain which leads to believe that they are intertwined in the formation of habits, routines, pleasures, dislikes, and overall happiness. Quite literally, quality of life. Dieting and sleeping in a balanced manner will most likely lead to optimization of this system.

Epinephrine and Cortisol belong together. I just wanted to make the point that adrenaline (epinephrine) is just a small piece of ultra-intense consciousness during fight or flight. Epinephrine is one link on a huge chain that sets of throughout the body and ultimately causes a lot of wear and tear, especially if accidentally activated daily. Staying away from chronic stress and general overstimulation of your sympathetic nervous system is extremely important to longevity. Small doses are great and healthy, but all day, every day is too much. That’s why god took the 7th day off.

Overall, yoga vastly increases the efficiency of muscular systems, so it is likely that the entire nervous system is receiving incredible benefit. Replenishing 700 million lung alveoli with vast amounts of oxygen to travel into the bloodstream and throughout the body, cleansing muscles, sweat glands, and inner organs while simultaneously rebalancing hormones, neurotransmitters, and cerebral spinal fluid to bring about a centering of consciousness for reactivity to the present sounds pretty healthy to me. And we do it so that we can take each and every moment as it comes.

Some pharmaceutical drugs and what they do:

alprazolam – xanax – binds and potentiates GABA inhibitors, which causes massive relaxation in muscles and nervous system, which can help deal with panic attacks, but do not improve symptoms, simply masks them.

zolpidem – ambien – potentiates GABA inhibitors for sleep, easily can cause amnesia or hallucinations in overdose

fluoxetine – prozac – blocks serotonin from leaving your brain

sertraline – zoloft – blocks serotonin from leaving your brain

If you want to add to this list then please feel free in the comments. I’m going to jump into more about Serotonin and Dopamine in part two about Hyperactivity/Bi-polarity. Part 3 will be anxiety. What do you think is the neurotransmitter or hormone most responsible for happiness?

Neck Anatomy and Physiology


Human Neck

The Neck is an extremely complicated place in the body. It not only supports the brain in its quest against gravity, but supplies the passageways from the brain to the entirety of the body. This is the mast of your vessel, the top of the spine. This makes the neck a sort of nervous mecca for the entire body, it is the portal of the entire human body into the organs, through the mouth and also allows for breathing (very important).

The muscular systems of the neck are extremely complex, as they tend to be smaller and refined for smaller muscle movement. There is also a tremendous amount of organic tissue in the neck that is intrinsic to the function of the nervous system. Humans have adapted to being both prey and predator, so the neck serves as an excellent tool for adjusting what is available to the eyes. It allows for great flexibility for human to perceive our environment. Not to mention that it holds our extremely heavy, ten pound head.

Lets look at some of the anatomical structures of the upper spine:


Major Neck Muscles

  • Levator Scalpulae – connects the top/back of the shoulderblade to the skull
  • Sternocleidomastoid – primary superficial muscles, connects the top of the sternum to the mastoid process of the temporal skull (side of skull)
  • Scalene muscles – connects C2-C7 to the upper and second ribs lateral to the spine.
  • Digastric muscles – connects throat to chin


Major Functional Structures in the neck:

  • Thyroid – regulates heart rate, major endocrine gland controlled by Thyroid Stimulating Hormone produce by the pituitary gland
  • Esophagus – muscular food tube leading to stomach
  • Trachea – breathing tube
  • Cerebral Spine
  • Portions of the brain stem

Depictions of the Human Neck


Here are some views of the neuronal structures:

Lateral View:


Anterior View:


Posterior View:


I thought these might be useful for reference. I have linked the pictures to the website that I got them from.