The Psychophysical Lab

Yoga Practice and the Body-Mind Problem

A New Book by Ohad Nachtomy & Eyal Shifroni

Yoga practice aims at transforming the heart and mind of the practitioner. But how can this practice produce such a transformation? And what does this transformation consist of?

It is often said that asana (posture) practice is a transformative experience. While this sounds good, it is rarely specified what such transformation consists of. And it is even rarer to find an account of how such a transformation can come about as a result of asana practice. In this book the authors use their rich and diverse backgrounds, their shared interest in the wonders of the body and the mind, as well as their love for yoga, to offer both practical explorations and theoretical survey of the subject. The book has three main parts:

  1. A experiential section;
  2. A discussion of the physical and mental effects of yoga practice;
  3. A survey of the approaches taken by philosophers to the mind-body problem, from Aristotle to contemporary approaches.

See the complete table of contents

  • The experiential section contains some 60 ‘Explorations’, in which the reader is asked to try out certain asanas, while observing the relations between the body and the mind. The reader/practitioner is asked to test and compare different variations in terms of the mutual psychophysical effects. The Explorations are given in two subparts: Explorations for all readers, and Explorations for those who have some experience in yoga practice. The Explorations are explained in detail and illustrated by figures depicting the various asanas.

See A Sample Exploration

  • In the second part we focus on several ways in which yoga practice
  1. can contribute to the cultivation and enhancement of certain qualities — such as endurance, pain tolerance, and equanimity;
  2. can help to deal with issues such as mild depression and anxiety, and support qualities such as willpower, balance and confidence; and
  3. can highlight tendencies such as competitiveness and laziness – that often come up in the context of yoga practice.

See A sample discussion of the psychophysical effects of yoga practice

  • In line with the main theme of this book, we pay particular attention to the relation between the physical (bodily) aspect of capabilities and their mental corollaries, exploring how the physical advancement of, say, stability might affect our mental stability in the conduct of daily life.
  • We explore how the practice and advancement of certain qualities on the yoga mat can be extended and carried over into daily life.
  • If successful, these descriptions and reflections, which often draw on our own personal experiences, might help to substantiate (the otherwise empty sounding) phrase of the transforming effect of yoga practice.

Ohad Nachtomy is a Professor of Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University, Israel and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, USA. Ohad held research and teaching positions at Princeton University, Fordham University, and the École Normale Supérieure in France. He is the author of two monographs on Leibniz’s philosophy (Springer, 2007 and Oxford University Press, 2018), the editor of five books, and the author of some fifty academic articles. Ohad has studied yoga with Eyal Shifroni since 2002 as well as at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in New York. For more information about Ohad, see https://ohadnachtomy.com Email: ohadnachtomy@mac.com

Eyal Shifroni was born in 1954; he has studied and practiced Yoga since 1978 and has taught Iyengar Yoga since 1985. As a senior-level teacher, Eyal directs the “Iyengar Yoga Center of Zichron-Ya’akov” in Israel and conducts yoga workshops in Israel and around the world. Eyal holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Technion (the Israeli Institute of Technology) and taught Computer Science in colleges in Israel for many years. Eyal has translated two of B.K.S. Iyengar’s books to Hebrew and authored the following books (in English): A Chair for Yoga and the series: Props for Yoga Vol. I, II, III.