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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga Meditation: Techniques Specific for Psychiatric Disorders, Couples Therapy, and Personal Growth by David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa (W. W. Norton) 978-0393704754

An ancient practice, Kundalini yoga is a clinically proven therapeutic modality that includes a wide variety of complex and simple meditation techniques involving breath, sound, eye focus, and hand/arm postures. Kundalini yoga is used to treat a range of psychiatric disorders and mental health problems such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorders, addiction and other impulse control and eating disorders, ADHD and co-morbid disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders, abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. David Shannahoff-Khalsa shares a bounty of techniques and teaches clinicians how to incorporate these effective methods into their own practices both for individuals and couples.

For several decades, yoga has been a popular mainstream approach to health conscious living, and is used by those with medical problems. Now, following a bevy of recent research studies, yoga has exploded onto the mental health scene, and clinicians and patients alike are embracing the use of yoga to effectively help combat psychiatric disorders.

In Kundalini Yoga Meditation, Shannahoff­-Khalsa—research scientist, Kundalini yoga teacher for over 30 years, and worldwide authority in the field of alternative therapies for psychiatric disorders—weaves together scientific insights, clinical trials, case histories, and disorder-specific techniques to explain how the ancient science of Kundalini yoga can be a useful stand-alone or supplemental treatment for psychiatric disorders.

Written for all those in the mental health profession, the book begins by laying out a number of landmark scientific studies based on Kundalini yoga, all of which have led to a new understanding of mind-body dynamics, physiological states, and ways of noninvasively altering the brain and body. Included are novel yogic concepts on rhythms of the brain, personality structure, models for the mind and consciousness, and other fundamentals to enhance our under­standing of health and disease processes.

With this scientific overview in place, Shannahoff-Khalsa goes on to explore, chapter by chapter, how Kundalini yoga can be applied to the treatment of psychiatric disorders—including OCD and other anxiety disorders; major depressive disorders; bipolar disorders; addictive, impulse control, and eating disorders; insomnia and other sleep problems; chronic fatigue syndrome; ADHD and co-morbid disorders (conduct and oppositional defiant disorder); PTSD and the abused andbattered psyche. His work also illuminates the treatment of complex co-morbid disorder patients. Most important, each chapter covers the full set of disorder-specific meditation protocols and techniques, described in complete detail-64 in total. Photographs help illustrate poses for easy simulation. The final section of the book covers the application of Kundalini yoga for individuals, couples, and groups in therapy, and includes an epilogue that discusses the future of psychiatry.

Mind-body medicine is at the forefront of current mental health research and treatment, and the introduction of this ancient technology of the mind into the equation is a major breakthrough in our understanding of improved treatment for a wide variety of psychiatric disorders. Kundalini Yoga Meditation skillfully introduces this exciting new frontier, and equips psychiatrists, psychothera­pists, psychologists, social workers, and other clinicians with the tools and techniques necessary to incorporate yogic meditation into their practices, and bring hope and healing to their clients.

Excerpt: The intent of this book is twofold. First is to bring the numerous unique Kundalini yoga meditation techniques specific for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, and those specific for couples therapy, to the attention of the medical, scien­tific, and therapeutic communities. The second purpose is to provide the reader with enough evidence to consider this knowl­edge as an important ancient science, which today is perhaps best described as an "ancient technology of the mind." This of course implies that the ancients who developed the original system of yoga were highly evolved, in fact, much more so than Westerners might think. However, for those who have their origins in the East, and in particular India, the concepts of being adept at altering states of consciousness, achieving states of transcendence and enlightenment, and wielding the mystical abilities of the saints are common throughout their history. Clearly the axiom "extraordi­nary claims require extraordinary proof" is as important and rele­vant here as it might be anywhere. However, proof can come in one of two ways. One way is through scientific insight, and the other is through personal experience. The best proof comes through both. My initial convictions about the uniqueness of Kundalini yoga came in the summer of 1974 at the age of 26. My very first experience was remarkably compelling, and it became clear to me through further study that Kundalini yoga was a highly structured science that took an untold number of generations to develop. Over the past 31 years, I have practiced more than a 1,000 different Kundalini yoga meditation techniques, and many that are supposedly specific for treating psychiatric disorders. I have also learned a great deal about yogic concepts that have led to extraordinary scientific insights into how the mind and body work. While the yogic knowledge in this book goes back many thousands of years, these teachings have their more recent origins from The House of Guru Ram Das and the teachings of Kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

From Introduction:

This book is designed for use by psychiatrists, psychothera­pists, psychologists, social workers, physicians, other clini­cians, and for yoga therapists who have an interest in working with psychiatric patients. This book is also written to help supplement marital therapy, and for those who want to enhance their personal growth, performance, and mental health. Scientists who have an interest in yoga, mind-body relations, consciousness, and theoretical aspects of health and disease may also find the topics included in this book of interest. The presentation of mate­rial, including the definitions of the respective disorders and their prevalence rates, will be especially useful to those who lack formal study in these disorders, but may also be useful as reasonably current summaries for trained clinicians and others in the public health sector.

Chapter 1 introduces a number of landmark scientific discov­eries that were based on concepts from the ancient science of Kundalini yoga. These discoveries demonstrate that yoga can be a useful source of insight into both the areas of basic science and preclinical science, independent of what we can learn from employing yogic techniques in clinical trials. To date, this work has led to an entirely new perspective on the dynamics of mind-body interactions during both waking and sleep, as well as a novel understanding of physiological states and how the body's major systems are integrated and co-regulated by the hypothalamus. In addition, studies presented here demonstrate that yoga can provide insight into endogenous mechanisms that have not been previously discovered in the West, and how these insights can be applied toward self-regulation and healing. One such natural mechanism now exploited through the use of selective unilateral autonomic activation has recently been discovered as a correlate of a yogic technique called unilateral forced nostril breathing (UFNB), where sympathetic tone is selectively activated on one side of the body. The correlate now being tested is called vagal nerve stimulation, which employs an implanted pacemaker for selectively stimulating the vagus nerve on one side of the body, and which has generated considerable evidence for the efficacious treatment of epilepsy as well as limited data to date for treating depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (0 CD). The yogic technique has been shown to selectively stimulate the contralateral cerebral hemisphere and has been used to treat OCD. In addition, this use of selective auto­nomic activation has also been shown to have differential effects on heart rate, eye-blink rates, glucose levels, and intraocular pres­sures. The scientific discoveries reported here have all been previ­ously published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Chapter 1 also introduces additional yogic concepts that may lead to other important breakthroughs in the understanding of mind-body interactions, the nature and dynamics of the mind, personality structure, levels of consciousness, and other basic concepts that may help us to better comprehend health and disease beyond the molecular, cellular, and genetic levels. This chapter introduces the yogic concept of the chakras that helps to define the eight basic levels of human consciousness, which have yet to be defined in a practical way by Western science. The concept of the rhythm of the 11 moon centers, or erogenous zones, that is unique to women, can, for example, give us fascinating insight into a new dimension and a deeper understanding of the Female psyche as observed by yogis in ancient times. The simple male correlate of the female rhythm is also described. A highly complex model of the human mind that includes 81 practical facets and which is unique to the teachings of Kundalini yoga is also presented. In addition, this chapter explains how mantras may work and how languages may affect us beyond the Western notions of linguistics. Lastly, the concept of the five elements, or tattvas, commonly called earth, water, fire, air and ether, are presented in their conceptual framework in yogic medicine, which has corre­lates in other ancient systems of health and wellness. These concepts may all help advance our understanding of the dynamics and structure of the brain, the mind and personalities, and consciousness, and how they are all linked in health and disease.

Chapters 2 through 8 present 50 different meditation tech­niques that are each specific to one of the following: anger, anxiety, fatigue, fear, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, phobias, depression, bipolar disorders, grief, addictions, impulse control disorders, insomnia, nightmares, inducing super-efficient sleep, dyslexia, patience and temperament, releasing childhood anger, long-lasting deep inner anger, self-esteem, and a half-dozen techniques for the abused and battered psyche that can be used with children, adolescents, and adults. In addition, Chapters 2 through 8 include eight unique multipart protocols specific for the respective disorders in the following chapters: Chapter 2, OCD, acute stress disorder; Chapter 3, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder; Chapter 4, addictions, impulse control, and eating disorders; Chapter 6, chronic fatigue syndrome; Chapter 7, attention deficit hyperac­tivity disorder and co-morbid disorders (conduct disorder and oppo­sitional defiant disorder); Chapter 8, posttraumatic stress disorder. This last protocol can be used by individuals who have been sexu­ally abused or physically abused through war or other traumas. This protocol can also be used by trauma victims at either early or late stages of the disorder, or as a means to help prevent or minimize the onset of this disorder immediately after trauma.

Chapter 9 provides insight into how to employ these proto­cols and techniques effectively for treating psychiatric patients. A variety of options are presented to help augment traditional treat­ment programs.

Chapter 10 includes 14 different meditation techniques that are specific for couples therapy, and which can also be used simply to enhance otherwise healthy relationships. All of the techniques in Chapters 2 through 8 can be helpful and practiced by individ­uals for the purpose of personal growth and wellness. Since these techniques can be of benefit to nearly everyone, there is no single chapter that addresses personal growth per se. I leave it to the indi­vidual to decide which area or ability they may choose to improve or explore in their lives.

Chapter 2 also includes the description of two clinical trials, a pilot uncontrolled trial and a randomized controlled trial funded by the National Institutes of Health. Both trials employed the Kundalini yoga meditation protocol specific for OCD described in detail in Chapter 2. The results of this trial may help set a prece­dent for the further testing of the efficacious effects of Kundalini yoga meditation techniques (or protocols) for a wide range of disorders. Chapters 2 through 8 also each include a number of case histories that offer insight into the efficacious use of each protocol. Chapter 2 includes the case histories for many of the patients who were involved in the two OCD clinical trials. Chapter 8 includes a very lengthy and detailed case history of a young woman who suffered from OCD, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, depression, and self-mutila­tion. This case history is an edit of the patient's own self-described ordeal throughout her psychiatric history, both using conventional modalities and Kundalini yoga meditation techniques. In part, the value here is that a large percentage of patients present with a range of disorders, not just a single disorder, and, therefore, Kundalini yoga meditation techniques may provide a solution for the treatment of the more complicated cases with poly-disorder conditions and histories. In fact, a number of case histories in this book describe patients presenting with multiple disorders.

The epilogue provides further argument for why Kundalini yoga meditation techniques should to be considered for use as a first-line modality for treatment, but more so because of their extraordinary value as a means of prevention. It presents further support for why funding should be directed more toward prevention, an almost completely neglected area of public health when compared to the national spending rates for research on disease treatment.

What this book is not: this book is not a review of the scien­tific literature on yoga, meditation, or other complementary and alternative modalities for treating psychiatric disorders. Nor does it expound on the trade publications on these topics. Therefore, I apologize to any researchers who find that their very important articles are not cited in this book. Due to length limitations and the scope and intent of this book, such reviews would be simply over­whelming within the space and time required to do justice to these topics. In addition, many other areas of important conventional information that would lend further insight into the treatment of the disorders in this book are also not covered or described in appropriate detail. This book is limited in its scope in terms of using Kundalini yoga for the treatment of other psychiatric disor­ders and conditions. No chapters are written on how to treat the psychotic disorders, pervasive developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, stroke patients, and other important areas where these techniques may prove to be useful. This book is primarily directed at making the case for a further and rigorous investigation of the concepts and techniques of Kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. I attempt here to make the case for exploring the poten­tial wealth of information and practical techniques this ancient technology of the mind offers for improving our future in a world of ever-increasing complications resulting from the human failings of ignorance, greed, lack of tolerance, and limited awareness and self-control. Videos are being prepared to assist in the teaching of the techniques and protocols in this book and will be available through the following web site: www.theinternetyogi.com.


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