Book: A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana by Mel Robin

mel robinA Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana is Mel Robin’s thorough rendering on the workings of the human body, providing a background for teachers and practitioners of yoga how we can better practice yoga and how yoga can help us live better.  By the word yogasana, he is referring to the physical postures of yoga, as opposed to the other seven limbs of yoga – although he talks about pranayama a good amount as well.

Fun Facts for Yogis:

1) Savasana, the resting pose that ends all yoga classes, may play a role in our brain retaining the motor skills we developed earlier in the practice.  Your brain consolidates information into long-term memory an hour after an event, with significant work being done in the ten to fifteen minutes immediately afterwards.  Robin makes the connection between the way the brain processes memory during times of rest and the space Savasana provides.

2) Ever done alternate-nostril breathing, or been asked to roll to the right side so that your left nostril is up, and wondered if anything was actually happening?  Robin discusses Nasal Laterality – and shows that there are indications of parasympathetic dominance in the left nostril and sympathetic dominance in the right: “As expected for a stimulant, drinking coffee promotes opening of the right nostril and a more active state of mind.”

3) One strange variation yoga teachers suggest to students with headaches is to take a pose where the forehead is supported on a hard surface – like a squat or down dog with the forehead on a block.  This is because”these postures in which the forehead and/or the orbits of the eyes receive external mechanical pressure stimulate the vagal heart-slowing reflex, and so lower the blood pressure.”  Cool, huh?

There’s a a 650 page version from 2002, which I have, and then there’s an even bigger 2009 edition, which I’ve used for reference on google books.  I’m happy to lend out my copy, which has quite a few highlighted pages and circled page numbers – but I have certainly not read it cover to cover!  It’s a great book for lots of general knowledge, with nice applications to yoga.  William Broad interviewed Mel Robin for his book The Science of Yoga, which is how I heard about this Handbook.