Monday, September 3, 2012

Yoga for Developing Emotional Intelligence

The following article appeared in last month's Khar Gymkhana magazine KRUTI.
We try and give our children the best of education. But, we find it very difficult to teach them the life-skills – handling anger and fear, and developing positive attitudes and skilful behaviors. This is mainly due to the fact that we use two separate modes for learning: one for acquiring information, and another for acquiring our skills. Physiology textbooks tell us that for us humans, ‘Learning is the acquisition and storage of information as a consequence of experience.’ We learn everything from our experiences, and we experience everything only by means of our senses. So basically we learn from all our senses – all our sense organs and the sense receptors in the body. 

Normally, we are taught to learn only by means of our external sense organs – mainly by means of our eyes and ears, from our audio-visual experiences – but not so much with our sense of touch. The things we learn from our external sense organs are the things about the external world. This learning about the external world helps us to control nature, and our environment. However, we are generally not trained to experience and learn from the things and activities going on in our own body. And so, we find it difficult to truly understand ourselves and to control our own nature – our attitudes, and emotions. 

The ancient Indian philosophers had developed a system of yoga to learn by means of the sense of touch – by observing the experiences of sensations in one’s own body. Thus by experiencing things within the body, they were able to understand themselves and control their human nature.

The primary requirement for our mind to learn – or in order to consciously learn – is that our attention must be focused on what we want to learn about, for at least a certain length of time. Most of the time, our mind is focused on the outside world or on our thoughts, but not on our body. In order to learn from our sense of touch, we need to shift our focus of attention away from the outside world and on to our body. This we can do by sitting in a quiet place with our eyes closed, and focusing our attentions on our body and its sensations.

When we do this, we start noticing all sorts of sensations on our body, sometimes pleasant sensations and sometimes painful ones. These pleasant and painful sensations are always occurring in the body. Whenever we interact with our environment we always experience either pleasant or painful body sensations. The things that the body learns from these body sensations make up our emotional learning. But as we are not conscious of these body sensations, the emotional learning is not learnt by the mind, which controls our conscious activities and behaviors, but by the brain, which is responsible for our instinctive responses. This is the reason why we instinctively react to our emotions, and why our mind finds it so difficult to control them.

We can use the ancient Indian technique to consciously observe our body sensations. By observing the body sensations, and continuously making the effort to bear them patiently without reacting to them, it becomes possible for us to avoid reacting instinctively to our emotions. This is how this yoga can be used to control our emotional responses and to develop our emotional intelligence.

This ancient Indian technique is called sankhya yoga or vipassanavipassana is an ancient Indian word which means ‘sensory observation’ or ‘empirical observation’. It is a very simple technique, which can be easily learnt by everyone, and anyone who has learnt it can teach it to others. It is so effective that it helps even addicts and alcoholics to overcome their addiction problems and, it is also used to reform criminals in many jails, such as the W.E. Donaldson maximum security prison in Alabama, USA, and Delhi’s Tihar Jail. However, it is best to teach this technique to children before they start developing mood or behavioral problems. It also helps children to remain free from stress and to concentrate on their studies.

(The author is a self-management consultant, specializing in anger and conflict resolution, and addiction problems. He is the author of the books 12 Steps in a Day and The Lost Path. Contact: 9323715166,

No comments:

Post a Comment