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Perception is sensation with added complexity due to factors such as memories
Yoga practice influences perception in three ways:
(1) by increasing perceptual sensitivity
(2) by selectively 'shutting out’ undesirable stimuli
(3) by changing distorted perception, which occurs in schizophrenia.
Practicing yoga improved auditory and visual perception, by increasing
sensitivity to various characteristics of the stimuli (e.g., intensity,
frequency). Also, electrophysiological studies using evoked potentials have
shown that during yoga practice the transmission of sensory information is
These studies suggest several applications of yoga practice, in activities
ranging from aviation to art. Interestingly, other studies suggest that yoga
practice can also help to 'shut off’ undesirable external stimuli, which is
possibly due to cortical feedback connections to the sensory pathway.
It is also possible that through changes in cognitive factors yoga influences
perception, so that even though the stimulus is 'sensed’ it is not disturbing.
This concept has been studied using yoga to help persons with chronic pain to
willfully ignore it. Finally, preliminary studies have shown that yoga practice
may modify distorted perception in conditions such as schizophrenia. Hence,
there is sufficient research to support the idea that yoga practice influences
perception in different ways, with varied applications.
Perception is the process of interpretation, organization, and elaborating
the 'raw materials’ of sensation
Sensation involves sensory receptors and pathways, whereas perception is a
cognitive process. The actual perception of a sensation depends on factors such
as what has been learned, memories, and emotions. It is also important to
remember that while perception usually refers to sensory stimuli, this
definition can be extended to include the perception of situations.
Recordings of middle latency auditory evoked potentials (AEP-MLRs) have shown
that the practice of ujjayi pranayama modifies the AEP-MLRs components in two
ways. A specific component (the Na wave) has reduced latency and increased
amplitude during pranayama practice.
These results suggest that this practice facilitates the processing of auditory
information at mesencephalic and diencephalic levels. A similar result was also
seen during the practice of meditation on the syllable Om
Subjects who had more than ten years of meditation experience, showed an
increase in the Na wave amplitude and a decrease in its’ latency while mentally
repeating (Om). No such effect was seen when the same subjects mentally repeated
'one’, during a control session, for comparison. These electrophysiological data
are corroborated by neuropsychological studies. Previous studies on meditation
have shown significant changes in perception, attention and cognition
Brown and Engler in 1980 reported that meditators were found to be more
sensitive to subtle aspects of color and shading of the Rorschach test inkblots,
than they had been before meditation. Two studies on the Critical Flicker Fusion
Frequency have shown that perceptual sensitivity is not restricted to subtle
aspects of the stimulus alone, as detection of a high frequency flickering
stimulus was found to improve following yoga training.
A study on the degree of a visual geometric illusion, based on Müller-Lyer lines
showed that a combination of focusing and defocusing yoga visual exercises
reduces optical illusion more than focusing alone.
These studies were conducted on adult subjects with varying durations of yoga
training. It was reported in a recent study on Critical Flicker Fusion Frequency
and optical illusion on children who practiced yoga for a shorter duration of 10
days that there was also a significant improvement following the practice of
To perceive an optical illusion with minimal error and for accurate depth
perception the spatial component of visual perception is necessary.
The decrease in the degree of optical illusion perceived over a short period
would be mainly due to cognitive judgmental factors, but not retinal or cortical
factors as generally understood.
The cognitive judgmental factors involve the way in which the subject interprets
incoming visual information based on experience, hypothesis and strategies of
judgment. Hence the training through yoga to focus and defocus might have
influenced the cognitive judgmental factors of the subjects, to significantly
reduce the degree of optical illusion perceived. Critical flicker fusion
frequency (CFF), on the other hand, assesses the temporal component of
perception of a visual stimulus.
The increase in CFF following yoga could be attributed to the effects of yoga
reducing physiological signs of stress, as CFF was found to be lower during
specific stressors, such as food and water deprivation.
This showed that both spatial and temporal components of visual perception are
modified following yoga practices. Hence the electrophysiological data as well
as the visual, neuropsychological studies cited above have shown that yoga
practice improves diverse aspects of auditory and visual stimuli in normal
An interesting difference in auditory perception (based on
AEP-MLRs) were also seen in congenitally blind children and adults
compared to those with normal sight.
The changes suggested improved auditory perception which could be a compensatory
mechanism of auditory sensation in the presence of poor vision.
The effect of yoga has been observed on the perception of situations.
Examples of a change in the way persons perceive situations was observed in two
separate groups of subjects. A study on 69 aged persons (above 60 years of age),
staying in an old age home, showed that after 6 months of yoga practice there
was a reduction in their feelings of depression, based on the Geriatric
Depression Scale suggesting a favorable change in the way they perceived their
Another study on ten patients with breast cancer (stage 2 and 3), showed
reduction in depression and anxiety (using Beck’s Depression Scale,
Spielberger’s State and Trait Anxiety Inventory, after practicing yoga for 6
months. Hence, yoga can probably have positive effects on both sensory
perception and on the way situations or circumstances are perceived.
Finally, there may be more ways of perceiving the world than we know about. As
the renowned sensory neurophysiologist, Vernon B. Mountacastle said: “Each of us
lives within…..the prison of his own brain. Projecting from it are millions of
fragile sensory nerve fibers, in groups uniquely adapted to sample the energetic
states of the world around us: heat, light, force, and chemical composition.
That is all we ever know of it directly; all else is logical inference”
Yoga may allow an advanced practitioner to develop 'siddhis’ or special powers,
which may hence allow such a person to have a different, possibly 'expanded’
perception of the world.
I am a Doctor, doing my Ph.D. in Yoga. My topic of interest is
to conduct Yoga Retreat, take class for Yoga Teacher and Medical professionals
for in depth Research findings, and also Interest to conduct research in various
field of yoga, both experimental and theoretical. I have been Traveling to all
My contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
My web page: http://www.geocities.com/manojrieneke/Research.html