If you’re asked to touch your right nostril or scratch your left knee, your hand will have no problems locating these areas. Why? For the same reason you can make a trip from New York to Los Angeles, or any other place in the US. Because you have a road map of the whole country—likely a pretty good one, right in your head. This is a simplified yet apt example of the kind of mind-body interactions that have been discovered by modern science.
You are able to distinguish all the body parts from one another on the right side because each is mapped in a two-dimensional swath of neural tissue in the part of your left brain that specializes in touch. The same thing goes for the left eye or left big toe: All the left-side parts of your body are mapped in a similar region of your right brain. It turns out your brain has a complete map of your body’s landscape, with patches of brain tissue responsible for each finger, hand, eye and so forth.
Your mind and your body are in constant dialogue. Your body talks directly to your brain. Your brain maps those signals, interprets them, and makes corrections in your brain’s existing body maps, and in turn uses them to control the body.
Have you heard the term muscle memory? The term suggests that memories are stored in the muscles themselves. Not so. Memories reside in the brain’s motor maps. These muscle memories amount to an intuitive understanding what your body is capable of, how it is able to move. For example, they give you the idea how far you can bend over, what parts of your body you can reach, and how, when you come up to a barrier, you know right away whether you can leap it or step over it or not. All these understandings and judgments are, significantly, subconscious. You exercise your muscles and specific areas in your brain are activated to make corrections in your brain’s body map.
Science has achieved a glimpse of how your brain does “peripersonal space mapping.” Skeptics no longer sneer at the notion of a “mind-body connection” as they once did—the same connection yogis have been telling us about for ages.
Yoga asanas are an ideal tool to correcting not only injuries and limitations of your body, but the postures also recalibrate your brain so it will no longer map these areas as disabled. Modern research in brain mapping gives a new perspective to the body and mind connection that is the very essence of yoga.
It takes only one person to demonstrate that something is possible for your mind to immediately give you permission to duplicate it. When in Raw Food and Hot Yoga you read about my victory over my disability, your mind subconsciously is changing its beliefs about your body. In my case it has taken enormous effort, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, a much lesser effort will be needed to win your battle over your limitations. Never underestimate the power of an example.