The near-superhuman way yoga unites mind and body

Story highlights

  • There's anecdotal evidence that yoga practices allow people to do near-superhuman feats
  • Yoga focuses on the breath, "the doorway to the autonomic nervous system"

In the spring of 1970, the Indian yogi Swami Rama wanted to convince Western scientists of the power of yoga, so he submitted himself for study. He arrived at the lab of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, to meet with Dr. Elmer Green, who pioneered research around biofeedback, or the process of becoming increasingly aware of bodily functions that are usually thought of as involuntary. Rigged up with sensors, on his first day at the clinic, he reportedly changed the temperature of his hand by widening and contracting the arteries in his wrist, leading to a difference of ten degrees Fahrenheit between the left side of his palm -- which looked rosy red -- and the right, which looked ashen gray, as Dr. Timothy McCall notes in his Yoga As Medicine.