Test Your Mind-Body IQ!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | 0 comments »

By D.V. Donatelli

With the recent release of Shaun T's brand-new INSANITY workout, I've been thinking about the connection between the mind and the body. For a very long time in human history, the two were considered completely disparate. Doctors studied the body; theologians studied the mind (or "soul"). However, experience has shown us that the two are much more interrelated than the past's prevailing authorities were willing to admit. How much do you know about the interplay between the body and the mind?
True or False?
  1. True: Rene Descartes is considered the modern founder of the mind-body dilemma. The "mind-body dilemma," which asks how an "immaterial" substance like the mind/soul/consciousness can interact with a material substance like the human body, remains a hotly debated topic in philosophical circles. Some argue the idea presupposes the existence of a soul (they explain consciousness as being the corollary of an intricately complex human mind), while others say the idea holds merit because even modern science still can't precisely explain human consciousness and volition. As for me, I just want the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl.
  2. True: You can paralyze yourself using only your mind. A few years ago, I was talking to a neurologist, and he told me about a peculiar patient of his. A woman had been wheeled into the emergency room, totally paralyzed. The neurologist put her through every test he and his staff could think of, but they could find no physical reason for her being unable to move. Then he began talking to her about her mental state and about how sometimes a person can become so anxious or depressed that he or she can paralyze himself or herself—a process called somatization. Needless to say, the woman required some psychological counseling, but she walked out of the hospital under her own power. The mind is a powerful thing, but if left unchecked, it can hurt you just as much as it can help you. Like a baby with a gun.
  3. False: Anxiety increases your respiratory effectiveness. Speaking of anxiety, and speaking from experience, let me say that anxiety is just brutal. Not only is it a mentally pernicious nag that can inhibit otherwise healthy behavior, but it can also lead to physical somatizations that are no less injurious, notable among them being the restriction of respiratory effectiveness. Translation: When I get anxious, my breathing shrinks to shallow levels, which leads to an even deeper anxiety. Fortunately, I learned from an old therapist a good way to help myself in the anxiety battle—progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR works like so: Flex the muscles in your feet for a couple seconds, and relax them. Flex your calf muscles for a couple seconds, and relax them. Flex your thigh muscles, and relax. Go all the way up your body—butt, abs, lower back, chest, upper back, biceps/triceps, forearms, neck, face/head—tensing and relaxing each muscle group. When you finish, you should feel a nice warmth wash over you as your body pulls in deep and wonderfully relaxing breaths. If that doesn't work, there's always PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon®).
  4. False: Western countries lead the world in mind-body studies. Hindus and Buddhists in Asia have been studying the relationship between the mind and body for thousands of years. I have read stories about feats that would blow your mind-body, such as that of a Yogic practitioner who was able to turn one hand stone cold while the other hand dripped with sweat. I've read about a man in meditation who was able to decrease his heart rate to an unbelievable two beats per minute. I've also read a story about a meditation test that involves wearing only a light garment, ascending a mountain, and using the "inner fire" of meditation to keep warm throughout a freezing-cold night, during which the person meditating is drenched with cold water and must use the inner fire to warm himself or herself dry. Some skeptics consider these stories apocryphal, but there is a good amount of evidence that shows that the mind-body connection has a fantastic capacity. To quote a favorite joke, "I'd try yoga, but I'm afraid I would levitate into a ceiling fan."