Yoga is not customarily thought of as science.
For Westerners, the process of science involves long periods of research, clinical findings, and published and proven theories that shape our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. None of this was recognized as science 4000 years ago when yoga was thought to have begun.
Yet for those of us that enjoy exploring the history and meaning behind yoga (see the eight-fold path of the Yoga Sutra), it seems pretty clear its evolution was strongly influenced by a process paralleling modern science. Like modern science, the science behind yoga was grounded in dedicated study, experience and observation, and a system of analysis and refinement that has carried on for hundreds if not thousands of years.
For this reason, perhaps it should not be surprising that yoga, as a practice of joining body, breath and mind, and of helping us recognize a connection to something "bigger" than our ego-thinking selves, has always had the ability to connect practitioners to some of the same truths as the science coming out of the 20th and 21st century.
Thanks to Albert Einstein and many others, we are now able to know the following both in our science-thinking minds as well as our yoga-experiencing hearts:
We are all connected ... not only to each other but to all things, large and small.
Today cosmologists tell us we are 40% star dust, our origins having emerged out of a cosmological stew some 14 billion years ago. And based on recent geneticists' findings, we now know we're more closely related to animals, insects, plants, and fungi than our world view has led us to believe. For instance, new studies confirm: humans and lowland gorillas are about 98 percent identical on a genetic level, and genetic material from plants we eat have the ability to change genetic processors, effecting cell function and demonstrating at a molecular level that our human lives are intimately shaped by the nature both in us and around us.
Using the "hard" sciences of math and physics and the "soft" science of psychology, we are now beginning to find reliable data confirming:
We are grander than the chit-chatter of our minds even as our ego-thinking encourage us to feel separate, self-important, and sometimes ashamed of who we are.
Our minds and hearts are grounded in the mysteries, magic, and perfection of the universe even when - at our horror - our species' destructive beliefs and behaviors may indicate otherwise.
Whether it be through modern science or the science behind yoga, discovering our connectivity to all things and truths as to who we are provide amazing opportunities for expanding our consciousness and transforming our world.
Here are two quotes from Albert Einstein I find inspiring:
"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible."
"A person experiences life as something separated from the rest - a kind of delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of oneness."
Resources for exploring consciousness and our connectivity to the larger whole include the books, films, and videos of professor and mathematician Brian Swimme, The Institute of Noetic Science founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, a rich but heady interview with Dr. Amit Goswami, a presentation by NASA physicist Dr. Thomas Campbell, the website Closer to Truth which features a series of interviews with some of the greatest thinkers of our times, and books and videos by Eckhart Tolle.