Yogic Neuroscience: Developing the Soma of the Brain

This is a Vedanet.com exclusive article by Dr. David Frawley

The brain is capable of secreting powerful chemicals that can bring about extraordinary changes in body and mind. While drugs can be used to stimulate or substitute for these, there is much in the brain’s own chemical functioning that can be improved. The brain’s secretions can be influenced by special foods, herbs, impressions, breathing exercises, mantras, meditation, and the whole range of Yoga and Ayurveda practices, working through nature rather than outside of it. Cultivating the ecology of the brain is central to health and well-being for the twenty-first century and its continuing high tech developments.

What if the brain could be made to secrete a fluid that could renew, rejuvenate, and revitalize body and mind, much like the fabled elixir of immortality – promoting a higher evolution of human awareness into a unitary consciousness of Self and universe.

Ancient Vedic thought records the existence of such a substance called Soma, which is a power of bliss and deeper perception. Soma is also called rasa or the essence and Amrita or the immortal nectar. While botanical or herbal Somas did exist and are mentioned in Vedic texts, it is clear from a deep examination of the Vedic teachings, that the highest Soma is an internal secretion of the brain and nervous system, brought about through Yoga practices of pranayama, mantra and meditation.

Classical Yoga and Tantric Yoga similarly speak of the amrita or nectar that arises from Yoga practice and samadhi, the yogic state of unitary awareness, which creates a flow of bliss and well-being, moving through the nadis or channels of the subtle body and nervous system, filling them with a sense of ecstasy and well-being.

In yogic thought, the thousand-petal lotus of the head – the chakra that corresponds to the brain – is also called Soma. Soma refers to the Moon as the light of beauty and happiness, but also to the Moon as symbolic of the light of cool, calm self-awareness. The brain is referred to symbolically as the Moon owing to the extensive fluids that it contains.

Today with the massive psychological malaise in our society and the limbic dysfunction in the brain, we need a new approach to changing brain chemistry. Certainly the many available designer drugs, and antidepressants in particular, can alter our moods. But they can possess significant side effects and breed dependency and addiction. Can we instead of drugs enable the brain itself to secrete the necessary chemicals that promote well-being, awaken our inner creativity and higher perception, and help us overcome our current life challenges? Certainly this should be a subject of important research and examination.

Ayurvedic medicine notes that there is a substance called Tarpak Kapha, a form of Kapha dosha or the biological water humor, which is responsible for the lubrication of the nervous system and the brain. Soma or the power of well-being and contentment is the highest secretion of Tarpak Kapha. Tarpak Kapha is related to Ojas, the Kapha essence of primary vitality that is the essence of all the seven tissues, particularly the reproductive fluids, and is the ultimate resort of strength from both nutrition and our congenital vitality.

A yogic neuroscience would aim at understanding and developing the Soma of the brain and the head chakra. There are many tools and teachings about this in Vedic, Yogic and Tantric thought.

Such methods include cooling and calming forms of meditation, Soma promoting mantras and pranayamas, and cooling and calming asanas. Ayurveda brings in special Soma promoting herbs, food and life-style considerations. I have examined these aspects of Soma in my book: Soma in Yoga and Ayurveda: the Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality (David Frawley, Lotus Press 2012).

A simple way to begin is the Soma mantra Om Shreem Somaya Namah!

Overall unless we learn to access the blissful energies of higher consciousness, our culture will become more progressively addicted to drugs both recreational and medicinal. Depression and agitation will increase in our society. Yoga and Ayurveda show us the way, but we must do the work in our own daily lives.