Deepak Chopra tells Chris Evans about his book, Living in the Light: Yoga for Self-Realisation

Virgin Radio

29 Mar 2023, 11:02

New York Times bestselling author Deepak Chopra joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to speak about his guide to the philosophy and practice of Yoga, which aims to help people reach their highest potential and a deeper understanding of self. 

Living in the Light: Yoga for Self-Realisation is out now, and contains a six week programme, with thirty specific days covering the eight stages of transformation in yoga (or ashtangas), including transcendence, wholeness and breath. Speaking about yoga, Deepak told Chris: “Biologically, what happens is you stimulate a part of the autonomic nervous system, which is called the parasympathetic nervous system. The dominant nerve there is the vagus nerve, which is related to the English word vagabond; it’s the healing nerve in our body. It influences your eye movements, your facial expressions, your heart rate variability, your breathing, and also influences self-regulation in your hollow and solid organs, including the microbiome. And the vagus nerve has bidirectional traffic, so from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain.”

Deepak has teamed up with co-author Sarah Platt-Finger - who is yoga director at Chopra Global and co-founder of ISHTA Yoga - for the book. His section is first, and contains the six week plan, where each day has a theme to repeat and an exercise to do. He explained that the “lightness and exhilaration” you see in people who have just practised yoga is what “we call the ‘rest rejuvenate and repair response’, in opposition to sympathetic overdrive, which is driving the world crazy right now.”

The personal transformation pioneer continued: “It's the fight-flight reactive response, which was appropriate at one time in our evolution when we were living in the jungle, wanting to escape a tiger who wanted us for breakfast. 

“And actually, sympathetic overdrive is the cause of violence, to everything from war to terrorism to people getting stressed and feeling threatened inappropriately. Of course, there are occasions where you need to use that response. But most of the time, it’s just melodrama.”

Within Sarah’s section of the book there are dozens of specially commissioned illustrations of yoga poses, which are accessible for all skill levels. Deepak focuses on Royal Yoga - which is the highest and most important of the yoga traditions - and encompasses and embraces all parts of life rather than compartmentalising them. 

Speaking more about how the vagus nerve interacts with the oculomotor nerve, he told Chris: “You can look at a person's eyes and see if they're lying, telling the truth, anxious, relaxed, in love. We have 43 facial muscles and over 100 different emotions, which can now be read through face recognition, eye recognition; the tone of your voice also reveals whether you have a hangover, happy, frustrated, mad, angry.

“And so when you correlate these activities with heart rate variability, immune function, endocrine function, you see that the body is working, all at the same time. This is non-local… These days you hear the word entanglement, which is not used in biology. [It] should be. You should wonder, ‘How come a human body can think thoughts, play piano, kill germs, remove toxins, make a baby, all at the same time, while tracking the movement of stars and planets as your own biological rhythms?’ This is multi, multitasking to the extreme.” 

Speaking about the infinite, Deepak said: “If you understand the source of experience, and when all the fluctuations of experience -  which are sensations, sense perceptions, images, feelings, and thoughts - when they settle down, what you end up with is your soul, which is a field of infinite possibilities. It's unpredictable, it’s creative with self-regulating, it’s evolving, and it’s timeless. It doesn't occupy any space. It doesn't have a form. And because it doesn't have a form, it is infinite. And it's you.

“In yogic tradition, we say, water cannot wet it, wind cannot dry it, weapons cannot shatter it, fire cannot burn it. It is timeless and not subject to death.”

The best-selling author added: “All experience is by contrast. If you didn't have pain, you wouldn't know what pleasure is. If you don't have an up, you wouldn’t know what a down is. Hot, cold. So every experience is through contrast.”

Living In The Light: Yoga For Self-Realisation is available now.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or  catch up on-demand here.