Mind Games - Yoga Journal

Mind Games

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Andrew Junker, an electrical engineer and neurophysiologist, likes to play video games with a yogic twist. Instead of tapping a keyboard, he's invented a way to use his brain waves to control the characters. His favorite is a skateboarding game programmed so the more relaxed Junker gets, the faster the skater goes. "It's counterintuitive," says Junker, a former Air Force researcher who now teaches yoga. "It's fun to try to do something by not trying at all—and then take that insight to the mat."

If this sounds like a weird science fiction film, welcome to Cyberlink Brainfingers (www.brainfingers.com). Junker's invention is a machine that sends voltage from your brain into your computer and, with special software, enables you to use it without raising a finger.

The Matrix—esque technology is in its early stages, but studies funded by the National Institutes of Health have shown that the machine can be useful for people who are locked inside their bodies and couldn't otherwise communicate. Junker says the software isn't fast enough to replace the traditional computer model for people whose limbs work fine. But he does think it's an excellent tool for yogis who want to master their mind—body connection. "I developed this machine as a window into myself," Junker says. "It's science, but it's also yoga."

To use it, you strap a highly sensitive band around your head. It's connected to a voltage magnification box, which in turn is connected to the computer. The band reads the energy emanating from your forehead, created by neurons firing in your brain. That voltage is magnified 2 million times. With Cyberlink software, the computer learns to read your brain wave frequencies, and you can program it to respond in specific ways to specific frequencies. For example, you might move your mouse upward by concentrating hard (generating beta waves), and move it downward by relaxing (alpha waves).

It takes practice to master the Cyberlink system, but it's a fun yogic challenge. And while you try, you can track just how relaxed your mind is on the alpha—beta brain wave graph built into the software.

Who knows? Eventually, a yoga teacher might be able to read alpha waves on a BlackBerry during class and see who's really relaxing in Savasana.