o, those aren't instructions for a yoga pose. "Top-down" and "bottom-up" are phrases used in psychology to describe two ways of understanding our experiences: through sensory stimuli in the environment (bottom up), and through thought (top down).
New recognitions in neurobiology indicate that yoga may function through both top down and bottom up mechanisms to balance emotions, behaviors, and self-regulation.
When my students are in a particularly fiery moment in a yoga pose, I often remind them that they are in a mental, emotional and physical training ground for those moments when fiery things occur in their lives off the mat.
It appears that yoga and meditation practices build supple nervous systems that respond to the continual surprises and changes of life with more resilience.
The tool kit for developing this resilience consists of yoga asana, breathing awareness, and meditation.
Regulating oneself from the top down consists of keeping awareness on an object of attention, like the breath, and/or directing awareness toward a particular part of the body (as in following an alignment cue given by a teacher). It is a process of pulling awareness away from distraction and increasing the capacity to sustain attention on what is meaningful.
Regulating oneself from the bottom up consists of re-orienting attention to body-first awareness and the recognition that
not only do we live in bodies, we
There is wisdom in our little toe, in our inner ear and in our gut.
As our bodies change shape in the yoga asanas, our ways of reacting and responding to the world change shape as well.