Yoga and the Biohacking Bros
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | April 28, 2023
In 1991, when I was living in San Francisco, a friend gave me a cassette tape of a lecture by a fascinating young doctor I’d never heard of named Deepak Chopra. It was called “Quantum Healing.” It was wild and groundbreaking. I must have listened to it 20 times.
32 years later, cassettes and CDs are long gone and the internet is swimming in podcasts by famous doctors and scientists – too many to keep track of let alone listen to – and, like Deepak, many of them talk about yoga practices as part of their daily health regimens (although, unfortunately, they don’t necessarily refer to what they’re teaching as “yoga”).
During the pandemic I started to listen to these guys (they’re mostly guys) – and I’ve learned so much – some of my faves include Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Peter Atia. Their knowledge has been helpful for my work with yoga – science always seems to be catching up with and explaining the mechanisms behind things that I learned from yoga teachers when I was a young person.
Huberman specifically is really into breathing and meditation and the science behind it.
There’s a lot of cross-pollination (meaning they interview each other on their podcasts and promote each other) of the science guys with tech guys who call themselves “biohackers” – they promote techniques like ice baths, intermittent fasting, ozone chambers, and supplements to “hack” their biology in order to live longer, healthier lives.
On the homepage of his website, Tim Ferris (who some call the “father of biohacking”) claims it’s possible to reach your genetic potential in 6 months, sleep 2 hours per day and perform better than on 8 hours, and lose more fat than a marathoner by bingeing. He’s into gaining muscle weight, tripling your testosterone, and increasing fat loss by 300% “with a few bags of ice.”
Biohackers use things like intense (even excruciating) workouts, agility training, superfoods, vitamin B-12 shots, MCT oil, Bulletproof coffee, mind over matter Navy seal-esque pain control, and much more, with the goal of living healthier and longer.
But there are a few things that concern me about the biohacking craze.
One is that, at least on face value, it’s a bit hypermasculine.
Celebrated biohackers are rarely women (in this article, only 1 out of the top 23 biohackers is a woman) and they rarely take women’s specific health needs into consideration in their biohacking regimens (although Ferris promotes a 15 minute female orgasm which, to me, if he’s just talking one orgasm, sounds exhausting and, in general, I’m skeptical about men who claim authority about women’s sexual experiences).
Another is that the science is sometimes questionable and lacks evidence base.
Then there’s the expense – biohacker Bulletproof founder David Asprey (who incidentally says he will live till he’s least 180 “and that’s the floor, not the ceiling”) has already spent $1M on his healthy body – and he’ll probably have to spend several mil more over the next 130+ years – not exactly a scalable lifestyle for all considering America’s chronic health problems are increasing, the age of mortality is declining, and income disparity has never been greater.
So what’s all this desire for biohacking about anyway? What underlies the drive for a 180 year long life?
Perhaps it’s because we live in times where many people see the world through the lens of scientific materialism. Traditional religions have crumbled in the west and what’s left is science and the physical. In many ways, the biohackers have made science their religion, the body their temple, and matter all that matters.
Scientific materialism is a worldview that makes the physical body seem like all you got. And so, if you have the time, the tech, the resources, and the smarts, you may as well make it last as long as possible.
Science is by its very nature reductive and analytical – and that’s good, it’s helped us to solve many problems. But when it’s the dominant worldview of a culture, then the default thinking of individuals in that culture will reflect it – their thinking will also become reductive and analytical.
But life cannot be explained solely via reductionism and analysis. In fact, what the earth sciences teach is that holism rather than reductionism is a much more accurate lens. Rather integration, synthesis, and nested systems are more useful for explaining reality – and this is exactly what yoga has always taught.
The yoga tradition is full of many great, healthy lifestyle habits and “hacks”. But it also teaches that I don’t have to perfect my body. I don’t have to eat perfectly, workout perfectly, have perfect muscles, look perfect, or live forever. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to age. It’s okay to die.
Because that’s how nature works and we are part of nature.
The inevitable decay and death of my body, therefore, regardless of my beliefs or worldview, is a part of a larger system. Scientifically, as well as spiritually, it’s part of something greater.
A part of me will live on because I’m part of the whole – yes the recycled material of my already recycled stardust body, but also my spirit, my vibrations of compassion and love, my contributions to ancestral memory.
From a non-materialistic worldview, there are forces in this universe that can never be understood through the lens of scientific materialism.
But a spiritual worldview takes these forces into account.
Yoga philosophy teaches that the goal of life is not just longevity. More importantly, it’s about using the vehicle of this body to help deepen, broaden, expand, and embody our understanding of the interconnection and interdependence of all things.
There is a force of limitless love that drives all life, all curiosity, all living. The singularly relevant human endeavor?
Learning how to “hack” this force.
Please check out my free ebook, 5 Ways Yogic Meditation Changes Your Brain.
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Right on sister!! You have a way of wonderfully articulating my own thoughts on various subjects; chiefly yoga. Thank you:)
Thanks Melanie! xoxo
Yes to all of this. thank you, lristine.
Once again you have explored a timely topic with an even hand as it relates to us regular mortals and to yoga. Thank you. AND a heads up to an edit needed. Three lines above the last illustration understand –>understood.
Thanks Sarah, and thanks for the edit! xo
Yes, yes, yes. Your post aptly weaves together the threads of materialism, cultural denial of impermanence, disconnection from our true nature as a an interconnected aspect of creation, all with an unhealthy dose of patriarchy. And, yes, you acknowledge here, too, there is some valuable information.
I love your yoga analysis. Aligned with mine. I am awake to my immortality. I am present to my humanity. I am integrated by love. I don’t desire humanity in the immortal realm. I am. That’s enough. Thank you for your ongoing wisdom blogs.
A big ole UhHuh! to all this. Thank you for pointing out the hyper-masculine aspect of their approach and the limitations of the materialist scientific model. Science is amazeballs no doubt, but it has its limitations, too. Like, for example, the model requires isolating the subject to study it which when examining many aspects of a human can be quite problematic – cuz we be in nestled systems as you said. We are woven into the fabric of space and time and are infinitely influenced by animate forces that flow around and within us. Have you ever listened to The Emerald podcast? I bet you would dig it.
thanks Brandy. No I haven’t listened to it! Thanks for the tip!
thanks for sharing Julie. I like your affirmations!
Thank you for this post. I am in complete agreement with you. And how exhausting all of that hypermasculine, consuming, thinking-about-the-physical-self sounds. I would hate to be 180 and know that those I loved or even liked a lot or a little were long gone.
Yes, that’s the thing that many do not consider, what about all the people you love who can’t spend millions biohacking themselves? how will it feel to be so isolated and alone? These questions are often explored in sci-fi or drama (The Age of Adaline for e.g.) but now they seem to be becoming more real.
Hit the nail on the head again Kristine – science is amazing, but taken to extremes does not honour Ahimsa. And the “perfectly imperfect” is good enough for me, for all of us.
Yes that’s a good take on it Sarena – looking at it from the perspective of ahimsa, thank you for sharing
It is funny how some make science their religion and others swing toward the worship of spirituality, in its myriad forms. We are all wired differently and we all want to belong to the group that “knows the Truth” about this mystery called Life. I love your balance between the two and feel blessed to have honestly stumbled into your teaching nine years ago at a crossroad in my life. Much gratitude there.
I too, was taken with Deepak back in the mid 80’s when he was aligned with TM. Maharishi was gathering scientists from many walks of life who could lend credibility and alliance to the spirituality he wanted to integrate into the Western materialist mindset. Dr. Chopra’s background in both spirituality and science was perfect. His father, also a cardiologist and mother, a devout Hindu, raised him with a balance between the two worlds. For those ready to also find that balance, he provided an invitation to let seeming opposites both be valued. I worked in one of his Ayurvedic clinics (Palm Beach) for a while during that time. It was an exciting time.
Aw thanks Carol – I feel very grateful to have stumbled into you too! And I so appreciate your depth and wisdom. Pretty cool that you worked at one of Chopra’s clinics! He really was groundbreaking back in the day. Little less so nowadays. When I saw him flouting a famous NY celebrity-model-turned-yoga teacher as his “personal” yoga teacher I was a little put off TBH.
“More importantly, it’s about using the vehicle of this body to help deepen, broaden, expand, and embody our understanding of the interconnection and interdependence of all things.” I love this. In my opinion anything using the word “hack” seems to me to have a negative foundations. I almost didn’t read this article for that reason. Thank you as always for bringing such great insight. Here’s to embracing our bodies and lives just as they are and endeavouring to just do the best we can with both. Live and love life. dx
Thanks Debbie. Yes “hack” is a rather disturbing term in many ways LOL! Glad you enjoyed the article.
Love it! Thanks muchly! Have you ever thought about doing a podcast with Richard Rohr? :))
No, I don’t know who he is so please LMK what you think. I’m always open to folks pitching me to their favorite podcasts, I don’t have one myself but I’d love the chance to talk to interesting people!
I get the direction of this article. And, as a Yogi, I totally agree. I would, however, also call myself a biohacker as I have delved into the scene quite a bit and even have a Biohacker 1-0-1 mini-course on my site. In the course, I focus on sleep, fasting, cold exposure, and breathwork. A lot of these principles are taught in yogic traditions, and I bring it back to optimizing our life experience in all modules.
I wish everyone delved into the deeper practices of yoga. I always say I feel yoga is the owner’s manual to life! However, in order to reach people who aren’t looking to yoga for their optimization, it is great that practices and movements like biohacking give them an opportunity to experience a better quality of life. And, through some of these practices, they may find their way to yoga as a lot of the biohackers partake in meditation. and, yoga, in particular, kundalini yoga.
As with everything, there are extremes, and thank goodness there are those willing to swing the pendulum in order to see what is possible. I don’t want to love to be 180! and I am grateful for my Yogic traditions to keep me connected to the unfolding, and, I am grateful that there are various tools to help others possibly find their path there as well.
Thank you for bringing this topic into the discussion. I love your work. 🙂
Cool Wendy! I love biohacking from a yogic perspective because yogis have always done it. This article is more about the thinking behind it or the worldview of course, which you totally get clearly. Biohacking is definitely a trend and I agree, wouldn’t it be interesting if the biohackers got into the deeper practices of yoga, how would that change their impetus to hack?
Thank you as always Kristine – I love Andrew Huberman’s podcasts and have listened to many, many of them. and Doc Peter Attia as well. But love the yoga view – ‘holism vs reductionism’ which allows us all to start where we are and consider our Intentions underlying our pursuits of wellness and health.
Yes I think that’s a good way to sum it up. Yoga gives us a different worldview and that can be a powerful tool
Thanks to you, Kristine, and all contributors here. You are all inspiring. Grateful for the connection and learning – like a breath of fresh air, like a breath of fresh air xx
Thanks for this blog and the recommendation of Dr. Huberman’s podcast. I’ve listened to several and find them full of insights which align with my experience and world view. I studied and was initiated in Transcendental Meditation in college. I remember learning of Deepak Chopra’s defection while on a meditation retreat. (I used the defection term -not to judge, I just couldn’t think of another word.). There is so much incredible information entering our awareness that we can’t help but change, adapt, evolve with newly discovered knowledge. Great subtle yoga program!