Yoga is great for the body – we have all seen those pictures of amazing bods in tight pants & maybe you’ve even down-dogged behind one of those amazing bods or you are that one with the tight abs, rippling delts, firm thighs and … hold on, where was I?
Yoga is waaaaayyy more than just exercise for the body. Yoga is a practice of uniting mind and body through breath, uniting me with you, uniting me with the universe.
Why do this?
1) AWESOME MIND (& body): Well firstly, who doesn’t want an awesome bod. But seriously, I want an “awesome mind” more than I want an “awesome bod.” I have had a love affair with yoga since my first class when I realized that my mind was totally present in the poses and not jumping about and creating a to-do list. Like meditation, learning presence of mind is a huge part of yoga, because you can’t be thinking about other things when you’re in headstand and spinning at the waist to twist your legs 90 degrees from your shoulders!
2) MIND-BODY COMMUNICATION: The constant back and forth between your body and mind in yoga – “I can’t do headstand” says the mind, but the body kinda, sorta knows you have the core strength, shoulder stability & balance-ability! The body says “I’m too tight in the hamstrings to fold at the waist,” but the mind says “well hold on, breathe into it, work through the tightness” and together these two battle back and forth and eventually learn how to work together.
3) PRACTICE & OPEN-MINDNESS LEADS TO SUCCESS: Yoga also taught me that with dedication, practice & open-mindedness I could achieve things I thought were impossible (like a 6 ½ minute headstand). Going back to class every week and practicing at home, listening to my teacher and taking her advice. Being willing to be open to critique and reflect on my experience.
4) IMPROVES YOUR SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I have a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, so I’m going nerdy now, ready?
a. The brain evolved like an icecream: Imagine an icecream cone (brain stem), vanilla scoop (limbic system) topped with a chocolate scoop (cortex). The brain stem came first (muscular contractions of intestines and breathing), then it developed up and forward, with the limbic cortex being second (muscle and emotional memory) with the cortex consisting of four lobes, being the last to evolve.
b. We have two major networks in the brain – the Social-Emotional Intelligence Network and the Analytical Network. We focus most of our attention on educating our Analytical Network – STEM subjects at school, decoding literature or translating English to French. BUT… and this is the cool thing… more of our brain is involved with the Social-Emotional Intelligence Network. So we should TOTALLY learn how to use it. There’s lots of ways we can activate that network but now I am telling you that yoga does it too.
c. When you learn how to stand on one leg and learn where your body is in space (proprioception) and you fall over and get back up and work through the emotional aspects of this, you are building the foundation for whether you are able to recognize the emotions on people’s faces – which is a basic and vital measure of and stepping stone to your Social-Emotional Intelligence. This is similar to the Analytical Network – you can’t do algebra if you can’t add 2 + 5, or subtract 9 from 12.
So – EXPLORE YOGA PEEPS. It’s FRICKING AWESOME! I am teaching yoga, outside Saturday June 25th at the PEACE park, Cleveland Hts, Next to the Coventry Library.
Come and explore your awesome mind, your mind-body communication, your willingness to commit to practice and how this can develop your social-emotional intelligence.
Want a longer and more detailed description of yoga and the brain? Well read this older blog! post
Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2016