Yoga for your brain: Tone your nervous system with YogaHotDish

Yoga for your brain mascot

Your Brain on Yoga

The case for yoga as a physical exercise is well made, but lately, neuroscientists are growing increasingly interested in the effects of yoga on brain health, or, yoga for your brain. See the NIH’s (National Institute of Health) systematic review of the current literature here. This is a summary from the NIH website: 

“Collectively, the studies demonstrate a positive effect of yoga practice on the structure and/or function of the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and brain networks including the default mode network (DMN). The studies offer promising early evidence that behavioral interventions like yoga may hold promise to mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines as many of the regions identified are known to demonstrate significant age-related atrophy.”

 

It should be noted, however, that the type of yoga being researched is a more mindfulness-based approach than what may be available at your local gym. 

WHAT DOES YOGA FOR YOUR BRAIN LOOK LIKE? 

It’s not fast flow with music and mirrors. Those classes were really designed as cardio workouts. They resulted when Eastern Yoga collided with the Calfornia fitness scene in the 80’s and 90’s. That said, cardio is FANTASTIC for your brain, and you should definitely not skimp on cardio, but you don’t want to speed up and complicate yoga to the point where it’s no longer a mindfulness practice. That said, you don’t have to choose between yoga for your booty and yoga for your brain. You may have to find an alternative cardio though– or just practice more than one style!

Did you know an advanced yoga practitioner may only be breathing  around SIX breaths/minute?  There is an intense level of focus on that breath: how it sounds, how and where it moves through the body; hence, the breath is your playlist and music only detracts.  Slow deep breathing keeps the body in a parasympathetic state (“rest and digest”) and steers clear of a sympathetic state “fight or flight”) –even in the difficult poses. It’s in the sympathetic state that healing can happen. 

What we’re talking about is more “meditation in motion” –think Tai Chi, but with yoga poses. Sometimes known as “relaxed exertion” it puts the breaks on chronic stress that can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression/anxiety, and yes, brain degeneration. Your brain on yoga is a kind of “deglazing” of stress build-up in your body and brain  (cortisol, adrenaline, etc) to relieve longheld tension and negativity for better mood, cognition, and immune response.

NOT TYPICAL LEFT-BRAIN

While choreographed vinyasa flow sequences engage the left brain, meditation-in-motion activates the increasingly marginalized right brain (thanks technology) and gives the left brain a rest. That way, when you do need to plan, judge, sequence, and analyze, the “computer part” of your mind is fresh. Productivity and creativity often spike after mindfulness-based practices. That’s why yoga classes are full of authors, artists, and creators of all stripes. 

Allowing the right brain to come to the forefront enables you to hit the “pause” button and be free from the tyranny of linear time, to-do lists, other people’s problems, and typical left-brain chatter. When activated, you feel little urgency and life’s problems mysteriously vanish into the background. 

FEEL GREAT FROM YOUR FIRST CLASS

You shouldn’t have to wait until after class to feel great; you should feel great in class, from the first time you attend. It’s shocking to me how stressful our culture makes working out: clipboards, BMI calculations, objectives, and outfits –uff dah!  

We practice relaxed exertion to reduce built-up stress–and to avoid creating more! While your muscles will be challenged at first, yoga for your brain gives you time in between poses to center, breath, and just experience being in your body. This “integration” period is where you make all those neuroplasticity gains. 

Why not consider downshifting your exercise a bit to an “innercise” model and you’ll be set for better overall wellness and less chance of injury? You’ll also capture the benefits of your brain on yoga–something you can’t do struggling to keep up in a room full of music and mirrors. 

Health is wealth

 

From the Lunch Room to the Board Room: Do Mean Girls Ever Grow Up?

From the lunch room…to the board room?

I have to admit to a guilty pleasure: I watch The Bachelor–no, not every week. But sometimes, with my mom and daughter via group text. Partly, it’s a civilization train-wreck from which I can’t look away. My inner feminist is aghast: how can such a program exist in the 21st Century? Haven’t we evolved yet into women of substance, immune to petty rivalries and drama for drama’s sake?

You’re not going to like the answer: it’s a hard NO! I am realizing that, as a species, we still put a premium on female beauty, have a built-in disdain for rivals, and act like reptiles when competition is involved, be it for a man, money, or status.

My husband is appalled and leaves the room; he makes sure his daughter knows he doesn’t approve of her watching the show. Nana and I are a lost cause. That said, if anything he’s the one who needs to watch. Why? Because much of the success of Mean Girls is predicated on the fact that men are so oblivious to their antics. This always plays out in The Bachelor: someone has to go woman-splain the situation to the poor reub. But, let’s back up a bit…

What is a “Mean Girl?” There is a scientific explanation: women who are emotionally immature and view other, especially younger, women as competition. They often will refuse to help other women advance within a company by, for example, preferring to mentor a male over a female employee. Some such “queen bees” may actively take steps to hinder another woman’s advancement as they are seen as direct competitors.[1] Such tactics are sometimes referred to as heterophily (in the sense of positive preference and favoritism for opposite-sex colleagues) or the queen bee syndrome.[2]

Keep in mind, the movie Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, was based on a work of NON-fiction called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. It took the uber-talented Tina Fey to put it into a story. Here’s an excerpt to give you the gist:

“Popular girls like this are acting like any other group of privileged people. They don’t recognize their privilege because they are blind to it. It’s all they know, and they haven’t had to go through the experience of understanding what it feels like to be on the outside. They know little to nothing about people outside of their group and are reluctant to admit what they do to put other girls down.”

Now, fast forward beyond middle school and high school, to dating-for-mating, career development, child-rearing, committee-chairing, etc. How do we end up with the same passive-aggressive shenanigans we had as teens playing out as adults?

I think the answer is in the above quote, “They haven’t had to go through the experience of understanding what it feels like to be on the outside.” Why not? Because as a personality archetype, I have observed that true Mean Girls don’t put themselves out there, take risks, venture outside of their comfort zones. Think about it: why move to a new city if you have everyone trained to give you what you want where you are? Why shift professions or try something new when you have it all “wired” ? Not only that, but you may have to try something new alone, without your posse of protection.

Nope, let’s just say that Mean Girls aren’t exactly lifelong learners. In fact, in my observations, they are polar opposites. Lifelong learners have the power of self-observation. They know where their blind spots are and are seeking to correct them. They see themselves as part of a bigger picture, and not always at the center of it!

Over 20 years of teaching yoga, it never ceases to amaze me how kind and sincere my female students are. They are welcoming to newbies and immensely patient towards me. It was only after re-reading a few chapters of Queen Bees and Wannabes that I started to see a spectrum. On one end, you have “lifelong learners” who take chances, are curious, value self-awareness and exploration. On the other end, you have the Queen Bees and Wannabes, who figure they already know-it-all so why bother? They don’t build much, but rather seek and destroy anything or anyone they see as a threat to their status. They travel in packs and their friendships are based on tactical empathy–they act interested in your stories only to figure out where your “pressure points” are so they can use them against you later.

There is no shortage of these women; the success of The Bachelor is proof–not only that they can find contestants, but the millions of people who tune in and find something relatable about it. These Bees are in the workplace, your neighborhood, your church, etc. The only place I can tell you they’re not is in my yoga classes!

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

Small Business Saturday: High time to decorporatize yoga!

McYoga | this is so crass. | jpmatth | Flickr

How’d we get here: $100 + yoga pants (guilty), gymnastical poses, pyramid-scheme teacher trainings, #instayoga?

Is there even such a thing anymore as practicing yoga alone in a quiet room? If there’s not a post w/ a dozen hashtags, did a yoga practice even occur?

We’re in a mess, and “Big Yoga” (CorePower, Lifetime, Equinox) has a lot of explaining to do. Yoga used to be more about living in the world and being a good person, a wellness and longevity philosophy for the ages. It was for seekers, in search of a higher “true self”: peeling back the layers, letting go of the bullshit–not creating more of it!

Somehow making sense of the messiness of human existence got sanitized, made over, and ultimately merchandized, often by investors who knew next to nothing about it. An entire 40 billion-dollar industry sprung up with magazines, clothing, props, mats, and more. While some of the “schools of lineage” back to India attempted to enforce teaching standards a few decades ago under the banner of the Yoga Alliance, they too got swept away by the commercial tsunami. The best way to grow the Yoga Alliance was to certify more programs, more instructors, more-more-more!

Yet, at its heart, yoga is a practice of minimizing, seeing the facades and props of life (from yoga blocks to BMWs) for what they are: things to hold ourselves up in a dog-eat-down-dog world. The lucky ones realize this sooner rather than later. They stop looking for meaning in acquisition.

It’s no wonder so many “successful” people are drawn to yoga: they “have it all,” yet still feel a void. They’ve lost track of the simple pleasures in life and perhaps even of themselves along the way. So much focus on the veneer reduces awareness of what’s real. I can’t tell you the number of times “busy and important” people have walked right by–even through–one of my outdoor yoga classes without so much as lowering their voices. They probably can’t understand why anyone would want to sit quietly and see no value in it. Surely what we’re doing can’t be important than their conversation about the upcoming kitchen remodel.

Awareness begins with maybe just one breath in one class: for the first time, a subtler plane of existence is noticed, if just for a few seconds. Maybe there’s a glimpse of something bigger that’s new on one hand, eternal on the other. That glimpse somehow feels so peaceful and even awe-inspiring, all the other stuff–the props of life–seem to melt away into insignificance.

Chances are that little peek didn’t happen during “flying crow” or “scorpion” with new-age-y music blaring. Likely it was during a quiet interlude, in a less challenging pose, or savasana at the end. Those are the moments when seekers are born! Sramana is a Sanskrit word for “seeker,” but implies a level of energy that makes “striver” a better translation.

For a practice that requires no equipment, was based on a simple mentorship between teacher and student,, has a code of ethics (non-stealing, non-violence, non-lying to name a few) how’d we end up with 30-person classes in a roomful of mirrors, following someone who barely knows us and is in it to “get paid to work out?” (Big Yoga’s go-to justification for minuscule salaries).

Trust me w/ 20 yrs experience and a top teaching credential: if the teacher is up in front getting a workout, you’re in a group exercise class with a yoga theme, not an actual yoga class.

The good news: it seems Covid made even mainstream yoga a bit more introspective. People are re-evaluating what yoga is and even what the term should mean. Big Yoga like LifeTime and CorePower may not be able to continue controlling the conversation. New voices have emerged and they’re getting louder: #decolonizeyoga #accessibleyoga #authenticyoga #yamasniyamas –even in the most superficial and unlikeliest of places…social media.

My mission from the beginning of YogaHotDish, in 2001 (before hashtags), was #decorporatizeyoga. Even back then, I could tell that the gyms offering yoga had their definitions askew, reducing the practice to exercises. I had just returned from studying yoga in Singapore. My teacher was in her 60’s back then, wore the same white polo and blue sweat pants, was a Buddhist who studied in India. Nothing I saw happening in the US gyms had any resemblance to the transformational practice I had experienced abroad.

Though I figured I didn’t have near the life experience necessary in my 30’s and a new Mom, I decided to become a yoga teacher because I couldn’t find a class anywhere. I created a student-focused business w/o any “layer” of management (read: politics, profiteering, pettiness) between me and my students.

If you’d like to show up to a class and find out what “Small Yoga” has to offer you, please do. Some people even do both “Big” and “Small” yoga. After all, yoga is about finding balance, dancing between the poles of opposites, sitting in contradiction. Yes, you can do Yoga Sculpt one day and YogaHotDish the next. What an adventure that would be!

We likely won’t ever really #decorporatizeyoga because convenience is a necessity in our culture. Heck, I just joined LifeTime Fitness for the Winter because I need a place to do cardio, a bit of weight lifting/rehab to keep things in check –consider it my “workout office.” I like the fact that I can take a nice long shower there and no one is going to knock on the door shouting so-and-so is on the phone and do I want to take the call. No phones at the dinner table OR in the shower, how’s that for a rule to live by?

Frankly, the Lifetime staff are rather pleasant and gregarious, rare in these parts come Winter. Mind you, I live in a neighborhood where pedestrians have to be directed by the HOA to wave. The nice kid who checked me in for the first time noticed the “yoga” in my email address and said, “Oh, man you’re gonna love our yoga classes.” I deflected, “Is that a PopTart you’re eating–maple and brown sugar perhaps?” He laughed nervously, “Yeah, I guess it’s the Breakfast of Champions.” I laughed too, and said, “I haven’t seen one since I was ten.”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”

“Thursday Thrivers” 5:30 pm Zoom w/ Libby Wendorf of Cary, North Carolina ~ Beginners Welcome!

Libby Wendorf is a great intuitive teacher who can assess the mood of the room/zoom and adapt to energy, fitness, and stress levels. Beginners are welcome. Libby has been doing yoga for over 15 years and received her training in residence from Kripalu in Massachusetts. A former North Oaks resident, she now lives in Cary, North Carolina and will put even the most hesitant beginner at ease!

$12 Standard Price for a single Zoom session (Pls. select “Zoom w/ Libby”)

$10 “add-a-class” (HotDishers enrolled in other programs)

$10 Students (middle school, college, post-grad)

1-Month Unlimited ZOOM (calendar month, but pro-rating available for new students) $60

How do I take a class?  

  1. New Students: please us PayPal. You can use a regular credit card on PP and simply check out as a “guest” if don’t have an account. You can always switch to Zelle or VENMO later.
  2. Make sure your ZOOM account displays your name (not just a phone number) so we can admit you from the waiting room. LINK
  3. Fill out a contact form and tell us a little bit about your yoga experience, goals and any concerns.
  4. IF it’s close to class time and you haven’t received a link, email Shailayoga{@}gmail.com

Beginner? New to YogaHotDish? Health issues you want to improve or workaround? Senior just getting in the yoga game, thinking maybe starting yoga on a group ZOOM could be confusing?  Check out the Start Right / Dive Deep program, specially designed for beginners, newbies and seniors. YogaHotDish will be fully vested in your success.  The question is, “Will you?”