Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain


by Janna Leyde

Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain - Janna Leyde

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I, I built my life around you

I heard it in Starbucks the other day. I’m not a diehard Fleetwood Mac fan, but the song and its lyrics always make me think of my dad.

Let’s be real. Few of us enjoy change. It’s difficult. It’s oftentimes unwanted and out of our control. Even good change is hard, like those dreams turned reality and their wake of positive shifts, which can be downright frightening. I tell myself that I have the best excuse in the world to hate change: my dad’s out-of-the-blue car accident. Brain injury brings change.

Not long after hearing “Landslide,” I was standing on a corner of Court Street wrapping up a phone conversation with said dad. It was one of the season’s first sunny and slightly cooler days, when the weather is eager for autumn. He and I had shared a good conversation, our sentences following one after the other in normal father-daughter exchange, exactly the way I’d once envisioned our lives would be when I was 30 and he was 62. Just the two of us talking about the dog, the Steelers, the guy I just met, and whether I think he should try a yoga class at the gym.

I hung up and dropped my phone in my purse. I sighed, pulled off my aviators, and wiped away black streaks of mascara. My heart was pounding, so hard I felt it loud in my ears, and a voice from somewhere inside of me was screaming: This is a GOOD thing, you ninny! Why are you crying?

Because my dad is changing—again. It’s a recent development, and truly all for the better. Nothing giant, just subtle shifts that are enough to set my mother and me at un-ease. But the changes are good, so what is going on?

Warrior One

Yet again, I can generally find a pretty solid explanation for life off the yoga mat on the yoga mat.

Warrior One is a pose I never gave much thought to. Maybe I could “find a little more energy in the outer foot” and maybe “that front hip could afford to drop and hug a bit more to midline.” But I was admittedly comfortable with my Warrior One right where it was.

That is, until the class in which I found my back foot and I got deeper in the hip. Then everything changed. Finding myself deeper into the asana, my indifference shifted to disdain, and though I was beginning to understand more about how opposing energies work and how an asana can really access your organs (all things, I tell my students), I was not a happy yogi. I wanted the old Warrior back, the one where my hips are a little wonky, the one I know.

But I was in a new Warrior. So I did my best to shut off my mind and breathe through it, deeply through it. My body was happy. My prana was flowing. There really wasn’t much more to ask of this. All the change, all the disdain, was in my head.

Inside of one week I found more space in my hip crease and more normal in my dad. Two good things—and yet I felt disturbed by both. What was my real fear? Change?


Yes, it pulls us away from the status quo, away from the familiar place of static activity, safeness, stillness. Yes, it creates movement, and who’s to say where that movement will take us. Yes, it’s mostly out of our control.

But it is just change—the good, the bad—and it exists only in our minds.

Nothing in nature can bring the mind continuous, unchanging happiness, because the mind itself changes constantly. . . . Changes are like flowing water. If you let the water just flow, it is very pleasant to sit and watch.


Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.


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3 Responses to Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain

  1. wendi says:

    oh, how I relate, Janna- what a beautiful description of dealing with change (on and off the mat). love the picture, too- sweet moment of daughter and dad.

  2. David says:

    Clearly you are a good yogi, a good teacher, a good daughter – are those all the same? Thank you for such an excellent post. Sat Nam

  3. Janna says:

    Thank you both so much for your kind words… I’d be lost without, as my father calls it, “the yoga.” And teaching it is a whole new and beautiful ballgame.
    om tat sat.

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