Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain


by Janna Leyde

Oscillations - Taylor Swift

I’ve just exchanged nine text messages (and counting) with my father about the new Taylor Swift CD. He’s read about Taylor in Rolling Stone and now we absolutely must buy “Red,” the album with the second-most popular song in the nation for Mom for Christmas. As far as he’s concerned, this is rather non-negotiable. I really want to text him back that we are absolutely not doing that.

My parents have always been excellent gift givers—just the right thing for just the right person. Then brain injury came a long, and now my dad’s gift ideas are born from top-seller lists, chart-toppers, newspaper ads and commercials, paired with an immovable compulsion to buy them. Christmas of ’99, the year I became acutely aware of this, as I unwrapped Destiny’s Child “Writing on the Wall.” My father had always known my taste in music. Hell, he’d shaped it out of his own—rock n’ roll and the ‘70s. He was beaming and all I could do was finger the plastic and shoot my mother a look that begged for explanation. I didn’t like the band. He didn’t like the band. I didn’t want the CD. I was crushed. Gifts were going to be different. Writing On the Wall (#6 on the Billboard charts that year) was a testament to that.

It’s his compulsion that fuels the annual Janna and John Christmas battle: what to buy Mom for Christmas. He wants to buy her what’s topped every list that year and I want to buy her what I’d imagine she’d put on her own list. This leaves me stuck saying “no” to his ideas.

The 2012 battle began at Thanksgiving when I abruptly said “no” to a JFK biography in a Barnes and Noble. Things got so ugly (yelling, swearing, fists clenched) that I had to give in and buy the book. Past years have been uglier, so after this incident I decided that this year would be about compassion. This year I would quit saying “no,” at least not right away.

A song on there is the 2nd top song. We will get her that CD when you come home.

It’s the tenth text about Taylor.

It’s at Walmart. 


I want to say write back and say, with what money, Dad? The frustration of the Christmas battle makes me snappy. Stay compassionate, I tell myself. Not only does he have to run his gift ideas for us by us, but he has to ask us for the money.

I. will. not. say. no. After all, he and I have come so far practicing on the mat together, why let the Christmas battle blow it? Somehow this is still yoga, this giant amount of patience that this dumb battle asks of me.

I text him back, doing my best to not say what I want to.

Dad, why would Mom want a teen pop star CD? 

Red is 31st on the chart. 

I say nothing. I don’t say anything for hours. I can’t, because all I want to say is “no.”

I practice some vinyasa and find myself drawing up the dialogue I’ll need when I’m going to have to talk him down from Taylor Swift in a Walmart in about nine days. But, right now, I will not say no.

Three hours later, another text.

There is Dave Brubeck’s jazz album ‘Time Out.’ She likes jazz. And it’s a famous recording we can look for together.

I am happy to reply.

That’s great, dad! I like that idea.


He’s less enthusiastic. I can tell. But I want to jump up and down, because somehow during this Christmas battle, he and I have found our midline.

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. Maya says:

    This is a great reminder about how letting go can help us get to where we want to be. I think the hardest thing to hold is your tongue and react thoughtfully instead of automatically. Wonderful story Janna!

  2. regansbox says:

    You’ve now made me cry twice at my desk today. Note to self: do not read about other people’s experiences with TBI at work. In case you’re wondering, it was this line:
    Dad, why would Mom want a teen pop star CD?
    Red is 31st on the chart.

    That’s a beautiful example of how TBI can affect people. It’s so perfectly logical, and it’s not the right answer. But he can’t tell that from where his brain is. I’m glad he has you.

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