by Janna Leyde
In my efforts to establish an earnest, influential connection between brain injury and yoga, I had found myself steeped research. We’re talking links upon links to abstract PDFs, blog posts, medical journals, and news articles—the kind of work that muddles my consciousness. I glaze over. I get bored. I wonder why I’m doing this, why my back kinda hurts, if I should sit differently, maybe practice my forearm stand, cut my bangs. Maybe I should make some tea or coffee, maybe have a beer. Oh wait, where was I?
Somewhere in the murky pond of TBI sequelae, that laundry list of brain injury symptoms. Yuck.
Yet, I promised myself that I was going to trudge through no matter what, because this is important stuff and my gut, my guru, and my research are all telling me there is something really big here. It’s just hard to access, and I’m getting a little lost in the mess of putting together the pieces that no one else (no one that I can find) seems to have put together yet. Yoga + Mental Deficits is just not on the map yet. Unless it’s with kids—people are jumping to marry anything on the autism spectrum with yoga. So there is something out there as TBI sequelae often fall on that spectrum. I had discovered a blessed lead…
As I chased down my autism spectrum lead, I landed on cognitiveyoga.com, an obscure website run by a woman in New Hampshire (a woman who has not updated her website in who knows how long) who is exploring the idea that yoga can improve behavior and cognition. I fished around the dead links and found a list.
I love lists. I love writing them. I love reading them, pondering how they came to be, how those particular objects, actions, words got to be in that group. In this case, it was a grouping of study skills to help ADHD kids stay task-oriented during a yoga practice.
10 SIMPLE PRACTICES
- Come to a complete rest before beginning a new task.
- Do one thing at a time
- Complete each action
- Focus the attention where the work is taking place
- Don’t criticize yourself or others
- Do what is needed without regard for likes and dislikes
- Work in a quiet, clean environment
- Consider one another
- Work for improvement, not perfection
- Create helpful routines, study, rest, play, and work in the proper amounts each day.
All of these notions apply to my father’s yoga practice. So I made a note to email him and another note to break down autism spectrum behaviors as they compare to those of brain injury survivors.
In fact, this list is about slowing down and staying aware—what yoga student couldn’t benefit from Simple Practices? It wasn’t the yamas nor neyamas, but there might be ways we can all relate.
#1,2, and 3: Don’t prepare for Half Moon if you’re still in Warrior One.
#4,5: Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing with his feet over his head.
#6,9: Know that you’re on your mat to improve not to perfect.
#7: Keep the coffees and teas off to the side. Or digging a little deeper, take a moment to clear your mind as class starts
#10: study (engage serratus anterior), rest (take a child’s pose), play (leap, fall, fly, tumble, laugh) and work (yes, hold plank for that long).
Simple Practices—a simple guide to staying present and knowing when and why to carry out your next action. I, too, would keep this list in mind for my next yoga class.
But in that moment, I was going to sit up straighter and finish my researching for the day. Then I would practice some pincha mayurasana. Then, I might have a glass of wine with dinner. Or maybe cut my bangs.
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.