Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain


by Janna Leyde

Oscillations - Between We'll see and it's History - Janna Leyde

Ambition—the desire and ambition to achieve success.

These days it seems as if everyone is determined to arrive at their end point. Land the job, the guy (the girl), the opportunity of a lifetime—whatever it is that floats your ambition-powered boat.

I see it in yoga all the time. I know it’s not a practice that focuses on achievement, but it’s almost inevitable that we can slip into measuring our practice by our poses. If we’re yin yogis, it’s the subtle sukhasana that we aim for, the seat where our hips and knees are level as our toes begin to sneak around to the back body. Or for the yang-yogis, it’s about busting into the next arm balance. Or maybe the desire of the practice is to obtain the perfect balance between our yin and our yang—knowing when it’s a week for sinking into our hips or for flying.

I get it though. We don’t practice for nothing. We don’t come to our mats (or our lives) entirely divorced from advancement. Did it totally rock the other day when I was finally able to extend into titibasana? Hell, yes it did. When I got home I tried it three more times in my living room, just to make sure. I was exhausted.

So what do we do when we arrive? Do we throw a big party? Drink a bottle of champagne? Take a child’s pose? Chances are the harder you’ve worked to achieve something, the more anticlimactic the experience actually is.

I experienced this to the max on Tuesday. I stood speechless holding my book in my hands. I squeezed it, its fat narrative finally perfect-bound. It felt almost too heavy for me to continue holding, like a thousands tons of story, the weight of years. I put it down on my bed and took an Instagram photo (I mean, that’s a measure of success, right?). I did my laundry. I didn’t know what else to do. A few hours later I called my dad.

My dad is good with anticlimactics. I don’t know if this is a brain injury thing, but he’s always been pretty good embracing the moment. He never lets the emotion of the now get cluttered by the emotions that come with how we got there or where we’re going next. “We’ll see,” is his answer for the future, and “It’s history,” is the one he has for the past. Though I’ve lived a life hearing those phrases, I must say: Well put, Dad.

“That’s grrrreeeeaaaaaaat!” Sometimes he draws that phrase out and it sounds like Tony the Tiger, and I don’t love it. “You have the book and that is just great. Don’t you think? I think so. How’s it feel?”

I didn’t know how to answer the question. It was a huge big fat achievement, right there in the palm of my hands—maybe even bigger than a someday wedding or future kids or next books—and I didn’t know to feel. All I could think about was what I needed to do next, as if the book would die if I didn’t keep moving full-tilt-boogie. I was exhausted.

“Yeah, it’s good,” I said. “It’s weird, Dad. I don’t know what I should do though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, now what? What do I do next?”

“You can read it, if you’d like.” He could be so matter of fact. “I would like to read it.”

I laughed. He asked what was funny. I told him that he was and that he was good at telling me what I needed to hear.

“I’m your Dad,” he said. “When do I get my copy?”

“Actually, I believe your copy is due to arrive on your birthday. Cool, huh?”

“Okay… We’ll see. Today, you’re a published author.”

Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn and the author of 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. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on her second book about yoga for brain injury. You can buy her first novel, He Never Liked Cakehere


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