Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain


by Janna Leyde

Oscillations - Like a Tiger

Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah ~ Patanjali.

When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions (vrittis) that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear. 

I bought a sparkly new mala last month. It’s made of Tiger’s Eye. I was between this and a sparklier Citrine strand until the woman at Namaste Bookshop told my friend and me that “Tiger’s Eye brings order to chaos.” Emily, who is one of my very best yogi friends, happens to have a uniquely beautiful Tiger’s Eye herself, where her iris splits in shards of caramels, espressos and honeys. Done deal, I thought paying for it.

Whether you believe in the healing powers of gem stones or not, I was pretty jazzed to have a string of beads that attracts fortune and focus, a stone that—like a tiger—operates on patience. I rarely have enough. “The wearer will be able to see clearly what is needed for him to act with confidence and without being illusionary with life’s realities,” one website says about the stone’s properties.

Ah… illusion… so it parses out what is not actually there, that which we are actually creating ourselves, from what is. Om tat sat, wins me over again.

Don’t create stuff that doesn’t need to be there. Don’t tell yourself a big story about it.  We hear these phrases that revolve around the notion of eliminating the drama quite often in yoga class. I say them to my students, too. Think less, do more. Can the drama. And my mother says similar things to me, at times a wee bit more exasperated than your average yoga teacher. Janna, will ya cannit with the drama?  You are making much more out of it than it is!

You get it. As do I. Less is more. It’s hard though. We try to fill our space—our poses, our life—with story, because things move faster that way, and in this society stillness, slowness, can be uncomfortable. So we steer clear, and rather than accepting impatience, we create narrative, something more to focus on. I do it all the time. I create too many things, especially when it comes to accepting change, because I just want to get the change over with already. I’ve made a habit of convincing myself that I operate best in chaos, under duress, too many things at once. I do operate well in those instances, but why tell myself that’s the best way I operate? Because I have no patience, no trust?

Change is here. I’m moving to Pittsburgh. Big bad change. Time for chaos!

The thing is, the miasma of moving a life from one city to another is getting checked off as easy as if it were a Trader Joe’s list—apartment, yoga teaching jobs, TBI meetings, happy mom, goodbye dates and dinners with friends… check, check, check, check, check, check… Does anyone deserve it to be that easy? No, of course not, right? I should (funny how sneaky that should word is) probably find out why the process has been so lacking in drama, re-trace my steps. I should probably worry about this a lot.  I don’t deserve this, do I?

“Yes,” my father says. “Sometimes things are and sometimes they’re not.”

Easy, I assume. “What?” I ask.

“Easy,” he says.

I used to get so annoyed with the black and white way he sees the world. Mostly because it hurt so much, trying to eke emotion and reason out of him that was simply never going to be there. Yet when I started teaching him yoga, I was able to see how he sees his practice. Pure. Simple. Absolutely no drama. The man tells himself no stories about his asana. The pose is awesome that day… or it’s crap. Just as I cue him to, he focuses on his breath, his alignment, his intention. He lets me, his yoga teacher, guide and ground him.

Off the mat, my father—believe it or not—grounds me. I can tell my stories galore and he just peels them away, and I’m left with the just the facts.

The facts are: it’s just Seated Spinal Twist: it’s just ardha chandrasana chupasana, and you just fell out of it; it’s just moving to Pittsburgh where the road ahead looks pretty smooth.

So this time, instead of creating a fuss where there need not be one, I chopped a locks of love worthy length off my hair. And it is dramatic.

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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