Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain


by Janna Leyde

Oscillations - I've Lost My Tree

There is no easy or un-chaotic way to leave New York, so I was thankful for my county-fied, family vacation to Tennessee—and my yoga mornings. At 8 a.m. Norris Lake Lake is still sleepy, and the sun is not yet too high to be hot. It’s an ideal ambience for waterfront yoga.

Thud. My foot hit the cement. During Tree Pose? Whoa... I tried again. Less thud, but still no balance. Maybe it was the months of transition, or maybe you can’t pick an entire lake for a drishti.

The following morning, same thing—wobbling, toppling Vrksasana. I tried for minutes and minutes on each side. “Just stay,” I said out loud. “You know this.” And I do. I can pop into Vrksasana almost anywhere—in studios in front of students, at parties in heels, while immersed in writing an email. I know my Tree is not perfect. I know I need to drop the hip and lengthen out the opposing side-waist (information I treasure: thanks, Steph), but I know my Tree. I know I can balance. Steady, with ease. Like one of the ancient pines that sways above my parents’ house. I gave up, did some Ardha Chandrasanas and some arm balances.

Day three. Some sun salutes and some warriors. In Tripod Headstand, I noticed I had company.

“Can I watch?” my cousin asked, pulling up in his fishing boat.

“Sure,” I said in that nasal upside down voice. “Catch anything?”

“Threw it back,” he said hopping up onto the dock. “You’re pretty good.”

I said nothing, floated into crow, and made my way to the top of my mat where I could look out over the lake at a very specific tree branch. Tree time. I tried. I fell. He watched. I tried. I fell. He watched. I shook my head. “This is just—“

“Ya know you’re doing that thing on a dock?”

Holy Shit.

“Holy Shit! I’m on a dock. I thought that—”

“—ya do know the dock is moving?”

We laughed. “Wow. Yeah…” We laughed harder at my ever-latent ditziness.

Nearly six weeks later, and I’ve fallen out of dozen of trees. I’ve blamed docks, beach sand, mirrors (yogis love their mirrors around here). I even toppled while teaching Tree Pose in my very first Pittsburgh class. “It happens to the best of us,” I had said. “Falling is learning.”

Today I went to a studio in the Strip District, where the brick is exposed and the windows overlook Pittsburgh—where I’ll soon be teaching. The teacher, who was subbing for a teacher I really like, asked us to come into Tree Pose. Oh Vrksasana, I thought, drawing the sole of my foot to my inner thigh. Here we go. I pressed my palms. I felt the wobble. I tried like hell not to hold my breath, not to grab at the mat with my toes. I looked into the distance, at one of the spires on the PPG Building, and promised myself that I would fall if falling was in the cards. Falling is learning. I stayed strong and steady. Just like a pine.

Perhaps it wasn’t the dock or the mirror or the sand or the moon. Perhaps it was my very own foundation. After all, today was the first day in a long while that I had been able to wake up in my own bed, in my own place, with places to go and people to see.

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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