Yoga Heals Body & Brain: Bridging the Gaps between Diet, Body, Spirit and Cognition

Last year, I completed the first part of my yoga teacher training in the format of a 200 hr intensive class at Yogaworks Soho in New York City.


I’d been taking yoga as a student for nearly 14 years at that point and admittedly, up until that point, whenever I’d go to a class and not sweat my buns off and feel physically exhausted, I’d leave feeling it had been a total waste of time.


The very first yoga teacher I happened to come across over a decade ago was, to date, the best one I’d ever taken classes from. This made most subsequent teachers pale in comparison. And, having a slight tendency to be just a tad high-energy, any class which focused on breath, reflecting inward and sitting in meditation was just not what I needed.


Or so I thought.


It took that long for me to understand that asana, or physical practice, is only a small part, one-eighth, to be specific of a true yoga practice.


There are, in fact, eight limbs of yoga and what we do with our bodies on our mats isn’t even the first piece!


I was fortunate to have enrolled in a course with such a rigorous curriculum; it wasn’t just ‘how to teach a hot yoga class with hip hop blasting in the background to get people to sweat.’ 


Instead, we learned about the purpose of practice. Intention. History. Why certain poses are suitable to do in the morning and others at night. How certain poses can help immune function while others are to be avoided when feeling anxious. That using a block or a strap doesn’t mean you’re ‘bad at yoga.’ Sanskrit terminology. Sequencing. Safety.


And perhaps, most importantly for me, we learned that “yoga is now.”


The first sutra we studied from Patanjali1 on day one of the course imbued it all.


Those three short, simply words convey the essence of why we all need a little yoga in our lives.


As humans, we get caught up easily in the daily rigmarole of work stress, family stress, money stress, dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, and an overall feeling of just not being happy with the way things are right here, right now.


Being in what I refer to as a beautiful yoga-bubble for that precious moment in time of a single month elicited positive changes within me on a personal level, which I then was able to carry out professionally.


On day 28 of our time together, our three teachers and my 21 fellow students sat in a beautiful closing circle surrounded with flowers and candles as we went around the room sharing whatever we chose to.


There wasn’t a dry eye in sight.


Imagine being in a place where you realize that everyone around you has the same fears, the same false belief systems and isn’t shy about saying so or about crying or showing rage or simply just being.


Experiencing such a place of raw beauty was exquisite and since then, it’s become glaringly clear how if we’d all practice, meditate or simply breathe, how much better off we’d all be.


How about not feeling stressed out that your size 4s don’t fit because you knew that with time, your healthy eating and exercise pattern will guide you right back into them?


Or an inner peace that reminded you not to fear about finances because you trusted yourself enough to know you’re on the right career path and that following your heart leads to a profound level of success far more than simply choosing a career path as an investor because you believe it’s the most lucrative.


Most of what we learned to believe growing up limits us, confines us and scares us into thinking we’re stuck, we should be somewhere else, we shouldn’t be anxious or depressed and if we are, there’s something wrong and leads us into a hole we feel we cannot escape.


This is all false.


Good things are just as likely, if not more, to happen than all the awful things we conjure up at the darkest hour when we’re lying awake tossing and turning at 3 am.


Yoga can bring peace to you and there’s a form of it for all of us.


Just as much as I firmly believe that a Paleo diet is the clearest, most direct path to healing through nutrition, I equally feel we should all be practicing yoga in our own way in our own time.


Start by taking five minutes out of your day to breathe and see where it leads you!


Trust me on this one.



[1] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Publications, Buckingham, Virginia, 1978