* Yoga and Your Brain

I came across this article from Angela Wilson at Kripalu on the latest research into how yoga affects our brain and mental health.

yoga changes the brain

“With the steady rise in the number of people practicing yoga in the USA —from 13 million in 2007 to more than 20 million today—researchers have begun to focus their attention on how yoga actually changes the brain. The results echo what many of us experience: Studies show that yoga increases relaxation in the brain, improves areas of the brain that help us manage pain, and protects us against age-related decline. Together, these benefits begin to reveal the scientifically validated effects of yoga practice on brain health.

Yoga Floods the Brain with Relaxation
To investigate why yoga induces feelings of calm and peacefulness, Dr. Chris Streeter and her research team from Boston University set out to discover whether practice helps our brains produce more GABA, a neurotransmitter that increases feelings of relaxation. When we don’t have enough GABA in our brains, we feel anxious or depressed; medications such as Xanax work by upping GABA levels.
To answer this question, the team had one group of subjects do yoga for 60 minutes, while a control group read for an hour. Both groups were scanned in the MRI pre- and post-intervention. Would yoga release more GABA in the brain than reading?
The results were an unequivocal yes. The yoga group had a 27 percent increase in GABA, while the readers had no increase. But to rule out the possibility that any type of physical movement can increase GABA levels, Chris ran a second study, comparing the effects of yoga with those of walking. Again, the yoga practice showed greater changes in GABA levels in the brain. Not surprisingly, the increase in GABA was correlated with self-reports of decreased anxiety.
Studies such as these suggest how yoga might be used as an adjunct treatment to mental-health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and point to how yoga positively impacts the brain.

Read more of this article here.

I love how science shows that mindfulness and the practice of yoga are so good for our health and wellbeing.

* Ego in Yoga – hydra


“Ego can take many different forms and shapes. It is like the hydra. You cut off one head and another head replaces it. You cut off that head and see a third head and a fourth head ad infinitum.

This is because in the manifest dimension, ego identity is the root of life, and if the ego identity is lost, then life as we know it no longer exists.

It exists as light; life becomes light.”

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

I enjoy reading the different metaphors explaining the complexity of our ego, and can relate to the idea of a hydra. Our ego will do everything in its power to survive – especially adapting and changing shape!

The ego is very clever. It will allow one version of ourselves to die and create a better version that fits in with either 1. how it wants to be seen in the world or 2. what is perceives is needed to stay alive in its physical body.

In my experience with others on a spiritual path, the newer version of ego is likely to be a more evolved version of the previous one. It may show up as being kinder person, a more patient parent, a wiser leader, a humble follower, a beacon of sanity in a world judged as mad…

These are still roles that the ego plays. Less damaging perhaps, yet still ego driven.

Recognizing the hydra heads of the ego is the gateway to beyond life as we know it.

The answer however is not to keep cutting its heads off. After all this would be an ego motivated act!

Instead embrace ego for what it is. A part of our very human nature that clings to life. It is neither good nor bad. It simply is.

Then we can wake up and realize we really are the divine light beyond ego and our human form.


* Haiku – Settle in

nurture and restore


Take time to nurture

Settle in the here and now

Find Your Middle Ground


The next Restorative Yoga Workshop will be on Saturday August 15 at 10.30 am. If you are near Media, Pennsylvania, why not join me for some nurturing and nourishment for body mind and spirit. Check it out at Watts of Yoga.

* If you are new to this site, welcome!

To explore more about finding your middle ground, please click here.

* Blogging and Serendipity

People sometimes ask how I am able to post so often. They imagine it is somehow hard work or at least requiring will and effort.

Well, I can tell you that it is such a delight to be a blogger! I had no idea when I started that this would be as much fun as it is. It feels as natural as yoga. Yup – its takes practice and you have to engage fully in the process. But when you know the basics, you can let go and go with the flow.


“Serendipity” by Josephine Wall at http://www.josephinewall.co.uk

Every day I wake up with ideas and thoughts about people, what I have learned and how I can share it with others. I usually have someone in mind that I am communicating with. (Yes – it could be you). There is inspiration everywhere on the blogosphere … and from the piles of books on my bed side table.

I admit that when it comes to reading books, I am a dipper rather than a “start to finisher”. I believe in serendipity. A part of me wants to believe that the universe will show me what I need when I open to a random page. In my yoga classes I do this with my favorite inspiration “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

And, now that I think about it, its just like in the mornings, when I choose what earrings to wear.
I have a jewellery box with small earrings in it. They are all mixed up. When I reach in, I have in my mind to use the one I find and then pair it up. Every time its partner finds its way quickly between my fingers. It never seizes to delight me! How does it do this?…

In writing this post I decided to share my thoughts as they came up. I was curious about what I would write. I notice that there is some vulnerability when I don’t have a particular thought or idea to build from.

Perhaps the universe gently nudged me so I hit the right spot with you …

May you too have a day filled with serendipity and ease.

* Titanic Flow

This usually brings a smile in my yoga classes. If you can’t join me this morning, I thought you might appreciate it too! This yoga flow for the shoulders and arms, is a great way counteract using keyboard, iPads and smartphones as well as driving.  Release your shoulders and open your heart.

Titanic flow

Stand tall at the bow of the ship with open arms. Feel the ocean breeze. (Visualizing Leo DeCaprio is optional).

As you inhale open sternum and shoulders as far as is comfortable. Palms face forward.

On the exhale slowly bring hands towards each other until palms touch.

Inhale open arms and gentling squeeze shoulder blades towards each other. 

Exhale, brings palms together.

Continue moving slowly with breath 4 more times.

On last exhale pause and bring hands to heart center.

Release arms behind back and interlace fingers. On the inhale lengthen spine and gently pull arms towards the floor and away from the body. 

Pause and breathe here.

With each exhale imaging the tops of your shoulders melting

Release arms to sides and pause. Notice the energy moving around shoulders and arms.

For a short guided practice, you may enjoy listening to this recording of my voice:


Gratitude to Kripalu gentle yogi Rudy Peirce for the inspiration!

* What do you look for in Yoga?

yoga in India and USA

I subscribe to the Yoga Journal magazine, and I must be honest here and let you know that it looks more like a fashion magazine and Bally’s commercial than a journal about yoga.


Because I come away feeling pressured to be younger, skinnier and more beautiful. There can be some great articles in between a bunch of marketing telling me to:

tune in
lift up
be strong
be awesome
get toned
buy this
look cool
eat healthy
as you give to the world
you can do it
….  and relax!

It feels exhausting being around this vata energy and targeted marketing.

Don’t get me going about yoga clothes either … I’m looking for clothes that fit and feel comfortable and don’t fall over my head in downward facing dog! Pink neon pants … really?

In my 30’s and 40’s I really wanted to be fit and awesome and now I know that what we all yearn for is to feel centered and accepting of ourselves.

A part of me understands that it’s  connected with the stage of adult life that we find ourselves in. Yet the message of what yoga is really about is being lost.

Yoga isn’t about postures, fitness and looking good.

It is a spiritual path that brings our attention inwards in order to awaken to our true Self.  Its about bringing alignment and a strong foundation into our lives… and yes, our bodies too ;)

It feels wonderful and empowering to find this place without competition, looks, accessories and being seen … just to accept ourselves fully and find peace within. There is a lot of love here.

And to those of you who don’t get it yet, I know it may seem like being old and boring, but to me its pretty darn cool.


* Pondering – accepting what is

I woke up this morning pondering how it is so hard to accept what is. Our brains say – yes I get it. We may even bring it into mindful awareness every day through meditation or yoga.

We think we have it handled, and then … out of the blue we find ourselves getting impatient, frustrated or triggered.

For example, think of the last time you were driving and were cut off by someone else. Or you were running late and got stopped behind a school bus or a red light? What thoughts, sensations and feelings came up?

road rage

So how can we handle these turbulent emotions and accept what is….

In the moment we become aware of our reactions we have a choice: to allow the fight or flight  reaction to take over with its rush of adrenaline and cortisol; or to center ourselves with full deep breaths and consciously let go of the stories, judgments, and resistance to what is happening.

With mindfulness practice, our reactivity gets less and less.  Our acceptance of the highs and lows of life grows and we become more centered and less volatile.

Like a pendulum we find our way to the center.

From a scientific perspective, the more we meditate and calm our mind, the more neural pathways we create and reinforce our ability to come more quickly to a calm state.

It is a practice…. that may take a long time if not a life time.

The Dalai Lama says that while we cannot stop an emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.

writing  on water

The Buddha shared a metaphor for this state of mind. He called it “like writing on water”. Whenever an unwholesome thought or emotion arises in an enlightened mind, it is like writing on water. The moment it is written it disappears.

Through meditation and mindfulness practice we learn to master our reactions and center ourselves.

We re-balance ourselves and in doing so, learn to accept what is.

The next time you are in traffic be ready to breathe deeply and let the emotion flow through you…

And don’t get upset with yourself for getting upset! Let it go.  Just keep practicing coming into the present moment.



* Haiku – gratitude

I woke up today with a heart filled with gratitude. I am driving north to Kripalu to assist in a 300 hour yoga teacher training module for teachers wanting to learn about yoga for special population groups.  Let the magic flow 💛

This is my haiku to share with you while I am away. I will be taking a break from blogging, and have set up some re-posts some of my favorite inspirations. See you after May 10th.

Namaste and Jai Bhagwan!

kripalu spring


Find your Middle Ground

Greet each day with gratitude

Let the magic flow


If you are new to this site – Welcome!

To explore more about finding your middle ground please click here.

* The Wise Woman and the Precious Stone

This is a story from an unknown author that I came across in a lovely collection of poems, prayers and stories to end a yoga class called Soul To Soul by John Mundahl.

precious stone

Once a wise woman was traveling in the mountains and found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveller left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking” he said, “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you with hope that you will give me something more precious. Give me what have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

Sometimes its not the wealth we have, but what’s inside us that others need.

This is dedicated to all of you who bring wisdom and light to the world and those around you every day. Never forget that what you have inside is what others are drawn to.


* Layers of Being

I woke up to cold temperatures, however the sun was shining and the forecast was for the day to become surprisingly warm. I thought to myself “This is a day for layers”.


Layers are practical. We put them on and take them off depending on how our body feels. I like the whole idea of layers … and it made me think about the other types of layers that we have as human beings.

How easy is it to add them and how easy is it to shed them?

As we add layers they protect us, yet weigh us down over time… For example, when we pretend to know something because we are afraid to let others see that we don’t know. Ego protecting strategies easily become burdens that are hard to let go of.

As we shed layers we become more vulnerable, yet at the same time we get lighter and more free. For example, taking off our “I am strong” mask and letting someone see that we need help, allows us to be authentic and true to our own feelings and thoughts.

Appreciating this can bring a new awareness of ourselves and our inner being.

Can you imagine yourself as a layered being?  Like one of those Russian nesting dolls.

Russian dolls


I love the yoga philosophy approach to our individual layers. They are called the 5 Koshas, which means sheaths in sanskrit. They are:

Physical – The outer sheath is our physical body. How it looks and functions. Our Annamaya kosha. We are well acquainted with this layer. It faces us in the mirror every day.

Energy – The next layer is our life energy. Like the Chinese Chi, yoga energy is called Prana. This is our Pranamaya kosha. We can’t see it, but we know it is present in our breath and our sense of well being.

Mental – Beneath this is the layer of  our thinking and emotions. Our mental body is called Manomaya kosha. This is the controller and director of operations.

Wisdom – The fourth sheath is our inner wisdom and being a witness to our selves. Our Vijnamaya kosha. I like to think of it as our intuitive layer of unconscious wisdom and knowing.

Bliss – The innermost layer is bliss. This is a place of beauty, joy and peace which surrounds the divine center of our being called the Atman. The Anandamaya kosha connects us to a Universal Consciousness, Source or Divine Spirit.


peacock feather

Like the eye on a peacock’s feather, each layer creates a beautiful whole.

I believe we are spiritual beings encased in sheaths. To live life fully we must learn to bring awareness to each layer and how it shows up, not only in our yoga practice, but in our daily lives.

Finding our Middle Ground opens the door to exploring these inner realms. In shedding our layers we connect more and more with our spiritual Self and inner Being.

It is there for each and every one of us.



* What are you waiting for?


When you pause, is it something that is imposed or are you drawn to it?
Are you alert and waiting for something to happen?
Is there an expected outcome?
Are you pausing in order to take a break from thoughts that stimulate or frustrate?
Or do you pause as the gateway to stillness and as a way of connecting to your inner world?

When we are wrapped up with expectations of others or from ourselves, we lose touch with the sacredness of the simple pause.

There is nothing to wait for.


* Mantra for Today – from Brené Brown

Todays mantra is taken from from Brené Brown’s book “Gifts Of Imperfection”. This is the place to come to when you feel insecure, nervous and vulnerable, especially in new situations.


“Don’t shrink

Don’t puff up

Stand on your sacred ground”

This sacred ground is the place of embracing your authentic self in the moment.

No need to think you are not good enough or that you are better than others.

Simply stand in the knowing of who you are.

Most of us find it when we have experienced some struggle in the highs and lows of life.

Its the most powerful place to truly Be.

When I read this I think of standing in Mountain Pose or Tadasana in Yoga. Rooted to the ground, yet tall and strong. In this moment you become the mountain.


* The Quest

everest quest

“The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is the Quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the Quest.

The Quest is a veritable re-education of the self, leading in turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way.

The Quest is direct.

The Quest is spiritual mountaineering.”

Paul Brunton taken from “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

When I read this I like the idea of spiritual mountaineering. A direct route for the courageous!

And yet we can also come to the truth in a round about way.

It is there for each and every one of us … one step at a time.


* Reflections on Ego – “I” and “i”

I have been reading more about ego as part of my exploration of the self in yoga. For practitioners (and interested peeps) this is the fourth observance or Niyama called svadhayaya.

What I’ve discovered is that what I come across, builds on the foundations that I have written about before here and here.

And … you don’t need to be on a spiritual path of yoga to appreciate this wisdom.

This particular insight into ego really resonated with me.

woman looking sat self

“The ego is a reflection of our true Self on the mind. The two appear to be the same, but one is the original, the other a reflected duplicate. 

These two “I”‘s are often referred to as the little “i” and the capital “I”.

What is the difference? Just a small dot, a little blemish of ego.

The capital “I” is just one pure stroke, just as the highest truth is always simple and pure.

What limits us and makes us little? Just the dot.

Without the dot we are always great, always capital “I”.  All the practices of yoga are to remove the dot.”

Sri Swami Satchidananda

… its just our little dot …