Neuroplasticity from Aqua Yoga
Did you know your feet do a lot more than just hold you up? Have you ever noticed your feet enough to feel like your brain is actively involved in what they’re doing? Wikipedia describes neural plasticity as “brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location.” I think this is a great description of what makes aqua yoga so powerful because aqua yoga moves our brain to our feet.
I’m calling it neuroplasticity from aqua yoga.
Neural plasticity allows you to improve your posture and balance by practicing yoga in a novel environment. I started this series talking about how to make a yoga practice that has gotten a little staid new again, by practicing with a beginner’s mind. For most of the people I talk to, practicing yoga in the water is new, so I’m making that assumption that it’s new for you too. If you’re an experienced aqua yoga mermaid, you can jump back to that beginner’s mind post.
Even newer for everyone would be a yoga practice in space. Except that a yoga practice in space would do nothing to improve your postures. Gravity might be getting you down literally, but you need it to anchor you too. If you have nothing to push against, you can’t have good posture or balance, you’re just an endless floating shape.
How aqua yoga builds neuroplasticity:
Getting into the pool offloads just enough weight with buoyancy that you weigh less and are interacting with gravity and the ground in a novel way. To stay anchored to the pool floor you have to actively reach down with your limbs. You have to connect your brain with superglue to the bottom of your feet.
We’re so used to our gravity-bound land existence all our neural pathways center around gravity anchoring us. We exert no effort, we’re acted upon. Gravity’s hold is loosened when we get in the pool. If we don’t exert some effort we’re unstable or we float.
The effort of learning to reach down to lift up builds new neural networks around having good posture. The effort of staying anchored, and balancing on our feet when we weight half as much as ‘normal’, expands our capacity to stay balanced on land.
Moving in novel physical environments asks our brain to process new information and react in new ways. Take your practice to the pool this week and build some new brain cells.
Next time we’ll discuss how novel sensory input builds brain cells.
Neuroplasticity from Aqua Yoga is the third in this series of neuroplasticity posts.
If you need aqua yoga resources to help get you practicing, see my store for laminated and audio sequences, and my aqua yoga book.