Yoga and neuroplasticity

yoga and neuroplasticity

yoga and neuroplasticityyoga and neuroplasticityHave you ever seen a picture of Homunculus man?

He’s a visual representation of our bodies based on how much of our brain is dedicated to processing information from those individual body parts.  So our mouth, and our hands take up almost all of our brain’s processing power, while our arms and legs only get a teeny bit of our attention.

What does this mean for a yoga practice?

In the West we focus on an asana practice that takes our limbs through a series of sometimes intricate maneuvers. But look how much of our brain is associated with our arms and legs?  When was the last time you did yoga with your mouth?  Your hands and feet might not get distinct attention either and yet look how much neural attention sensory input from them gets.


Yoga for the rest of us –

The video’s fun and makes you laugh but what if you did more yoga with your hands?  Mudras are an excellent introduction to hand yoga and help you get in touch with all the koshas as you practice.  What about your tongue?  Remember that direction to let your tongue be soft in Corpse pose? What if you incorporate your tongue into your yoga explorations, and made that part of keeping your practice fresh like the first post in this series suggested?  Being a reformed farrier, I’m more than a little concerned about people’s feet in class.  Can you move your toes individually?  Why not?  Your brain doesn’t connect with your feet as strongly as your hands but that’s a prime opportunity to build some new neural networks and improve your balance and posture with a better base.



Yoga and Neuroplasticity –

The good news is the science of neuroplasticity tells us that we can rewire our brains.  Change is possible.  My brain is set up with huge processing power so I don’t poison myself by eating weird unidentified plants.  But my brain is capable of so much more. By choosing to engage in activities that use new and different parts of my brain I can grow.  I can learn to play an instrument and write a symphony or learn a new language.  The important thing to remember is change is possible.


So, if we’ve never done yoga, science tells us we’re going to build a lot of new brain cells because it’s a totally new activity.  If we’ve done yoga once or twice but never consistently, we’re going build a lot of brain cells when we get more serious and commit to our practice.  If we’re one of the lucky ones who’s done a lot of yoga, we need to work on challenging ourselves a bit.  Not necessarily by pushing harder, but by trying some of the alternatives I laid out in this series.  We need to explore and experiment.  Try new things.  Keep our practice fresh.  Yoga will improve your neuroplasticity!



This is the last post in a series on neuroplasticity.  Here are links to all the yoga and neuroplasticity posts in the series:

Beginner’s Mind and Neuroplasticity

Pain and Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity from Aqua Yoga



I'm a yoga teacher who specializes in making yoga accessible in the pool and on land. I also train and coach other yoga and aquatics professionals in aqua yoga. My teaching style is engaging, responsive, and fun. 

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