Website EP27

27: Aisha Fakhro – Neuroplasticity, Harnessing Resilience, and Transformative Potential

We got so excited when our friend and fellow yoga teacher Aisha Fakhro suggested we talk about neuroplasticity. It’s a topic that electrifies us with excitement and possibility, this idea that the brain constantly changes and adapts according to inputs from your life, your attention, and environment. In this episode, Aisha, who is also a psychotherapist, dives deep into how she uses neuroplasticity within a modern yoga class setting. We talk about social engagement, nervous system regulation, and teaching and appealing to all the different learning styles. This interview is loaded with practical tips about how to address your classes and incorporate challenges meant to tune both our brains and bodies.

In This Episode

  • Aisha talks about how she’s branched out from teaching yoga to teaching wellbeing (6:30)
  • Definition of Neuroplasticity: The idea that the brain changes and adapts according to your life, attention and environment; it’s constantly changing and adapting (8:40)
  • When people have a brain injury, sometimes they can restore functions by building new neural connections (so not just regenerating brain cells themselves, but the connections between them) (11:50)
  • Aisha’s excellent example of how Google Maps works and has improved over time (12:11)
  • From the neuroscience perspective, repetition is key! (14:51)
  • Our automatic reactions and “samskaras” as it relates to neuroplasticity (16:34)
  • The brain responds faster when there is a reward system (19:16)
  • As teachers, we can tap into neuroplasticity to deliver any message we want, which is why it’s important to have a message that we care about: openness, kindness, social engagement. (20:25)
  • Polyvagal theory – to regulate the nervous system and balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic – the social engagement system of our brains can expand our well being (21:40)
  • Aisha’s partner yoga games (22:40)
  • Aisha’s two chronic injuries that came as a result of really stringent adherence to alignment and repetitive strain (28:27)
  • Social engagement trains presence, and presence takes us out of our autopilot (35:15)
  • How Aisha deals with personality types that feel most comfortable with structure and “correctness” in yoga (36:15)
  • Meditation research shows regular practice changes the brain areas of attention, memory, emotional regulation, and other areas (38:38)
  • People have preferred learning modalities: visual vs. auditory vs. kinesthetic learning (42:13)
  • Herbert Benson from Harvard Medicine – 3 components that trigger relaxation response (45:38)
  • Richard Davidson collaborating with the Dalai Lama in a study tracking neuroplasticity after death (48:00)
  • Aisha’s book recommendations on neuroplasticity: The Brain that Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
    Into the Magic Shop – James Doty (49:45)
  • More and more science is showing it’s not the modality that creates the healing; it’s the safe environment and therapeutic relationship (52:18)
  • Physical trauma shakes the brain and distorts the connections between the left and right hemispheres (52:18)
  • Dropping out of our heads and into our bodies – we train this in yoga, and it’s a powerful way to work with trauma (57:41)
  • Self awareness within a challenging pose as a practice for self awareness off the mat (1:00:00)

Links & Resources

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