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New Month, New Theme, New Part Of The Brain

We explore a new theme monthly, and my obsession with neuroscience continues.

Therefore our theme for January is:

The Brainstem

Woooo exciting - right? You could be scratching your head, wondering what this has this got to do with yoga. Keep reading to find out…

Located at the base of the brain, the brainstem connects the rest of your brain to your spinal cord. Your brainstem sends signals from your brain to the rest of your body. It controls many subconscious body functions, like breathing and maintaining your heart rate. It also contains 10 out of the 12 cranial nerves. Other roles include regulating the central nervous system and the body's sleep cycle.

But my favourite function (if you could have a fave) - It's responsible for reflexive postural changes! Improve your posture without even thinking about it. Yep, it's automatic!

The stalk-like brainstem is split into three sections:

  • Midbrain

  • Pons

  • Medulla (oblongata)

How does this relate to your yoga practice?


We’ve been working on our midbrain all week; when targeted, it sets flexor tone, so we spent the last week improving our hip and ankle flexion. Also, when you activate the midbrain, you are increasing the sympathetic tone, aka skip that extra espresso shot and feel energised.


The midsection of the brain stem, this part sets the extensor tone, meaning we will be doing yoga poses that require extension next week - think about back bends and hip openers. If you’re highly stressed, you want to target the pons as it will reduce your sympathetic tone, so get ready to feel chilled.


Like the perfect pattern, the medulla sets the flexor tone again, so we’re heading back to our forward folds in the third week of January. I already know you’re going to love this one! Medulla decreases the sympathetic tone, so two weeks of feeling calm is on the agenda - aren’t you lucky?

Over the next few weeks, I will share some tutorials on how to fire up parts of the brainstem to achieve better mobility in our yoga postures.

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