Where’s Your Head At?

By: Karen Lilleyman

We’re all familiar with the often cited physical benefits of yoga – increased flexibility and mobility, greater resilience to injury, improvement in performance in Welded and other sports (amongst others). Hopefully by now many of us have experienced some of these effects personally, having incorporated regular yoga classes into the weekly regime.

The pyschological and emotional effects of yoga are also often bandied around, but usually in a woolly, slightly hippy-dippy way which can be alientating for the new practitioner. For example “It makes me feel so grounded”, “It gives me peace”, “It’s a sprirtual experience” etc etc. Whilst all this may be quite true, many of us more practical, results-driven invidiuals need something a little more…. concrete.

Thankfully, a wealth of research has been taking place into the effects of yoga on the brain by, meaning that these claims can now be backed up – and put into less esoteric terms – by scientists (proper scientists with letters after their names!). What follows is inevitably a condensed, dumbed down version of their findings, but in summary:

We are born with a built-in stress response to scary situations (originally meant to protect us from being eaten by woolly mammoths, but also triggered by a difficult conversation with the boss, slow moving traffic when we’re in a rush etc). We reinforce that response as we grow up because it is modelled to us so often by parents, the media and more generally the world around us. This response makes us – almost automatically – breathe more shallowly, tense our muscles (especially around the neck, shoulders and jaw) and think negative thoughts. Our blood pressure and heart rate will also increase.

In yoga we learn not just to sit calmly chanting Om, but to put ourselves in some challenging poses (hanging upside down in Downward Facing Dog or a Handstand, wrapping and binding our arms in Side Angle pose or Eagle pose, holding a deep lunge as in Warrior 2 etc) and to stave off that stress response by breathing deliberately slowly and deeply through the nose, by relaxing the shoulders away from the ears, releasing the clenched jaw or fists, and keeping the monkey mind focussed on the breath, rather than allowing it to scamper off into unhelpful thoughts and fears. If we do this often enough, we can reprogram our brains – re-groove our neural pathways if you like – so that we take a different route: staying in a calm, present, relaxed state even when the body is taxed. This obviously helps us on our mats, but also in our daily lives, if we can apply the same principles and take the same actions in the queue at the bank, when under a heavy work deadline etc, we will inevitably start to deal with these situations in a calmer and more positive way, which will effect the quality of our lives in general. Ain’t science marvellous?


Group Class Workout


Warm Up: 25/20 Cal, 20 KBS Russian, 15 Goblet Squats


Finish with: 20 leg swings, 20 scorpions, 15 PVC PT, GM


Strength: 12 MIn EMOM Choose weight stay there!

Even: 3 Power Cleans

Odd: 3 Front Squats





18 Min AMRAP

25/20 Cal Bike

25 Air Squats

25/20 Cal Row

25 Ab Mat Situps

25 Med Ball Slams 20/16


Adv: Ski, 30/20


Welded Lean

Partner WOD

Triple 3 CF Games Workout

3000 M Row

300 DU

3 Mile Run (Switch every 400m)


Rob Forte: 33:03

Kristin Holte: 36:07

Adv: Solo Workout


Mobility Of the Day: Glute Smash (pg. 300)

Improves: Low Back and Hip Pain, Knee Out Position


Skills: Overhead lunge, Quads