The Brain Into Sections: One, Two And Three

IM4US2017At the end of August, I had the pleasure and advantage of attending the Integrative Medicine for the Underserved conference in Chicago. It was encouraging and inspiring to say the least, and I wanted to share a highlight: A presentation given by Patricia Rush, MD, in reference to the way the brain is constructed and deals with information (as specific to trauma in her work). The brain controls the body, so this directly applies to our yoga practices. (Fist bump.)

The Brain, Simplified Into Three Simple Sections:

  1. Survival needs: means for food, shelter, and safety 

Our survival state of the brain is located in the brain stem, governing basic needs like eating, sleeping, and being safe.

  1. Emotional needs: love, community, and sense of belonging

Our emotional state, which is the next physical area of the brain surrounding the spinal cord and brainstem, is the Limbic System which governs our emotional needs. Examples of this are when we ask ourselves, “Am I loved? Do I feel supported by and connected to my people?”

  1. The magic of the cognitive brain: learning, understanding, and creativity

Last is our higher functioning state, the top layers of the cortex, governing all cognitive thought, including linear and conceptual thinking. In other words, understanding how in the world Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is constructed.


If you’ve been to a class of mine, you may have noticed I often simplify poses and concepts into a process of 1-2-3. I do this as a way to create a relationship between the way our experiences shape our brains and perspective of our lives, the way we have evolved over time, the way ideas become tangible things, and the way our brains and bodies create our practice physically on our mats.


Ummmmm, what? Okay, let’s break it down.


The Concept of One:

A) First you were an egg. – or –

B) At the beginning, we were all stardust. – or –

C) All real, tangible, man-made things start in the same place: as an idea in the brain, an as-of-yet undefined firing of neurons which create the idea. – or –

YOGA: Where does your body meet the mat?


The Concept of Two:

A) You, the egg, was fertilized by sperm. – or –

B) The stardust attached to other molecules, becoming more complex. – or –

C) The neurons in our head combined with our ability to communicate, and develop ideas into real things. – or –

YOGA: Out of where your body meets the mat, there are muscles, which can be used in conjunction with the structure of our bones, or they can be ignored leaving our poor bones and joints to take all the heat.

The Concept of Three:

A) Hooray, you were born! You are the fruition of your parents actions and DNA. Now you get to grow and have endless experiences to become a complex individual. – or –

B) As molecules from the stardust combine, they take on characteristics. These characteristics are the building blocks of our elements, and our world. – or –

C) As ideas get communicated, they go through the edit / reprocess / review phase, whether you’re writing, learning a new skill, or simply finding directions to a new restaurant. – or –

YOGA: With the activation of muscles in a pose, we can support the physical structure of our bones and joints, and participate in our own blood flow, lymph flow, hormone release, etc, etc, etc.


The concept of three is complex, so I think of it like this: it takes two opposing forces to create anything that is dynamic and not one-sided, or unidimensional. With dynamics, things get interesting, and we start to form patterns. It is this combination of one and two creating a new dynamic *thing / being / idea / pose* that MAKES “three.” Three is the catalyst for all other possibilities. “Three,” my yogi friends, is what we do on our mats. Learn, try, repeat, observe, evolve, refine, grow, sometimes get hurt, learn, repeat…

 Dr. Rush’s concept of the brain into three main sections makes neurology approachable, empowering the layperson to better understand their own state of functioning. It helps to simplify the nature of the brain so that individuals who have experienced trauma can address their brain, and its habit-forming neural pathways – by way of the body – using a physical practice, like yoga.

If you’d like to read more about Dr. Rush’s work, please visit

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