Right Brain vs Left Brain. The neuroanatomy of awareness & meditation.

right vs left brain image yoga meditationright vs left brain image yoga meditation













I’m currently in the process of attaining my Doctorate of Physical Therapy at USC and I have an exciting accomplishment to report…I JUST wrapped up my 2nd year. Ahhhh….How amazing that feels. This past year was intensive in neurology (The branch of medicine or biology that deals with the anatomy, functions, and organic disorders of nerves and the nervous system). We acquired SO MUCH knowledge it was unreal. We hit up several aspects of the subject…neuroanatomy, neuroscience, neuropathology, clinical management of neurological dysfunctions, and much much more…OoOh wee! After a countless hours studying, tons of hands on practice & experience, many long nights that turned into early mornings, and a slew of assignments, projects, & tests ALL that info is jammed packed somewhere in the confines of my brain. Humbling.

One of the things i find incredibly fascinating is the complexity of this creature called the brain. The thing is absolutely bah.nanas. The human brain is split smack dab down the middle into 2 hemispheres- Left & Right, which are connected via the corpus collosum. Pretty distinct & well known features, but what I find super intriguing is that scientists continue to explore how some functions tend to be dominated by one side or the other, that is, how they are lateralized or specialized to one side. Broad generalizations are often made about certain functions (e.g. logic, creativity, speech) being lateralized. Of course, these ideas and generalizations need to be treated carefully because it’s important to note that BOTH sides of the brain contribute in some way to several of these functions- BUT its a fun topic to explore none the less.

I created the images above to display how opposite, yet complementary both identities of the brain can be. It’s a popular belief that some people are more “right brain dominant,” that is they are super creative, in the moment, vivid, intuitive, see the big picture, and tend to be “feelers” of certain situations, while those who are “left brain dominant” are logical, linear in thinking, can analyze the past and future, can break down the situation into details, & are very verbal (speech is lateralized on the left side in areas known as Brocas & Wernickes). I think what’s a more important thing to take away from this little discussion is that we need to be AWARE of our capabilities so that we are able to tap into BOTH ways of thinking. In my humble opinion, this is something were NOT taught in school, but I feel should be heavily emphasized.

For example, meditating can be considered a big time right brain activity. First, we need to calm down the monkey brain, which enjoys spending its time jumping from thought to thought. We do this by acknowledging, but then slowly letting go of the mental chatter of the past & futre (left brain) in order for us to transcend into the moment & feel connected to the big picture (major right brain). On the other hand the left brain is the rock star when it comes time to solve a complex, multi-step math equation. You need to tap into your left brain’s ability to break down the problem & process in a sequential way so that you can arrive at an accurate and exact answer.

This website is all about a holistic view- acknowledging & incorporating all aspects of the Self in order to allow for a deeper understanding of life, encourages following your passion & intuition, promotes movement & living from a place of free-spirited bliss & happiness. HELLO right brain. Because I feel that it’s a little neglected in mainstream academics, we are going to show the right brain a little love right now. Here are some fun exercises to get the right brain juices flowing…..

Drawing with your Right Brain- Don’t call yourself an artist eh? Try calling upon the abilities of your right brain to help improve your drawing skills! The right brain is all about visual-spatial tasks. When you actually take a moment to simply draw exactly what you see, your drawings will actually appear realistic. We limit ourselves when our very logical left brain butts in and says”excuse me it’s not going to be possible to draw this 3-D figure onto this paper, because my logical self realizes that I’m drawing on a flat piece of paper, thus it’s only possible to draw in 2-D. You should probably stop trying to confuse me.” You let your left brain take over and then what happens? As you’re attempting to draw things & include the component of depth, you add things that aren’t really there just to satisfy the part of you that can’t possibly believe that it would be a “complete & realistic” picture without that minor detail that you JUST.HAVE. TO. include. Try this awesome, quick, right brain drawing exercise…. http://drawright.com/vaceface.htm#vaseface

Meditating- You can honestly do this anywhere and any way you see fit. One of the easiest ways I incorporate meditating into my daily life is actually while driving. Were going to do a little exercise in which you VISUALIZE 2 scenarios. So this is driving with my left brain on full throttle….I’m driving to the beach. I’m GOING to be on the beach in 30 min. I can’t wait to be on the beach. I am going to go surfing WHEN I get there. THEN, AFTER I am done surfing I am going to play volleyball. I CHECKED the weather & the surf conditions BEFORE I left. This is GOING to be amazing. Did I remember my towel? My wetsuit? food? What time is it? Based on the time now I have BEEN driving for 20 min, which means only 10 more min UNTIL I get to the beach. Phew. I am FINALLY at the beach! That all entailed what I was GOING to do in the near FUTURE & processing the immediate PAST. This is my driving meditation with my Right Brain in full control….I am CURRENTLY driving to the beach. I don’t care what time it is because no matter how fast or slow I drive, I’m going to arrive at the same destination. I AM consciously making the effort to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT in between my front door step & my first step onto the beach. All the moments in between are the PRESENT MOMENT, which I am incredibly grateful for no matter how mundane they may appear. I SEE the RED, BLUE, BLACK, GREEN, GOLD cars in front of me. I NOTICE the vibrant flowers along the side of the road. I bask in the SUNSHINE that’s CURRENTLY beaming down on me & I don’t need to arrive at the beach to appreciate that. I AM GROUNDED AS I acknowledge my inhale & exhale. I FEEL RELAXED as the chaos of downtown LA traffic swirls around me. I DON’T GIVE into the the rush hour, bumper to bumper, road rage, negative mentality because the fact that I’m “stuck” in traffic is reminder for me to SLOW DOWN anyway. The drive IS more picturesque, and dare I say more enjoyable, the more I am able to surrender to the NOW. I take in all the colors and unique architectural designs of all the building that come together to form the LA skyline. I am driving, I approach the beach, & I SMELL the scent of the salty ocean breeze filter into my car, the beach landscape on the horizon IS more vibrant, the sun IS a little brighter, & even the mountains in the distance have a whole lot of character to them. EVERYTHING COMES TO LIFE. I get out of my car, step onto the beach, & I am incredibly happy, blissful, in a good mood. & even feel a little lighter- all because I ENJOY the molecule of EVERY MOMENT. It’s that easy- where you choose to focus your energy is where your attention goes! Check out more on meditating on the focus paage!

To bring all this left brain right brain business to a close- you HAVE TO HAVE TO watch this…..it’s WORTH every second of it. It’s an incredibly interesting, affirming, powerful & thought provoking story narrated from a compelling, informed, engaging, & unique perspective!

Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive left hemisphere stroke. As it happened — she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied & remembered every moment. This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness — of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 18:44.)