Brain Health

with Melissa Smith-Wilkinson &
Nya & Zee
What do you need to know about brain health and Alzheimer's prevention?  Y.E.B.O., Yoga Education Breath Outreach, Zee Cruise, and Nya Patrinos are Yoga Therapists certified in Brain Longevity by the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Association.
 
Black Centered Yoga Alzheimer's Prevention (Black Centered) - Yoga Therapy Tools & Conversations.

Melissa Smith

Welcome to the Caregiver Wellness podcast, we're really excited that you chose to join us here today. I am so excited about our two speakers that we have coming up. Before I share more about them, I want to remind you that the Caregiver Wellness Retreat has our registration open for our October 2nd and 3rd live retreat. It'll be live from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Really heavy in the arts in terms of using photography and drawing and looking at art and as therapy, as well as yoga and other mindfulness practices, as well as respite care discussions and some excellent speaker panels that we're excited to share this with you. And if you miss the date, you can still sign up and get recordings from it. So CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com. Today's episode is featuring my new friends who I am so honored, made time for our discussion today. They are YEBO, which is yoga, education, breath work outreach based out of Los Angeles, California, and they offer Alzheimer's prevention that is black centered yoga therapy tools and conversations. So they offer free classes that are specific for the black community that offer tools for the prevention of Alzheimer's. They also offer another class that's open to all, which is strategies for Alzheimer's and dementia prevention. What I'm really excited about. Is in the first little bit that Nia shares with us, it's really profound and simple, a very, very simple tool. So make sure you stay around to listen. If you need a visual for that, you can always go into our Facebook page and we'll have a link for that as well. But let me tell you most importantly, why this conversation is profound. Alzheimer's disease is more prevalent among African-Americans than whites. It's 14 to almost 100 percent higher. There is a greater risk if you're a caregiver, there's a greater risk if you are a female. The genetic environmental factors that affect African-Americans and Alzheimer's and dementia are radical and it starts with prevention, it starts with knowledge, so I'm super excited that Zee Cruz and Nya Patrinos share with us their knowledge today. We hope that you enjoy it.

 

Melissa Smith

We are broadcasting I'm in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I have two beautiful guests with me today from Los Angeles, and they are graciously offering to spend some time with us today as we talk about dementia, Alzheimer's, and the effect that it has on the brain and what they're doing to combat and also working with. Communities that may not have all of the tools and information they need to help protect themselves against Alzheimer's and dementia. So, Nya and Zee, welcome. I'm really, really happy to have you both. I would love for you to briefly introduce yourselves. First, tell me a little if you had to describe yourself in a sentence. Well. Well, with that be I know pressure.

 

Zee

Well, I'm a yoga therapist, living and working in Los Angeles. I also have worked in the film industry for many years and have really high-stress job decorating sets. And so my life is kind of a combination of that. And I really appreciate enthusiastic passion and about yoga as a tool for stress management, relaxation, rejuvenation, healing, and transformation. So I'm the I also am a yoga therapist, I have my masters in yoga studies, I'm currently a Ph.D. candidate.

 

Nya

My passion is just educating people, period. Life is my yoga and yoga is life for me. So anything that that encompasses, I just try to bring it in and make it work and make sure that I can achieve a full balance. And if I can help others do that, that is perfect. You.

 

Melissa Smith

Well, you guys have really inspired me and I have been so grateful for our connection, I actually found out about you through one of our who's been sponsoring us for years, which is the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation. And especially in each of our retreats, we've done Satima that we've done live. And I am always in that. When we tell the caregivers that this is to improve memory, it's actually one of the most well-attended sessions that there is. People are hungry to know and hungry to understand that. But before we dive further into it, and I would love for you to kind of lead us into just an arriving moment, you wouldn't mind. I'd love it.

 

Nya

A practice I really like to do is tone chanting, so in yoga, we always think about, um, a um or ohm, but I also think we can think about the word home, especially as people of color like Zeny are. But almost everyone in America, if you're not an indigenous person, we've come from somewhere else and we've left a place that might have had a lot of meaning and come here and had to develop a new meaning and a new home. Also, as caregivers and I have family who are caregivers in the intense struggle and love of that is there's hardly any time to center and find the place of rest, the place of tranquility, the place of home within yourself. So I offer this home chancing that has very much the similar vibration of chanting. So how it goes is to extend your arms out to the universe, to the creator, the mother, whatever name or form that is. And then you bring the hands back with the word home in Garuda, Modra, which is left hand, is the base right hand on top thumb interlaced. This is bringing wings to the heart. And as caregivers or just as humans. Right. We need to find the spaciousness in the heart for all the things we face. Just being alive, especially in these uncertain times with the pandemic, with all the racial strife that's come to all the murders, the shootings this time of great heartbreak is wonderful to bring wings to the heart so we can continue and persevere. So it just goes to reach out and you come in home. So let's do it together. Deep inhale. Who? And if you would keep the eyes closed for a few centering breaths. Feeling and connecting to the home inside of you. That place that saved. Stable and secure. As you bring Winx love. Compassion to the heart. And then gently release the arms, the hands, the move, draw and blink your eyes open. Such a beautiful nedret, can you say again, describe it, had the hands cross and the thumbs cross and the meaning of the mudra. It's called Garuda Modra. So Garuda is considered an eagle, but it's also a mythical animal, part man or part human and also has wings. So it's almost like an angel. The potential of the human, a very ancient Hindu animal. I think there's maybe Garuda and Buddhism, too, but it's the left hand is the base. The seat usually left hand is the seat of a major Mujer as a gesture hand position. And then the right-hand goes on top and it's pointing and touching the throat, at least the way I've been taught it. But it's I mean, it's touching the heart, but it's pointing to the throat. So the thumbs are in relay's pointing to the throat. That's our integrity, our truth. You know what we're trying to accomplish. And I with Yabo or anyone meaning your life, living in integrity, and then the fingers are the wings. So it's a profound connection to the integrity of the truth and the heart space and then connecting to this mythical and the potential, the angelic potential of us, you know, to be more than human, to be mythical, to make meaning, you know, to make a difference and to be a large expanse of.

 

Melissa Smith

Some level you just said about making meaning, because I think so much of what dementia is, is confusion and not understanding. So this idea of touching yourself, of pointing to the throat, which what is true within you and being able to make meaning. Wow, that's beautiful.

 

Nya

It's a moocher that I was you know, they use a lot in life force yoga. And I'm very much admirer of Amy Weintraub. But then I put a little bit of a different take of it, especially as my work as a woman of color. My ancestors were enslaved and taken away from their homes and were brought here. And then how do we redefine ourselves and find home? And we're even seeing right now, a lot of times as African-Americans, it's like we're strangers in this land that we've been four hundred, five hundred years. But we're not treated as this is our home. And so I think everybody can relate, I think, to wanting home. But for me as a person of color has a special meaning.

 

Melissa Smith

It's beautiful. You mentioned YEBO, and I wonder if you want to share with us what that acronym is for its people hearing, what is that level stands for?

 

Zee

Yoga, Education, Breathwork and Outreach. And Nya and I, we really like the word YEBO, which is a response to Sorbara. Which is a greeting, it's really it's similar to when we do our yoga greeting, when we say no stay. So we just wanted to make sure that we are true. In the way that we arrive. Because, of course, most of us in the world today are mixed. Right, and as Nia said, there were people of African descent were highly myelinated. We can't hide that. So there's nothing it's not like I can just come in and be like, hey, guys, you know what? I'm really white or which I can say technically, but no one's going to buy it. So we just want to arrive the way we are. And it's we are yoga is our home. And yoga, of course, is meditation, if you're a yoga, you know, yoga and meditation, go hand in hand. With that being said, the educational component for us is tantamount to a..

 

Nya

I want to add to that YEBO means yes. Yes. Like, we can do it. If I say to you, it's a Zulu Selborne. I see. The answer is YEBOSubornation. Yes, I see you. So we really wanted to have that idea, like with Alzheimer's, where people think it's such a sentence, like there's nothing you can do or dementia, but there's lots you can do. And yes, we can do it, YEBO. Let's do it.

 

Melissa Smith

That's awesome. You know, I think one thing that's really drew me to what you're doing is you're not only focused on, OK, what if you already are diagnosed, but you're really focused on the prevention aspect and how I have goosebumps just talking about that, because I think I think people think so much about physical health and they don't realize how integral it is in brain health. And so how would you guys, if you had to share a nugget in terms of if I was someone really wanting to make a difference in brain health, what would what should I focus on? What would be the key thing that you would suggest?I know it's a lot.

 

Zee

There's so many things that you could focus on in brain health. Number one, the fact that you're even interested in, I would say congratulations, because most people aren't interested in it until it affects them personally. So I would say congratulations in that and the fact that they should know that people do forget, like just because you forgot something doesn't mean that you have Alzheimer's or dementia. And even though we use Alzheimer's and dementia interchangeably, Alzheimer's is a type of dementia. So let's just say and some dementias are temporary. But you can have community, you can eat a certain way. You can do like you said, we have Satima with the mudras. We've discovered that there is a reason why the mudras work night. And I so we've done research into that to see why. Why does it work? To do hand gestures? Where does this come from? Right, your supplements sleep a simple thing, sleep is you. Yeah, and. So many things, so, so many and learning like learning new things, it doesn't have to be where you're going to through higher education like myself, I just took as a sign language class. I'm always trying to learn something new, and with that being said, there are things I thank you that do make you at higher risk. You know, like I said, like now if you want to mention some of the things.

 

Nya

Yeah. The higher risk I'm in, I want to just say that preventing yourself from Alzheimer's and dementia is looks almost like preventing yourself from everything else. Diabetes, heart disease, everything. You have to eat a good diet, mainly plant-based meditation. You can use the Cureton, Kriya, or in other forms of meditation on your supplements. The soil is so depleted and there's so much pollution. Even if you're buying everything from Whole Foods, you still need supplements. And then exercise can be yoga, it can be something else. And then community, it's really important having friends, having things that you're passionate about. So really what you're trying to do is have a great life. And if you have a great life, a really filled life with stress management, with friends, then you're going to be already preventing Alzheimer's and dementia. So, I mean, I think and you'll have a better life.

 

Nya

And so it's these Zee always says it's simple. Yeah. It's OK. We already know. Right. For everything else. But the thing is that comes back to the Yabo is that, yes, we have to do them like I have a teacher, Dr. Anoma. He says you can have a yoga mat, but until you unroll it, you're not doing yoga. You know, like you're not going to you can have every cookbook and every article on your computer. But still, until you're cooking differently, you're not going to not be at risk. So I say start with something like one thing. Maybe with that, you feel like you can handle like I'm going to try to sleep more or I'm going to try to eat more vegetables or I'm going to meditate 12 minutes a day, maybe start with one thing. Put that in your routine for a month or two and then add in the second thing and then maybe get a buddy, you know, get a friend, do it and get a support group together. And I think, like, when you have a buddy or a group, you're more likely to do something and then know if you're a caregiver like this. Dustups, we're talking to caregivers. You're so much higher at risk. I don't have the exact statistic with me, but you're really much higher risk. So you have to do it more. So my cousins are singing the Montrachet Cureton Korea with my aunt who has severe dementia. They're doing it with her. She's kind of shaking her head a little bit. Sometimes she but somehow they made it part of the ritual of their lives together. So they're helping her with the dementia and they're also helping themselves because they're black, which puts them double at risk. They're women, which puts them more at risk and their caregivers, which even puts them more at risk. So the people in my family, the people I love most are so high at risk and they're doing it together with my aunt, you know.

 

Melissa Smith

Fantastic. And so your connection to Alzheimer's. So you've got you have an aunt who has Alzheimer's.

 

Nya

Yes. Dementia with. OK, and she's lost, she is not, she's transformed and like we're saying, she looks great, like her face looks great, her body looks so cute, her skin looks so great, her mind is gone. I mean, sometimes she has glimpses of, you know, times when she's there, but most of the time she's not. So to me, it's, you know, it's devastating because she was the best storyteller. And I think Zeppos and also my sister, we're also we're losing our stories because she's the storyteller of our family. She was the comedian. She was the light. She was also the one who picked on you the most, you know, and it's all gone most of the time. And then my cousins, who also have their own health issues, are taking care of her 24/7. So it's very, very hard. And I'm sure I'm telling a story that probably everyone who's listening to this podcast or watching us on Facebook, they know they have the same story. My story is not different than other people's stories. And that's what's so devastating because we can prevent it. You know, definitely.

 

Melissa Smith

I think what's interesting about what you're saying, though, what is different is, is making these little small choices. You know, we have a choice between being sedentary or moving a little bit. We have a choice between connection or not connecting. And sometimes I think we, especially caregivers, feel there isn't a choice, that there is just a lot of isolation and burden. But, you know, I love what you just said. If our goal is to have a great life, you didn't say happy. You know, like like the ultimate pursuit of happiness. You didn't say that. And I think how can we how can we do that? And it's in these little do one thing. I think that's powerful. What were you going to say? No, I was just going to say it's in simplicity and it doesn't have to be a task. It can be fun. Like you can just take a different route home driving in a different way, see something new.

 

Zee

Literally, all these things build different connections in your brain and think about things that you would just like. Like, no one wants to be depressed. No one wants to be sad. And if you looked at someone even in the street, you don't know them and you smile and say hi. That connection is huge. Like I had to learn how to realize when people were smiling, when they had a mask on, I was like, I can't see their face. But it was something that interested me because it's important and we're losing that connection. And even in this time, like Nia said, we're going through so much. And then to take that away from us, to know easily whether someone is smiling or upset or something's going on, how do we do that? So just find an interest in and know that this affects all of us. I'm sure many young people, maybe they've seen us and he just passed this, all this has nothing to do with me. But guess what? We all have brains. We all have brains. So we are all at risk. And genetic wise, it's a small percentage that says you will get it just because genetically it's in your family. Everything else comes into play. So all the things that Nia talked about that you can add in little by little. They're simple, if I told you you could just touch your thumb to your fingers and say something that means something to you for 12 minutes and help yourself to have longevity in your brain, you would probably do it, because if you can't remember, you can't do anything. You can't cook, you can't shop, you can't eat, can't go to the bathroom. You can't communicate. People don't realize how serious this is. You can't. Right. You have no memories. You have no roof, no foundation. You don't know who you are. You don't know who your loved ones are. This is not good. And I don't think anyone wants to be there. So we can. Show that this is important from an earlier age, this is important, something we should talk about because we're all born with brains. This is not something that I mean, it develops throughout time, but we come into this world with a brain. Right. So let's take care of it.

 

Melissa Smith

What I really loved about getting to know both of you is, is how you use wood, not just the mantra that, but yoga therapy in general in a lot of the practices that you're using for the brain. And I'm really excited. I'm actually signing up for your brain longevity and dementia prevention course on Saturday. But I'm curious because this is you know, it's yoga has been associated especially in the West with privilege and you all I know and I listen to your beautiful story of how you were introduced to meditation. And I'm really curious how this is received and the black community and how how how is that working? Are you seeing more people being drawn to it because they can relate to you? How is it been successful for you?

 

Nya

Well, I think it's a slow build, you know, for the people who come are basically people who know us and trust us and then some other people, too. But as we build our network and word of mouth, we're getting people and we try to talk about this is our black center class because we have a class that's open to all. But we started with this, our black centered class. So we really try to have conversations and safe space that you couldn't have anywhere else. So I think not only is it an Alzheimer's and dementia prevention class, it's also could be a meditation class or it could also just be a support group. Or it could also be most of the time it's women, just girlfriends hanging out, talking about things. So I feel like we're getting support and we're trying to spread the word. But I think that people, whenever I teach yoga and sometimes I'm nervous like I was teaching in East L.A. and mainly Latin X Community Center. And I have this preconceived notion like maybe they're not going to accept me because they're Catholic and I'm not Latin X or whatever, like all these ideas. But when I started teaching yoga, people love it like these. When I taught there in the Catholic Latin necks, like teaching and broken Spanish, it was the joy of their week. I mean, they were giving me things. They wanted to become yoga teachers. So I think sometimes we don't give yoga enough credit, even myself like people. We have all these ideas and people are going to think it's Satan and this and that, and maybe that happens. But it's never happened when I've taught it. It's always people want more and they're how can I do more and how can I become a teacher and how can I spread this? So also, I don't think of and I know this is my only opinion is I don't only think of yoga when I teach it as something that is Indian or Hindu or Buddhist. I believe that's a sacred movement. Has evolved from many cultures. I mean, when you look at the hieroglyphics in Egypt, I mean, I think they're doing yoga. Z taught me about the Toltecs. They are doing yoga. So I don't know. A teacher knows that it's something that only the other and this is controversial, but only in other house. I teach it as yoga means union. And these embodied movements, spiritual movement practices, have developed in many places at different times. And we have as much ownership of it as people of color and African people of African descent then or even or whoever is doing Latin acts or whatever as everyone else, like we have an equal right to it. I think you have to keep the prices down like our classes are free, but then our training is not free. But it's very cheap, especially in this time of covid. I mean, everything I do and right now very, very cheap. And I call it compassionate covid pricing. And I have scholarships and zie and I have scholarships for everything. I think we've given out three scholarships now for brain longevity, maybe even more. I can keep track of everything that's going on, but the idea is that you have to we're making it accessible now. Somebody wrote to me kind of nasty on Facebook. If you're a real healer, you wouldn't charge anything for this training. I was a little bit taken aback, especially how much free work that I do. And I kind of gave them a little message. I said, well, we're teaching this for free. I teach this for free of this. Teach this for free. Can you tell me what you teach for free so I can post that? And they didn't really respond. So I do believe that people can also be paid for the work, but I do think that we can price people out. So, you know, there's got to be a combination of doing things for free, having scholarships. And I guess I've gone on a long diatribe. But the main point was that we give yoga a chance because everybody I introduced it to, no matter their religion, their ethnicity, they've loved it and they've just wanted more.

 

Melissa Smith

I love this sampling, we put a video on our website of you just doing a really simple, guided, guided routine and I think it's like less than 10 minutes. And I just thought, that's perfect. I mean, yoga doesn't in my experience, it's not, you know, hard, always hard and fast. It's not sun salutations. It's it's when you really begin to experience yoga, it's listening inside. It's moving how the body needs to move. It's you know, and I felt like you guided that so beautifully. And I really appreciate you sending that. And I think I have so many more things I want to ask you. So I'm really excited. We're going to continue a conversation over in a different group on another day. So I'll post that link in our and our podcast as well when we wrap that up and on Facebook. But I wanted to give you an opportunity to share any sort of last bits of wisdom or things that you'd like to leave with, with caregivers today.

 

Zee

Well, for caregivers specifically, I just want to say in caring for yourself. You're giving the best care for whoever you're tending to, so we as caregivers tend to think, oh, I have to give my all to this person and neglect self and how can you give your all when you're not whole? Right. So it's a give and take thing, and like Nia said, everything is about union, everything is about balance. And as long as we can remember that in our most mundane, simplistic state, we actually know exactly what to do. We just have to remember. Right. So if that's all we have to do, just take the time, sit and be and you'll know exactly what to do. So just take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Do not neglect yourself.

 

Melissa Smith

And perfect, perfectly said, I will also say I don't remember which one of you said it, but find it funny and I think so I'm going to encourage anyone, anyone listening with us if they want to join you on any of those events that you mentioned. You guys have there typically Friday nights. And I know that you do open to anyone a six-week series that's coming up. Do you want to share just a little bit about that? And it's ongoing. So no matter when you're listening to this, it'll still be happening.

 

Nya

Everything stands alone, every class stands alone because there's a series, but you don't have to worry about when you come in because everything is built to just come in and feel very welcomed and learn from that class. And the classes are basically 15 minutes of yoga, physical yoga, 15 minutes of education, like a talk or with a PowerPoint about some topic that's related to Alzheimer's. And then we end 15 minutes with Cureton Kriya or some form of meditation to connect to brain longevity and to close. So that's what happens in our class. Even if it's a black centered class, it's going to be more black centered topics, but it doesn't always have to be. And then they open to all classes. Just there's so many topics like one day it'll be diet or supplements or meditation or how are the yoga? How is the yoga? What's the yoga doing? Or what's the what are the fingers doing? And why are we singing and how does it affect the brain? So every time there's this 15 minutes of education that's going to be different. Fantastic. And we'll say, you know, you guys promote those classes are free, but there is a way for people to donate as well. And so I'm going to post those links well as well on Facebook and with our within our podcast.

 

Melissa Smith

So if anyone listening feels like I can't be there, I already have a tuple to too full of a plate. Perhaps contributing would be a really lovely way to support the programs that you guys are doing. I am so honored that you guys have taken time and I'm really excited to forge this relationship with you and be able to offer yet another resource for our caregivers who participate in these retreats. Because the retreats that we do are, you know, we just have them in one city one time a year. But what you all do is throughout the year and ongoing and to be able to funnel caregivers your way and to give them access to a resource is incredible. So I feel like I've been given the biggest gift.

 

Nya

Well, there's that concept in yoga, ibiza, which means like continuous practice over time, like we need to be doing something every day. And that's really where the transformation, the healing happens, the continual steady practice over time

 

Melissa Smith

Absolutely. And I think that I love that part of ibiza over time because you can't you cannot expect something that didn't work, you know, like. No, you have to practice it. Right. That's my life's practice. So, yeah, you both are such a gift. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your energy and your time. And I cannot wait to share and dive deep into ten hours of training will be fun.

 

Nya

It's very fun. Fun and I'm funny. I love it. You know, I don't go like this. I mean I know with these. Laughter I'm good. I'm good. So again, thank you both for taking time. It's really an honor to have you guys a part of this. And I'm excited to see how we can continue to support caregivers and support really, like you said to everyone who has a brain, that's all of us in this path of brain health.

 

Melissa Smith

So thank you all. Appreciate you.

 

Nya

Thank you. We see you all. We see you.

 

Melissa Smith

Thank you for joining us today and our talk with Nia and Z. I know that you think they're equally as amazing as I do. We want to usher you over to our website, which is caregiverwellnessretreat.com/yoga-for-caregivers. If you just go to CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com and there's a tab under the header that says resources. And then you click down and it says Yoga for Caregivers. And we're so excited. We've got an eight-minute video there that needed for us, as well as these intro to Brain Health Care. So you can click on that link. Powerful, powerful tools, and we hope that you will not only give this a try, but that you'll help share and spread the word. So if you enjoyed today's episode, will you buy us a cup of coffee? There's a link where you can just click buy a cup of coffee, which helps pay for all the back and stuff. In addition to that, we hope that you will hop on our website. There's a way for you to donate there on the navigation bar, but most importantly, we're more excited for you just to share it. Everything that we offer is free all of our resources and our retreats, whether online or eventually in person again. And we feel like one person can really make a difference. So just use sharing or gathering your community around. Caregiver support is powerful. Thanks again for joining us today, and we wish you a very, very great life.

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