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The Healing Cocoon Podcast

REWIRE YOUR BRAIN FOR MORE JOY with neuroscience ninja Alex nashton


How combining new and ancient teachings can ease anxiety and depression.

Posted by:
Jacobie Gray

When it comes to common mental health struggles like anxiety and depression, scientific approaches are typical “go to” forms of treatments (as they should be). This is often in the form of medication and therapy. Modern medicine is a gift to humanity and gives fresh hope each day to people who battle with their mental health. But does science offer something broader than this? What would that look like? That’s an excellent question…glad you asked. Alex Nashton has shared her journey healing from depression using not just science, and not just the ancient practices found in yoga and meditation, but a fascinating combination of the two!

The Search for a New Narrative

Growing up in “small town”, USA, in upstate New York, Alex found herself feeling trapped by the undercurrent narrative that her hometown seemed to be built on: after high school go to a four-year college somewhere nearby, marry someone you probably went to high school with, and have a few kids. All by your mid twenties. Oh, and live there for the rest of your life. Not feeling like she fit this mold (understandable, considering she was vegan in the middle of farm country), this contributed to the beginning of her journey with depression that led her on a search for relief, beyond traditional medication.

Instead, Alex took her veganism and curiosity to NYC, where she began a journey into neuroscience, somewhat by accident, after an especially enlightening yoga class. She quickly became fascinated with the ability of the human brain to change itself, which is the essence of neuroscience. Her practice has found her combining modern neuroscience with ancient mindfulness practices. She has become a neuroscience ninja of sorts, helping people pull themselves out of patterns from the past and rewire themselves for less anxiety and, instead, create more joy.

A Unexpected Connection

While 17-years-old and a yoga class in her new roots in NYC may have been her ah-ha moment, the yearning for a way out of her battle with depression began in those earlier years. When Alex found herself facing depression and brought her struggles to her family, they basically told her to take some medicine, as depression ran rampant through their family tree and that is what had been successful for everyone else. She knew they meant well, yet, “Some part of me rejected that,” she said. “I knew there had to be another way but I couldn’t see it yet. I didn’t know what that would look like.”

During what turned out to be that very serendipitous yoga class, the meditation guide was facilitating from a very science-based background. His topic was neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself. As she listened to him weave together the concepts of neuroplasticity and meditation, it ignited a hope in her that she had been looking for. It was the first time in her life she felt hopeful she didn‘t actually have to resign herself to a life of depression and anxiety.

Practice and Study

After that class, she began learning as much as she could about neuroscience, the human brain, and nervous system, continuing to marry what she was learning with her knowledge of meditation and yoga. She began to intentionally use tools such as mindfulness from her yoga practices to take charge of her brain and nervous system as she learned how they scientifically altered the brain through her neuroscience studies. 

As her passion for neuroscience grew, she was introduced to the practice of yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is a guided meditation practice that allows your brain to access conscious and subconscious parts of your mind, having similarities to hypnosis. She found there was so much efficiency with yoga nidra that she began to incorporate it into her practice. Her yoga nidra mentor is actually who encouraged her to pursue further education in the neuroscience realm. 

But a crucial precursor and foundation to these skills, according to Alex, is increased self-awareness. She became aware of how we find ourselves on autopilot from previously engrained neural pathways, in a way “sleepwalking” through our day. Cultivating self-awareness through meditation and yoga nidra, or a friend or therapist, can help us become aware of our day-to-day patterns. We can’t change until we know our patterns—patterns that are no longer serving us or that are more destructive vs. constructive, helpful patterns. 

Alex began to consistently practice her meditation and yoga skills with the angle of using the paired science to rewire her brain and nervous system. She says that looking back, little changes must have been happening each day, but they can be hard to identify until there has been more time to reflect on the journey. At about the two year mark she says she woke up and realized, “Whoa. Things have changed! I am really different now.” It’s easier to see in hindsight the fruits of how devoting yourself to your change sooner and more intensely makes a difference in the time it takes to notice change.

The Gap

Alex has some keen, unique insights into how alternative and traditional healing methods complement each other. She observes that modern neuroscience is always just a little bit behind, potentially thousands of years behind, what the ancient practices and philosophies have always taught. “Science is only continuing to validate what the ancient mystics and yogis and sages have been teaching for thousands of years. They complement each other well because they offer two different languages, two sides of the same mountain, in a sense, that communicate essentially the same thing. Either can be a gateway to the other.”

Alex is a mindset and mental health coach, a yoga teacher, and meditation guide and she completed her neuroscience studies at UCLA. Learn more about Alex and her story at and on Instagram @alex_nashton.

For the full interview with Alex, listen via the link above,, or find us on Instagram @thehealingcocoonpodcast.