A Day withThe Yes Brain

Despite horrendous traffic and the occasional shifting of the earth, living in the Los Angeles area has it’s perks.  One of those is proximity to UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.  This past Saturday I was lucky enough to spend the day taking a MARC workshop from my professional (and now personal) hero Dr. Daniel Siegel and is oft coauthor, the inspiring Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.  The workshop was entitled The Yes Brain, coincidently (not at all coincidently) the title of their new book.

Let me start by saying that I was nerding out in a big way about seeing Dr. Siegel in person.  I have read so many of his books (although he seems to write them faster than I can read them) and listened to even more of his talks online. I have used his “handy” model of the brain in more sessions than I can begin to count.  More than anyone else, this man has influenced the way I practice therapy.  And, if you recall, which of course you do because you are a faithful reader of my little blog here, I wrote my first blog post (which became my second when I decided to introduce myself first) about his book Parenting from the Inside Out.

Even with all of the build up of meeting my hero, this workshop did not disappoint.

The workshop was a synopsis of the book and was for everyone, not just for professionals.  Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson had such a great rapport, which made the talk feel like a conversation.  Dr. Siegel is the consummate expert at explaining the neurobiology in an accessible way, and seeing him demonstrate the hand model of the brain in person was, for me, like seeing my favorite band play my favorite song.  Did I mention I am a huge nerd?  Dr. Bryson masterfully took all of the science and applied it to real life parenting. They used examples from their own lives, which made all of it feel so human.

Since it took them 3 plus hours to break down the book, I won’t even try here, but I can give you a little peek.  The difference between a Yes Brain and a No Brain is a great place to start.



Shut Down

In Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Faint Phase



Recoils from failure

Unwilling to try new things




Open to learning and connecting


Able to hold on to curiosity and creativity

Socially engaged

Willing to try new things



How do we know if our kids (or ourselves*hint hint) are in a Yes Brain state.  The authors call this the Green Zone.. Physically speaking the Green Zone looks calm, regular breath rate, relaxed muscles, clear thinking, and the ability to respond by making rational choices.  A No Brain can be seen in two different zones, the Red Zone looks a lot like the fight and flight response; increased heart rate, breath and blood pressure, tense muscles, shaking, and reactive.  The Blue Zone looks like the faint or freeze states, limp muscles, markedly decreased heart rate, collapse, and playing possum.

So how do we keep ourselves and our kids in the Green Zone.  The authors use a cheesy acronym:





~Did you get the pun???  We’ve already established that I love a good pun!~

How do we establish the BRIE in our kids?  That is the heart of the book.  There is no way I can do it justice here, so I won’t even try.  But, I will speak to my hint above.  In order for our kids to have a Yes Brain, we have to have one too.  We can’t expect our children to learn something that isn’t modeled to them, it’s like saying “here, I expect you to know all about reptilian anatomy without ever reading a book or laying eyes on a reptile.”  It doesn’t sound super realistic when I put it that way does it?  So get ready to get your yes brain working, because you’ll need it to help your child develop one!  And enjoy the read, you may become a Siegel/Bryson fanatic like me!