I have been so blessed and grateful for the opportunity to be the lead instructor for a 200 hours yoga teacher training and to create Choose2be yoga school. It has been amazing to spend 8 weekends with these 12 beautiful beings, like Debbie, and also incredible to have 15 different instructors to come lead part of the training. It was alreadyIt has been a really rich and amazing journey in so many different ways. This Spring 2019 YTT was the second YTT that Choose2be had offered and had already improved so much from Spring 2018 YTT. Stay tune to see the headline and details from Spring 2020 YTT.
Part of the participants homework was to write an essay on the topic of their choice and they were aware that I would be posting it on my website. We also did an exercise in the first weekend to create a life affirmation and core desire feeling, I invited them to share it with us. I am so humbled and touched that I got to support these amazing beings on part of their journey and I am looking forward to witness how life unfolds for them.
My mantra: I am a deciduous forest who’s love, refined through growth inspires people to find answers, solutions and joy.
Core desires feeling: Motion/fluidity, Mastery, Connection
The ebb and flow of conscious breath in our daily life, especially with yoga practice, creates a sense of well-being and restored health by calming the mind and body. Connecting with and being aware of our breath, quite simply, can be a form of yoga all on it’s own.
The intended purpose of yoga is to prepare the mind and body for meditation by creating relaxation and focus. It’s a signal to the rest of our body that all is well and there is no need to be on high alert. Practising yoga also increases strength and flexibility. When a focus on breathing is added, an additional feeling of well-being is achieved.
The struggles and fast pace of modern western life can set off a stress response, alerting the amygdala to activate. The amygdala is a gland which, when alerted, secretes adrenaline into our system. The adrenaline, in turn, then activates the sympathetic nervous system. Commonly known as the “fight or flight reflex”, this system was needed for primitive survival and creates very high stress. Example: You see a large hairy thing running towards you. You do not stop to think and reason it all out, but instead are prompted to immediately run fast or fight for your life. That reaction might save your life, but modern living rarely requires it. If high stress does becomes a constant factor in our lives, that process may be activated far too often. Our bodies are not made to endure that much adrenaline over long periods of time, and as a result many health issues can arise.
In busy western culture we tend to breathe shorter, more shallow breaths. These breaths fill only the upper area of our chest. Filling only the top section of our lungs causes the neck and trapezius muscles to tighten, adding to stress, and doesn’t allow the lowest portion of the lung to get it’s fair share of oxygen. If we simply take a cue from our younger counterparts, babies, we can see how it is really done. If you see a baby laying on its back, his belly will expand and release on every breath. As the breath is drawn in the diaphragm lifts, the belly expands, and the chest fills. Equally, on the exhale, the chest lowers, then the belly lowers, and the diaphragm pulls in, expelling the air.
The benefits of a lower, deeper, more relaxed breath is more than just better oxygen intake. As the air passes ventral-vegal nerve, located near the diaphragm, it sends signals to the brain which in turn stimulates the parasympathetic system, slowing the heart rate, and resulting in a feeling of well-being.
The study of breath, known as Pranayama yoga in Sanskrit, is a precise discipline. There are dozens of different Pranayama techniques. They are a controlled series of counted inhales, exhales and holds in different forms that are repeated. For example, the ‘square breath’ is 4 counts slow inhale, 4 counts hold, 4 counts slow exhale, 4 counts hold and repeat as many times as prescribed. Each technique is specific to either detoxification, purification, balancing, charging, or calming.
Another Pranayama, called the Mrigi Mudra or “Dear Seal”, is done by tucking the middle and ring finger of the right hand into the palm with the thumb, pointer finger and pinky extended. Placing the pointer finger between the eyebrows, close off the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Now release the thumb and place the pinky finger on the left nostril and exhale. Then reverse the process, inhaling through the right and out through the left. The concentration required takes the mind off of anything else one might be busy with, leading to increased relaxation.
Flow yoga, know as Vinyasa, is physical movement worked in unison with breath. With each movement there is a breath. In particular, the ‘Ujihi’ breath. It is created by breathing through the nose into the back of the throat and lifting the soft pallet at the back of the mouth, making a whisper sound. You can get the feeling by imagining you are making fog on a mirror close to your mouth, then closing your mouth and continuing the sound while you breathe in and out through your nose.
The flow of physical movement through yoga with breath leads one into a meditation and restfulness of its own. Simply put, however we tap into it, breath awareness can greatly improve our health. Our breath is the giver of our life and the attention we give to it does not go unrewarded. “Keep Calm and Breathe on.” Namaste.