Breathing is the latest craze thanks to James Nestor's book Breath. It's a good book, very readable, but it doesn't help you figure out what you need to change in your own breathing. That's because it's a book, and not a person watching and listening to you and your breathing.
Hi! I'm Jennifer, and I teach breathing. I can assess you, look at symptoms you are having, listen to your story, help you figure out what's going on, and how you can optimise your breathing. I've learned a lot of things from different places, and I bring all of those tools together in my Breath Retraining Course. I'm a yoga teacher, and I've learned a lot about movement and biomechanics. I'm also a Buteyko Educator, a HeartMath Certified Practitioner, and an Integrative Breathing Therapist. And I've spent a lot of time reading about and learning about the nervous system and trauma, and how that intersects with the breath. Your breathing is influenced by many things in your body — movement, chemistry, nervous system states, your thoughts — and it should be responsive to all of that.
There are two different ways to breathe — normal breathing, and breathing exercises. We talk a lot about breathing exercises, but not always about what the point of an exercise is. Normal breathing is something else entirely, and because it's so variable, it can be difficult to describe. This can have people doing a breathing exercise, and then going out into their day repeating that exercise, integrating it into their "normal" breathing time, which can be disruptive to the oscillating patterns in the body.
I hope you're intrigued, and you'd like to learn more. If you have breathing pattern disorders or symptoms stemming from your breathing, maybe it's time to address them. Join me Thursdays at 12pm ET, starting May 12 for the next Breath Retraining Course. For more information click here, or email me with your questions.
"The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible."
~ Francis Ward Weller
There has been a lot of grief and sadness in the world these past couple of years, and a great need for compassion. It's hard to be present with it all. But we can be present with the breath, and we can use the space between the breaths as a moment to reflect. Take a gentle inhale (through your nose) and then a gentle exhale (through your nose), then pause. Don't hold the breath, but be still in the rest between the breaths. And when the breath returns, use that moment as one to feel gratitude for your breath. Inhale, exhale, pause and be present, inhale with gratitude. After a while you can go beyond that, and begin to work towards stretching yourself wide and being present with the grief in yourself. Gratitude, grief, gratitude, grief, gratitude, grief. Building up our gratitude practice and our grief practice will help us to be present with the suffering of others, and our compassion.
Let's all try this and see if we can change the world by changing ourselves.
The first run of Finding Kevala Pranayama wrapped up today. Short a few people in the final call (plus one cat with her cone of shame, and a few dogs), but I'm so grateful to everyone who signed up and joined me for the past nearly 3 months, digging deep into breathing. I had a fabulous time. My brain is currently empty, but I'm sure something new will come from the space I'm making over the next few weeks.
What is breath? Is it air? Is it life? Is it something more than that? We might recognise that there are overlaps in our language that hint at both things — inspire means to inhale, but also give energy to an idea or feeling; conspire literally means to breathe with someone else, but we use the word to express working together to achieve a goal (often nefarious, actually or tongue-in-cheek). The word Atman is a Sanskrit word that means our essence or soul, but can also refer to the breath. And it's related to the Proto-Indo-European word etmen, which is the root of many words across Europe which mean breath. What is it to you?