Tag Archives: breathe

16 minutes of truth on broken bodies, healing, yoga

Yoga teacher Shannon Paige delivers a moving TED Talk about her battle against cancer, depression and the damage they brought to her body and mind. Her talk, Mindfulness and Healing, took place at the 2012 TEDxBoulder event so it’s not seen a lot of exposure. She owns Om Time Yoga Center.

For Shannon, the battle with depression was actually as hard as battling cancer. Through this, Shannon discovers that while, yoga can’t heal depression, getting into your body can change the mind and create a state of empowerment, stability, and release.

Sharon also reminded me that I had failed to maintain a dialogue with myself and whoever else wants to listen to tales from the journey down the path of prana. This will have to do for now.

Catching your breath helps manage stress

While lamenting the distortions that my Kindle Fire HD has introduced in my reading habits, I did managed to finish a book this past week. In fact, I recommend that you buy a print copy because it comes with an audio CD that may be helpful in getting the knack for a breathing technique.

The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotionsby Doctors Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg (Shambhala, 2012) is a useful primer on why you should develop a breathing practice even if you are not into yoga. It reviews the scientific research on the use of breath work in improving resilience to stress as well as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and trauma-induced emotions and behaviors. Brown and Gerbarg recommend a simple technique that slows your breathing to five breaths per minute, combined with simple visualizations of moving energy along the spine or from the head to the soles of the feet. They call it Coherent Breathing, and it can be modified to resemble the ujjayi (Darth Vader) Resistance Breathing that most yoga practitioners already know. I’ve used the technique to slow my mind down before going to bed or while seated on a train or waiting in line.

The key is to slow down the pace, and that can be harder than you’d expect. For instance, with my sudarshan kriya practice, the tendency is to speed up the pace and make it energizing. After working with the practice for a while, you’ll catch on to the pace and it will become second nature. The slower pace makes it easier to slip into a meditative mindset.

The CD contains a half dozen instructional takes on breathing techniques, and then it moves into a full 15-minute session, plus a short body scan.

More information is available on their website. There are also some audio files of radio interviews, podcasts and other material. Additional information can be found at Coherence, which goes into science behind the technique.

Stress relief at the University of Texas through yoga

The university environment can be one of the most stressful settings and the Art of Living Foundation has had a long-standing program for students.

Art of Living UT promotes yoga to relieve stress among students: “While the 2 a.m. Wendy’s run for french fries and a Frosty is a frequent and tempting stress-management method for many UT students during finals, there is a healthier way to cope with the strain the ensuing weeks will inevitably bring: yoga. Art of Living UT, an organization based on the global Art of Living Foundation, offers stress management workshops and conducts service initiatives around the world. Its mission is to help individuals get rid of stress and find inner peace. Art of Living UT promotes these same teachings at UT through free yoga and meditation classes for all students throughout the semester. The UT organization will hold its final yoga session of the semester Monday, giving students the perfect study break before finals officially begin.”

The trick is for each person to find the pose, sequences or practices that allow the release of tension. It can take more trial-and-error than just taking a pill.

Here’s another story about yoga classes at the Hillsborough Community College (Iowa) and why the school was promoting it.

Breath work back on track

After a scare last week (bloody nose), I have restarted doing my pranayama, fitting in sudarshan kriya every day, followed by meditation. I just have to make sure that I don’t get too carried away with the exhales. As I knew from five years ago, sudarshan kriya and meditation make a compact fit, require modest amounts of time and really purge a lot of mental and emotional toxins. I don’t practice Sahaj Samadhi meditation because I tend to need a technique that allows me to pin my mind to something and return to it frequently, but it allowed me to start a structured meditation practice.

Over the past six months, with multiple demands on my time and energy, I’ve had to strip my practice down to the bare minimum — or less, which is when I start noticing that my personal gyroscope starts wobbling.  The essential factor is daily practice.  Sure, it would be great to push my meditation to an hour a day (not in one sitting, my monkey mind can be lured into stillness for short lapses), but I’ve got to keep this practice manageable; otherwise, I will just talk myself out of doing it.

This blog has also been cut back to a minimal expression because I am in survival mode.

Leslie Kaminoff starts blog

The Breathing Project‘s Kaminoff already has substantial information on the blog, includingi Interview with T.K.V. Desikachar conducted by Leslie Kaminoff in Madras, October, 1992.. Desikachar is Kaminoff’s teacher (guru?).

Kaminoff’s e-mail list has always had fascinating contributions from many big — and not so big — names in yoga since 1999. He is reposting a lot of material from then so the blog will be an intriguing online resource on yoga.

He will also be starting a site on yoga anatomy since he is writing a book on the topic.

55 and counting

Five days ago, I turned 55 years old. It’s kind of a milestone — in 10 years I will be forced into retirement at my workplace. But I see myself as being in the most productive stage of my life. My childhood was sheltered. My youth was the normal anguished torture of most teenagers. My twenties and thirties were filled with the rewards of love and family, but professionally I was winging it and riding on the edge of burnout. When I turned 40, I told myself that the best was yet to come because I had gotten through the learning phase and ego trips and reached maturity. Little did I know that would go through 10 years of frustration and rootlessness as I swung between the States and Peru, job to job, trying to find a sustainable career.

My point being, in the past nine months, I have finally chanced across the personal tools — yoga, pranayama, meditation and self-inquiry, combined with the expansive horizons of the Internet — that allow me to steer my life and emotions. I wish I had these practices when I was a teenager or a young adventurer going off to South America to experience life or an adult husband and father who did not comprehend why he had to harbor a core of unhappiness.

I am not saying that I have suddenly become brilliant or more accomplished — I’ve just found the means to live within myself while still stretch my boundaries.

A finger to the pulse with Yogoogle

A while ago, I mentioned Leslie Kaminoff’s Breathing Project, and made a passing reference to the mailing list, e-Sutra. At the time, it did not seem to be too active. Over the summer, a few mailings came through and it’s really proven to be an welcome delivery to my Inbox. Kaminoff sends out something called Yogoogle (no longer available), which is a compilation of links to recent news stories about yoga. Sometimes, he will add his own comments, but mostly the title, source and the lede. He is probably using Google’s News Alert
to find the articles. It’s a way of monitoring yoga’s presence in Western mass culture.

This kind of exercise can be frustrating since most news sites send their stories to archive within 7-30 days of publication, requiring that you pay for access to their past articles. In any case, it’s no small accomplishment to pull together these news items, throw out the dross, repeats or shortened versions and put it in a readable format. I know because I used to do something like this for another site.

He also sends out a bulletin board in which teachers can announce courses and authors their books. These tend to be centered in the New York City area, but can still be far ranging. For instance, it recently pointed me to the site of Kelly McGonigal newsletter (no longer available – MLS). She teaches yoga at Stanford.

Kaminoff also issues a synopsis of mailing list discussions, on a specific topic — for instance, yoga sequencing.

In other words, it’s worth subscribing.