There are two feelings that I keep coming back to throughout this pandemic. The first one is the feeling that my world had shrunk a lot. Previously my life felt much larger – I could attend events, see people and travel to places without thinking much about it. Now I shuttle between my house, my office, the grocery store and along the streets of my immediate neighborhood – all within one mile radius. Life feels small and it will get even smaller as weather gets colder, days get shorter and evenings get darker. I can feel this smallness in my mind as a long list of restrictions that are out of reach for me, and as a sense of tightness in my body – in my chest, or my shoulders, or my stomach.
The other feeling is the lack of control. It feels like there is very little I can control right now aside from my immediate household. I control the choices that I make in regard to my own health and safety and my yoga business, but I have no control over choices that other people in my neighborhood, city, state and country make. Yet those outside choices impact my health and my livelihood. We all make our individual choices, but those choices ripple throughout our communities in expected and unexpected ways. Sometimes it seems that catching the virus boils down to simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time, no matter what precautions you take. And there is no end in sight. This sense of powerlessness can manifest in all sorts of ways, from an urge to micromanage every little aspect of my life that I can control to just throwing my hands up in the air and hiding under the blanket to binge watch Netflix. Neither of those helps long-term, but at least they provide some sort of distraction.
What does reliably help is connecting to my breath. Moving with the breath in my yoga practice and taking time to observe and regulate my breath throughout the day both give me the sense of inner spaciousness and show me that I have some control over my physical and mental state. How we feel emotionally is intimately linked to how we feel physiologically. And how we feel physiologically depends on how well we take care of the body and how accurately we interpret the signals that the body sends us. That’s why to feel better both mentally and physiologically we need to properly manage the three pillars of our physiological health (stress, sleep, energy) AND develop deep awareness of our interception (sensations within our bodies). The most direct path into both of those realms is our breath.
It’s a pretty well-known fact that breath regulation is the most obvious way to control our sympathetic (“fight-and-flight) and parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) balance, which directly impacts our stress response, sleep patterns and energy levels. And breath awareness is the most obvious way to get insights about what’s going on inside of our bodies (interoception).
To your brain, there is very little difference between what it perceives from the outside world (via the senses) and what it perceives inside your body (via interoception). Your brain is constantly involved in explaining your inner state and then projecting that inner state into your reality. When you feel balanced and calm, the world seems sunnier, food tastes better, people are friendlier, body aches are not bothersome, and things are generally looking up. When you feel out of balance and cranky, the world seems to conspire against you, nothing goes smoothly, the body is a wreck, people are mean, nobody cares about you and the world is coming to an end.
Your whole worldview is based on how you feel inside, which is mostly based on how your mind had interpreted your physiological state. The key to living a happier, more balanced life (even in the middle of a pandemic) is to keep your physiology in balance and to become better at interpreting the cues from your body. This doesn’t mean ignoring your reality, but simply managing your response to it.
This is what our new yoga series Breathe to Live: Yoga for Energy and Vitality is about. It helps you develop better interoception through breath awareness and affect your physiological state with breath regulation. We spent the past several months discussing the way our respiratory system works, what kind of breathing patterns are optimal and how they affect our physiology. Now you can put all those theories into action with a selection of 25 yoga practices that illustrate each point that we’ve discussed. Some of those practices are longer; they include both movement and breath work and teach you how to link them together. Some practices are shorter and focus primarily on the breath; they help you familiarize yourself with individual breathing techniques and how to apply them to specific situations in your daily life. Some of those practices have been published here before and some are brand new. The series also includes the collection of articles I wrote about each aspect of the respiratory system and the main yogic energy models in printable pdf format, as well as video summaries of the most important points for each chapter.
In the Breathe to Live: Yoga for Energy and Vitality series you will get:
- 25 targeted yoga practices that are accessible to most students,
- 30 articles on the modern understanding of the breathing process and how it relates to traditional yogic approach,
- 14 videos with a brief outline of the most important points for each chapter.
In this yoga series you will learn how to breathe more effectively to feel vital, resilient and strong. Here is a short video that gives you the series overview.
The Breathe to Live: Yoga for Energy and Vitality series is currently available for a special introductory price of $35. Learn more about the series >
The sequences to all the practices from the series are included in the sequence builder and are available to all members. You can modify those practices any way you like.
You can do the practices included in this series in order, or pick and choose the ones you need most. In each yoga practice we will use movement, breath and awareness to help you feel vital, resilient and strong. Each short breathing practice is meant as a quick “snack” that you can reach for at any point during your day to reconnect to your breath and become more centered. Please check it out!