Introducing “Breathe with Me”

It’s an interesting thing, breath

Voluntary or involuntary? In through the nose and out through the mouth?  Soft belly breaths or deep breaths? “Just breath”?

There are so many ways to look at breath. Though I have been practicing and studying breath since my first trials on my yoga mat, through my graduate work and always with clients, lately I am teaching and experiencing it with greater intrigue.  Much of this is due to recently reading Breath. The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor.  Have you read it? If not, let me summarize. Our breath is important and HOW we breathe can provide benefits for our immediate and future health.  “Healthies”, young, old, those with respiratory conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea, autoimmune issues and folks with scoliosis can all benefit from incorporating a few minutes of breathing practice each day.  Will it cure whatever ails you? Mmm, I can’t guarantee that.  Will it contribute to your overall health and wellness? Most definitely.

I have long been interested in whole body wellness.  In fact, the very reason I switched from biochemistry to biopsychology in my undergraduate work at UCSB was because “biopsych” had so much more real life application.  For example, how the brain influenced our behavior and vice versa.  What I didn’t realize at the time, but have come to after years of teaching movement, is that we have a tremendous amount of opportunity in the “proper care and feeding” of our bodies to contribute to our whole body heath.  Elements such as food, exercise, sleep, relationships, self care, job satisfaction, laughter, touch, etc, etc. are all contributing factors. Breath seems to be another area (right at the tip of our nose!) that we can hone as a tool for wellness.

Since reading Breath I have been practicing many of the breathing techniques, some of which are familiar to me from my yoga practice, and others, like box breathing used by Navy Seals, which are new to me.  Not only do I feel the benefits of taking time to exercise my breath, but I am also inspired to share the techniques.  It is clear to me that mindful breathing is something that ANYONE can do to add quality to daily life by stress reduction, increased respiratory strength and support to the immune system.

All that to say…

I would like to invite you to a new class I am rolling out called Breathe with Me Mondays at 11:00am for the month of June (starting June 6th).  In this class I will introduce different breathing exercises followed by a practice of restorative yoga postures.  The breath work takes focus and attention, and I have found that a few restorative poses to follow is a lovely compliment for rest and to assist in the down-regulation of our nervous system. I will share more details on what you need (or don’t need) for our practice in the week prior to June 6th.  Until then, think about it, breathe about it 🙂 and look out for a Zoom link to register.  If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask.  Also, if you think someone you know might be interested in this work, please share this blog post with them.

 

I’m here, and I am listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, I sent out a newsletter with a message that seemed to resonate with many of you.  (In case you missed it, you can read it here).  I want you to know that I am here and I am listening!  Writing that piece and hearing your responses has inspired me to add a new weekly offering.  I will hold off on the details for now, but stay tuned for an additional online option coming your way soon.  (Psst. Spoiler alert: Anyone can participate.)

Until then, there are always Thursdays! And Thursday recordings, too. 🙂 I hope you will consider joining me for Move with Me this week.  Register here.

In wellness,
Francine

Exercise is good for everyone!! Wait…is it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture this…
It’s my first year of grad school. I am in a class led by my advisor, Dr. Vicky Jaque. She is standing at a podium with a Power Point projector behind her. Her wire rimmed glasses are pushed down over the tip of her nose so she can glance at her notes then back up at us. With wavy light brown hair, casual clothes and tennis shoes, she is not much taller than five feet. We, a class full of both undergraduate and graduate kinesiology students, are waiting for lecture to start. The class is called Fundamentals of Kinesiology or something of that nature. For the undergrads, it is one of the few classes they will take from Jaque – her time more aptly spent in her lab, office or graduate only level courses. For us grad students it’s a class we could assist in the future, perhaps next semester or after graduation. In either case, both groups of students are ready to listen attentively. Jaque clears her throat and starts lecture. “How many of you believe that EVERYONE should exercise?” Hands shot up quickly. We are all eager to answer this question correctly. “Okay, okay,” she says as she looked back at us neither acknowledging nor refuting our response. “Next question. How many of you believe everyone CAN exercise?” Hands go up more slowly, but still, the majority’s are up. After all, we are kinesiology students. We are there because we believe in the power of exercise. Didn’t she? She looked back at us matter-a-factly. “What if I told you not everyone should exercise. What would you think of that?” Before we could answer she went on. “You will come to realize that not everyone can exercise, and even if they can not everyone should. For some, it is down right detrimental to their entire system.” We all looked a little shocked, and I, who had rested my faith in this woman who was going to be my advisor, was a little miffed. That being said, I listened with open ears. She went on to describe conditions in which just normal ADLs (activities of daily living) require so much effort that they, on many days, are plenty enough demand on the body. Tasks such as being upright, dressing, bathing, eating and communicating taxed the body to the point that there was no “extra” energy for exercise. Add on some days of occupational therapy and those with these types of conditions are basically doing their version of cross training. Their bodies can only take so much.

Nearly a decade later, I have not forgotten that lecture. It gave me pause, information, and a completely different perspective on the roll of exercise for the individual. It educated me and taught me an important lesson. Just like no two bodies are the same, no two movement prescriptions should be the same either. I am grateful to Jaque for opening lecture that day with those questions. It has helped me define the work I do.

For many years I have a struggled with what to call myself. Am I a Pilates Instructor, Yoga Instructor or Kinesiologist? Am I a teacher, Movement Coach, Exercise Physiologist or Fitness Instructor? Truth be told, I am all of these. But the two words that most resonate with me incorporates the titles while simplifying the message. I am a Movement Educator. I am cueing movement to an individual’s unique body whether I am teaching standing Hatha yoga poses, Pilates fundamentals or simply how to breathe better. It could be a Pilates roll down, a functional squat or alternative nostril breathing. Perhaps I am teaching advanced arm work on the Reformer, or restorative yoga poses on the bolsters. It doesn’t matter. Formal exercise may not always be appropriate for an individual or for a given time, but MOVEMENT is always possible. The very act of extending our inhales and exhales is moving breath in and out of lungs. Drawing our bellies in engages our deep core muscles without having to use the spine. Swallowing and humming activities strengthen our vocal cords while relaxing our necks. You get the idea. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, a Hot Yoga class or a long hike. Sure, those things are awesome (and if you can do them, go for it!) But those and even gentler forms of exercise are at times not appropriate for some. We may be in a season due to acute or chronic illness, grief, or injury where we just can’t keep up our “normal” or “former” exercise routine. It’s ok. Simple movement is good, too. At times, working on those fundamental tasks like breathing, ergonomic sitting, good posture, and relaxed standing, can be THE exercise that the body needs in this space and time.

I realize my story turned into a bit of a soap box (enter embarrassed emoji). If you are still here, I am most grateful. 🙂 Honoring the space and ability that we have at given time is so important to me, especially as I approach my birthday next month. But let’s not wait for our next birthdays! Let’s honor where we are at right now, and do what movement, however much or little, feels good. What do you say? I hope you are on board. And if you need some encouragement, even if it is solely to breathe with me, grab your mat and log on to Zoom this Thursday at 10:00am PST. I’d love to see you there.

In knowing that every movement counts,

Francine