Tag: trauma

Buyer Beware: Not All Breathwork is Relaxing

Eoin Chakra Physiology and Hormones
In a world of extremes we love to push the boundaries of

Commit to Bliss is Unique and Powerful course to learn the tools of Somatic Breathing and Embodied Physiology so we can self regulate back to peace in any life situation.

 

Imagine being brand new to snow-skiing and on your first run you ended up taking the wrong chair lift. Instead of going to the manageable bunny slope, you got thrust off the chair lift straight into a double diamond run. How would you feel looking down that steep pitch? To many experienced skiers, this is the dream. However, to the new skier most likely provokes sheer terror.

I had a blind spot when it came to how I taught yogic breathing techniques. I now see this blind spot everywhere as people quickly jump on the bandwagons of Wim Hof, the “IceMan.”

This is why I want to share this post now as a “Buyer Beware” PSA. I believe that if breathing techniques were packaged goods they should come with a label. “Warning, not all techniques are good for all people.”

With one in five people in US has an anxiety disorder, I see many yogic breathing techniques or Wim Hof Breathing techniques being described as relaxing antidotes to stress and anxiety. I want the word to get out that breathwork is not a “one size fits all shop.”

Let me circle back to the skiing analogy and my blind spot. I had been sharing these techniques in my classes up until 15 years ago. I loved the “double diamond” runs of long breath holds (Kumbhaka) and rapid breathing (Khapalabhati,) the same way I love big waves or double black diamond ski runs.

 

 

I spent many years practicing Kumbaka (long breath holds) and Kapalabhati (Rapid Breathing) by my teacher Gioia Irwin who’s lineage goes back to B.K.S. Iyengar.

As I prepare for an upcoming book and course on the Yoga Sutras, even Patanjali describes the serenity of the breath holds as the pinnacle of the yogic Pranayama experience (Check out Sutra 2.50.) How could people not like these techniques?

However, when I would teach them to students, many of them came to me afterwards saying that they were not experiencing peace at all, but they were going through traumatic experiences.

They were not seeing chakras, angelic auras or the light of divine consciousness. Not at all. What they were describing to me was panic flashbacks. Some described it to the claustrophobic experience of being put into MRI machines after being injected with purple die to check for tumors.

It made me seek feedback from other students on these techniques. What I found was that during these breathing techniques, many of them were secretly feeling claustrophobic, light-headed, dizzy and full of panic.

You may have seen some of my Instagram memes (Eoinisms) like the popular “Less Drama, More Pranayama.” What is fully clear to me now is that for about 1 in 6 people, I was causing “More Drama, through Pranayama!”

It’s no wonder they felt agitated because in these rapid breathing techniques, we are actually hyperventilating. Those rapid exhalations lower carbon dioxide levels which in turn lead to narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain!

When our blood supply to the brain is decreased, we will experience symptoms like lightheadedness and tingling in the fingers.

It’s actually crazy to consider that people who were already feeling anxious or trauma were now trying to fight off lightheadedness and numb fingers! And they had no tools to deal with this. And they were told this is “stress-reducing response. It wasn’t stress-reducing, it was stress-inducing!

On the other side of the coin, holding your breath too long can lower heart rate from a lack of oxygen. This causes CO₂ buildup in your bloodstream. This is called “nitrogen narcosis,” a dangerous buildup of nitrogen gases in your blood that can make you feel disoriented or inebriated.

Again, for people who are already suffering from stress and anxiety, why would we ever push them off the chair lift into the double diamond run of feeling disoriented or inebriated? Of course, you may have the tools stay grounded in this disorientated state so this may be your cup of tea, and that’s fine. My point is we cannot keep pushing people into these experiences under the label of “reduce stress with pranayama or Wim Hof breathing techniques.

To be fair, what I found is that if I worked one on one with these students, we had a lot of success to make the experience slowly more enjoyable. They gradually learned the somatic tools to stay calm in the experience to not allow the sympathetic nervous system or panic response to overtake them.

However, in large group classes, I couldn’t work one on one with people the way these pranayama breathing techniques should be taught. As a result, I stopped sharing these breathing techniques in my classes for that reason. (Again, it’s not that I don’t think they are great in some circumstances, but we have to walk before we run.)

About 15 years ago, I decided to change tacks altogether.

I set out a mission to explore ways of helping people regulate towards peace. What if we could make a goal of getting people onto the green slopes first before launching them of the chair lift into a double diamond slope that can cause the panic response?

I can’t go into the details of all the techniques here, but I am so overjoyed to share the ones that have evolved in our Blissology school.

I want to share these as a more widely accessible alternative to more stimulating breathing techniques. By analogy, I want people to enjoy the effects of a mellow “Cush” strain of marijuana before they launch into the world of Ayahuasca trip intensity. In a world where many of us with life stresses are already in the extremes of stress, I just don’t think that we need to rush to extremes.

I will be sharing many of these techniques in the upcoming Commit to Bliss course Nov 14 and my new Yoga book due out this winter.

The course is primarily about finding “Embodied Peace.” It’s about learning Somatic regulation and what I called “Embodied Physiology.” My goal is to share tools, conversations and science about how to steer our bodies back to peace when we feel anxious, angry or overly stressed.

 

Eoin Chakra Physiology and Hormones

Commit to Bliss is a coursed designed to teach you Embodied Physiology to help regulate your body and mind back to Peace.

 

In the meantime, here is a small an excerpt from page 156 of the upcoming Commit to Bliss Book under the Embodied Breath section.

The general process is to go slow and feel the breath.
Open your senses and notice the body as you breathe.

Reduce the tendency of the human mind to analyze of rush.
Simply enjoy the feeling of peace that comes when we slow down our breath.

Breathe fully into your belly noticing that when the breath becomes more enjoyable your mind feels more spacious and free.

Even as you read the sentences below, make plenty of space to pause and a savor the experience. Soften your eyes and keep the spine long.  Enjoy the slow.

See your breathing process through the lens of tightness and flow.

Feel a place that’s tight: some common places are the lower back, the upper shoulders, the lower jaw, the forehead and belly. Let them release. Breath that tightness out, as your brain sinks into a hammock with ease.

Feel the fullness and the peace in your breath as we shift into a state of mind, we call flow.

Calm is your superpower. You have the controls. Enjoy each deep and full breath

 

Blissology Yoga: 6 Essential Steps for Amazing Adjustments

There are few things in life as blissful as a well executed yoga adjustment. Yet when it goes wrong, it is very, very bad. We are offering a mind-blowing module in Santa Cruz this August called Advanced Alignment and Adjustments.

Just in case you can’t make it and in my interest of bringing more love and connection out into the world, here is our six steps to adjustments in our Blissology Yoga School. Remember, not everyone wants to be touched and you can always cue people with your words. As you will see in the article, if you can’t get passed Phase three, don’t worry.

I hope to see you on the mat soon.

Step 1: Intention: What is your intention for adjusting? Be clear.

It is important to start the process of adjusting at the foundational level: our intention. Most times, before we adjust someone, our intentions are unconscious. We go straight into the how the adjustment should be done and the question of why we are adjusting someone happens in the background of our minds. Even though I believe we need more touch in the world, I believe it needs to come from our highest consciousness.

I have trained myself to take a few extra seconds in my internal dialogue to clarify what my intention is before I think about putting my hands on someone. I know my intention will come through in my touch. Often it is the same simple Mantra I repeat to myself: “I want this person to feel total joy!”

It is essential to have an honest conversation in my mind. If it is not my “highest vibrational self” coming through, I have to catch those non-beneficial seeds. For example, if I ever think to myself, “I have to show this person how much I know,” or proclaiming judgmentally to myself, “God, what is this person doing? Don’t they know anything?” I know I am not coming from the right frame of mind as these are low vibrational qualities. These are about me wanting to be liked and needing to prove my worth. If these stories are operating somewhere in the background, the first adjustment I need to give is my own state of mind and not to another person.

I need to make sure that the place I am coming from is one of sharing the miracle of health and the gift of life with another. I need to feel in my body, mind and heart that I truly have nothing to prove and everything to share.

Step 2: Assessment Phase

Start your assessment process with the Pranayama Kosha—the breath. Is the breath relaxed and full or is it short, choppy, strained or being held? Are they embodying peace and listening to bodily feedback.

ManaMaya Kosha—the Mind: The mindset and the breath are ultimately intimately connected. Is the mindset one of dominating the body? Is there a sense of willfully trying to submit the body even if it means sacrificing the breath? Is the shape the body is taking more important than the feeling of peace and connection?

If the answer is yes, then we need to find strategies to soften and encourage the student to back up to a point where they can enjoy their breath. Often they will need a touch that soothes the side of them that is driven and turns their awareness to the internal experience.

On the level of the Anamaya Kosha—the muscles and bones—we need to scan for joints at risk. This is the biggie. But in general, watch for 1) Sharp angles or joint 2) stress that is concentrated on one joint vs dispersed over several. Know the 12 indispensible joint issues section of the Blissology manual cold. If there is a joint at risk, don’t move to the next phase of the adjustment process, back them out of the pose and start again.

Next, have an eye for whether the student has “yin” (loose) or “yang” (tight) tissues. Are they stable or instable? What is stuck and immobile and what is too loose? Have they lost their lines of DUO*? Their arches?

Step 3: Attunement Phase

Attunement is huge—it means that there is a harmony between your actions and the recipient. It means the doorway of trust and connection are open; you are both “in sync.” You are a “horse-whisperer.” Your energy matters.

Awareness of Energy and Feelings will come over time but the easiest place to start when you are in the attunement phase is by observing the breath of the recipient. When you touch them, do they clam up, tighten and lose the natural rhythm of their breath?

Don’t forget to check in with your own breath. Is it still deep and relaxed? Stay in your body as well and generate a vibration of kindness and confidence.

Find a soft touch on your partner and don’t adjust too quickly. Are you being “let in” or “shut out?” If you are not being let in, do not adjust your partner.

You need to know that you may not make it past this attunement phase. If you are not energetically in sync, do not proceed to the next steps.

You may not have to walk away, either. There is a little more exploration that needs to happen here.

Explorations:

1) Injury: Is there an injury? This is my go to for noticing why someone may be guarded and not willing to receive an adjustment. When I notice the breath is being held and the body tightening, I simply whisper to my partner, “are you injured?” or, “is this ok?”

2) Ego: Sometimes people are in their egos or from a different school of yoga and they feel that you are not qualified to adjust them. In this case, my response is to observe something in the pose that they are doing well and offer it up to the student. The words, “Nice Pose,” can go a long way to break down a barrier and they will be more likely to receive what you are offering.

Especially in the case of our Blissology Alignment system where the principles and methodology are new to many yogis, you will need a strategy to help them work with you. The compliment and redirect strategy can work well here. I often say “Nice Pose” and then complete the sentence with “… but let’s try it this way today.”

3) Trauma: A person may want you in their space: If you just aren’t welcome because a person is not ready to receive touch, that is okay.