Physiology of Breath and Health

DSCN1625As I prepare for a performance or audition my body ramps up with adrenaline, which elevates blood pressure, shortens my breathing and in general creates unease here in my body. Today, I am consciously deepening my breath and finding places where the body just doesn’t want to expand – tense maybe?

The yogis tell us that shallow breathing creates a state where we are more vulnerable to disease.  In biological terms, we know that deeper breaths draw the diaphragm down and expand the openings in the diaphragm through which the major blood vessels in the body pass.  This allows for optimal flow of oxygen and waste gasses.  So, breathing to stay healthy makes perfect sense!

Laughing has the same effect!  So, as a gift to your body, try expanding your breath – give up that ideal flat belly for big deep inhalations, then draw in the navel as you exhale. Try it all day today and see how you feel!  Who knows, you might just reach enlightenment.


Prenatal Resources – good books

I wanted to share with you a few my favorite books for expectant and new mothers. We all know that knowledge is power and theses books offer wisdom responsibly.

When looking for resources it is always good to be wary of any books that make claims for making your baby’s schedule “conform” to yours especially when it comes to feeding. Newborns come ferociously hardwired with three basic needs: to be near you, to be fed and to suckle. These needs will shift with each growth spurt, on days when your schedule or outings shifts nap time – or whatever! There will be a “new normal” every week or so and adjusting to your baby will require time, skin-to-skin contact and yes, sometimes interrupted sleep ;-). Remember, in all the good and the tough times – “This too shall pass” so even at its most intense you will find resources deep within yourself to get up one more time, change one more diaper, burp one more burp before you, your baby and your partner can rest. They are little for precious little time! You will never regret those minutes in the still of the night nursing or rocking your little one back to sleep.

Here are some nice books for you to explore:

The Kind Mother, Alicia Silverstone
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La Leche League publication
The Nature of Birth and Breastfeeding, Michel Odent, M.D.
Rediscovering Birth (or anything else) by Sheila Kitzinger
Mind Over Labor, by Carl Jones
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Henci Goer
Creating a Joyful Birth Experience, by Bardsley & Cappachione

Not all of these will be at regular bookstores so try Half Price, Indy Reads, or other used store inventories too. See you soon!

Yours in service, Jean

Meditation for slowing down during hurried days:

DSCN2272Meditation for slowing down during hurried days:


Set a meditation timer so that you can luxuriate in this meditation without checking the clock for the end time.  I use iQi for all of my classes. )

Sit quietly with legs relaxed and back comfortable or supported.

Watch the movement of breath in and out of your nose.

Consciously relax your face, jaw, shoulders, arms, hands, belly, low back, hips, legs and feet.

Feel the cool touch of air on each in breath and the warmth of each out breath.

Notice how  your heart rate slows to a quiet resting rhythm and allow space to move in between each thought.

Expand that space as far as possible and if thoughts intrude or speed up, simply bringing your awareness back to the breath.

At the sound of the bell or chime slowly move and stretch the body.  Maintain your meditative state of mind as you come back into activity.

Prayer to finish:

“I am grateful for this time of stillness.  I ask you to expand the sense of peace I have created within my own heart and mind and body and share it with all in my community who are in the greatest need of peace.”



Affirmation from Mel Campbell’s, The Yoga of Pregnancy

For pregnant women and to invite all people to create space for stillness and silence at some point each day.

“I will be totally relaxed and at ease when I give birth to my baby.  In full appreciation of all the changes taking place inside my body. I will take time this week to be with you in stillness.”


“Pressing the pause button in my daily life,

I will rest my body and mind.  

I will invite silence between my words,

space between my thoughts

and stillness between my actions.

In my practice I found peace in my body and mind, uniting with you in stillness. ~Mel Campbell

namaste, Jean and panda buddy

cleansing water…..

IMG_3817During our classes we have been enjoying a cooling, cleansing blend of waters to stay hydrated while we practice and rehydrate after class. Try these at home to refresh your body -an oasis in a glass!

Lime-mint, lime-mint-cucumber, lemon-berry and berry-mint. Mint is naturally cooling and soothing to digestion and almost too easy to grow. Cucumber mitigates swelling from heat and late pregnancy. Of course berries are tart and full of antioxidants. Play with your own blends and tell us your favorites for health and taste!

Power Core Flow – Just in Time for Summer

Exhale into half boat
Beginning in savasana, Exhale up into half boat
Half Boat
Hold half boat as you exhale keeping legs parallel to your mat.
Inhale down into boat (navasana) keeping toes together if you wish, but not your legs.
Inhale down into boat (navasana) keeping toes together if you wish, but not your legs.
Exhale back up into half boat

Exhale back up into half boat

Lower down with control, aiming to bring legs and head down at the same rate.  This is not easy!
Lower down with control, aiming to bring legs and head down at the same rate. This is not easy!
Relax for a breath and repeat, building up to 10-12 repetitions.  Be mindful of your lower back.  This flow should strengthen the total core.  Enjoy!
Relax for a breath and repeat, building up to 10-12 repetitions. Be mindful of your lower back. This flow should strengthen the total core. Enjoy!


Celebrate Spring Green with outdoor pranayama or breath work!

DSCN8587So much beauty unfolds daily around us at this time of year it feels renewing to spend time outside walking or sitting and breathing deeply the fragrant plants, freshly mown grasses and blooming trees and flowers.  Of course, if you suffer with pollen allergies you may need to increase your neti pot nasal cleansing to compensate, but deep exhalation can help to clean allergens out of the lungs and nose.  Here is a nice easy practice to try the next time you walk your dog or just walk to your parking garage:

First: Stand and feel your feet anchoring into the earth. Notice the skeleton aligning itself over your feet.

Second: Begin walking and inhale to the count of two steps.  Exhale to the count of four steps.

Third: Enjoy the new greenness of the earth as you draw in all of that lovely, fresh oxygen.

Wishing you peace this Earth Day Month!

Breathe for your health!

IMG_3778Ok, so that title could be a joke!  Of course we have to breathe to stay alive, but wouldn’t you like to give your body breath that will help ward off disease?  Taking full diaphragmatic breaths releases pressure on major blood vessels that run through the diaphragm muscle.  Taking little chest breaths restrict the full expansion of the chest cavity and the release of those vessels.  It’s difficult for us to monitor our breathing, but the more we indulge in full inhalations that expand the torso and full exhalations that contract the abdominal muscles we actually increase our oxygen intake, improve circulation between upper body and lower body which lowers blood pressure (!), and tone the abdominal muscles!  In addition, complete breaths expel all waste gases so our inhalations give our bodies a real “breath of fresh air!”  The yogis tell us that breathing consciously and fully can actually improve our immunity to all things viral by keeping the respiratory system clean.  GIve it a try and send me results of your experiment!  Of course, breathing may not be as effective as a flu vaccine but it should make you feel great everyday!


I am sitting here inside my mostly cozy house and looking out into a sunny winter wonderland. I thought this an ideal time to remind myself and you that during these drier, colder months we need to support our natural bio rhythms and keep our systems moist so that we can maintain physical and mental balance. Take care of the body by drinking lots of water and light juices, herbal teas, and eating soups, to warm and nourish. No amount of lotion or cream can hydrate. Those do soften and smooth the cuticle but we need inner hydration even more. Try Jala Neti – using a neti pot- to keep the nasal passages moist and clean so they can better filter dust from our interior environments. And try a humidifier to moisten the air around you to keep the body and nose more comfortable.

Since the light fades earlier and the colder temperatures make us want to slow down and bundle our bodies while we are forced to maintain busy schedules and active lives, we can use meditation to maintain breath and balance. Think of five minutes of stillness and deep breathing as a retreat into your own private bear cave or cozy den. Set a timer, settle the body into a comfortable seat and observe the deepening of your breath. If your children are home for extended holidays due to extreme weather know that learning to quiet mind and body in noisy or chaotic environments may be the very best skill that parents can develop! Enjoy your practice and let me know your favorite ways to retreat!

Namaste, jean

Yoga Tips for Weight Loss

Ok, folks, Here’s the deal.    Losing weight is one of the hardest things to do.  But the cold hard truth is that being disciplined is the key and that is even harder.  I want to offer the world a short list of easy habits that should help with the process.  Your body is God’s vessel on Earth just as your soul is His/Her agent so choose accordingly!

Step One: No eating in the car.  This creates a mindless intake of calories.  You cannot be aware of what you are eating while you are occupied with driving so you will eat more of whatever it is automatically.  Buy a stick shift – this makes it impossible to steer and snack simultaneously!  Same goes for  eating in front of the TV.   An equally bad idea for all the same reasons.  Ok, pig out on Super Bowl Sunday or World Cup Finals if you must – but use a plate.  Otherwise, drink some tea or juice and respect yourself in the morning.

Step Two: No eating out of bags or boxes.  Instead make a serving in a bowl or on a small plate.  You will eat much more without realizing the quantity if you snack from the package.  SEEing your food is part of conscious eating and part of the stimulation of the saliva glands i.e. jump starting your digestive process which leads us to-

Step Three: Chew for crying out loud!  Digestion begins in the mouth.  The yogis tell us to chew each bite 32 times!  I aim for 27 when I remember to do it.  You will not overeat and your digestion will be hugely improved.  Much of the work is done already when the nutrients hit your stomach so you will literally GET MORE OUT OF YOUR FOOD by way of absorption.  Swami Rama told us to “Chew your liquids and drink your solids.”  Got it?  Even yogurt should be “Chewed!”

Step Four: CLOSE THE KITCHEN AT 7PM.  Unless you are out for a special occasion, avoid eating after dinner and/or after 7pm.  Going to bed on a “light” stomach will help you to sleep and wake up feeling more revitalized since your digestive system will be resting and not working all night.  This one is especially difficult for me since I got into a granola-at-bedtime habit during pregnancy and all those years of nursing.  I would wake famished at 2 am unless I ate something in the evening.  Let’s try this one together for better, more effective sleeping!

Step Five: Give thanks before you eat.  Besides being good for your spirit this simple act gives you a chance to pause, smell your meal, relax so you can enjoy it and gets your digestion going before your first bite (which you will eat off of a plate sitting at a table and chew 27 times before finishing by 7pm!).  You are sacred, so should your food be.

I wish you vitality and an easier shedding of pounds so you can stay on the planet living healthier for longer 😉