What does your yoga practice have to do with self-love? Stephanie Birch talks about the process of showing up on the mat for herself, how it gave her purpose, turned pain into passion, and love into life.Read more
Victorious breath to welcome Spring.
This has been my theme for this welcoming this new season of Spring. I've been teaching my local classes with sunshine-infused playlists and co-creating with students as though we've got the light on our backs. And we do. As we come out of the winter hibernation, we find new life during this month. A season of birth with bugs a-buzz, growth and gardening, new color and fresh scents into bloom, and the sun (hopefully wherever you are) making her way from early morning rise to later evening down. The new transition means longer days that gift us with more time sunshine, increased Vitamin D - naturally, reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure, improving metabolism, warmer weather, and overall sense of feeling good. It is time to clear some space, plant new seeds, and get outside.
Take it outside. Plant your bum on the earth. And try these 3 seated and energizing breath practices. You may be surprised to build some heat and bust your core.
Seated reach and press:
Sit in a comfortable seat, legs crossed. If your hip flexors, pelvis, or low back feel tight, prop your sits bones on a block to allow your knees to drop below your hips for ease.
Take a few natural breaths sitting up tall, long spine, with your shoulders engaged toward each other. This will create a broad chest, opening your front body. Encourage your naval to spine to remain strong in your core. As you begin to move your arms with breath, remain engaged in your seat.
On an inhale, reach your arms high.
On your exhale, drop your palms and press them forward out from your chest.
Next inhale, reach them back up.
Next exhale, push your palms out the side of your body.
Keep with the pattern of arms up, palm forwards, arms up, palms out to the sides. Inhale to reach, exhale to push. Start by taking rounds for 1-2 minutes. Imagine yourself reaching to touch sun, stretching out to collect the energy of its rays. Pressing out to create a boundary of space between you and the external world. Focus on your breathing, taking long-deep breaths, staying close to your center, nurturing your inner power of presence. After you've finished, take child's pose, a gentle bow to this grounding breathwork.
Seated breath pumps:
Take to your knees, shins down, and rest your bum on your heel or on a block propped between your ankles.
Take a few natural breaths, tall spine, shoulders back, and hug your front floating ribs in (belly to spine action).
Inhale, reach your arms up.
Exhale sharply, rounding your back-body like a cat, stretching the palms forward and down.
Inhale, reach up, exhale, pump the breath and round your back.
Take a 3-5 rounds of palms up and rounding forward.
Inhale, reach the arms out. Have a long spine with your heart-open, like you're bear-hugging the world,
Sharp exhale, bringing your palms close, rounding your back like above.
Take 3-5 rounds, open arms, pumping together.
Switch between cycles of the up-down breath pumps to arms open breaths pumps, 4-5 minutes.
The type of breathwork is sure to build heat and increase energy throughout entire body. To maximize the efforts, sharply pump your belly (naval to spine) as you rapidly exhale. This is breath of fire, it has an intense quality, especially done through the nose. If you need to change it up, it can be done through the mouth. No exaggeration is too big for this one. After 5 minutes or more, land with your hands pressed into your heart, connecting to your inner wild. It is the heart that beats that teaches us to live wildly present.
Roar, lioness, roar:
Take a similar seat, like the one above, onto your shins or sits bones to block between your feet.
Begin with a natural breath, resting your palms on top of your thighs.
For the next few deep breaths, take your palms out in front of you pressing into the earth.
Allow your back-body to round, dropping your head down, you can take some gentle sways side to side.
Take the biggest breath in through your nose, seal your lips, and hold for one count.
With your palms down, pull your chest between your arms, squeeze the shoulders, and arch your back (backbend). Simultaneously, lift your head, stick your tongue out sounding off a loud whispered exhale imitating a lion's roar.
Inhale back into starting position.
Take a few rounds, bring your giggles with you, and an open mind.
This is the kind of breath-work that will take the seriousness right off your face. Leave yourself no choice but to be silly. Reminding ourselves that it is good to be playful. This breath has the ability to release tension, stretching your entire face. It comes in handy anytime the you become too heated, releasing steam. This breath is great for anytime of day, perhaps helpful navigating the evening traffic.
If the time change or pace has you feeling slow to start, step outside. The sun is a natural invigorator. Your breath harnesses your energy. Your breath is one of the most authentic things about you. Allow yourself to be playful and wake up the energizer bunny in you. I've noticed I've been taking myself outside, from my practice, meditation, class-planning, blog writing, and morning coffee outside nearly everyday. After a long, winter season of hibernation, stepping outside feels like a revival. Let the light in, charge up your air, and invite the cycle of birth. To begin again.