Day 6 (Mon 16th April)
(Remember, useful links relating to content listed at the end)
This morning, after my now routine stroll through the reassuringly simple streets of N22, was assessed teaching, not as nerve wracking as it sounds. So 6 of us were given 4 poses and half an hour each, teaching flowing from one to the other. This meant when we weren’t teaching we were doing continuous yin yoga and I have to say, it was very very nice. I taught a session today. So tomorrow morning will be the other 6 teachers and for me will be 3 hour non-stop which will be bliss. But I’ll be doing some physical activity in the morning for balance (more online half hearted HITT training for me!) and walks midday and early evening.
The afternoon was led by Ben Wolff, a yin yoga teacher and yoga/neuroscience researcher whose work is based on modern evidence-based science as well as incorporating ideas from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga (totally floating all my boats). I’ve met many interesting people, he’s one of the most interesting (although we just scratched the surface). He also has the accolade of single handedly inspiring me to re-consider entirely how I practice breathing and how I teach it too. Much more in a future post, little bits and bobs below.
Key learning from today’s training
– Maybe in our practice we could sometimes move away from the desire, the need, the habit, to look always for sensations. Are pain and sensations useful experiences, can we trust them? Do you know which is the most important muscle of the human body? It’s the diaphragm my friends. If you stop using it you will not last long. But where do we feel pain if we have a problem with our diaphragm muscle? Is it where you’d expect, in the mid torso, where the diaphragm is? No, it’s up in the neck (because this is where the phrenic nerve starts and it’s key to working the diaphragm). My point is, how can we make sense of the body when sensation is not always where the problem lies. This is why we may want to move away from focusing on sensations sometimes, and we’ll explore this from time to time in future yin and restorative classes.
– Yin Yoga is a coming together of yoga and Daoist practices. It’s why I may talk about meridians (from TCM) in a yin class and not nadis (from yoga). Both are energy channels in the body responsible for the flow of information. The maps are similar but not exactly the same.
– You could say that historical yoga texts were interested in practices to prepare the mind and body for the afterlife while classical doaist texts were more about being healthy in this life. What is more pertinent to you? Personally, at the moment, I’m interested in a healthy body and mind for this life.
If you’re more interested in esoteric practices, you may want to do long breath retentions and other more extreme practices. (Just as if you want to be a prima ballerina you may want to hyperextend the legs and over stretch the hamstrings.) The breath is the major driver of the body’s ability to be in balance, particularly the blood’s pH (which should be 7.2 in health). Hold the breath and all sorts of strange and things happen to our blood and trippy things happen to our mind. I think it’s why free divers report having feelings of spiritual connection and why reclusive spiritual adepts will use extreme breathing practices to access this ‘higher realm’ or at least an altered state of consciousness. Nothing wrong perhaps if that’s your intention. There’s a price to pay though.
– If you can be overwhelmed, and can be underwhelmed, can you be just whelmed? Just lightning the mood a little.
– The same part of the brain responsible for the feeling of food hunger is also responsible for breath hunger. Next time you’re tempted to grab a snack, try a breath snack. The most healthy ratio of breathing is 6 seconds inhale, 6 seconds exhale (5 breaths per minute). This is sometimes called the coherent breath – essentially equally length inhale and exhale, no retentions and slow but not too slow. Lots more to come on this here in later posts and in class!
For a 15 minute TED talk on understanding the messages of pain
A really nice introduction to what a Yin Yoga practice is
Quick little explanation of breath hunger
A slightly annoying but informative American 5 min video on coherent breathing (scroll down the homepage for the video)