3 Breath Techniques That Can Help Parents Stay Calm

yoga-teacher-WindsorMost parents will agree…Our children teach us. They show us our stuff. You know, all those foibles we like to hide from ourselves? Yes…those.

Lately my daughter has been teaching me a lot about patience…and my lack thereof. As a family photographer, I have infinite patience with other people’s kids. It’s my own child that pushes my buttons.

I’ve turned to my yoga practice for ways to help keep my cool. These 3 breath techniques are working for me. They take seconds to do and they give me space and time to pause. They help me modulate my response or at least make it an appropriate one. Whether you are a yogi or not, the next time you feel your temperature rising, try this:

1. 3 Deep Breaths: I do this at the start of my practice and at the beginning of every class. Pause. Take 3 deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose…or sigh the breath out through your mouth. (whichever feels right for you.) These 3 breaths are often enough to cool things down.

2. Ground Yourself:  Take a deep breath. Breathe out and imagine that your breath goes down into the earth through your feet. Imagine sending roots down into the earth with your breath. Repeat as many times as you need, then respond to your child.

3. 3-Count Breath: Take a deep breath in, counting slowly to 3. Exhale to 3, trying to make your exhale just as long as your inhale. Repeat two or three times. Then respond.

I hope these breath techniques help you as much as they have me. Do you have any other helpful ideas? Please share in the comments below.

If you are interested in learning more about yoga and/or breath & meditation, I’m now booking for the next term beginning 20 April. All classes are small group of less than 5 students and taught in a private studio in Windsor. The schedule includes Hatha yoga classes for different abilities (some very athletic, some more restorative) and also Mindfulness classes that combine yoga stretching, breath and relaxation/meditation. Perfect for reducing stress and becoming more present.  Please email me on: dbalyoz[at]mac[dot]com or find me on Facebook: Denise Balyoz Yoga.

Finding a Centre of Softness and Ease…

bend-dont-break

This week’s classes have all been on the theme of finding centre. Yes, that means finding and then moving from our core. Exactly what we need to hold poses like plank and Navasana (boat). Even as we do something as everyday as stand in Tadasana (mountain), that strong centre connection simultaneously grounds us and lifts us.

But what if at our centre we are strong but tight? You know…that feeling of grasping and gripping at something we desperately want but can’t quite seem to get? And the more we grasp, the harder it is to do.  What if, instead of grasping, we were to allow? To soften our hold? To find ease even in the midst of a pose that challenges us? (Think forearm plank for…oh…10 breaths!)

Patanjali’s sutra 2.46 says, ‘Sthira sukham asanam.’ Or loosely translated:  Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body.

What if we were to soften and look for ease and relaxation even when our lives challenge us beyond all imagination?

I have one of those situations going on in my life at the moment. From the very beginning, I have been strong and determined. This week, I am changing my perception and my approach. I am looking for ease and relaxation in this situation. I’m not letting go of my strength…I will carry on. Just in a different way. Let’s see what happens.

In the meantime…enjoy your practice. Namaste….

Looking for softness and ease…an intention for the New Year.

denise balyoz yoga windsorHappy 2015! This year has a wonderful ring to it, doesn’t it? And…I have a such a good feeling about this year! I can’t wait to see what comes.

In the meantime, as the days being their tumble into January, I will be approaching my yoga practice (and my life) with the intention of ease.

Working hard, for me, is not a problem. Profound effort does not scare me. But as Patanjali says, the physical practice of yoga should be a combination of effort or steadiness (sthira) and ease or joy (sukham).

When the postures are difficult, can we remain soft? Can we remain connected to our breath? Can we pull back….just a little…and listen, really listen to what it is our body is saying to us?

And in life, when things get hard…when we are tired, or challenged…can we stay connected to ourselves? When we meet resistance, can we stay grounded? And even in the midst of sadness, can we find moments of joy?

In 2015, this is my practice. At least, part of it….

What is yours?

effort-and-relaxation

Robin Williams and Yoga. Some thoughts.

yoga-ascot-winkfieldSeveral days on from the news and I’m still a very sad. Robin Williams’ death has touched me in a way that most celebrity deaths don’t. A friend suggested that perhaps it was because I grew up with Robin and his work. And that his passing is a reminder of my own mortality?

Perhaps there is a bit of this feeling. But more I think it is because with his work Robin touched my emotions…he made me laugh and he made me think. And I am saddened to think that a man who gave so much to everyone struggled as a result.

My simple heart wishes that he could have enjoyed some of the JOY he gave to all of us.

And so, during my yoga practice, I got to thinking about perception, assumptions and life. Before Monday, I would have ASSUMED that someone like Robin Williams…so talented, so successful, so admired…felt secure in his accomplishments and secure in life. Unfortunately, we all assume many things. And unfortunately, usually we are wrong.

We assume the wealthy are secure and without worry. We assume that the married and child-blessed feel secure and loved. We assume that the yoga guru feels flexible, strong, able and lives a pain-free physical life as they move from one advanced yoga pose to the next.

And actually all, some or none of this may be true. We assume and then we desire what we assume.  And then, we become dissatisfied with our present, our reality.

Yoga teaches us that nothing matters but the present. And that it does not matter if we practice really hard poses that look great photographed and posted on Instagram.  It doesn’t matter if our forward bends are deep or if we can stand on our hands.  It only matters that we practice our best with as much as our bodies can do today. And it only matters that we breath into this enough-ness.

In thanks all of the moments of brilliance he shared….and in tribute and respect to Robin as person. Namaste.

yoga-teacher-windsor

 

Swing Yoga

Denise flying high.Today, I’d like to talk about yoga. As some of you know, I teach Hatha yoga with a focus on vinyasa flow, but my personal practice is Ashtanga.

In Ashtanga yoga, the poses and their order are the same. Every time. Every movement is linked with the breath and every breath is counted. At least…this is the goal.

And while this might sound boring to those of you who like creative and different classes, I have found that this breath-link and the asana repetition have massive benefits for both my body and my mind. The only thing that changes in my practice is me….and thus my practice becomes a meditative experience – something that doesn’t happen if I take a class or follow a video.

Last week, when I arrived for my class (I take private classess to finesse my technique and work deeply and specifically with the needs of my body.) my teacher suggested that I try Swing yoga in the garden. I hesitated for just a moment. But the sun was shining. The birds were singing. Yoga outside? Yes please!

I loved it. Especially the meditation at the end…The sounds of nature were around me. The breeze was blowing gently. I felt like a marsupial in a pouch rocking ever so slightly.  Relaxing? Oh yes.

I’m back to my indoor evening Ashtanga practice. I love the consistency. But every now and then, I might just change things up with the swing.

Garden swing yoga with a twist to it... Denise in Warrior 3

Yoga and my Camera

You might be wondering what yoga has to do with my camera. But first, let me just say…It’s so good to be back!  I been off-line and crazy-busy doing all sorts of things. The last few days have been fun, invigorating and inspirational…but oh! it is nice to be at my desk again.

This weekend, I was on an Ashtanga yoga workshop with David Swenson in London.  I just love David’s humorous approach to yoga.  He made the class laugh…a lot.  And while we laughed, he encouraged us into poses we never thought possible.  I even managed my very first arm balancing feathered peacock pose.  It certainly wasn’t as beautiful as the one pictured on Wikipedia, but it was fun to do.

I also love that David is very realistic when it comes to yoga practice.  There are not many of us who live an undisturbed life with buckets of free time.  A full first-series Ashtanga yoga practice takes 90 minutes.  But how many of us have 90 minutes spare each day? I certainly don’t! I don’t even have that in most of my weeks.

David encouraged us to ‘do what you can’.  If you have one hour free, then one hour is enough for yoga.  If you have just 15 minutes, then make those 15 minutes mindful, present and enough.  Then he said something that hit me over the head.

He said, ‘Yoga is a tool for life.’

Hmmm…I had always thought of my yoga and Pilates and running as something that I should do.  And I would feel guilty when I didn’t do them.  But if yoga is a tool for life, then really yoga is something that should flex and change and grow with my life.  Ahhh….and suddenly I had permission to do less or to do more…for many years to come.

The phrase ‘tool for life’ then got me thinking about all the other things that are tools for my life.  And now for the link between yoga and my camera:  Yes, my camera is a tool for my life.  You may be thinking, Denise, this blatantly obvious.  But as soon as I started to think about my camera as not only a tool for my creativity, and my work, but tool for my living, it shifted into something more meaningful.

Yesterday was another gorgeously foggy day here in Windsor.  I took my camera and metaphorically got on my mat.  I captured these images.  No.  I didn’t practice yoga yesterday, but this is living…

 PS. If you are interested in exploring Ashtanga yoga, I strongly recommend David’s books and videos.  His teaches the poses and many modifications to help make yoga right for you.  Yoga, he says, is not for the perfect body.  David also travels all over the world teaching workshops.  Check it out…I hope you like his teaching as much as I do.

PPS.  What are YOUR tools for life?? I’d love to hear….

All images taken with a Nikon D700 and the Nikon 105 Macro.