Welcome to the Accessible Yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 12:05:09
This podcast is brought to you by the Accessible Yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are he and him. And I serve as the director of accessible yoga.
Amber Karnes 12:05:23
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the accessible yoga board of directors.
Hi, everyone. It's Jivana. And I'm back with another episode of the accessible yoga podcast. And I'm very excited about our special guest today, Robin Rothenberg. Hey, Robin.
Robin Rothenberg 12:05:42
Hey, how are you?
Good. How are you?
Robin Rothenberg 12:05:47
I'm doing well. Glad to be here with you.
Yeah, thank you so much for being here. I want to just give a short introduction. I know you've been very involved with IoT for a long time. I actually think I might have met you there many years ago. And you have, you're the director of the essential yoga therapy school, and also the author of the book, restoring prana, a guide to pranayama and healing to the breath, as well as the journal that goes with it. Right. And that's this idea breath journal. Right? Correct. And that is that it came out in 2020. Which is, right, because that's what we're talking about. Today, we're going to talk about yoga and COVID, which is an area that you're also doing research on right now. Is that right?
Robin Rothenberg 12:06:35
Um, yeah, I'm Yes, I'm part of a research team in the UK, looking at a therapeutic approaches with yoga specifically around the breath, and help supporting people with lung COVID. And that's been a interest of mine since June of 2020. When I saw the first message, you know, information coming out about long COVID. And I was like, Ooh, this is not good. And everybody's worried about getting it, and what's happening to people in the hospital. And I'm worrying about the millions of people that are going to be debilitated afterwards. And what's happening with them and nobody, nobody at that point. I mean, I don't want to say nobody, but I could not get a lot of traction. Until 2021. A year ago, actually last February, when I was asked to co organized the wellness after COVID conference, which was an international conference between giveback yoga Foundation and the the MIND Institute in the UK, myself, they asked me to come on board and, and help to formulate that and bring presenters in from all over the world researchers, doctors, healthcare practitioners, as well as yoga teachers and therapists to really discuss what are we going to do with the the aftermath of COVID? Like what people are dealing with physiologically as well as psycho emotionally?
And and before COVID? Was that the focus of your work in some ways? Prana and pranayama?
Robin Rothenberg 12:08:10
Well, the focus, yes, since I mean, as a as a yoga therapist breath and a video game therapist. So breathing and breath has been very central to my practice, and my teaching. And all of my trainings have been very breath, centered, very much focused on pranayama. That said, it wasn't until and I had a lot of respiratory issues from childhood. And so that's one of the reasons why I was drawn to practices that involve the breath because I was looking for ways to manage my own net chronic depletion and breathing issues. And so pranayama was more interesting to me than it was to many people. I had a friend who used to say to me, and when I was we were in yoga teacher training together, she was like, You're the only person I know who actually practices pranayama. But I was like, desperate for help. And but when I got really sick with a respiratory illness about I guess it was, I don't know, maybe like seven years ago. And none of the Pranayamas were working. In fact, they seem to be making it worse. And I couldn't stop coughing and I was exhausted and wiped out and had no energy and it was taking me back to my nightmare early childhood days of chronic illness. And so I started investigating outside the world of yoga, and that's when I landed on the Taiko breathing, breath retraining method, and I learned everything that I should have learned in yoga school about respiratory health and physiology. And then I learned what I didn't know and that I'd been going around teaching pranayama but I really didn't even know what it meant to be a functional breather from the outset. So there was a bit of embarrassment and humiliation in having to admit that I had been actually casting a lot of misinformation out there in the world that came from I'm big pool of ignorance. And then to rectify that by writing the book restoring prana and really helping what to do what I can to train yoga teachers and yoga therapists to be more educated about Breath and breath education and what we're doing with pranayama. So that's my story in a very short nutshell.
Yeah. Thank you. And I'm curious. I don't know if you want to spend time on this. But I'm just curious what some of those incorrect ideas were. Can you mention a few things that you think maybe that yoga community has gotten wrong? Yeah, sure.
Robin Rothenberg 12:10:34
Well, I would say one of the big pieces is, I mean, I actually in my book, I detail out seven breath myths. And I wrote that, like it, put it in that framework, and they were all based on the things that I learned in yoga school, and that, that I then went out and proselytize to my students for many years, and then came to find out. That's the truth. So one of the first big ideas is that breathing more is healthier. So everyone says, oh, yeah, I love the breath. And the breath is fabulous, and wonderful. And it's the best thing and yeah, do those big breaths. And actually, those big breaths are actually really not conducive to health. And they are absolutely antithetical to everything that is taught in the yoga text about what pranayama is about. It's about breathing less, not more, it's healthier to breathe less, not more.
You and say, Thank You like that one. I agree. Like, I it always makes me wonder what's going on. Because it's like, it seems like pranayama The goal is to actually stop breathing, right is to like,
Robin Rothenberg 12:11:44
the goal is to become more comfortable, more at ease, with breathing with, with the pauses at between the breath, the breath. Yes, yeah. And there's good reason for that, because there's a direct impact on the nervous system and on the mind, when one can suspend their breath for longer and longer periods of time. comfortably, and that's the key. And to do that, it takes training, it's not like you can just like, hold your breath, it's gonna create stress, you actually have to go through a training process to change your chemistry in order to allow that to happen. But yes, that is the goal.
Well, I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, in your book, you say that you're like, you're wanting a breath revolution. And I love that, because I just wrote a book called yoga revolution. I'm curious, what is that? Is that what you're talking about this kind of reassessment of the,
Robin Rothenberg 12:12:37
you know, if I could, I would die a happy woman, if, in every yoga, teacher training, and every yoga class, teachers were, first of all, teaching, educating their students to read through their nose, 100% of the time, inhale and exhale through the nose, that there would be no more of this, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Like that would just be gone. This is in my ideal world, I understand. It's not happening right now. But in my ideal world, that would be number one, nasal breathing would be become the God and Goddess of all breath. Right? And secondly, that the focus on reducing volume and increasing the capacity for longer breath holds would be considered the the go to like that just would be like, of course, why would we do it any other way? As opposed to let's see how big the breath can be. And who can breathe the noisiest and loudest and make that a giant, you know, like, hear it across the room, which is totally antithetical to everything that's written about running out my yoga teaching. So yeah, that would be then I would be happy. That's all we take. So all of you listening. Do you want to make it happy? ship that right. Now, send me a note and tell me it's done. And I will, you know, yeah, well, I
mean, I always wondered about that. How this this one breath that seems so common these days of inhale through the nose, exhale from the mouth. I don't I've never learned that in any yoga tradition. And I was I'm surprised to hear it everywhere. I think. I mean, I I'm more maybe a little more flexible. And you because I think I'm well into accessibility. So for some people, maybe that's a weigh in, you know, but it seems like we're stuck on that. Right. We're stuck on that idea. Like you said, a big breathing of more. When really, I think what you're saying it's a it's about subtlety. I mean, it's kind of same with Asana, you know, it seems like we've gone into this world of like, bigger and more, more intense is better when really I think yoga is about subtlety and
Robin Rothenberg 12:14:37
no question right? I mean, the yoga chitta vritti nirodha had the the intention of yoga is to quiet the mind. So, you know, movement happens because of vata, right? Do you do is that oh, can I talk that language here or not? Is that
Robin Rothenberg 12:14:54
I think I'll be happy to explain it. So Vata is the eye or Vedic dosa that refers to the wind it's rejected. sick it's got air and space in it. And there's nothing that has more air in it then and movement in it than the breath the breath is made up of its Bata. And in in the eye or Vedic world, what pushes things out of balance 99% of the time is vata because it's the mover it's going to push into the heat and make things hotter and more inflamed, it's going to push into the the earth Cool, cool, kind of sludgy, kaput energy, Temasek energy and and slow things down and get things stagnant and stuck. So you know, if there's too much or too little on on other other side's gonna, Bata is what's what's creating that. So reducing vata reducing movement is a way to calm the mind. So if we're breathing, you know, we're agitating our system, we're not calming our system, we're not quieting our system, we're actually wrapping it up. And that's, again, it's the opposite of the direction of going into that state of yoga and stillness. You just can't get there from where you're talking about, you know, like that, that big movement with breath.
And so can you talk about COVID? Actually, could you define what long COVID is maybe to help us understand?
Robin Rothenberg 12:16:19
I certainly wouldn't attempt to do what nobody has managed to do up to this point. I mean, it's right. It's so controversial, I was just, I just signed a letter from a group of long haulers who were trying to get some kind of legislation to support them with finances. I mean, there's like something like 5.2 million people at this point two are basically on disability because or I don't know that they're getting disability they they have, they are disabled, because of long COVID the effect they were functioning people's parents and workers and living their lives. And now they have trouble even keeping track of a grocery list, right and getting out of bed. So there's a variety of symptoms, it's a post it, there's post exertional malaise where any kind of output of energy wipes people out, like even getting up to go to the bathroom, and then they're like, That's it, they can barely do that. And then they can't do anything else. The rest of the day, there's brain fog, which isn't just kind of like, Oh, I'm just sort of having one of those days where I can't remember things, but literally, like, not being able to track or remember, and be accountable in any kind of way on a mental level, to care for themselves, let alone care for others, and get jobs done. There's, there's neurologic neurological issues that can sometimes accompany you know, some people have all the symptoms, and some people just have part of them. There's heart a lot of tachycardia, and so arrhythmias that some people experience with it. And, and then for others, there's this post or post or the postural orthostatic hypotension where, where, like the blood pressure is suddenly drops down, and then heart rate goes up. It's and that's one of the things that leads to exhaustion, but it makes it even hard to go from a sitting position to a standing position without not just getting the Uzis. But we're literally having, you know, your entire circulatory system go caddywhompus on you, and multiple times a day because we change positions, right?
I love that. It's P OTS. Right. Potts. Yeah, you're talking about? Yeah, I think that's a really something people need to know more about an yoga in general, just because if you're working with seniors or anyone with a disability that often is an issue when you're doing movement. Yeah. All right. And so I wonder if you could tell us about your Well, what you're offering those students with long COVID I mean, can you talk about that, like what you're recommending?
Robin Rothenberg 12:18:53
Sure, and I didn't mention the respiratory things that go along with you know, breathlessness is a very common, long COVID symptom. And along with that, chronic cough, so even people who didn't seem to have a lot of respiratory issues when they had COVID and and there are lots of people with long COVID who actually were fairly asymptomatic or had a very mild case, so they didn't have like a big issue during it, but then later on, like two weeks, three weeks later, they end up with this horrible chronic cough, etc. So and chronic coughing is an extremely violent act. I can tell you as a as a lifelong chronic kafir that it has done an incredible amount of damage to every I don't even want to go into the details but let's just say from the top of my digestive system all the way down. It has caused damage. It's so it is not something that is okay to just kind of let go. It want you want to address it. So the coughing and the breathlessness on Obviously that's directly respiratory Lee related. However, one of the things that the yogi's figured out whenever it was 5000 years ago, plus, right, was that if you change the way you breathe, it affects every other system of the body. And I have a whole PowerPoint presentation, which diagrams this out and graphically, but really and truly, when you change your breath, you affect the cardiovascular system, you affect the digestive system, you certainly affect the nervous system, you also affect the immune system. And so by training, which is why prana Yama breathing practices are related to prana and the pranic body. And in terms of IR VEDA, right, the pranic body is where health lives, right. It's, it's how we are balancing the energies of what we take in and what we put out and our capacity to digest and assimilate and to actually experience a sense of vitality. And that's all on that is not musculoskeletal. I mean, it's not to say that the musculoskeletal system doesn't matter. I'm a big believer in exercise and maintaining your physical structure. However, the pranic body is, is more the physiologic system, what we think of as the physiologic systems, and prana and prana. Yama and breathing is the number one tool that of course, and diet are critical to balancing that because the breath has such an critically important impact on all those other systems. So when you've got somebody who's in a state of depletion, which is what we could say, in general, people with long COVID are in a state of depletion, they don't have a good reservoir of, of reserves there for themselves to draw on. So the littlest thing, like I said, even getting up to go to the bathroom, wipes them out. And then we have to build from there. And that's subtle work. And it's really the work of the breath can do a lot because with you think about the aspect of our being that is chemical like, you know, we're electrical beings, we're spiritual beings, right? We're also chemical beings, there's a lot of chemicals that are flowing through our system all the time, whether they're neurotransmitters or hormones, right, the fundamental basis for all of those other chemicals is oxygen and carbon dioxide. And we regulate our oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels, how through how we breathe, and of the two, the one that we have control over, and that is most closely related to our pH and our alkaline acid balance and our health is carbon dioxide, not oxygen, if we do our carbon dioxide, right, which is by through breathing, proper breathing and movement, we can regulate our health very much the oxygen is from the outside, it's really not in an inside job, because we're our environment will will dictate that if we live at you know, in Santa Fe, it's going to be different than living in Seattle, where I am living in Beijing, it's certainly going to be different than living in, you know, in an area where there's good, good healthy air around. So that's what really determines the oxygen levels, we don't actually use much oxygen from the air, only 21% of good healthy air is made above oxygen. And about we only utilize about 5%.
But we manufacture co2 inside of us actually the amount of co2 in the air, although it's detrimental for the environment, is not sufficient to support us in health. We create it it's part of metabolism. It's a byproduct of metabolism. And we either retain it in our body through proper functional breathing or we leak it leach it out. By breathing hard, fast, long, stressful, met through the mouth, rapid erratic sign coughing, all of those things,
isn't it that co2 level that gives us that the body is sensing in the lungs that makes us feel like we need to take a breath.
Robin Rothenberg 12:24:32
Right? The scent, you are part of it right the sense the sensor is in the brain. It's in the medulla, it's in the brainstem. That signals for us to breathe and the more we breathe, the more often we breathe. The bigger we breathe, the more we'll be signaled to breathe. So it becomes a habitual and vicious cycle which is why the yogi's identified we needed breathing practices, to retrain ourselves to need breath less and to breathe lighter and less often.
Right and I believe also Keeping the product close to the body I think is something that the yogi's, you're talking about right?
Robin Rothenberg 12:25:07
About like, the farther you can feel your breath from your face with your hand in front of you. The last it's probably gamma. So are you big breathers? Not probably, um, I don't know what it is. You can call it whatever you want. But it's nothing to do with yoga. The more subtly you breathe, and the less you can feel your breath, like bring it right your finger right underneath your nose and not even feel air passing. Now we're telling him, now we're on the same page.
Yeah, I had a, I think it's the podcast that comes out just before this one. I had a conversation with Amber, my co host. And we were talking about mask wearing and I led a short practice pranayama practice wearing a mask of how it could be useful to kind of sense since the breath close to your body. And, you know, although I you know, I have a history of anxiety. So for me, sometimes that's not helpful to feel like that, you know, closeness. But I know that traditionally, you know, in the yoga system, that is actually one of the things you want to do is sense, keeping the breath close to you, having it slow and calm. That seems like the direction that you're talking about.
Robin Rothenberg 12:26:15
Yeah, so one of the things that's really interesting that I found in my research, is that people with chronic anxiety and that are prone towards anxiety attacks and panic attacks, tend to be chronic hyper ventilators, there's a huge correlation. And so and hyperventilation, the specific definition of it is that you're you have under production of co2 in your system, relative to metabolic needs. So getting for you, actually, the mask Well, or sometimes I'll have to do the copy. Right? Paper Bag is a little to an end 95 Mask plus in terms of breathability. But the hands, there's a little bit of space right there. But essentially to reburied your co2 and increase your co2 levels. And you might be surprised. And because I work a lot with people with anxiety and they're amazed it takes it again, it's a skill to teach people, it's like whatever they say like having a little bit of the whatever the hair of the dog that beat you, right? There's a little bit of going into that feeling that felt sense of breathlessness, right, and sustaining it long enough that your system starts to equilibrate and tolerate higher levels of co2. So that overall, you have this experience of deep calm, and I've had people with severe anxiety or when they when I'm working with them, after a while they're like I can't even feel anxiety. And man, I this woman was agoraphobic before that, like she was she couldn't even hardly get off the floor. She was so anxious. So it there's there's ways and means but obviously that's that's deep training. That's not what we're talking about here. So I don't want to
go back to COVID. I mean, what are you doing? What are their specific practices as an individual per each person?
Robin Rothenberg 12:28:11
Obviously, you know, as a yoga therapist, I always see things through the lens of individuality and customization. That said, there are some general ideas that I think that I'd like to convey to everybody who's listening, right? Whether you're a yoga teacher, or just interested in this topic, or whatever, the number one thing I've met already mentioned a couple of them, which is train yourself to breathe through your nose. Really, truly become aware of the prevalence of your mouth breathing habit. Notice if you tend to be a big Sire. And whatever you have believed about that. It's not that sighing is inherently bad. But if you're a chronic Sire, or chronic Sniffer, or a chronic Yahner, right, or a chronic kafir, I'll raise my hand on that one, too. These are all big breathing patterns, and they're all signs of dysfunctional breathing. If you were, if you had those kinds of patterns before you get COVID They're going to be amplified afterwards. Because of the effect on the nervous system, which revs up into sympathetic I mean, you have to think it's not like getting a cold people get a cold, they're like I have a cold, or even the flu. Yeah, the flu. But people get covered a cycle COVID Even if their symptoms aren't even worse. They you know, maybe a cold, they've had worse colds, but there's emotional stress and societal stress and this kind of like almost like you're a pariah, oh my God, and you have to quarantine it like, so there's stress and every anytime we get stressed, our nervous system revs up and when our nervous system revs up, our breath revs up and we breathe harder and faster. So if you're already a heart fast, big breather Then you're stressed, then you have this thing that's impacting your immune system and your nervous system, and your respiratory system, your cardiovascular system, everything's having to work really, really hard. So your internal systems are stressed, all of that is going to, again, there's that vicious cycle, you're going to breathe harder, faster. The harder, faster you breathe, the more stressed you're going to feel, the more stressed you feel, the harder your body has to work, the harder you know. So the recovery process really is slow. Down, just slow the break down, like rest more. Pause, frequently. Maybe go wash five dishes, maybe three dishes and go sit down, it's enough. And then calm your brass.
Wait, give your system time to assimilate the activity and recover. Then go and do another five dishes or maybe to write like pacing, the breath pacing activity, pacing your expectations of yourself? Like what can you actually accomplish in a day? Maybe it's half of one thing? Right? Can you hold that as a realistic expectation until you're able to do three quarters of a whole thing? Right half today, half tomorrow. You know, maybe next week, you can do three quarters of it today, a quarter tomorrow, and then you take a day off from anything. This is I'm speaking this way, because this is actually the way I speak to my clients with long COVID. Because oftentimes, there's this, again, a part of it is the societal push, like we already talked about with Asana, Pranayama, whatever it is, in our culture bigger, faster, more is better, which is not useful, especially in the realm of accessibility. And the topic of what happens if you're not able to do all that. You know, people get sick with COVID. Sometimes they're whether whether they're sick, sick or semi sick, they're 10 days, 14 days out of work or home responsibilities and being able to interact and do the things they're supposed to be doing. So there's this urgency, like, Okay, I'm out of quarantine, I should be better. I feel like crap, but I should be better. And I have to make up for all the things I have to help my spouse, I have to get back to work and to offload my co workers and Oh, my God, and there's guilt. And so all of that push. Yeah, when the body's not recovered, exacerbates the actual recovery process and the stress from that and all the over breathing and the tendency to get completely out of sync. By doing too much too soon, too fast. And then of course, the panic of now I feel worse, and I'm exhausted. And then anytime I feel better, I have to do everything I possibly can while I'm feeling better. And it's a no win. I mean, this is the same. I've been working with people with CF, and me for, you know, decades, because it's my history too. And, you know, I just had to learn that the God of pacing or Goddess of pacing rules, you just half the pace. And the people who pace, their breath, pace, their activity get better, a lot quicker, they start to feel more energy in a sustainable, quantifiable way.
And are there practices that you'd recommend? Are the slowing the breath or what is the
Robin Rothenberg 12:33:40
Yeah, so do you want me to take you through a little breath practice?
Robin Rothenberg 12:33:45
like a basic breath practice.
And before you do that, maybe you could just briefly address scope of practice, because I just want you know, most most of our community, I think, are yoga teachers and practices, and some yoga therapists. But I just always like to clarify that there's a different role for a yoga teacher versus a yoga therapist. And absolutely, you know, I'm gonna pick up
Robin Rothenberg 12:34:09
I helped write the scope of practice for i. So I'm, I'm very much a scope of practice gal. Everything that I'm sharing today is is actually something that a lay person who isn't even a yoga teacher could take on and heed as useful advice. Yeah, so I'm not going into therapy that way. breathing through the nose, breathing, lighter, breathing, softer, silent, less stress, right pacing, all of those things. Good. Good for everyone, even if you don't have one. COVID very good for just health and well being. Okay.
Garrett Jurss 12:34:50
We'll be right back with this episode after a short message from one of our supporting organizations Bella Prana Wellness Collective. The Bella Prana Wellness Collective in Tampa, Florida believes that wellness shouldn't be a luxury that wholeness can't exist without equity, and that everyone deserves access to healing experiences. Bella Prana has recently partnered with Black Yoga Magazine to offer an accessible teacher training program to change the landscape of yoga instructors and America. Their 200 hour yoga Alliance certified program costs only $750 with a virtual and in person option. The collective seeks to serve underrepresented communities, they offer Spanish speaking classes, yoga for veterans, BIPOC community classes, chair yoga, LGBTQ+ classes, and more. With about 100 classes per week, the Bella Prana Collective offers something for every person and every body. They don't believe in fitting in at the collective you belong. Come as you are to Bella Prana Wellness Collective.
Robin Rothenberg 12:36:04
And so the breathing practice along is along those same lines, it's it's in taking people in the direction of functional breathing, and I'm going to do some short breath holds is part of the practice I'm going to do a little subtle breathing, breathing, which to me is like fundamental like breathing pranayama one on one can do settle breathing, then, like that's the first place to start. And then in with that, then the short breath holds, which again, are a very safe and gentle way of titrating and starting to build your co2 tolerance up so that you can get back to functional breathing from all the over breathing and the stress breathing. That tends to take people into that low level hyperventilation that has a lot of the symptoms of hyperventilation, match almost directly straight across with the symptoms of me, f cf me and long COVID. No figure. So, yeah. All right. So I feel really comfortable sharing these and saying give it a try. Always try it on yourself first and come to know the practice well from the inside yoga teachers before you go offering out like candy to anyone else. That's just an integrity, concern there. Some pay. Alright, so begin by just place putting yourself in a position where you're comfortably seated. You can be in a chair, it's absolutely fine. You don't have to sit on the floor sit where you can be comfortable with your spine, sitting upright on your sit bones, spine, extended, lips sealed. So soft seal NAFTA, like mush them together, but just a nice lip seal so that you're ensuring nasal breathing. And if you can hear yourself brief, I'm going to invite you to turn the volume down so your breath becomes silent. The silent breathing when you are sitting unless you're you know really walking off of vigorous hill or walking up the hill vigorously. No reason for you to hear your breath or exercising in a vigorous strenuous way if you're sitting your breath at rest, in terms of the realm of function should be silent at rest. And also in yoga practice. I'll just put that out there too. Unless you're doing some kind of crazy vinyasa flow or whatever. Okay, so nasal breathing in nasal breathing out, let's have you placed one hand on your chest and one hand on your lower ribcage. So just like your upper belly, that's the area where you can start to feel what's happening in your diaphragm. Diaphragm sits under the ribcage and is your primary breathing muscle. And you may start to feel with your hands on your body that there's a lot of movement under your upper hand. And those are your accessory breathing muscles, which once again, are not necessary when you're sitting, just chilling out breathing. So can you pacify the chest and just quiet it down? And rather than gulping in or striving to get more breaths and can you simply expand your abdomen On your inhale really push out like you're stretching the lower ribcage out in a flare like a flared skirt. And on your exhale, can you gather your abdominals in kind of like you're zipping up a tight pair of jeans and pull your lower ribs in with it. So on your in breath again, you're relaxing your abdomen and stretching it outward, taking the lower ribcage with you. And on your exhale, you're hugging gently inward, drawing the ribcage in so that you're getting more movement at the level of the diaphragm and the lower lobes of the lungs which is act where most the most efficient gas exchange happens it's pretty inefficient to breathe up into the chest.
So Jivana I see some tension accruing in your neck and and your John your shoulders, let's just in some of the listeners might also be experiencing that. So let's have you roll your shoulders a little bit, and do what I call a little bit of undulation. Because breathing is a habit. And it's an extremely pervasive habit we breathe between 20 25,000 times a day, right? And if you have been for your whole life, or most of your life, or at least the last three years, since the pandemic, a stress chest, mouth breather, then those muscles are, you know, on the ready, you know, to activate when you breathe, and you're actually what you were just doing is breaking a habit breaking some scar. And that's not easy. So it's good to undulate. Just go Yeah, shake that off. The idea is to keep this relaxed and easeful in the realm of suka ease. All right, so let's have you go again, one hand on your chest, one hand on your lower ribs. And at any point in time, you don't need a hall pass for me, if you start to feel the tension build, just do a little bit of that undulation can emulate your job, your time, because the tongue and the jaw are very intricately related to breathing. And then come back, put your lip seal in place. And go back to your light nasal breath in and light nasal breath out. Abdominal diaphragmatic action, which is again, more efficient and effective. And more oriented in the parasympathetic direction more known that they go calming response inducing that inside. So if you can just stay in there without light breathing, doing little undulations as you can to release tension. But keep sustaining that light abdominal diaphragmatic breathing, we're in a training process, right? You're learning and you're noticing your body's reaction to breathing in a more functional way. It's like putting the mask on and people who say I can't tolerate the mask, it tells me right away. They're dysfunctional breathers because if they can't tolerate a mask, it means they can't tolerate us a certain level of co2 in their system, because they're breathing a lot and breathing more than what is essential for their body. And so it's making it feels difficult, it feels suffocating, because their body isn't acclimated to it because their chemistry isn't balanced. Right? Okay, so the next part of the practice we're going to shift into are the short breath holds. And they are exactly what they sound like. You're going to do little tiny mini comm Bacchus, always after the exhale. And when you do this, I'm going to invite you to actually seal your nose. So you're going to inhale lightly through your nose, exhale lightly through your nose, you're going to place your fingers around your nostrils, feel your nostrils and just sway back and forth about four or five times. Right, so it's about four or five second, hold, and then release. And take a nasal breath in and a nasal breath out. And notice if that felt like well, that was like a piece of cake, no big deal. Or if that felt like Whoo, that was kind of interesting. Or if that felt like whoa, that was really stressful. Okay, so you could have any of those reactions, if it felt easy. At that level, go ahead and do that amount again. Or maybe bump it up one second, if it felt like that was really you were just at your threshold, do just that amount. And if that felt stressful, cut it back just by one second, do three or four instead of four or five.
Okay, good. And then always take, remember the pacing, you're not going to run these short breath holds, ram them right into each other, you know, pause and just take some gentle, abdominal diaphragmatic subtle breaths in between keeping the lips sealed, noticing the tendency or desire to create a little opening there and get a bigger gulp and we're trying to titrate and train the system to need less. Right? And then go in and do another repetition of the short breath holds, either sustaining that amount that you've been doing, or if you feel like yeah, there's a little bit more freedom to to take it up a notch to six seconds or seven seconds. You can go there. If at any point in time you feel yourself pushing into Gask way too much or if you feel that absolute compulsion to open your mouth too much. Or if you start to feel like oh my god, this is getting me into a panic mode. Too much you're in trouble. arch you choose, right? If you tend to be more of a pushy, Pitta person in nature, like wha, you know, you might have that ambition to like, I'm going to get to 10. Really, I'm going to invite you with pranayama, all of you to put the ego aside, big practice on ego putting aside and really honor the reaction in your body. So do another one. And really see if you can keep it on the soft side of the edge where yes, you're challenging your system, and you're not stressing your system. Do you know that edge, if not, this is the time to learn. And pranayama is the perfect practice for you to learn how to step off of the edge of ambition, and which, you know, jumps you right into the fire leap, you know, like, keep yourself in the safe zone, cautiously challenging, right. And notice in the reaction, the more you do the short breaths, I don't mean, the bigger but the more frequently you practice them, your system, the chemistry will change as you breathe lighter and last through the nose. As you practice doing short breath holds, and abdominal diaphragmatic breathing, your chemistry will start to equilibrate, and it won't feel like such a big deal. Right? It'll feel easier.
It's so interesting. And I can just reflect because having, you know, I've been practicing pranayama for a long, long, like 30 years, probably. And it's so ingrained in me to do those big breaths. So the minute I become I always transitioned to some big breath, and especially abdominal breathing. Like that was the hardest thing just now that you did for me with to be conscious of abdominal breathing, and not to make it big. So that was that was really interesting, I really appreciate that. I would
Robin Rothenberg 12:46:54
be more than happy to work with you and see if we could by changing your breath, maybe change your relationship with
is dead. I mean, I used to talk again. But I really, that was just so useful that one practice I already you know. I mean, if I can tear about myself, like I had a major anxiety attack about five years ago, and just completely changed my pranayama practice, I really just stopped the big breaths, just because it was all too overwhelming for me. So I think naturally, there was some awareness of that, but I didn't quite understand it the way you just described it. So that was really helpful. Thank you.
Robin Rothenberg 12:47:32
You're breathing much more functionally. Now. Then, when remember I said You look stressed when we first came on, because I was watching your breathing. I'm like, oh, stress breathing what's going on? You know, but you're now your breathing is much calmer. Your chest is calmer. Yeah, I can see it in your face. It's nice.
Yeah, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, I just wonder if there's anything else you want to share.
Robin Rothenberg 12:47:57
The only other thing I want to share and it came up for me just now because because of my respiratory issues and my long history of hyperventilation. I still and I have some airway restriction with all of that. I still have a tendency towards chronic cough. And I mentioned the violence of coughing. I also want to give some tips because people with long COVID often have this residual cough and the more they caught the the more tired they're going to be. And so I highly recommend I have one in my mouth. I just put it in because I felt the tickle a lozenge I like the the there's slippery ELMS or the DGL things that don't have a lot of sugar in them but I have them in every person every room in my house. If I feel the slightest tickle I go to them I either have like warm temperature room temperature water or something like CCF tea, cumin, coriander, fennel, handful of each steeped in water to Ayurvedic remedy. licorice tea, throat coat, anything like that that's really soothing, and have a warm thermos of tea and sipping on it, and really quelled the cough, the less you cough, the less you cough, the more you cough, the Morial cough, it's just the way it is. So take your cough seriously and do everything you can to calm the cough, Keep it keep things moist, I'm talking about a dry cough not if you're actually at a stage where it's an actual productive cough and you're clearing stuff out but where it's just that chronically tickly, inflamed, dry cough that is not useful, it's harmful. So really do what you can to quiet that. And the other piece is, again, I demonstrated it very well because I was on a talking rant there as happens on podcasts. And the more we talk, the more we're breathing. Talking puts out a lot of co2, and it's one of the most stressful and exhausting things we Do the first thing I recommend for my long COVID clients is to put themselves on a three day silent retreat, which is really hard. But I say get a clipboard. It's not that we don't want to hear from you. teach yourself how to communicate via writing text, whatever. But keep your lips sealed, and really retain your prana. Think of every breath out as a leakage of prana. And if you're in a state of depletion, you don't have that. So you've got to build. It's like, think of it like your energetic bank account. And I talk about this in the book extensively, right? Because it's all about restoring prana, right isn't that every time we're putting out energy, we're depleting and if we're already, our bank account is already in the arrears, then it's just going to make it worse. So really, truly become energy conservation LIS from the inside, and speak less. Please, for more, read less and more little movements, you don't have to do like big exertional movements, little tiny micro movements that keep the fascia fluid, and keep things circulating is really important. Movement is how we create co2. So that's the upside just laying around and being tired, will just make you more tired. So movement. And that's why yoga and little gentle movements with yoga can be so helpful, getting people moving in, in a in a, you know, in a way that doesn't strain or stress their system.
That's awesome. That's so helpful. Can you tell us how to find you?
Robin Rothenberg 12:51:44
Absolutely. Yeah, if anybody if you have questions or comments, and you want to reach out to me, directly, my email is Robin with an eye at essentially yoga therapy.com. If you're interested in any of my training programs, and my restore your prana training is for both yoga teachers and yoga therapists. Most of the people in my training actually are yoga teachers. So if you want to learn how to teach pranayama, I'm going to say it this way correctly. Teach breathing from a functional, you know, respiratory physiology, accurate perspective, steeped in the yoga teachings, you can check that out on my website, which is essential yoga therapy.com. And then I have a full yoga therapist training program, a low back training program, which I have coming up in in March. So the you can find out more about what I do and my books and lots of stuff on my digital library for download practices and a lot of breathing practices on there as well. So Dr.
Robin, and we can add that in the show notes as well. Thanks for being here and for sharing with me and with all of us today. I really appreciate it.
Robin Rothenberg 12:52:55
It's my pleasure. All right.
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Amber Karnes 12:53:04
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Amber Karnes 12:53:23
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