Why Do Breath Work?

Dear Yogis

Welcome to snow-covered Friday! Come to class and warm up! And, while you’re moving through your shapes and stances, have you ever wondered at the health and medical claims of yoga teachers? If you’re interested in finding out how science backs up what we do on the mat in meditation and posture work, that Qigong and Meditation workshop is coming around again! Let me give you a taster of the science Dr Anthony Soyer took us through around which, he said, we could build our practice.

“Why breath work?”, he asked. This teaches us to gain resilience under stress. He introduced us to the Hormesis Principle which says something like What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger! (We do this in yoga. We learn impossible postures and, in the beginning, have difficulty breathing. With practice we can do the same posture with calm breathing!). This approach strengthens the breath, the heart and the nervous system. We gain resilience to prepare for when we get stressed in a very big way.

“Why do we breathe through the nose?”, he asked. Doctors found that instead of giving oxygen to patients through the mouth, nose respiration oxygenates the body 15% better. This is to do with the vibrations in the sinuses when air passes through. It produces nitric oxide which opens up the arteries in your brain. Nasal breathing inflates the lower lung, reduces the heart rate and blood pressure. Yogis discovered that you can do exactly this with humming breath and chanting.

Dr Soyer told us about Professor Konstantin Buteyko who studied breath work for therapy with a sample of a quarter of a million people over the last 30 years. We tried the Buteyko method of checking the health of our biochemistry! With a very specific set-up, we timed how long we could hold our breath – the Body Oxygen Level Test. Depending on how long you last, you can tell if you’re either already in hospital, have some health issues or have the resilience, endurance and the ability to keep infection away that Buteyko admired in yogis!

Finally, for this Friday Email, Dr Soyer discussed Heart Rate Variability, what he called ‘hard-core science’! When disease starts to appear, the top and bottom measurements of the HRV flatten. HRV can apparently predict illness ten years before it happens.

There was so much more! He talked about carbon dioxide levels, reduced blood calcium, cleaning up the arteries, decalcifying the pineal, melatonin in the brain… Go and blow your mind! The workshop is on at Indaba in Marylebone – a lovely studio – on  1st March from 2 – 5pm.

Greek Retreat

I’m beginning to plan this year’s September retreats and looking into flights. If you’d like to come to the Land of the Gods and to our corner of heaven in Kapsali, take a look at this example of flights. As usual I’m picking the second and third week of September. You need two carriers. The first retreat: Saturday 14th to Saturday 12st. The 06:55 flight from Heathrow arrives Athens 12:40. The return to London from Athens the following Saturday is at 19.55 to arrive in Heathrow 21.45. In-between you have Sky Express to get to the island: To get to Kythera it’s 15:00 from Athens and to get back to Athens from Kythera it’s 16:10, arriving at 17.00 in time for the London flight. The second week follows the same pattern. If that looks ok to you, let me know and I’ll start pinning it all down.

Home Studio

There’s plenty of space next week. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often).

Yoga in the news

Steve Wright on Radio 2 interviewed Haemin Sunim, Buddhist monk and author of The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down; How to Be Calm In A Busy World. He has 1.2 million followers on social media. He’s the Monk of the Moment! (The present moment!) He tells us to connect to the body and the breath and also to the people around us to have a happier life! It’s a lovely interview with lovely quotes from the book.

The Mirror tells us: UK airport launches pre-flight yoga classes to help passengers de-stress. Stanstead has pop-up yoga classes for what the paper calls ‘nervous flyers’. Sadly, they are only scheduled from Tuesday 5th to Thursday 7th.