Radikal Life S1E4: Breathe with Kanjana Hartshorne
6:48PM Aug 31, 2022
Marina Patrice Vare (they/them/MP)
Kanjana Hartshorne (she/her)
and welcome to the Radikal Life Podcast. I'm Marina Patrice Vare. My pronouns are they them and MP, and I'm recording for you today on the unceded land of the Lenni-Lenape peoples. I'm super excited to be bringing you a conversation with our Breathe Module Leader today. We will do an introduction in a moment, but I've invited her to start with a breath practice for us.
Yeah, so we'll just take a moment to get connected with our breath. So if you just want to find any comfortable seat for you. Maybe take any little wiggly movements that feel good. You can choose if you want to keep your eyes open or closed. I'll invite you to just notice your breath as it is right here right now.
No need to shift it in any way. If it feels good to you, you can bring your attention to feeling your breath right across your upper lip. As you inhale and exhale through your nose
If that doesn't feel right to you, you're welcome to breathe in and out of the mouth or some combination. And simply notice the feel of air as it brushes across your skin as you breathe in and breathe out
If your mind wanders know that this is normal. Thank yourself for noticing. And bring your attention again and again back to your breath back to the feeling of sensation of air against your skin.
Whenever you feel ready, you can allow that to fade away. Perhaps blink your eyes open if you've closed them and take some more little wiggly movements, preparing to come into our discussion.
Thanks so much for that Kanjana. Our guest today is Kanjana Hartshorne and she's a licensed holistic psychotherapist, a certified compassion fatigue professional and a yoga therapist. She received her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. Her journey to Holistic Health Care began with yoga and meditation training in 2008. While living at the Rinzi Zen temple. Kanjana owns Healing Heart Wellness, a group holistic therapy practice where she and other clinicians incorporate an evidence based blend of traditional Western psychotherapy, Eastern comprehensive yoga therapy and the arts into individual clients sessions, Healing Retreats, and continuing education and self care training for healthcare professionals. Kanjana has worked with 1000s of individuals, teaching them simple, accessible skills to empower them to meet challenging obstacles with their unique strengths, to live in accordance with their personal values and to grow into who they want to be. Welcome to the Radikal Life podcast today, Kanjana. It's such a treat. Would you like to introduce yourself by telling us a bit about the identities and communities that are important to you?
Yeah, definitely. I think MP mentioned. My pronouns are she her. I am a first generation Sri Lankan Tamil. My parents moved here right before they had me and my culture as a Tamil person is very important to me. I was raised in both the Tamil more at home setting and then an American setting in school. And my own experience as a first generation American immigrant, whose family fled a genocide has helped me to relate to many other people with intersecting identities. I grew up in an immigrant home where we spoke Tamil until it became an issue at school. And eventually, you know, began speaking English at home. While english is not my first language, I still hold a lot of privilege in having learned it at a very young age. Money was initially a little bit of a struggle and as I got older, it became less so. I now identify as middle class. I'm in a larger body, and I've had several health conditions that impact my daily life. I am heterosexual and the LGBTQ+ community is one that I'm also very passionate about. At a young age, I moved from an immigrant community into a very, mostly white neighborhood. And while I was able to make friends, I often felt like I had to hide parts of myself. And that created a feeling of loneliness and otherness. And then, when I got to high school, I began becoming friends with students who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. And they really encouraged me to be myself and helped me to feel seen and embraced, and be okay with being different. And I wanted to offer them the same type of support. So I engaged in advocacy work with them, and have been doing that since high school. So it's another community, that's really important to me, because they really held space for me. I'm also an American citizen, though, I have often felt at odds with this identity as the child of immigrants. I'm brown skinned, I am a darker shade of brown for a Sri Lankan, which has always been a divisive issue within my culture. My mental health is pretty robust. And while I have struggled in the past, it's not really impacted my relationship to self or others or my work. So I hold privilege there as well, I do have post secondary education, as MP mentioned, and my religion has shifted several times over the course of my life. So I would hold, say, I hold a variety of beliefs from many different spiritual backgrounds.
Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate your attention to social location and the way that you've modeled, like, clearly sharing that with others. So thank you a lot for that. I think I also, I'm realizing now in this moment that I think I also want to offer like a public, thank you to the support that you offered for me, when we were in yoga therapy school together, you know, I think that you were the person that I always knew had my back as a queer person. And so there was not a lot of that in, in our space. And so I just some taking a moment to, it meant a lot to hear you say out loud, both the support that you received, and also, I'm thinking about how you carried that forward for me. So thank you.
You're gonna like make me tear up?
So, speaking of yoga therapy, yes. I am curious, as a yoga therapist, did you come to exploring the breath through your yoga practice? Or did you have another entry point into breath awareness?
Yeah, I would say like, exploring it more formally was a part of my yoga therapy training. But my entry point was actually practicing breathwork with my appappa, my father's father. So he didn't call what we were doing yoga, or pranayama, or anything like that, it was just like, wake up at Appappa's house and do some stretching and some breathing. And like he's keeping the kids calm and quiet. And looking back on it, I feel like it was a really nice way to connect with him. And I couldn't really name it when I was young. But as a very high energy, bouncing off the walls all over the place kind of child, it was one of the few times where I was very settled and calm and grounded. So I think that's kind of where it started. And you know, my interest in breath in psychotherapy is where I came in to yoga therapy. And then diving deeper from there.
I'm really enjoying that image of you, as a child being calmed by an elder, right, with a practice that has continued to carry through your life as a really special, like, sort of grounding force. Thank you for sharing that. Would you tell us about perhaps another important memory related to how you came to be passionate about sharing breath awareness and exploration?
Yeah, definitely. So when I first started bringing breath into my work as a therapist, I had a lot of clients with chronic and terminal illness. I worked in hospice for a few years. So it felt really natural to move into that type of work working with that population and psychotherapy. And I have this memory that's like seared in my mind of a client who I was trying to teach breathing practices to. And they had no feeling from the neck down. And every single thing I was teaching to them, they said, This isn't possible for me. Do you have another option, and I was stuck. I had no other options. So I started doing research around like yoga in therapy. I actually thought I had made up yoga therapy. And then I discovered it's an entire field that's been around for a long time. And I'm trying to spread the word that hey, it's out there, well researched and exists. But that's kind of what led me to discovering yoga therapy and my interest in learning how can I make breath more accessible, and that's morphed over the years for me. So it started out as like physical access to breathing and other yogic practices. And now it's more How can I create practices that are inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender orientation, sexual orientation, maybe a trauma history or spiritual beliefs. So breath was the entry point into a lot of my work and creating a more inclusive space, not just in therapy, but also in yoga therapy.
That's a really powerful image to me, you know, just the working with a client, right? And then realizing that, like, what you thought was accessible, isn't accessible. And I really appreciate that that power you through a journey to find new ways to make the practices that you wanted to share accessible to a wide range of folks. And I also really am just delighted by the "I thought I invented yoga therapy," because this certainly was a thing that I - no not at all, not in a ha ha way. But in a like yes, because like it is not a thing that I think it, maybe more so now, but was certainly not a thing I knew anything about. And I don't think that it's like a widely known that people are like, Oh, we have actually yoga therapy, in addition to being yoga teachers.
So yes, I love that it was a thing that like came to your mind was like, Yes, I want to be part of this. And then also that you had the opportunity to find an existing community to be part of. I'm curious if you want to share anything about your experiences as a Sri Lankan Tamil, and a first generation American, as it relates specifically to your experience in yoga spaces, in classes or in trainings, how it informs maybe even also the way that you teach?
Sure. So being honest, being in American, or Western yoga spaces is often challenging, much more so when I first started diving more deeply into yoga, like 12 ish years ago, less so now. But you'll find even now that most of the South Asian practitioners that I know prefer home practice, myself included, and one of the requirements of my yoga therapy program was to take public classes. So I had to do it. And it was pretty challenging to find ones that didn't feel appropriative or othering. You know, where people would be surprised that I didn't have an accent. And like, what I'm just existing here trying to take a class, you know, and have a lot of inappropriate questions or comments, or maybe some of the things in the studio would be offensive, obviously, not intentionally. But in the last few years, I feel like things have really started to shift. I've had a few studios ask me or other people like me to come in and train their teachers on how to provide or create a more inclusive space in yoga, which is something I'd never seen before. And I'm starting to see this, like inclusive yoga popping up more. And they're changing what's been true about the American yoga space for many years, and making it now into something that's much more welcoming, and honors where yoga comes from. So it really gives me a lot of hope that there's going to be more spaces that are out there for people like me, and others who come from marginalized communities to feel more safe and more comfortable practicing in a group setting.
Yeah, I really appreciate that. And one of the things that I want to highlight there, like that you talk about is that maybe that hadn't been the intent, right. And I appreciate that also, right, that the impact is still that it is really othering and pushes folks out of spaces. And I can imagine also just seeing like cultural artifacts and things in spaces, where they're not maybe used in a correct context, or like, you know, share it in a way that is in alignment, right. And I too, am seeing a lot of things and opportunities as well even for you know, like white folks like me to study right, with folks where we really can connect more to the roots and the culture. That is not of my own lineage. But I think that even in like recent years, right, it has been harder to find that and so I'm grateful that that there is maybe like sort of a what's the word like, you know, like
a sub culture
Well no, like, maybe the the tide is rising and like people I think there's more of a like shift in consciousness about what we need to understand. And I appreciate what you're saying about how it can be really hard to go into those spaces. And I'm grateful to hear that there are some folks who have invited you specifically to come and offer training so that their staff can be more supportive and affirming.
Yeah, and it's really lovely, because it's, you know, things that, again, the intent is there that they want to create a space where people can connect more deeply with themselves and something larger than themselves. But they're just not sure about, like, how, how to enact that, how to put that into action, like, what's the type of language I'm using, that might be harmful to the queer community, and I might not be realizing, or, you know, to people who've suffered ethnic or racial trauma. So I think that's, I would love it if it was a piece of everyone's yoga teacher training at some point in the future, you know, dream world. But I'm happy to see that it's happening. And do feel like it's, you know, hope that it's gonna continue.
I just, yes. Want to echo that I very much would like to see that both in like 200 hour teacher training and even like more in depth at the yoga therapy level where we are learning to be culturally competent, across a much wider spectrum.
Like, there's a lot of space for the profession specifically to step into that.
I think that it could be an entire podcast for us to talk about that. So yeah, I appreciate your share. And I'm going to ask you a bit about your personal practice. So I'm wondering what your personal breath awareness practice looks like, how it's supporting you throughout the day or week. Yeah, how you're using it as a tool in your day-to-day life.
Yeah. So I use breath awareness, probably every day and exploration several times a week. 100% in like almost every session with my clients, but also in my personal life. So it helps me kind of wake up, get ready to transition from home to work, to wind down for rest at the end of the day, if I have something challenging that I have to meet head on, to feel prepared for that. I feel like it's one of the more powerful and accessible for me tools at my disposal. Yeah, to be more specific, like, I want to go back to the feeling of otherness that I spoke about earlier. So that's still something that's, of course, relevant in my daily life. And you know, I've been showing up more lately, with everything that's going on in the world. And yeah, using breath can help me to ground into the present moment and into my personal values. So no matter what ends up happening, I can respond in a way that feels in line with who I am and who I want to be, rather than being reactive. In terms of personal work, it's really lovely. I feel like not only am I able to regulate myself if I'm having a challenging session, but I'm also able to support my clients because they watch and watch or feel or feel the energy of me shifting my breath. And that shifts how they're feeling in the moment that the research is still out on this piece. But basically, what I've noticed is when someone is activated, and we as a practitioner, are calm, they begin to eventually match their breath to ours, and it can be really soothing. That's probably one of the biggest compliments I get in my work is how soothing and grounded I am, especially in the work setting, that others feel more calm in my presence. I feel like it has a lot to do with breath. And you know, breath and energy are very linked. Back when I had an office where I was doing my yoga teacher training, my office was like around the corner, like past several other offices, and I would go in there and there'd be like five people in there and like, what are you doing? And they're like, oh, you know, just want to wait here instead of the waiting room, more calm, like, okay, cool. I gotta get started in like 10 minutes, but like, take five minutes chill out and then you know, I'll see you next time. But I really attribute a lot of that to the breath and being in tune with my own breath and shifting it throughout my day.
Yeah, I'm also guilty of being one of those people that sneaks into your office like, it was. I mean, I think that absolutely. This idea of like co-regulating, right, and I think we can do that with the person in front of us. But we can also do that with our positive experience of that person right in our memory. And place is a great way to connect to that as well. Yeah, and I like the way that you have shared both sort of like, Yes, I do this with my clients, but I'm able to do it with my clients because I do it on my own right, like, and I do. I think that that when we're with folks, they can see our practice in us whether it's like, literally right, where we're teaching them a practice, and they can see that we've done it, but also just that they can see that the ways that you mentioned like, we're in alignment with our values, and that we're, you know, we're living our craft, as we're bringing it to them as well.
Thank you, for that share. There was another thread I wanted to pull on there. And mmm just I really appreciated the way you circled back to sort of the way that things are unfolding in our current events. So that sort of magnify that feeling of otherness, like in addition to the regular, like undercurrent of microaggressions, just the way that things feel heightened. And the reminder, right, that the breath is a thing that is always there for us as a way to center ourselves as we walk through some of that tumultuous space.
Yeah and can help us from at least energetically absorbing some of what's around us, obviously, there's, you know, a lot of structures and systems that are in place that impact us either way, but the breath is one thing that is within our own power to shift how we might be feeling within that chaos.
Yeah, I love that. And for me, it feels like a sort of inherent place of safety, even though like, I know that the world is not entirely safe to navigate, right? For, you know, people of marginalized identities, you know, and the ways that we can tap into also the breathing around us, right, and the like, yeah, just I don't know, I like to think about, like breathing in with every living thing, right, like, so I like to do it with trees, too, right. Like, it's just, and it is a way that helps me feel like, okay, I'm securely in this place right now. And I'm thinking about that, I guess, also from like, sort of a trauma informed lens, right, that, like, sometimes things are actually unsafe, you know, and also, sometimes things feel like they're going to be unsafe. And for me in that space, when things feel like they're going to be unsafe, is the time where I'm thinking like, Yes, I can access my breath as a point of safety. So just wanted to, like, clarify that. Like, it's, it's not like when you're in crisis, like, I mean, it can be helpful in crisis. But I don't guess I just mean to say like, it's not a fix for the onslaughts of daily life, but it is a
you know what I'm saying
Yeah, it's a helpful tool, it's not going to change, like the society that we live in, that would be great magic. But you know, it is some of that smaller magic, where it can help us regulate how we're feeling and feel more in control of what's happening internally.
I appreciate that, the, that specific language of feeling more in control of what's happening internally, I think is a very, like, useful bite for me to tuck in there as like, Yes, I'm breathing. And this is why it's working. Yeah, I'm taking a peek here for a moment at my notes. Would you talk a little bit about why someone might want to work with their breath as a tool, and what you would recommend for someone who is new to working with the breath?
Sure. So breathing can be an excellent way to connect with yourself more deeply, to get more insight or awareness into not only your patterns of breath, but how your whole system is reacting to a moment of ease or stress, and everything in between. And no matter where we are, it's important to know where we're starting in order to be able to shift it. So breath is a really lovely check in for figuring out where am i right now, a lot of times people might struggle to identify like, what am I thinking, what am I feeling, but breath can be a little easier to define that this is where my breathing is located. This is the speed this is the depth. This is how smooth it is. These are patterns I see when I'm more stressed or when I'm more relaxed. For someone who's more new to a breathing practice, I would really encourage moving slowly in your exploration. When I get really excited about a thing, I'm like, I want to learn all the things as fast as I can learn them. Which is like fine if you also operate that way. And I think it's helpful to revisit with the beginner's mind some of what you learn at the start over and over again. There's really no need to rush and there's a lot of information that we can gain by simply being present with the breath. You know, even what we did at the beginning, just noticing the breath that can create a sense of calm or grounding or just focused attention for a few moments. Letting go have some of the racing thoughts that you might be having. I've been practicing steadily, probably since 2008. And I still feel like a breath observation practice, I learn new things and like, still have a release of tension. And like half the time, I'm surprised that I was carrying that tension in the first place. So keeping it simple, like there's a lot of power in that and taking it slow. So that would kind of be what I would recommend for starting out as sure you can try all the things but like, return to the beginning and slow down when you're ready.
I love that idea of not diving, I tend also to like dive into everything. I want to practice every breath. But I, I love I heard an invitation there to like, choose a simple practice and give it time like sit with it over time. I think that's a really lovely reminder. I'm also thinking about my own personal practice. And I'm like, oh, yeah, we've studied a lot of different types of pranayama right. And I think that I have maybe three that like I go to a regular basis, and then occasionally I'll like someone will lead a breath practice that I haven't done in a while. And I'm like, oh, yeah, that one still exists, right?
But I definitely
Sometimes they'll like lead one that you've done before, but lead it in a different way and it's like light bulbs.
That's interesting. You say that I was listening to someone in a not yoga space at all, lead a diaphragmatic breath practice. And it was just interesting to hear how her cueing and like language was different. Yeah, because she was leading it in like a seminar setting. Right. And I was just like, oh, one cool that, like people are just practicing breathing, you know, also neat to hear different language. Yeah. I am wondering if you would share for us if you think that breath practices are appropriate tools for stress reduction for everyone.
It's like a yes and no answer, which are probably a cop out. So some breathing practices are a good stress reduction tool for most people. But because we're all unique individuals, and have our own history and genetic makeup that we're bringing to the practice, I've had clients that find even bringing attention to the breath to be anxiety provoking. And maybe we'll find like another avenue to explore prana. Or maybe we'll work together to learn how to sit with that anxiety and maybe even reduce it. But we might decide that breath isn't for them. And that's okay, that's a personal decision. There's a lot of other ways to tap into prana or energy, you know, to meditate or connect to self or all that is. So while it's an excellent practice, for many people, it doesn't have to be the end all be all or the only option. And for some people, it's just, you know, they might try it and whether or not they have a good or a bad experience or nue, right, it's all neutral anyway. But they might just say, that's not for me, you know, I'm not interested, I don't enjoy it. And there's other options out there.
I appreciate that awareness too that, like we're doing it to do something, right. So like, if it's not, if the breath is not a fit, there are other ways to connect. And I appreciate that. I think I often hear folks say, like, everyone can do this, or you know, which is why I really appreciate your story at the beginning, right, that not everything is accessible, that we think is accessible, because we've seen it be accessible to most people, right? Yeah. Yes. And the awareness that it might not be a good fit right now. I appreciate it the way you know that. Yes, that someone might teach it to you, and it might not be a good fit, and then maybe you return to it. And that's the thing that you love later. I'm also thinking about are there some folks who should not do specific types of breath practices or who should maybe avoid a breath exploration altogether?
Yeah, so I definitely go into much more detail on this in my module, but the shorter version is if you have a history of trauma, some of the breathing practices, and yes, that includes ones taught in therapy and Western yoga spaces. They can actually induce panic. And I've even worked with people who say they've had flashbacks triggered from some of the breathing practices, so that doesn't mean like never try them. It just means proceed with caution. Practice them in a space where you feel as safe as you can be. And trust that you know yourself best. So if the teacher cues something and you feel uncomfortable right from the beginning, or once you've like gotten into it Stop doing it, simply engage with another practice that you do enjoy. Or wait, just sit and wait until the next practice is cued. You know, take that agency to have a choice, no matter what the person in the front of the room is saying. Probably like in terms of a thing to avoid, the biggest thing is deep breathing. This just isn't helpful for someone right at the beginning of a breath practice, a lot of times like, you hear deep breathing, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And it can have a paradoxical effect where I know like, it's all over Instagram and Tiktok. And like, you know, lots of people talk about like, here's a way to feel less anxious or, like, if you've experienced trauma, like take some deep breaths, and it might suit some people. But for others that can actually increase stress. So it's one of the reasons actually, that a lot of people book a breathwork session with me, because they went to a yoga class or a therapy session. And then they were triggered, and now they're afraid to breathe, and they're afraid to engage with yoga or breath work, which is heartbreaking, because it can be so powerful and helpful. And I'm really glad to be able to help those folks. And at the same time, I wish my professional communities would maybe not teach breath work in that way. There's other ways to explore the breath that are more gentle, diving into a deep breath and saying like, well, you know, I've gone on a five minute walk every day, and I'm running a marathon tomorrow, like, why? Like, cool, you can work up to running a marathon, that's awesome. If that's something you really want to do. Great, I will support you. And we'll figure out like if we can get you there. And that feels good to you. And you can change your mind along the way. But why start with the marathon, right? So that's how I feel about the deep breath. And in order to teach it, I feel like you need more of an understanding of its impact on the body, the nervous system, and how it can show up very differently in people with a history of trauma. I think that's probably the biggest thing, because there's so many of us, you know, trauma is, very underreported, but at least one in three people have experienced some kind of trauma. So that means we're all probably working with and know people love people who have had some kind of traumatic experience and deep breathing would be the one to you don't have to skip it altogether. But maybe wait until you've explored breath and other ways to dive more deeply into that.
Yeah, I heard so many great things in there. I want to echo the agency piece, right like that people know best what's working in their body, and that it's that breathwork is not a one size fits all right? I think you've said that beautifully. That, you know, people are having different experiences and their bodies, right. And I appreciate especially that you highlighted this paradoxical effect that can happen for trauma survivors. And yes, I have for sure had the experience of being told to breathe deep when I'm not in a place that feels safe enough to do that. So I appreciate you saying like, well, there are a lot of other ways, right? We can observe the breath and this analogy of like, the five minute walk to a marathon. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Right. That like the deep breath is the marathon of breath practices for a lot of us. And I also had this thought that I'm curious about your thoughts, as well, like, so I'm trying to like pull it in. So give me a second.
Just the the experience that we can have with clinicians that want us to have an experience, right, like, like, where, like, as the clinician, they want the person to take a deep breath, right. And it's to me so much more interesting to figure out, like what actually is happening in my own body, and like what I need, and sometimes that could be a deep breath, right. But when you were saying like, you know, as a profession, like I wish that we were doing a little bit more and differently. I think that that feels really like that resonates for me, both in therapeutic settings in therapy, but also in like yoga spaces, right? I think that somehow there's this, like, the deep breath, right? Or the belly breath is like the gold star of breaths, right?
And it's just not true.
Yeah. I actually don't teach any diaphragmatic or deep breathing in the entire module, because there's so many other practices available. And the majority of people I work with have trauma so we never approach that any way unless it's like a goal for a particular reason. And we'll examine like, why is it even a goal in the first place? And it's usually because a clinician or yoga teacher or some community space has said like, hey, like you should do deep breathing. If you experience anxiety or have had trauma, and you could do deep breathing, but you don't have to.
Yeah, I appreciate that. Yes, who's influencing the way that you want to breathe? Right or the way that you think you should breathe?
Yeah, exactly. And I think just having more awareness of like, what works for you? And, you know, where am I in this moment. And it's really tough when you're in a setting, especially one on one with a clinician, or even in a group setting where it might be pointed out, like, hey, you're not doing the practice I'm asking you to do to stand up for yourself and say that practice is not appropriate for me right now, or no, thank you. I'm not interested. And it might be helpful to even have that language in advance. That happens to me in yoga classes, sometimes where I've, you know, had some surgeries where my body just doesn't do certain things. And I've had teachers come and like, move my foot to be at a certain angle. And I have to say, like, No, thank you, please don't touch me. Like I've had surgery, I'm gonna modify and prepare that sentence that one liner in advance, so I don't have to think of it when I feel panicky, like, Ut oh, they're coming over to grab my leg.
I think that that's a beautiful invitation, right to know that things might happen in spaces and how to prepare yourself to show up so that you can enjoy being in the space as much as possible without having that like the predisposition to the anxiety of what might happen when someone comes near. And for sure, I think touch in, in yoga spaces has such an interesting relationship between what the teacher wants out of someone's body and what the person's body needs. And I think is an under explored sort of, like, professional development thing, right? I think we talk about like, who you shouldn't touch and how right, but like, I don't know that we talk as much about like, what would be the purpose of adjusting someone? And what are you hoping to get out of them from that?
Yeah, what's the intention behind that action?
And, you know, why is there resistance to not doing it?
Yes, yes, yes. So speaking of yoga and influences, I would love to know who or what influences your understanding of the breath as a tool, and how specifically, you might use it to work with clients. I know you share a lot of that with us in the module. So I'm thinking more just like, when you might introduce it to someone, and, and why, like, in the therapeutic relationship, that might be helpful.
Yeah. So I personally learn a lot about it from like different trainings and conferences. Usually, it's from a yoga therapist or psychotherapist, but also from like physical therapists, sometimes from clients. Personal experience, there's a lot of different places. You know, sometimes in some of the meditation practices, where I've engaged with others and been led by others, I'll learn from a leader in that community. And I feel like you know, like I said before, there can be a lot, you can learn out of trying the same breath practice led by a different person, that when we really like slow down and sit with it, and explore it through a new lens, and that beginner's mind again, and again, we can get more out of it. In my module, I use this lens of aware explore, apply, which is something that probably sounds familiar to anyone that's, you know, dabbled in psychology or yoga therapy, it's like a big part of positive psychology training, and seen in yoga therapy training as well. Where it's this idea that we first have to become aware, become aware of where we are before we can shift anything, and then explore a practice, for example a breath as the tool, how that might impact us as an individual. So oftentimes, this can be helpful to be done with like a trained breathing instructor, or maybe some of these more gentle practices to try safely at home. And then finally, we can figure out how do I apply this practice to my life in a variety of different ways and what's appropriate for me. So I use the same model with my clients and then guide them through like the awareness piece, the exploration piece, and then we create a plan that works for them as an individual for application. So I like to say like, what we do together is the theory, the one percent and what you are going to do is the 99%. That's the application. That's where you're truly going to begin to see change. For example, I've seen clients come in with like intense rage, and they don't really want to buy into the power of breath, and maybe I give them some research and they're like, Okay, fine, I'll try it. That's like enough motivation to experiment. And then two months later, they had a consistent home practice. And they say they no longer need therapy, their anger feels managed, their nervous system has now been regulated. And, you know, that's not always the case. And with mental health, oftentimes the breath is just an entry point and one of many tools. And healing work, especially with mental health concerns can require much more emotional exploration and space and processing. But breath is almost always a part of the therapeutic journey, unless the client really has some resistance to it, or had a really, you know, uncomfortable or upsetting experience with breath in the past and doesn't want to explore it. I kind of think of it as part of, it's not actually like on this, but Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. So I would love if we could like, do a little arrow and write the word breath. So you know, it's this triangle that's like, here's what we need at the bottom in order to be able to then pursue other things in our lives. And the bottom level is things like food, shelter, water, sleep, like survival. And then without these things, we can't even begin to think about things on these other levels, like relationships, emotions, things like that. We're just trying to survive, I feel like breath should maybe be included on that bottom level, or maybe right after it as one of these like important life giving things that it impacts our whole system. And even on an unconscious level, right, like how we're breathing impacts us. And if we can begin to become aware of it, that's a lot of power. But then even if we can shift it that empowers us to move from that survival mode into living and maybe even thriving. So I think there's just so much to offer with the breath. And you can start with it at any one of those points. But it's definitely I think, with every single person I work with, we have at least one conversation, if not many about the breath.
I love this idea about adding this like foundational need, like breath being an important piece of that. Yeah, I'm gonna sit with that a little. There. I have several thoughts, some of them about, like, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, in general being problematic. But
But but I do, I think it's important to think about, like the fundamentals of like, the breath is a nourishment like food, right. And so I appreciate inserting it there. And not further up. Right. Like, because it does seems like a thing that. Yeah, it seems like a fundamental thing. And we've seen it taken away. Right. And we and we know from that how foundational it is.
Yeah. I also really appreciate the way that you've stated, like, the theory is what I give you here, right, but the application is so much larger than that, like how you're using it in your own life. And I think it is really powerful when we're working with clients specifically to have conversations about like, Well, where do you see this fitting into your life? Right. So my follow up question to that is, how important is it to create a consistent practice? And do you have some ideas for us about how folks might fit that into their regular routine?
Yeah. So consistency is definitely very powerful. Like, you know, we're talking about it as the 99%. And I think like defining that as important that it doesn't have to be an hour every day where I sit in perfect posture, and I breathe. You might know this. Who was it that said, One conscious breath in and out is a meditation?
I don't know who said it, but I have for sure heard it. Yes.
Okay, we can look it up later.
I was gonna say I'll look it up and see if I can drop it in the show notes.
But it's very true that simply following your breath, for one, inhale and exhale is fully focusing your attention fully on your breath. And it's feeling your breath in your body, connecting to yourself, being present to your own experience, and being out of your head and in your body for that one moment. And then practicing it again. And again, that's meditation. It's not doing it forever, or for an hour in perfect posture, but it's returning again and again to the focused attention. In the third class in the module, I delve more into ideas for how and when to explore breath in daily life, but it really comes down just like to figuring out which practices work for you to finding, you know what application works for you. So it could be how you wake up every morning the alarm goes off, and before you hit snooze or wake up. You do a few rounds of your breathing practice. It could be how you close your day. Or something to transition from home to work or work to home or home to school. The only gentle guideline I would put on it is to practice both when you feel more neutral or feel well, and then also when you're feeling stressed or uncomfortable, rather than only when you're stressed. So it doesn't get programmed in as like, this is the thing I do when I'm stressed like, then it's going to feel like a stressful practice. But it's the thing I do when I feel good. And you do that for a while, and then oh, every time I breathe, I feel good, or I feel better, or I feel neutral. I personally find I like alarms, so I'll set an alarm for breathing, or like a bright sticky note or something like that I have this like, these red sticky notes all around my, you can't see it, but they're all around my screen. So like those are nice little reminders. I also personally like using habit trackers. So there's, I'll talk more in detail about ones you can find the one that I like is like, I'm kind of nerdy, I like fantasy and video games and things like that. So it involves my interest in that someone who's not into that stuff, they probably wouldn't really like that kind of habit tracker. But I find it really helpful that like, oh, I might get a new mount. If I do my breathing practice today. I'm not in the mood. But I really want that mount so let me go ahead and breathe. And it's a way to attend to my commitment to myself to connect with my breath, no matter what's going on. And it's about finding what works for you as an individual person. And I'll of course, you know, expand on ideas for that.
I love this idea of like play and reward. Right? Like how can because I do I think sometimes I also use an alarm for for diaphragmatic breathing, which is not something I normally do like all day long, right? So I have a chronic condition that is improved by practicing it. And so I'm like, Alright, I will set myself an alarm to do this. But I think sometimes those alarms for me, like make me feel even more like a serious person. And I tend to be pretty like serious on my own. Right.
And so I love this invitation to like to have a game a habit tracker. That's a game where that is like more fun, right? And that, Oh, I did. I didn't want to do that. But I did it and I got the reward. And related to that. I really appreciate the reminder that like breathing is super helpful in stressful situations. But the reason it works most frequently in stressful situations is because we've done it in neutral situations consistently and taught ourselves that it is a neutral thing. And so when we're stressed, we give ourselves that neutral thing, and I just appreciated that reminder. Like why it works.
Yeah. And like I love how you're talking about play. And I often think about like, like humor is one of my character strengths that like shows up again and again, for me. Things that I think are funny, not everyone agrees. But there are certain alarms like my morning wake up alarm that if I hear that alarm later, and I use that as like my breathing alarm, like I'm just going to be annoyed by it. So I might use like a Ribbit or like a quack or like something silly that will make me smile or like a pretty sound like wind chimes that might help me to feel more soothe as like a more gentle way to remind myself.
Oh my gosh, I had never even thought about, I know that my phone has a whole bunch of alarms. But I had never thought about using one that was less annoying than the one that I use to wake up. Because I associated having to like wake up with being a little bit annoyed that I'm not sleeping anymore.
Oh, how fun. I could actually like I love this idea of like a ribbit or even a windchime.
Pick something weird and tell me what it is later.
Yeah. Oh, I really I'm gonna I'm that's on my like to do lists when we're done here. Thanks for that takeaway. That's great. I had another thing in there that was just I think I like play. Like I have just been thinking about it a lot across like arenas, right? Because, you know, I have a almost two year old and so like, everything is a toy. Right?
And so yes, just wanting to cultivate more of that joy in my own life. So thanks for the invitation there.
Yeah. And that makes me think too about like with, you know, with little ones, like you know, things that as adults we might see as a chore like you can very easily make into a game or fun for like little ones, which means it's possible to do for ourselves too. So instead of like, oh my breath practice or my meditation practice, or whatever it is, I'm doing is a chore. It's like, maybe I see it as me time or, you know, maybe I have like a funny sound go off or something like that. And like I can make it more playful and fun. It does doesn't have to be like a serious thing if that doesn't work for you.
Yes, yes, yes. I am wondering if you, I'm thinking about play as a spiritual practice. And so I'm wondering if you want to share anything about your spiritual beliefs and how they influence your relationship to breath awareness?
Sure. So I think I mentioned earlier when we were talking about social location, that my spiritual beliefs have really shifted and evolved many times over the course of my life. And I expect it will, you know, they'll probably continue to do that as I connect more deeply with myself and the world around me. And you know, all that is. And I do feel like I hold beliefs from a variety of different backgrounds. When I say all that is what I mean is like, insert your own belief here. Something that is larger than yourself that you believe in. So it doesn't have to be from a particular religion or faith background, but it could be, it could be the idea of love, or human connection, or your ancestors, or elders or the universe, or universal energy, God, the Holy Spirit, Mother Nature, there's so many possibilities for something that's more than me, right. And I guess the way it shows up for me, in breathwork is making sure I connect to what I believe in when I'm offering these practices. And there's a lot of peace in that for me. And then the second piece is also making sure I'm utilizing language so clients can comfortably connect to and explore their own beliefs and spirituality. In a group setting, I try to like throw out a lot of different options. In a more one on one setting we'll do a lot of inquiry into what their beliefs are, or maybe they don't know yet. And they're still exploring, but finding common language around that. Personally, I feel like there's many paths that guide us to Samadhi, or to oneness to connection to something bigger. But I never want to push this on anyone. It's a big value of mine, that we need to meet people where they are. And more powerful work is done when you're letting the client be in the driver's seat. And we're just like, co facilitating the experience and collaborating. It's their personal work. And like we get the honor of being along for the ride. You know, they're the expert on themselves, their beliefs, and what's important to them what they want to connect to, or even like, what options they want to explore. So spending the time needed to understand those beliefs more deeply. And then how can we incorporate that into our work together?
I want to highlight two things that you said there, right. And one is the way that you connect to what you believe in. And I think that that's powerful for several reasons, right? Because it anchors you, right? But it also you move from that place, right? And I find from my experience that when you move from that place, you don't have to give your language or your right your belief to someone else. People are just watching you move from what I would consider an aligned place. And that invites them to find their language and alignment as well. So I appreciate that.
Yeah, I love that word of alignment. I think that's really hitting what I'm speaking about.
Yeah. I'm about to ask our closing question. But before I do that, I always like to sort of come back and say like, Hey, does did anything come up for you that we didn't have a chance to talk about or anything that you want to explore more deeply before I move to closing us out?
I feel like we just like, got right into all the things that I was like, Oh, wait, no, this other thing.
Just went ahead and talked about it.
Or you asked about it.
Yeah. Awesome. So my closing question is What is your vision of a Radikal Life?
Sure. So for me, a Radikal Life is is a life that's balanced, where we have that radical power to feel connected to what's important to us, to be in alignment. To feel like every part of ourselves is given space and time and energy. And my vision for that includes having a variety of simple and accessible tools, whatever that means to each person, to help us to be more present in the here and now and develop that relationship with self with others, the world at large and spirit, whatever that is, to each individual person. And I think also being able to assess when to reach out for additional support and feel empowered in that choice. So we can meet the stressors of daily life head on, to have that awareness and bravery of here's where I'm at here's what I need. I think that too is a vital life skill and really contributes to living a Radikal Life.
Thank you for that really rich vision and also the reminder right that a Radikal Life is not an individualistic life, right that there is help and support and community to build. Thank you so much for being part of our Radikal Life community and for taking the time to chat with me today. I've really enjoyed our time together and our breathing at the beginning. I can still feel that awareness. So thanks for leading a practice and not, you know, diving right into talking. I forget sometimes how important that is. So thank you for that gift.
Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this. I'm really enjoying it and hope that everyone enjoys learning more about the breath and gets to play and explore with it.
Thank you for joining us, head over to our website at Radikal dot Life to sign up for your free Radikal Life Starter Kit. Our website is R A D I K A L dot L I F E. The Radikal Life podcast is produced by me Marina Patrice Vare and edited by Cassidy Vare. Our theme music was created by Mark MeeZy. Radikal Life is a co-creation with Manjot Singh Khalsa and Radikal Healing. Connect with us on social media, Radikal with a K, we're on Instagram at Radikal underscore Life underscore 22 and Facebook at Radikal Life.