Well, helllllo! And, Happy Friday!
What’s up with you guys?!
Over here, just getting excited for the weekend and all the relaxing that’s to come. 🙂 This weekend, I really want to hit up the beach at some point. I crave it!
Saturday, we’re going to an art and food festival in town and then of course, I’ll be doing more yoga at the studio! (In case you missed my Week 1 yoga challenge recap, head here.)
And then Sunday, we’re seeing my friend’s play, Blackbird.
On to today’s post…
Just over a week ago, I was scanning the workshops list offered at my yoga studio and one in particular jumped out at me: Breathwork.
Studying my breath (and working on really being more in tune with it) was never something I gave a second thought until picking up a consistent yoga practice the past year-and-a-half. I never realized how much I could stifle my own breath or how stuck I would feel in a certain yoga position just because I was holding my breath back.
I didn’t understand how fluid the breath can be and how it can really assist your mind and body in just about anything you do.
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of taking a Breathwork Workshop led by the lovely Michelle D’Avella of Pushing Beauty in Silverlake.
I was curious to know more about Michelle/Pushing Beauty before the class, so I did a little research beforehand and found that her overall message and outlook on life really resonated with me. She seemed kind-hearted, open, and just ready to help people get to where they wanted to be.
Going in, I was a little uneasy about the experience. Was this going to be some sort of therapy session where everyone talks about where they are “stuck” in life? Would I have to open up more than I was comfortable with? Would I even get anything out of this?
The warm room welcomed us in, we grabbed a couple props, and then made our way into a group circle to start. Uh oh, was this where the community openness would start? I got a little anxious just sitting there sitting at strangers, but then another part of me felt happy that I really didn’t know a soul around. Call me complex. 😉
To my surprise, Michelle asked us to look directly across the room at the person in front of us and make eye contact. Me and a stranger smiled at each other and the rest of the room faded out. Then, we were instructed to get up and go talk to them, ask them their name (Bambi), and a few things about their life. This came pretty easily to me as a writer, journalist, and overall extrovert.
After that, we sat back on our mats and Michelle explained how the breathwork session would go and possible sensations we may feel along the way (tightness of hands and mouth, cramping, anxiety, emotions, laughter) Then, we went around and briefly introduced ourselves again.
I said something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Ari. This is my first breathwork class and I guess I’m here because I’ve been really into self-care lately. I’ve got the yoga part down but the meditation/breathing side of my practice needs a little work. I’m ready to dig in a little deeper tonight and just see what I find.”
Short and sweet.
Some people opened up more, saying specifically what brought them here—a traumatic experience, soul-searching, career changes, anxiety, fear, the unknown… It was pretty amazing to hear people being so honest. Plus, having everyone open up (in their own way) really broke the tension in the room. I felt more connected to these people who, although, were here for their own reasons, shared the passion for breathwork like me.
Then we got comfy. We wrapped ourselves in blankets, covered our eyes, and listened to Michelle’s soft and easy-to-follow instructions.
She shared with us the simple breathing technique we’d be using the next 30-35 minutes. Inhale through your mouth into your belly, then again in the heart area, and then let out an easy, unforced exhale. We’d repeat that breathwork for the full course of the class, along with music and some sporadic suggestions (like yelling and laughing as a group). Sounds weird but it was fun!
We began, and the room got all breathy fast. The heat was rising and everyone started out on their own personal journey. At times, we’d repeat mantras aloud and then return back to the breathwork. I found the breathing technique to be a little tricky at first and my mind was wandering a bit, but then I got back into it about half way through.
The time flew, surprisingly. At first, 35 minutes seemed too long for breathing aloud, but then as each song played in the background, and I felt more relaxed, time wasn’t top of mind anymore.
Michelle wasn’t lying when she said “shit could get real.” I heard some people lightly sobbing in the distance and I felt for them. This was their emotions bubbling up and as Michelle explained, completely normal.
Then at times, the cramping started in my hands and mouth. I kind of knew that would happen to me. It felt as if the blood had just stopped flowing through my hands and they were almost in “mittens” —if that makes any sense. Michelle had encouraged us before the workshop to just breathe through that feeling and not freak out, so that’s what I did. At times, I would try to meditate into that space and move my hands a bit, but to be honest, they were cramped for more than half of the practice.
When the breathing period was done, Michelle asked us to just shake everything out—our arms, legs, whatever needed movement. Then, with our eyes still closed, she told us to keep moving around on our mats however we wanted. It helped to keep our eyes closed because we couldn’t feel self-conscious comparing our movements to those around us. I got into down dog, then did some spinal twists, and ended in a child’s pose.
From there, we laid on our backs again and just began to breathe normally in and out the nose.
We returned to our circle and some of us shared how we were feeling afterward. When a woman mentioned how her hands were cramping up a lot, I felt reassured to not be the only one experiencing that.
I wanted to know how often to practice this deep of a breathing exercise and Michelle said daily if you want to reap the full benefits. Even just seven minutes could make a difference in your life.
I felt great after class—relaxed, inspired, and definitely happy that I went to the workshop. It’s something I’d highly recommend and plan on doing again. I also will say, it was pretty powerful stuff to do alone. I tend to really like working out and trying new things alone because I’m less self-conscious and more open to the experience. Plus, it just really lets me focus on me and not the person I’m with as much.
I loved this inward work. It was truly moving to just be with myself in this way and focus on my breath for an hour-and-a-half. Have you ever done that?
Head over to Michelle’s website, Pushing Beauty, for more info on her group and private breathwork sessions.
And remember, breathe.
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