I have just been reading my latest copy of OMYOGA Magazine and came upon ‘Breathe better and expand your life’ by Roisin Kiernan (

I read with interest. Breathing is supposedly the most natural function….and yet for myself at certain times of my life breathing has not come easily.

Roisin’s article brought to mind, yet again, the need to cultivate mindful breathing.

As a child I developed hay fever which became asthmatic the more pollen there was. As an eight year old it terrified me and a couple of times I needed oxygen. I was treated successfully and by the age of fourteen I was fine, indeed I swam for my County.

However, as I have grown older breathing has been rather a challenge. If I am ever ill it always affects my lungs and over the years well-meaning doctors have tried to press upon me various inhalers. Thankfully herbs and homeopathy have been great healers.

In her article Roisin writes about the full and relaxed breath of babies. I recall quietly observing my old dog as she slept and breathed. I knew that every single cell of her was receiving oxygen because her entire body breathed the breath totally….the rising and falling of her ribcage and the complete surrender to inhaling and exhaling. So babies and animals have it sorted! Humans on the other hand need a few pointers.

The lovely Sandra Sabatini was my first real introduction to honouring the breath. My previous yoga classes were more about alignment and simply being told to breath. In my first workshop with Sandra some years ago I did not have a clue about what was going on. We seemed to do very little and we did it so slowly and yet the day after I ached in a variety of places that had never felt pain before. So intrigued was I, that I left after three days clutching the details for her week-long yoga retreat in Basunti, India. I have now been to Basunti twice and am working again with Sandra in June when she visits London.

from Sandra’s book; autumn winter spring summer

a lullaby

the breath
is round
it goes out, it comes back
it goes out, it comes back
it soothes, it heals
it is a lullaby
from Sandra’s book, “breathe”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 Sandra Sabatini was one of the first to be taught by Vanda Scaravelli and her book AWAKENING THE SPINE is simply beautiful…read it and see for yourself.

So from Sandra and her co-teacher Michal I have learnt to slowly, slowly move and pay attention to the inhale and the exhale.

Now to the other side of the coin. To be taught by Ana Forrest, is to be placed in an intense, feeling relationship with yourself and your breath. We choose an area in our body to work with for every session. We are encouraged to be fascinated by our breath…the length of each inhale/exhale. We are encouraged to focus on what we need to do in order to bring about a sense of joy or pleasure, no matter how intense the sensations within our body become. Ana is more interested in how a pose can serve each person, instead of that burning urge we have to accomplish the pose perfectly. In order to do that we must stay with the breath, huge and full. No breath leads to struggle, frustration and we lose our intelligence and begin to feel ‘the poor me’ emerging. It all gets too hard. And so, Ana moves around the room adjusting, soothing, massaging or simply stating the obvious…’Gill there is a better, easier way for your body to feel this pose… do it’ and hey presto, out of the sweat and victim-mode emerges this amazing body that belongs to me doing this amazing posture!

It is all about the breath. Gently I keep returning to the breath and feel it filling and expanding my ribcage. Over time I have felt a loosening around my shoulders, neck and heart as the breath moves more and more deeply into me. It is true that I feel more pain too but that can then be released, leaving more space within and around my body.

I know that if people could breathe more easily and fully their bodies would gratefully let go of some of the dis-ease they carry around habitually.

Finally, these are words spoken by another wonderful teacher, Angela Farmer.

Breath is our greatest lover. It knows us intimately, every cell.
Our body moves on the wave of the breath.
Understand the downward direction of the breath and then you can move up.
You need to fully feel the upward movement of the energy….

These words come from a DVD by Angela Farmer and may not be word perfect ( I do not know shorthand!) but the essence is there.

 By Victor van Kooten, husband of Angela Farmer.
A lovely book which I return to often…

A big thanks to Roisin Kiernan for her words which got my brain thinking and throughout the writing of this I have been breathing and feeling. I now feel the need for mint tea!

Incidentally, the May issue of OMYOGA Magazine is full of great features; Inversions, Shamanic Yoga, Yoga to Make You Happy and much more….and remember if you live in the North West of the UK there is The OMYOGA Show in Manchester May 11th/12th.

May we all walk in beauty Aho.

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