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Down the Rabbit Hole into Breath and Bliss

The first and second installments of my story cataloged my personal journey with breath and yoga. Now, as a practicing Yoga Tune Up® teacher, my journey was about to take me to another YTU immersion, Breath and Bliss.

I had never been to LA before, but I was determined to attend Breath and Bliss in Tarzana, California with Jill Miller after she came back from her precious maternity leave with her second child, a beautiful little boy named Asher.

This training could not have been more different from the Level 1 certification training. Instead of tuning up our bodies, we were tuning up our breath and our vagus nerve – that transatlantic cable of a nerve that opens a door onto our parasympathetic nervous system.

Could I be moved out of my habitual fight and flight stress? I wondered this as I gripped the steering wheel of the tiny Fiat I had rented and navigated those famous LA highways. I worried that it would probably take the whole weekend just to recover from my highway adventure from LAX to my hotel room near the Tarzana YogaWorks.

I loved every minute of Breath and Bliss. Can you imagine starting a Yoga Tune Up® class that starts with savasana and continues that way for several hours? Each participant, on his or her mat, experienced something different as we all learned about the vagus nerve and how we could access it. Each of us, though, had a different inner-stress story that needed release.

One of our many inner searches, invited us to lay with our neck and heads turned to the side on the Coregeous® ball. We breathed and gently pressed our heads into the ball. I felt a whoosh – that’s the only way I can describe it – as tension stuck in my neck left my body. I felt a wash of relief. As a result of my life-long habitual headaches, I had developed the very unhelpful habit of cocking my neck in one direction and then another as a way to shake out the tension. With this habit, I was treating my body like a bicycle – just shift a gear.

But my breath, the feeling of deep oneness within me, and the cushion of the ball did just the opposite of my typically rough treatment of myself. As I melted into the softness of the ball, I became unstuck. I now use this process for myself and share it in my classes because many of my students also experience stuckness in their necks and tension that creates headaches.

After several months, I found a story that helped me to understand what kind of work was being done during those amazing three days at the Breath and Bliss immersion.

I had been reading Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want ( Simon & Schuster, 2012). Beck uses the “technology” of traveling inward into what she calls the mystical skills of Wordlessness and Oneness, which bear some similarity to meditation and spirituality (but much more fun!). I was fascinated by Beck’s own personal story and her advice to others seeking their true purpose.

Much of Beck’s book is built on her deep connections with the oneness created when we connect deeply with animals. She told the story of how her dear friend Koelle, renowned as a horse whisperer, taught her to communicate and interact with a horse. Oneness, for a horse whisperer, is when you feel an animal “join up” with you. In Beck’s words, you’ll feel, “the soft footsteps coming closer, of the palomino’s soul touching yours, of the sweet velvet noses against your back” (p.68).

Back in Tarzana, as we felt our mats beneath us, we learned to breathe in new ways. We learned to roll our balls in specific ways to contact the vagus nerve. We hugged ourselves and moved in undulating patterns. We softened our hard shells. And we created space for each of us to engage in a deep, deep practice. We welcomed our souls and felt ourselves “join up” and enter ways of being with ourselves that felt like a new self that that welcomed an old self to shift, to melt, to respond.

In all of this, we called on each of ourselves to join up with those parts of ourselves that had been cut off or distanced. In this deep practice, we were becoming self-soul whisperers.

Liked this article? Read My Three Favorite Lessons from Jill Miller

About This Author

Hello, there! If you like my perspective on self care, please sign up for my weekly blog at http://sni.ps/GetUnstuck. When you sign up, you get a free e-manifesto that says who I am and what I stand for. I started yoga as a 50-year-old single mom: a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, achievement junky, suffering from constant pain and headaches. After that first eye-opening yoga class, I immersed myself in yoga, movement, and breath. I did all of Ana Forrest’s trainings, continued studying with Steve Emmerman and Talya Ring and now I’m completely thrilled with the Roll Model Method® and Yoga Tune Up® with Jill Miller and her mighty tribe of extraordinary teachers and trainers. Strength, breath, and mobility create a pain-free, vital body and this precious body is the starting point for the life you want to live. My classes and workshops help you to go inside; study your body and your breath; and learn that healing is within your grasp. I look forward to connecting with you!

Down the Rabbit Hole into Breath and Bliss

  1. Tracy Wagner says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience, this is something to look forward to learning and something we all need to experience.

  2. As my second day of yoga tune begins I am leaving a little overwhelmed, so thank you for sharing your journey.

  3. Shai says:

    What a beautiful reminder to soften and breathe. My reaction to the daily barrage of bad news lately is to armour and protect. Connecting to my breath body offers me a different choice.

  4. This kind of work is so needed in our culture of forward momentum. Thanks for that reference to the hard shell. I hope to do this immersion one day.

  5. Linda says:

    After reading your wonderful article. I now feel the need to attend a Breath and Bliss training. I am currently taking my Level 1. So I will be looking for a Breath and Bliss training after I complete this course.
    Thank you for writing such an inspiring article and impressing upon the fact that we all need to let go.

  6. This is definitly the next course I will take!
    My teacher kindly suggested it to me… Ans after reading your post, I understand the work at the deepest level that she was talking about!

    I would love to become a “self soul wisperer”!

  7. sue okuda says:

    I think it is so fascinating that the deeper we go into ourselves, the more connected we become to the greater consciousness around us, whether in animals, other people, our environment, the cosmos. The air is our breath, the breath is the air. This immersion sounds amazing. Congrats on navigating LA freeways on your way to your bliss!

  8. Tisha says:

    This sounds so “bliss”. I just recently finished my YTU Level 1 training and very eager to take ALL the immersions, but this is one that I will have at the top of my list. Breath = Life. It’s amazing to me that even the few techniques I currently know using the Coregeous ball, that I can notice a huge difference in my breathing being smoother, more full and ways to calm my soul. I have already used these techniques, and looking forward to this training to be able to offer more in my classes.

  9. Christopher says:

    This sounds like a wonderful immersion. In my YTU Level 1 teacher training, it was mentioned that there is a lot of focus now on the vagus nerve to down regulate, similar to how recently there has been a major focus on fascia. It reminds me of the saying that was said in the Yoga Tune Up Class #4 (Restorative Hips)- “Down regulate to self regulate”. It’s interesting though how you mentioned that this was very different than the level 1 training, where a huge focus was on the abodes of breath and tubular core. I found that bringing attention to my breath was very active work for me during the L1 training. It made me realize how I need to find balance between ease and effort, even with breathing. I’m looking forward to taking this immersion eventually and noticing the differences in these experiences myself. Thank you for sharing.

  10. You are not only a yoga teacher, but a great writer. What an inspiring piece. Namaste, Andrea

  11. Sounds amazing! It is so important to focus on the benefits of restorative work. I know for myself it is much easier to convince myself to work “hard” than to experience, release, breath…
    I also love your description of “shifting gears” with your neck position. I find myself doing the same thing and your blog brought that to my attention.

    Thanks!

  12. Andree-Anne Gagnon says:

    I can’t wait to find a Breath and Bliss immersion to attend. I have heard so much about it but have yet to find a training that fits into my schedule and life. Your descriptions have convinced me that I need to prioritize my own down-regulation and do it much sooner than I had planned! Thank you.

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