Tantra: the shiniest nugget in the gold mine of Indian thought
The Tantric tradition revolutionised yoga like no other discipline when it emerged in India around 5th-6thc CE. Applying unorthodox, sometimes illegal, practices it challenged social mores and customs while re-defining boundaries and encouraging followers to seek liberation and enlightenment even in the midst of social decay.
Meet the Teacher: Rona
Meet Rona, our fabulous Pilates teacher here at Devi-Deva. She has years of training under her belt, and is a ray of sunshine and fun! Enjoy!
Cashing in on the lost art of breathing
The coronavirus pandemic shines a spotlight on how we breathe as we navigate shops, trains, planes and crowded places wearing face masks to protect each other from virus-laden droplets. But the new awareness of this vital function highlights a painful truth: In the last few centuries, through a combination of factors, we have lost the art of breathing properly. Rediscovering it has never been more necessary.
“Before we know it, breathing slow, less and through the nose with a big exhale will be big business, like so much else,” notes James Nestor, author of Breath, the new science of a lost art.
The way we breathe, aside from keeping us alive, affects the body in unimaginable ways – it boosts brain and immune function, calms nerves, tempers the body, feeds blood and bones — everything, really, that makes us human. Breathing efficiently helps us think clearly, run longer and faster, sleep more deeply, live longer and cope with a number of other debilitating conditions. Mystics, ascetics and spiritual travellers have for millennia expounded the magic of breathing techniques as a gateway to a better life.
In essence, longer breaths may equate a longer life. “The yogi’s life is not measured by the number of his days, but the number of his breaths,” writes celebrated yoga teacher B.K.S Iyengar in his book Light on Yoga.
As a practice, breathwork is becoming fashionable. Probably because it works. And probably, too, because we are living through a pandemic that attacks the lungs. As a yoga teacher, I have seen first–hand the life-changing effect of correct breathing technique in my students. After teaching the 4-7-8 breathing technique, made famous by Dr Andrew Weil, to my 84-year-old mother, Paulina, her breathing transformed. She now feels calmer, more relaxed and more energetic.
“Why has no one taught me to breathe correctly?” she asked, perplexed. Quite the opposite – why is it that life takes away this birth right? If you watch a baby breathe, you can see them inhale deeply, filling up their lungs and activating their deep stomach muscles. I have used sandbags to encourage deep breathing with my clients who are chest breathers, and watched their faces soften, shoulders ease, and a sense of calm return to their faces as they engage their deeper breathing muscles.
It seems we lose the ability to breathe fully and freely as life throws things at us: stress, fright, fear and now, the social media posts and relentless email that can trigger micro-breathing. The art of breathing well has also been chipped at thorough historical changes to our diet. The consumption of processed food has affected the shape of our jaw, mouth and nose, forcing many of us to breathe through our mouths instead of our noses, and thus becoming inefficient breathers.
“Focusing on my breathing pattern in my daily life changed everything,” notes Anders Olsson, founder of Conscious Breathing, who set out to become an expert in breathing and now runs instructor training courses, breathing courses and
produces gadgets to strengthen the breathing muscles. Olsson, like many ascetics before him, walked away from his everyday life to pursue his quest.
For millennia, yogis, Taoists, and Native Americans have expounded the benefits of proper nasal breathing and controlled breathing practices, such as pranayama, and some scientists are mystified that controlled breathing is not practiced more widely these days to deal with a growing number of ailments.
“We assume, at our peril, that breathing is a passive action, just something that we do: breathe, live; stop breathing die,” notes Nestor, an investigative journalist. Spurred on by this misconception, a growing band of pulmonauts – including investors, app developers, music moguls, techies and dreamers are moving in to monetise this forgotten art.
In 2020 alone, a clutch of apps were launched, promising to help us breathe better; iBreathe; and the Breathing App, ‘like a stress reset button,’ created by a yoga teacher, musician and DJ Moby, Deepak Chopra, and coder Sergey Varichev; Breathwrk and the Zen breathing app, show us how to calm nerves like US Navy Seals do. Breathing coaches are becoming more common; online and in-person breathing programmes are popping up, and breathing gurus are even selling gadgets to widen mouths and strengthen jaws. The US-based Breath Institute has just launched a six-week online course to teach how nasal breathing can help the immune system during the pandemic.
As a yogi, I have learned that my breath, or prana, is the single most important aspect not only of being alive but of my
yoga technique. The extreme Dutch athlete Wim Hof knows this too. As an early adopter of the ancient breathing techniques, he has achieved amazing human feats in freezing conditions. And has dedicated much of his life since 2000 to teaching his methods of breathing, cold exposure and meditation practices. He launched his app in 2015.
Breathing techniques, when harnessed correctly, are powerful but without proper guidance they can also be dangerous. Light headedness and sickness are just two I have experienced. There are many breathing techniques out there. And the focus on better breathing in the health and wellness realm is bound to intensify – experts note this could be the new wellness revolution.
“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe better,” breathing expert Dr. Weil has said.
We are all feeling it. Stress.
Are you feeling tired and groggy? Maybe spending too much time on the sofa, watching TV and eating? Welcome to the effects of what science calls ‘allostatic load’ – the wear and tear from being in a state of constant stress.
We are all feeling it. Stress. It can boost performance, but after living with it 24/7 since the onset of the global pandemic, it has taken its toll in the form of chronic fatigue and depression.
Prior to the pandemic, levels of workplace stress were on the rise with six of 10 workers suffering.
One of the keys to reducing stress is shifting from the sympathetic, or flight or fight, nervous system to the parasympathetic system, which calms the heart – and it is no surprise that yoga and meditation are brilliant at calming then nervous system.
If you can’t practice with us online at www.devi-devayoga.com then here is a wonderful yoga routine that you can do practice to boost your mood and calm stress levels and beat fatigue.
Viparitakarani – Legs up the wall. Because this is calming and neutralising
Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclined cobbler’s pose. A key restorative pose; opens the chest, abdomen and pelvis, which are often restricted by how we stand and sit. Psychologically allows for deep opening with safety and support.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Down dog is one of the most versatile of the yoga poses. It calms the mind as it is a forward bend, releases the spine and helps reduce lower back pain
Balasana – Child’s pose or resting pose. Stay anywhere from one minute to five. Kneel on floor, touch big toes together, then separate the knees as wide as hips. Relax torso down between thighs.
Ardha Halasana – Half plough pose. Sedates and neutralises nervous system, produces profound sense of calm and ease. Improves circulation. Supine, lift both legs together, arms down by side.
Setu bhanda sarvangasana – Shoulder supported bridge. It quiets the mind, relieves discomfort of sitting with shoulders rounded (seems many do this 90% of time); helps with overwork, mental agitation and headache.
Bharadvajasana – Gentle twist on a chair – Accessible, gentle soothing posture for body and mind; ideal for beginners, turns attention inward
Savasana – Corpse pose; here we learn to enter a state of profound relaxation. Great for body and mind.
Meet the Teacher: Nicola
Meet Nicola, one of our newest yoga teachers. She brings a gentle demeanour and warmth to her classes, along with an inner strength and classic approach. Enjoy!
Meet the Teacher: Lou
The third in our series. Lou brings a vibrant energy and is passionate about yoga and yoga philosophy. She brings that knowledge as a way of offering a deeper practise; incorporating meditation and breathwork. Enjoy!
Meet the Teacher: Sam
Meet Sam, our yoga teacher, yoga therapist, guru and holder of space. Sam is a truly inspirational woman, her classes will take you deep into your body and leave you feeling totally blissed out. Enjoy!
Meet the teacher: Tash
The first in our series of meet Devi-Deva’s yoga teachers. Tash, a spirited and fun teacher who brings her beautiful, huge heart to the studio, along with those twinkly good vibes. Enjoy!
Syncing breathe with movement in a short vinyasa flow
“Syncing breathe with movement in a short vinyasa flow, allowing the breath to guide and work with you in movement between asanas. Mastering the breath is the key to the door. This little flow can be adapted, adding variations of poses, held for longer breaths to explore your body, or adding some of your own favourites or challenging poses to really create a dynamic and fun practice. Remembering it’s your practice, take what you want and need from it and just enjoy moving the body.”
18 Springfield Avenue | Hutton | Essex CM13 1RE
Monday to Friday: 09.00 to 21.00
Saturday: 09.00 to 18.00
Sunday: 09.00 to 18.00
How to find us:
We are situated at the end of the parade of shops in Springfield Avenue.
We are between Billericay and Shenfield. (0.5 from Shenfield station )
There are plenty of free parking spaces outside and in the surrounding roads