The Air We Breathe
Oxygen is essential. Breath is essential. I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. I do however want to remind you that we can control the way we breathe, and that might just be the ticket to some much-needed relief.
Nothing to sell here folks, just plain access to your body and essential functions.
I want to encourage you to remember the tools you have at your fingertips to help you achieve a calmer more balanced state of being, which is what this is all about right, wellbeing, wellness, health? There are essentials that we can easily take for granted and really, there is no better time than now to tap into this.
As we present you with the new and improved Poplar we are going to take all the opportunities to share with you the most simple tools we all have access to, and quite honestly, are overlooked in some way or another on a daily basis. If we can bring a bit of peace of mind to those tools, we might just all be the better for it. Oxygen and breath being just the tip of the iceberg.
Let me introduce you to Claudia Nanino, an incredible Conscious Breathwork Expert, who has graciously joined the Poplar ranks. Her career is focused on traditions of practicing the breath that have spanned cultures.
"She has said, “Breathwork allows us to tap into the universal life energy, revered throughout time and known by many different names such as prana (yogic), chi (Chinese), mana (Hawaiian), manitou (Native American), and so many more.”"
At times of stress, physical and psychological stress, the rhythm of your breath becomes more pronounced and labored. Just think back to the last time you were rushing, or went on a run, intentional or not, your breathing became labored. I only ask you to consider this because breathing is an involuntary function controlled by a part of your brain responsible for all such functions in the body, the medulla oblongata.
Breathing is so natural it might be safe to assume that you haven’t even noticed your inhale since you called it out just now. The inhalation of breath is the intake of oxygen required by your body to produce energy and regulate all the other functions of your body, from digestion to effective sleep and even your body's immune function. An exhale is the expulsion of the carbon dioxide - the waste. (1) Your medulla oblongata (aforementioned) regulates this process without a passing thought from you.
While the function is involuntary, it doesn't mean you can’t control it, and to your benefit for that matter. Let’s consider the functions it regulates: digestion, sleep, immune function, stress, and more. If all of those vital systems are in part managed by the breath, imagine what is possible when you control your breath?
Practicing your controlled breathing, like practicing anything in our lives, gives us the opportunity to improve. And, yes, sometimes it’s nice to have a hand in that practice or at least getting started, which is why we have brought incredible people like Claudia into the Poplar fold.
I asked Claudia to give us a starting point for working with our breath, something that might help us mitigate stress + anxiety for starters. She shared a bit here, including some exercises.
Breathwork is a form of active meditation because you are giving the mind a single point of focus - on your breath - which helps to quiet our busy minds.
There are many different types of breathwork: from simpler practices that can be done in a minute or two, to deeper experiences that can take an hour or more. There are some that are meant to be more energizing, some are more relaxing, and others help heal trauma and release emotions. I recommend trying different styles and see what resonates best with your body. Since each will give you different results, you can always come back to the specific practice that works best for your immediate needs.
One of my favorite short breathing exercises is Breath of Fire. It's an element of yoga, thousands of years old, and provides noticeable results in a very brief period of time. Start with 30 seconds and then work your way up to a minute. It's a quick way to move energy or emotions, or give yourself a burst of energy.
- Start by kneeling or sitting in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
- Breathing in and out through the nose, you are going to focus on rapid, short exhales while simultaneously pulling in your abdomen with each breath.
- On each exhale, envision pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
- Relax your abdomen on the inhale, which will happen for you automatically as you prepare for the next exhale and contraction of your stomach.
- This one can feel challenging at first, but trust me when I say you get the hang of it very quickly.
Claudia and I didn’t do this together for this piece, because we are both very familiar with this practice and I can clearly relate to what she is saying. It’s not a bad idea to check in with yourself before you start the exercise to acknowledge what it is you need in the moment. Then take a moment after the exercise to reassess your status. How has it changed? Do you feel a stillness? Maybe your mind is calmer. 30 seconds is such a short window of time to commit to making an impactful adjustment to your day.
She shared the Box Breath exercise, that is another in the tool chest she has opened to share with our friends at Poplar.
This slows down your breathing, which helps to regulate your emotions and your nervous system. Any time you slow your breath down, you are taking yourself from fight or flight to rest and digest, signaling to the body that you are safe and that you can relax.
- Inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds
- Exhale for four seconds and hold for four seconds
- Repeat for 1-3 minutes
Knowing that she goes so much deeper, and wanting to be able to share that with you all in due time I asked her how the attention she has given to breathwork has impacted her life. She suggested the list is long.
I found it at a pivotal time in my life, where I was working hard to love and forgive myself. I had read books, listened to podcasts, gone to therapy, done recovery work, worked with healers and plant medicines. And they all helped me understand logically why I had made the choices I made and that I was doing the best I could at the time with my very limited consciousness, however I was still in my head and could not find love and forgiveness in my heart. Breathwork changed all of that. My first session was mind blowing and heart opening. I came out of it so surprised and so happy that I had found a way to finally heal myself, emotionally and spiritually. Within a few sessions, I was finally able to embody everything I had been learning and truly forgive and love myself. Which gave me a new sense of freedom and purpose. I immediately began an apprenticeship so I could begin sharing this practice. And as I dove deeper into my own practice, I released years of pain and trauma, while creating space for more love and joy in my life. Each time I go deeper within myself, peeling back old layers of armor and gaining deep insights about myself and this human life. It's amazing to me every time.
In her own words, I think it is valuable to hear just how deep one can go by simply accessing the breath, and practicing. It is truly astounding what our minds and bodies are capable of when we are engaged.
I facilitate Conscious Breathwork, which is deep journey work using your breath. By breathing In a certain way, you are able to alter your state of consciousness and move big amounts of energy. As humans, we carry emotions and energy in our body, from experiences in our lives. This is a simple and powerful way to heal ourselves somatically. For some people, it's the deepest meditation of their life. For others, it's a very visceral experience with a lot of physical sensations or movement. For others it's deeply vocal, with strong emotions flowing through. And for others, it's a beautifully psychedelic experience, providing a feeling of deep connection and oneness. People are always deeply surprised and grateful for the experience of tapping into their own ability to heal themself on all levels - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And it gives me so much joy and fulfillment to guide people through it.
Quick sessions to explore these breathing exercises with her guidance are available here (link to her shorter service here). It’s commendable to enlist a little assistance as these practices are not intuitive. I most certainly had a guide when I was learning this myself.
At times like these, when we are all feeling a little tapped, let’s acknowledge that the busy realities of modern life can sometimes cloud the nature of what it is we are looking for. So starting with the breath, let’s reassess our state of being, shall we? Take a step back, take a deep breath of unfiltered oxygen in the great outdoors, and then evaluate.
Claudia Nanino is a certified breathwork facilitator and crystal curator. She began her healing journey in 2016, while coping with enormous personal challenges. She rebuilt her life and catapulted her spiritual evolution with a deep dive into meditation, yoga, and crystals, enlisting the help of teachers and healers. Her first experience with breathwork was life changing. She knew she had discovered a beautiful tool with a profound capability to heal, and felt called to dive deeply into the space, leaving her corporate career to share these gifts with as many people as possible. Viewing the work she does with breath as both a privilege and a duty it is the ultimate expression of her gratitude for her new life, led with an open, connected heart.