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A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary Moscarello.

What is unwavering calm? 

Unwavering means still.

Calm means…still. 

How difficult it seems to find stillness when all around us seems to be moving at an ever-quickening pace. Yet there is more in the idea of unwavering calm to understand. The definition of the word “calm” also means, not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions.

Finding an unwavering calm sounds so unattainable. 

Yet we have the power to do this. One way lies in pranayama – breath practice. The word itself can be defined by looking at its two parts – “prana”, meaning energy or life force and “yama”, meaning discipline or regulating behavior. 

Our breath, our life force, has the power to move the body even through the stillness of sleep. It happens throughout most of the moments of our lives without our even being aware of it. Yet we always have the power to channel our breath, control it and regulate it – thereby regulating our own energy and mood. Through pranayama, we can visit a feeling of unwavering calm. Maybe not fully still, because of the constant motion of our breath – but definitely calm.

I cannot drive a motorcycle, but I’m not opposed to being a passenger with a trusted and experienced and SAFE person in charge of the handlebars and everything else. Huz and I have been storing a dear friend’s Harley in our garage and have this summer spent more time on two wheels together than we have our entire marriage. 

The first time I sat on the back of that bike and we went riding, I will admit to being more than a little anxious. My breathing felt shallow and rapid as Huz took us on a short ride over to Eagle Rock Reservation way back in whatever month it was (because I have lost all track of timelines in relation to 2020… everything that’s happened feels either as if it occurred yesterday or a year ago).

Each time I’ve ridden as Huz drove the bike I’ve gotten more comfortable. Ask him how I handle turns, though and you’re in for a laugh. The ease with which I sit and enjoy the ride came with the help of pranayama, I kid you not. 

Praying “Hail Mary” over and over the first time we got on a highway is of course one way to soothe as well.  

All kidding aside, focusing on the breath sure helped in this case. How did I do it? I started by lengthening my exhales and making sure I released as much air as I thought I was holding. You’d be surprised how much air gets held inside by not releasing everything. Using the physical action of drawing my navel to my spine gives my exhales that extra loving nudge to clear all the stale air out. Of course sitting upright while exhaling, as one does on the back of a bike, is important.  

You don’t need to be on the back of a motorcycle, on a meditation cushion or in a yoga studio to take advantage of the power of pranayama and its ability to bring you to that unwavering calm. It is always with us, there in the background, keeping us in motion. Should you become upset, feel anxious or unsteady, returning to the gentle rhythm of the breath that is wholly yours is possible. First notice the breath. Observe the location of it. In the upper chest? Further down? 

Next, lengthen the exhale. Give it that loving nudge by pulling your navel in toward your spine. Get every last bit of the previous breath out, so your next fresh inhale can be as large as possible.

When you are ready for the inhale, allow it to enter as it will. Then give yourself a full and deep exhale. Slowly slowly as your exhales deepen, you can observe any inequality between the exhale and inhale and work to even them out to one another. Find comfort in doing this first. If any anxiety bubbles back up, exhale deeper – keeping your focus there. 

Inhales can be anxiety-inducing – as can retention of the breath on an inhale. I would never advise retaining an inhale in order to calm an anxious mind or nervous heart. Always exhale first, fully and with the purpose of making room for an inhale that serves you.    

So the unwavering calm we seek can be found through the action of pranayama. Even as we find it, we continue to act and move, through the breath. 

Read more of Mary’s blog posts here.

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!