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Blog post by Mary Moscarello. See all Mary’s blog posts here.

How often are we aware of our breath?

Breathing itself is what’s called a reflexive action, meaning we can do it without being conscious of it. Grateful for this function of the body which keeps us alive, we exist, breathing countless times, in and out without knowing we’re doing it.

Consider for a moment the Hindu belief that each person is born with a determinate number of breaths and once all those breaths are used, the person’s life ends. The saying “don’t waste your breath” takes on a different meaning in that context, no?

I’m not suggesting that we monitor every breath we take. That notion is ridiculous – we have many other things to think about, not to mention that many of our breaths happen while we sleep. I am suggesting that we pause once in a while to notice our own breath. At first, count the breath. Assign a number count to how long it takes you to fully inhale, fully exhale. By counting the breath, you work to make the breath count.

Yoga Sutra 1.34 speaks about pranayama. One interpretation of this sutra incorporates the idea that as you increase the time between inhales – you work to slow down activation of the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of our brain that helps us perceive emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness. It also has a role in controlling aggression. In addition to those functions, our amygdala helps us t store memories of events and emotions so that you can recognize similar events in the future. If you work to lengthen the time between your inhales, you stimulate your brain to slow down and even pause knee-jerk reactions. Very helpful in times of conflict, stress or even enjoyment of a moment.

The act of noticing the breath helps us actually “be”. A favorite teacher of mine, Michael Simpson, says (and I’m paraphrasing) that most of the time “we aren’t human beings, we are human doings”. We spend so much time “doing” – way more than “being” that we can fall into a pattern of going through the motions of life without noticing what is actually happening.

Whether you just take five deep breaths or spend five, ten, or even twenty minutes in a deep pranayama (breathing) practice, you are entering a state of being. Just being.

It can help you feel less anxious.

It can assist with mental clarity.

It can improve lung capacity.

It can help you be more mindful with other tasks in your day.

On that last one, I often pause to notice my breath while I’m doing a mundane task – say for instance, washing the dishes or peeling a carrot. In doing this, I find myself really being present with the peeler as it moves down the length of the carrot. I watch the skin curl off and fall. I feel the firm flesh of the carrot in my hand. I see its beautiful orange color. Maybe I’ll cut a piece off and taste its sweetness. Peeling a carrot becomes a meditation and I’m closer to a human “being” something even as I’m a human “doing” something.

Take a pause.

Notice your breath.

Just be.

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!