Tis the season to gather with friends, family and loved ones. As we wind down the year and prepare to greet the next one our minds and hearts lean towards closure and new beginnings. The month of December is always packed for me and I’m fairly certain the same is true for you. Last year Carla asked me to write about how to stay grounded during such a busy month. A year later, as I look through yoga magazines or read Maria Shriver’s weekly paper, I see the same agenda. Authors and bloggers have many ideas on how to keep one’s sanity and reduce stress during the Holidays.

I have two ideas to share with you. Breathe and give love away.

Breathe
Dr. Ginger Garner, an expert in the field of yoga therapy, says that the typical American takes at least 25 breaths per minute. This type of shallow breathing causes the human body to be in a constant state of flight, fight or freeze. Now add to that the stress of holiday shopping and traffic that alters one’s nerves, even the most peaceful of souls might cuss like a sailor! According to Dr. Garner we should work at taking 8 to 10 breaths per minute. It is easy to say, slow down, breathe deep. But how do we accomplish this off of our mat without the constant cues from an instructor? Here is a quick guide on yogic breathing.

The human body has many diaphragms, not just the one that separates the heart and lungs from the abominable cavity and assists the respiratory system. The pelvic floor and the throat area are also diaphragms. These three gates in yogic terms are referred to as the root lock, the abdominal lock and the chin lock. They also correspond with the root chakra, the solar plex chakra and the throat chakra.

Mula Bandha or root lock moves energy up through the center of your pelvic floor toward your navel and keeps if from moving down.

Uddiyana Bandha or abdominal lock helps energy rise up through the center of your core. This bandha activates the inhale/exhale of the breath but it also intensifies upward energy from Mula Bandha and downward energy from Jalandhara bandha.

Jalandhara Bandha or chin lock restricts the upward flow of energy and directs energy down toward your navel lock.

Our breath is important because of the obvious, Oxygen. As you can see from the above descriptions it does so much more. Our breath activates the flight, fight or freeze reaction, if there is a lion in the room! But we can use the breath to calm down, activating the opposite reaction and saving energy. I have noticed lately that breath classes are popping up everywhere. One of my private clients said she saw a story on Good Morning America that was all about breath work. There was no yoga flow involved. Why are we having to be taught to breathe? Because we are breathing 25 breathes per minute, stressing out our adrenals, giving our energy away, and living in an emotionally charged world.

Let’s slow down, especially in the Holiday season, and just breathe. During the month of December Carla will give you easy instructions to help you engage these three diaphragms. If you attend a Kundalini class the flow of breath and the flow of the poses automatically activate these diaphragms. As I teach women at the homeless shelter, I instruct them in every class to breathe using the three locks. This is one of the tools I give them as they transition from the shelter to a home. My mantra in every class at The Center for Transforming Lives is “Decide how you are giving your energy away and decide who is really worthy of receiving it. It’s your energy. Slow down and breathe.” It’s a tool for all of us, especially in this busy and oh so lovely Holiday season.

Give Love Away
There are so many opportunities to give during the holiday season. As you know, Carla is also involved in The Center for Transforming Lives, an organization that works to lift women and children from poverty to possibility. Toys for Christmas is great but what about the daily need for diapers that is year-round? During the month of December bring diapers of all sizes to the studio and we’ll deliver them to the women at the shelter. Let’s do a diaper drive again in a few months, maybe even another round of Support the Girls, a bra donation for homeless women. Giving is important year-round but let’s be honest, we tend to do it more during Christmas and Hanukah. Why? It is good for our soul and helps us to not be so self-centered. According to Cecelia Meis, author of How 30 days of Kindness Made me a Better Person, generosity benefits us all.

Cecelia says, “To find lasting happiness through generosity requires a suppression of our ego, an analysis of our motives and a reflection on how these acts alter our perception of the world.” The goal is to take the focus off of the self and pay it forward in real and lasting ways. Let’s give mountains of diapers to the shelter spreading hope, kindness and love to young women as they raise the next generation to be thoughtful and aware.

Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

Enjoy this wonderful season with family and friends. Join Carla and I as we talk about breath in our classes. Give love away. Look forward with me to the new year as we find many creative ways to be kind. Slow down and breathe as we conserve our energy and wisely give it away.

Grace and Peace,
Zella