Emma Lovell Yoga

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The best way to breathe…

‘The best way to breathe is the way that supports the activity that you are doing.’  Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book.

Kiki Smith – Ribs, 1987, terracotta, ink, and thread

It’s been all about the rib cage and breath in class this week.  Specifically focusing on how we are breathing with the thoracic cavity and aiming to create space and awareness in this area for a better quality breath.  Here’s biomechanist Katy Bowman explaining the mechanics of breathing and how the way you breathe affects the different pressure systems in the body:

Here are some movements you might want to try at home to help create space and release tension in this area:


Side stretch

Walk hands and feet over to one side making sure pelvis and ribs don’t roll with you (they stay level).  You can cross one ankle over the other and take your wrist to make the stretch stronger.











Pec/chest stretch

Lay on your back and bend your right knee up roll it to the left until the knee and foot are on the floor.  Keeping the leg in place, reach your right arm up to the ceiling.  Slightly bend your elbow and then slowly lower the arm behind you.  Imagine your arm is drawing away from you as you lower.  You can move the arm up towards your ear or down towards your hip to find the best stretch for you.










Chest opener

Place a rolled blanket or yoga mat under the upper back.  The blanket should come out under the armpits and shoulders release to floor.  Add a blanket under the head and neck if needed.




Some more tips for better breathing:

Here’s a great video from Jenni Rawlings which aims to optimise rib cage breathing.

Consider your wardrobe- make sure your clothing isn’t restricting how you breathe- think tight waist bands, belts, ties, in fact any clothing that restricts your movement full stop is bad news for the breath.

Consider your belly- are you holding your belly in right now?  Contrary to what is often thought, constantly holding your belly in will actually cause the muscles to weaken rather than strengthen, and like any muscle that is never allowed to relax, will eventually cause a reduction in function.  Not only this, but constantly holding in your belly increases tension in the body and restricts your breath as the abdominal muscles are unable to move freely (among other unpleasant side-effects):

‘Most people have replaced deep, abdominal activity with “sucking their stomach in.” The belief held by most is that “sucking it in” constantly uses one’s abdominal muscles, but really, the sucking-in motion creates a pressure (like creating a vacuum) that pulls the abdomen’s contents up (not in). It doesn’t do anything for core strength (except weaken it over time) or back health (increases the loads placed on the intervertebral disks).’ Katy Bowman

Happy breathing!


Images from here

Inspiration for this week’s class theme comes from this article on the ‘feminine’ in yoga:

‘… mainstream yoga schools neglect the ability and necessity to swiftly soften and engage muscles in a coordinated way to produce a circular, waving fluid movement to create flexible power. To undertake such movements, the body must be allowed to be receptive in order to transmit the force sequentially, with a firm base to steady the root of the watery movement. The student must flit between rigidity and receptivity to produce the wave, with too much of one element ruining the effect; whilst a mirror can sometimes help to see the effect, intuition and feeling tells the student where he is stuck or too loose. The highly subtle, relational quality between the masculine and feminine through the spine is microcosmic reflection of this constant interplay at the macrocosmic level.’

Whilst I’m not 100% in agreement with simplistically assigning things (or movements) masculine and feminine qualities, this is a great article on both the more masculine roots of modern yoga and on creating balance in our practice between the linear and the circular, between rigidity and waves.

Here’s a nice fluid sequence to try at home:


felixinclusis:<br />
“ webecomelegend: Love Matt van Leeuwen<br />

There is uncertainty in the air and times are strange and volatile.  It’s time we spread some love and kindness, starting with ourselves.  Take some time out of your day for a bit of self-care; listen to your favourite song from start to finish whilst doing nothing, get outside, eat Nutella from the jar, take a warm bath.  I love this self-care list posted by Rachel Johnston and taken from Key Ballah’s ‘Preparing My Daughter For Rain’:

I’ve also been working my way through these bite-sized downloads from one of the teachers I trained with, Anna Ashby:

Rescue Remedies with Anna Ashby: four practices to help with life’s day to day stresses

Here’s a self-love restorative yoga sequence for you to try at home:


1. Begin in easeful rest pose with the knees touching and the feet a bit wider than hip width.

2. Take the knees apart to hip width and with the feet hip width apart roll the knees to the right, pause, and then roll the knees to the other side.  Repeat.



3. Supported child’s pose with a weight on the back of the pelvis.  Aim for the head and pelvis to be the same height.





4. Supta baddha konasana- support under the thigh bones, head and upper back.  You can use bolsters for this or lots of blankets.




5. Legs on chair/edge of the bed with blanket or bolster under hips and a blanket supporting your head and neck.  Make sure your knees come right to the edge of the chair.  You may also want to add an eye bag to the forehead.


Savasana with a Bolster Under the Knees for Low Back Pain Relief


6. Savasana for at least 10 minutes!  A bolster/sleepbag or rolled blanket can be really nice under the knees.



(Images from google)

Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide from Gobblynne on Vimeo.


Also try this from Rachel Johnston:

‘One of the first yoga teachers I had gave me a lovely tip for meditation. It stuck with me and is something I’ve used on a regular basis ever since so I thought I would share.

Put on one of your favorite tunes then simply sit and listen to it fully, without distraction. See if you can focus your attention on the centre of every single note.

I’ve been told this works just as well if you are playing the instrument yourself. I wouldn’t trust it with my shakey rendition of chopsticks on the piano though…’


Raise your left arm into the air. Great. Now check and see if the shoulder joint also went into the air. Did it? Now, put the arm and the shoulder back down and raising your arm without taking your shoulder with it. How? By thinking “pull the left shoulder blade down as I lift my arm.” Why? Because arm movement should happen mostly at the shoulder joint and not so much between the shoulder and the neck. For better long-term shoulder health (and less neck tension) maintain those finer motor skills (look Mom, I can move JUST my arm), which keep the smaller muscles in the shoulder joint more mobile and well-circulating and reduces the pull on the vertebrae of the neck. How’d you do? Try the right side too!’  Katy Bowman, from blog post ‘Want Traps with that?’  Full article here

We’ve been fine tuning our arm and shoulder movement this week and trying to reduce neck tension in the process.  If you want to practice what we did in class at home then take a look at Katy Bowman’s ‘Alignment Snacks‘ which are roughly 20-30 minutes sessions on different areas of the body.  I recommend ‘Rhomboid Madness’ and ‘A Real Pain in the Neck’ if you want to repeat some of the exercises we did this week.

Also take a look at these two videos from Jill Miller’s Yoga Up®:

Finally here’s an interesting article on neck and head position to help avoid neck pain from Alignment Monkey.