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!


Recipe for Hedgerow Chutney

Adapted from a recipe found on http://tastethewildblog.co.uk/

Makes 4-5 lbs

2lb mixed hedgerow fruits – e.g Hawthorn haws, rose hips, elderberries, blackberries, rowan berries, sloes
1 pint malt vinegar
2 lbs onions chopped
2 lbs apples peeled and chopped (ideally half eating apples and half Bramleys)
4 oz sultanas
4 oz raisins
1lb Muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
1 generous pinch chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Place the chopped apples and onions in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.

Next, make the fruit vinegar. Remove any large stalks and leaves from the berries, rinse and dry them and put them into a large pan. Cover with the malt vinegar, heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the berries are losing their colour. Strain off the liquid and discard the fruit. You should have about a pint of deep purple fruity vinegar.

The following day put the apple and onion mixture, the fruit vinegar and all the remaining chutney ingredients into a preserving pan and boil together for about 2 hours, stirring frequently. The chutney is ready when it has reduced considerably and when you draw a wooden spoon across the surface of the chutney, a channel remains for a second or two before filling up with liquid.

Put in sterilised jars and cover or seal. The chutney is best left for a month or so to mellow before eating.

Recipe from here


The light has changed;
middle C is tuned darker now.
And the songs of morning sound over-rehearsed. —

This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring….



The brightness of the day becomes
the brightness of the night;
the fire becomes the mirror.

My friend the earth is bitter; I think
sunlight has failed her.
Bitter or weary, it is hard to say.

Between herself and the sun,
something has ended.
She wants, now, to be left alone;
I think we must give up
turning to her for affirmation.

Above the fields,
above the roofs of the village houses,
the brilliance that made all life possible
becomes the cold stars.

Lie still and watch:
they give nothing but ask nothing.

From within the earth’s
bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness

my friend the moon rises:
she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful?

Excerpts from October :: Louise Glück.  For full poem see here.  (From the collection Averno (2006)).


There is no shame in gaining weight during pregnancy (or ever).
There is no shame if it takes longer than you think it will to lose the weight (if you want to lose it at all).
There is no shame in finally breaking down and making your own jean shorts because last summer’s are just too dang short for this summer’s thighs.
Bodies change.
Bodies grow.
Bodies shrink.
It’s all love
(don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)
Peace xx

Anne Hathaway


‘…pain is not an input to the brain, but rather an output from the brain which helps lead the mind and body toward their next steps and decisions…

…This almost mind-bending realization is the complete opposite of what most of us have learned about the nature of chronic pain. We’ve generally been taught that if something hurts, it’s necessarily because there is an injury or damage in that place. But the new pain paradigm reveals the brain can choose to create pain for any number of reasons, and actual tissue damage is just one of them. Other factors like emotions, stress, memories of past experiences, and quite importantly, our own personal beliefs about our body and pain can all influence the sensations of pain that we experience. .’

From Jenni Rawlings fascinating article Yoga and the New Science of Pain