The yoga studio is a place where movement and breath combine for an experience that is at the same time invigorating and centering. For an hour or so, the world melts away – but when class is over, how long before that sense of calm and presence evaporates?
It might be just minutes before an email or text message requires a response, a crisis in the news surfaces, or a chance interaction triggers an emotional reaction – and just like that, the bubble of tranquility bursts.
As a yoga instructor, you can provide your clients with tools to transform their lives – inside and outside of the yoga studio – to free them from reacting to things they have little power over. Something as simple as controlling their breath can provide clients with a steadier emotional, physical, and spiritual life.
I had the chance to speak with master yoga instructor, Lauren Toolin, about her new course, The Transformative Power of Conscious Breath, Level Two – Subtle Body and Therapeutic Applications.
Here’s what Lauren had to share about her journey, how she approaches her own yoga practice, and the life-changing properties of breath.
Q: We’d love to hear about your yoga journey. How did yoga become such a significant part of your life?
A: I’ve been practicing yoga for 48 years. I was introduced to it by a neighbor, who brought me to classes in a church basement. This incarnate angel helped me navigate a chaotic and tumultuous childhood through our shared practice, and I will forever be grateful to her. I became very involved in meditation and in my late 20s I started to practice different varieties of yoga. Fast forward to today, I’ve been teaching full time for 25 years. I love being a student as well as a teacher and am also a yoga therapist and life coach.
Q: I understand there are many hours of training needed to become a yoga therapist. Can you tell us what a yoga therapist does?
A: A yoga therapist works on specific circumstances to improve a specific issue- anything from eating disorders, to knee surgery, insomnia, or life transitions. It’s basically utilizing the tools of a yoga teacher, physical therapist, and psychotherapist to help people navigate and gain control over their lives.
Q: When we think of yoga, poses and positions come to mind, but based on this conversation, there’s obviously more to yoga than downward facing dog. Where do breathing and mindfulness come in, and what role do they play?
A: Well, there are many yogis that never do a single pose. Because it involves movement, flexibility, mindfulness, and even spirituality, yoga offers multiple benefits to different people. If we limit yoga to postures only, we lose out on so much.
You can think of yoga as a pie, with postures, breathwork, philosophy, chanting, and meditation all making up part of the pie. Every piece is important, but if you consider all the elements, breathwork and meditation are going to bring you the biggest return.
Yoga is a holistic system and breathwork is a foundational part of it. It’s amazing how something as simple as breathing can affect how we feel, and how we show up to the world.
Q: How do you “teach” someone how to breathe?
A: When I work with students, I use traditional yoga teaching combined with modern science to optimize their relationship with their constant companion – their breath.
Breathing techniques are where the tradition of prana meets with science – my instruction weaves these together in a curriculum that’s palatable, practical, and doable. Students gain an understanding of both the spiritual and scientific aspects of breath, and explore using the patterns and pathways of prana as ways to create energetic and physiological shifts
Q: What’s your favorite thing about The Transformative Power of Conscious Breath, Level Two?
A: I guess I would say the timing! I’m thrilled to be able to extend the reach of my teachings right now so that more people can benefit from this understanding. Through my course, I provide yoga instructors with a tool to help their students, and knowledge that empowers them to be a more sophisticated instructor. In these turbulent times, it’s wonderful when a yoga teacher can also serve as a health provider
Q: How does this course build on the first level?
A: The first level of this course provides a foundation of what pranayama is and includes exercises to provide some of the basics. Level 2 provides additional context and practice – taking the understanding to a whole new level. I add additional teachings in areas like anatomy and show instructors how to apply my techniques therapeutically.
Q: Any final thoughts?
People are under a lot of pressure these days, and we can’t always control what is happening in the world around us. This course makes it easier to recognize and control how we react to external events, or even our inner trauma, by activating the system of the life force that rides the breath – triggering physiological, energetic, emotional shifts which change how we show up.