HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

“Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. No matter what is going on inside us – thoughts, emotions, or perceptions – our breathing is always with us, like a faithful friend. Whenever we are carried away by our thinking, when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions, or when our minds are restless and dispersed, we can return to our breathing.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

Inhale, exhale, repeat. Breathing – it’s an autonomic reflex and the foundation of life.

The body knows how to do this simple act without our interference – we do it 23,000 times every day!  Yet our thoughts, feelings and perceptions can change the depth and rate of our breathing, setting off a cascade of physical changes that promote either stress or relaxation.

Right now, feel into your body and remember the worst that you’ve felt in this last week.  Yep… the worst!  What do you notice in your body?  Contracted slump, quickening heart rate, shallow breaths, tight chest?  Okay… shake that off (literally, give yourself a good shimmy.) Now, recall the best that you’ve felt in this last week.  Feel into a moment of pleasure or gratitude.  Embody the feeling and make it even bigger. Did you just take a deep breath? The quickest way to change your mind, is to change your body and energy. Conscious breathwork is a really easy way to do that. (So is dancing Nia!)

Breath has been at the heart of most meditation, mindfulness, yoga and conscious movement practices for hundreds to thousands of years.

It’s revered as a conduit of lifeforce energy, the movement of spirit, a way to anchor “monkey mind” and bring awareness into the body.  It was a central part of my training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Pelvic-Heart Integration, and Trauma Sensitive Yoga. As with many ancient practices, science is now affirming the powerful benefits of breathwork as a tool for transformation and self-healing.

Nia’s creator Debbie Rosas loves to say, “Smell the moment.” Try it out now… take a slow sip of air through your nostrils and softening your jaw, gently exhale through your mouth. Do it several times, extending your exhale a little more each time. As the relaxation response kicks in, you might notice a build-up of saliva in your mouth. That’s your parasympathetic nervous system being activated to calm the brain.

Another gift of focussing on your breath is that it brings you into the present moment and enhances your sensory experience. The senses are immediate, alive, here now. As you breathe and isolate each sense, it creates feelings of connection, purpose and meaning.

TRY THE FIVE SENSES BREATH TECHNIQUE (downloadable pdf coming soon)

In contrast, sitting for prolonged periods online can cause screen apnea – breath holding or shallow breathing. Over time, screen apnea can disrupt your sleep, lower your energy levels, interfere with your ability to focus and think quickly, lead to or exacerbate depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, and cause systemic inflammation and stress-related illness.

When you’re looking at a screen, your breathing changes. You’re like an animal in stalking mode.” ~ Dr. Belisa Vranich, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health

It’s well documented that learning to relax is one of the most important keys to long-term health and vitality.

When you inhale, you receive energy and life; when you exhale, you let it go. Most of us have been under prolonged stress for so long, we’ve forgotten what deep relaxation feels like and according to psychologist Dr Belisa Vranich, 9 out of 10 of us have been breathing incorrectly since childhood.

Why does breathing correctly matter?

How we breathe deeply affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness and wellbeing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs relate to grief and loss. Grief is a normal response to anger, loss, and violence. When the trauma affects an entire community, country or the world, it is known as collective grief and we’ve been riding it in relentless waves. Over time, our breathing, muscles, and posture can get stuck in fight, flight or freeze stress-response patterns, and so we’re unable to move through the stages of grief.

What can we do to self-heal?

Breathwork is one of the most effective tools to activate the vagus nerve and improve the mind-body connection. When we combine intentional breathing with Nia 5 Stages it’s an even more powerful way to re-pattern our breath, realign our core postural muscles and calm our nervous system. Of course, Nia’s blend of mindfulness, music, movement and community connection is also wonderful medicine.

It’s the practices that we prioritise every day that prepare us for when life throws us a curve ball or we feel generally overwhelmed. Being able to consciously control our breathing in times of stress and anxiety can improve how we feel and how we respond.

Experience the healing and transformative power of intentional breathing

Check out some of the many breathwork resources available or join me via YouTube for a 9 minute 5 Stages practice. In addition to integrating breathing techniques in our Nia classes, stay tuned for some upcoming online mindfulness and breathwork sessions with me or contact me for one-on-one appointments, in person or online.

MBSR meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn – 4 minutes

LETTING GO – 9 Magic Breaths meditation with Tara Brach – 6 minutes

WIM HOF METHOD – free mini class of power breathing

BREATHWORK CLASS – with Chris Keener – 45 minutes

HOW TO BREATHE and why most of us are doing it wrong – Dr. Belisa Vranich TEDx – 10 minutes

BREATHE – Joe DiStefano TEDx (at 12 minutes – learn how he uses 5 Stages with professional athletes) – 17 minutes

10 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises
  • feeling calmer, more focussed and non-reactive
  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • improves immune system functioning
  • better balance of oxygen and CO2 in the blood
  • increases physical energy
  • improves metabolism and digestion
  • more compassion, less rigidity
  • increases inner peace and mental clarity
  • decreases symptoms of trauma and PTSD
  • helps release suppressed grief

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

“The patterns that you repeat on a daily basis will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take.” ~ James Clear, Atomic Habits 

We all know how important moving your body is for your physical, mental and emotional health and happiness. But that knowledge may not be enough to create a new habit or move you out of inertia, especially when the weather turns chilly or it’s raining again or your energy is low or your “off days” have turned into “off weeks”! 

If you’ve fallen out of your routine and are feeling a bit blah, make time today to check in with yourself and re-prioritise the areas of your life that are calling for the medicine of your attention. 

I acknowledge that many of us are facing personal, family, and financial struggles as well as feeling the heaviness of world events. My desire is to support and inspire you to make healing choices that create more joy, presence and vibrant wellbeing. 

Here are 5 ways that may help you over the hump to find your movement mojo again.

5 tips to turn on your inner coach + motivate yourself to get moving. 

1. Visualise how good you’ll feel afterwards

Sometimes when you’re stressed or depleted in energy, you can forget that moving body helps to release tension and leaves you feeling uplifted and mentally engaged, especially when you to tune in to your needs and integrate the whole body, mind and spirit (like Nia does).

Picture just how good you’ll feel when you make the time for yourself and give your body some movement medicine! It’s almost impossible to not feel vibrant, awake, and energised when you’re Nia dancing.

2. Find your why

Give yourself a compelling reason to get moving. What’s a fitness or lifestyle goal that is motivating to you?

If feeling better isn’t enough of itself, maybe it’s that you want to reduce the symptoms of menopause, be able to get up and down from the earth with ease, fit last year’s jeans, make new friends, or go for coffee with your community after class! Keep this goal in mind anytime you want to skip a class.

3. Mix it up

They say variety is the spice of life! Variety and consistency are also essential to keep your body systems and your mind healthy. For both physical and mental fitness, we need to keep learning and change things up.

That’s one of the (many) benefits of Nia… there are so many combinations of music and movement plus a different class focus each time, it’s never the same way twice!

4. Make it fun!

In Nia we say “Stop exercising to get fit. Start moving to feel good!” The joy of movement is the secret to sustaining your commitment. If it feels like a chore or a bore, you won’t want to do it.

Find an activity you enjoy, and if you’ve lost that loving feeling, ask yourself what you need to put the FUN back into your movement routine. Learn how to get more from your Nia class experience by taking a Nia FUNdamentals workshop or the Nia White Belt training.

5. Make it so easy you can’t say no

If you’re committed to doing things better than you are now – in other words, if you’re serious about sticking to good habits – then you have to start small. The path to wellness, presence, joy, fulfillment, meaning, and vitality comes through thousands of daily decisions. Those tiny daily habits turn into your routine. Become the kind of person who moves more everyday. Make it part of your lifestyle.

If you’re struggling to find motivation, set a minimum bar for yourself to just get going again. What’s ONE SMALL THING you can do today… and the day after tomorrow… and… before you know it… you’ve… got… momentum!

A 2009 study published by health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found, “on average, it takes66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances – anywhere from 18 days to 254 days.”  Why not start today?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  ~Aristotle

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

Nia has been a lifeline for me many times over the past 22 years, and the pandemic has taken that to another level. Nia positively engages your body, mind, emotions and spirit, and can offer a much needed respite from external stress and your own mind-chatter. I am deeply grateful to offer online Nia classes and connect people through movement with the invitation to stay on for a chat afterwards. Can’t make it live… catch the replay available until the next day!

 New to Nia online?
These 10 tips will help you get the most out of your class.

  1. Set up your tech. 

    • If you can, turn off other devices that are using the WiFi or even better, use an ethernet cable to plug directly into your router to ensure a more stable and stronger connection.
    • Close all your other browsers/apps
    • Improve sound quality by using bluetooth headphones or speakers, or plug in computer speakers, like Logitech or connect to your tv screen
    • make sure your microphone is on MUTE (bottom left corner), especially if you come on late. I will unmute everybody at the end of class for our chat.
    • STOP VIDEO (bottom left corner) means you won’t be seen, but will still see me during class. This can help if you are getting lag or freezing.
    • If there’s a lag between the visual and audio, look away from the screen as often as you can, listen to the music and follow your own body’s way
  2. Safety and comfort come first. Find or claim a clear floor space where you can see whatever device you are using for the Zoom classes, and are able to move your whole body without running into furniture, walls or other people! Make sure the room is well ventilated and a comfortable temperature. Maybe you have a verandah or outside space, like Deb in the Adelaide Hills who dances on a garden deck under the camilla tree.

  3. What’s on the floor matters. Nia is designed to be done barefoot on a floor with some yield. While I have taught weekly classes for over 13 years on linoleum/concrete (Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre) and carpet/concrete (Pure Health clubs), it requires a higher level of attention to minimise impact on the bones and joints if the flooring doesn’t “give”.

    If you don’t have wooden floors, here are some ideas…
    – Put a rug (or 2) over the floor to give you some padding,
    – Create a dance area with yoga mats gaffer taped together (so there’s no risk of tripping over edges) or even better with foam play-mats – $10 from KMart (4 mats 60x60x 1cm thick) or $19.50 per mat from Southern Cross Mats (100x100x 2 cm thick)
    – Wear a soft sole shoe. Thick soled running shoes are not ideal for Nia as they stiffen the foot and change your natural movement. Shoes that have more “give” in the sole and allow your foot to articulate are better, but whatever you’ve got is better than sore joints from impact!

  4. Life As Art. Nia’s lifestyle practice for altering your perception and seeing the everyday as extraordinary, brings inspiration to your body and life. Most of us won’t have an ideal or dedicated dance space. So what can you do to make your at home dance space more visually and energetically pleasing to you? Is there a meaningful object you could add, like Tracy from Adelaide who changed her dining room into her Nia space, and decorated it with treasured pieces from Bali; or Anthea in Brisbane who hung a crystal in the window and dances with the rainbows in her room as the sun shines through.

  5. Do you need to declutter? If your space feels busy or chaotic, can you remove some clutter or arrange things so that your nervous system feels calmer. Jeanette from Brisbane shared after her first online class, “I used to prepare for Nia by getting in the mindset while I drove to class where the space was already created for us to move. Now I’m motivated to do some clearing and cleaning to prepare my own space so I can move without distractions.”
  6. Use all your senses. Surround yourself with things you’ll love to see, smell, hear and touch. I’m blessed to live where there’s always birdsong and there have been a couple of times when butterflies or mating dragonflies have flown through the space while I’m teaching! In my space, I have plants in the corner, and a treasured painting gifted to me by the 2014 Ocean Shores White Belt grads. Before each class, I light candles and add different essential oils depending on what I need. I’m loving my Doterra Frankincense (to strengthen and invigorate the respiratory system); Balance blend (to feel grounded and centred); Citrus Bloom (to feel happy and invigorated); Lavender Peace (ahhhhh…)

Science-based reasons to “Smell the Moment”… and mood enhancing aromatherapy.

  • A small 2015 study done on women in Japan found that inhaled bergamot oil mixed with water vapour reduced feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
  • A small 2013 study concluded that peppermint essential oil is effective for preventing fatigue and improving exercise performance.
  • A 2016 study concluded that the inhalation of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) essential oils could improve athletic performance.
  • A 2012 study first showed the stimulatory effects of rosemary oil and how it impacts mood states as well as brain wave activity and the autonomic nervous system. A 2018 study on school children confirmed that rosemary could help focus and memory, potentially boosting memorisation in school.

An older study in 2008 concluded that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood.

Let me know if you’d like to order any Doterra oils. I’m happy to pass on wholesale prices.

7. Sound Advice. A big part of Nia’s magic is the music. Having quality audio at your end can make such a difference to your experience, so if you can, connect your Zoom device to a Bluetooth or computer speaker set, or use a set of Bluetooth headphones. There are settings you might need to change in Zoom Preferences under “Audio” to optimise the connection and volume.

If you share your home with others, you might need to be mindful of who else is at home, though you never know… you might inspire your loved ones to join you! Theresa shared Nia with her partner Peter for the first time when they Zoomed on his iPhone, shared the screen and then cast it to their Smart TV. He loved it!

8. Creating the Space is a mindfulness practice we learn in our Nia trainings to eliminate internal distractions. We sit and invite stillness into our body, mind, emotions and spirit, waiting for the sensation of being centred in embodied presence to arise. A minute can make a big difference.

You might create your own ritual for removing distractions and preparing your space to dance, like lighting a candle, or set an intention as you enter the space, choosing a card for your daily practice, or smudging some sage to clear the energy. Maybe you’ll get dressed up to dance… or maybe you’ll stay in your PJs! Make choices that light up your life-force and help you slip into a sensation of sensuous sacred self-care.

9. Arrive early to do a sound check.  Set yourself up for success by linking in 5 minutes before class begins to set your volume and troubleshoot any problems. You’ll step in feeling relaxed and ready rather than rushed and frustrated.

10. Dance like no one’s watching. Magic happens when you listen to the music and move in harmony with your own body’s guidance, feeling connected to a greater source of aliveness. Many students are sharing that they are experiencing a deepening of their awareness and becoming more in tune with their own body sensation and Joy. Dancing online at home, they are able to let go of getting it right and relish the liberation of literally dancing like no one’s watching.

The best way to get the most out of Nia online is to do it!! Your FIRST WEEK is FREE.
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

People all over the world have fallen in love with the way practising Nia makes them feel – joyful, empowered, lighter, inspired – like themselves again. While the moves are simple, the practice is deep, and the transformation profound.  But first… you need to get started! 

 New to Nia?  Here are 7 things you might like to know.

  1. Nia welcomes everybody, whatever your age, body shape, fitness level, or ability. Leave your worries at the door, step in with a “beginner’s mind” and tune into your own way of moving. Simply relax and be yourself. You belong here, just as you are.
  2. Take a deep breath – “smell the moment” – and come home to your body NOW.  Throughout the class you’ll be invited to pay attention to sensations in your body. This mindful aspect of Nia helps anchor you in the moment, moving with purpose, and without judgement.
  3. Go gently and give yourself time. It’s natural to feel a bit nervous or un-co when you start something new. You’ll receive guidance that is supportive and inspiring, without any push. Play with a slower speed or moving in a smaller range of motion if that helps you find more pleasure and ease. Energise the moves when you feel ready.
  4. It’s all about the base! Start with the rhythm of the feet and leg movements. Listen to the music and find your groove.When you feel ready add the core, arms and hands. Nia gets the whole body moving from the ground up.
  5. Dress up, dress down, dress for fun. Wear anything that makes you feel free, comfortable, and excited to move. No shoes are needed as Nia is designed to be done barefoot. If you have any foot concerns or medical advice, you can always choose to wear a soft-soled shoe.
  6. Every Nia class begins with a FOCUS (what we put our attention on) and an INTENTION (a desired outcome).  For example, the focus might be on the breath with the intention to feel more centred and calm.The focus helps you get out of your busy mind and into your body and makes every class feel purposeful, pleasurable and unique.
  7. Towards the end of class, we move to the earth for FLOORPLAY to stimulate self-healing and conditioning. Again, options are presented so you can make choices that feel right for you. You are also welcome to use a yoga mat or chair or do the movement against a wall, or simply rest.

The best way to find out if Nia is for you is to try a class or 2… or 3…
In person and/or online, your FIRST WEEK is FREE
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.  Start today!

 

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead