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esther m palmer

engaging with your breathing: an introductory series

The practices are here! I've been sharing a lot of concept and theory and now am ready to begin sharing a series of breathing practices that might help put some of the ideas of becoming more engaged with your breathing into practice.

In case you're stumbling on to this for the first time or just want a refresher on the intention of this practice series, I recorded an introduction that you can listen to here:
 
Listen to "Breathing Series Introduction"
 

ready to practice?

Below is the first in the breathing series practices. It's an observation and awareness-building practice. It's about 10 minutes long.

If you'd like to give this practice a try, please do as you need to feel prepared, whether that's in setting up your space or finding a quiet moment to yourself or pre-listening to make sure you want to go through the practice at all.
 
Listen to "Breathing Practice 1"
 

practice notes

If you found this practice useful, I encourage you to consider repeating it --perhaps in another week or as often as every day-- in between now and the next practice in the series, which I'll release on Dec 12.

And as ever, if you have questions or feedback on how this practice works for you, I welcome hearing them!
 
Be moving, be true, be you,
esther
 
 

photo credit jesse martini, found on unsplash

what should we call this?

I'll be the first to admit "ribcage breathing" is a terrible name for what I want to share with you --at best it's vague shorthand (that's how I landed on it) and at worst it's alienating jargon. I apologize! I do not have a better term today, but as I invite you to watch me talk about this thing, I'm making a promise to find a more welcoming term...
 

 

that's all for today

Tune in next time for a term update and more detailed information about how intentionally engaging with your breathing (whether it's about your ribcage or not!) can be a powerful tool for a handful of different objectives.

Along with that, I plan to share a series of practice videos that will build on one another, potentially serving as a loose guide for developing an intentional breathing practice.
 
Be moving, be healing, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit the blow up copy, found on unsplash

What's in a practice?

What goes into moving from an idea or a need to action and follow through?

This is a question that I imagine we all run into *somewhere* in our lives, and then in other places not so much.

For example, I have almost no difficulty creating a plan to exercise regularly and in a way that meets most of my needs --and then carrying out the plan. Makes sense, right --movement is innately interesting to me, so I'm intrinsically motivated to do it. How I go about it keeps shifting and changing with my interests and needs, but that it's gonna be part of my daily life is a given for me.

But if you expect me to cook a meal, I need to plan for the fact of the task, figure out a strategy to overcome my resistance to it, and get started early to make sure I finish on time... and then being tired or in a bad mood could derail the whole thing.

So, I've been thinking about "practice" --taking a thing you want to accomplish and breaking it down into manageable pieces that require dedicated attention to make progress.

There are scores of articles and books on how to do all the things you could want to do. And sometimes all you need is a step-by-step guide or some general advice.

And then there are those times when a guidebook just doesn't cut it --developing a practice seems impossible. (There are lots of articles and books about that, too --this is definitely a known phenomenon.)

Lately, I've been thinking about what it takes to build new practices in my office work (in addition to teaching movement, I also spend my days steeped in project management), where there can be lots of external and internal roadblocks. And that makes me think about how to make movement a practice, especially when it doesn't come easily, which is what I hope to share with you here over the coming months.

 

building a practice off of gimmicks?

Almost everything I read about getting yourself to move more includes what I'm cheekily referring to as "gimmicks" but are really just good-natured shortcuts. Smart ways to sneak movement into your day because movement is a big part of health and longevity.

I like these suggestions, I've given them, and I'll share some that I know. But what do you do when they're not enough? I for one am not likely to voluntarily do anything that I haven't learned to care about or find interesting. Without your own will, shortcuts can feel like tricks --and no one likes to be tricked.

So, if you like the idea of using some shortcuts to building a movement practice, what do you need to be able to trust those shortcuts? To see them as valuable tools rather that trickster's gimmicks?

In my case, knowledge goes a long way. The why behind the what and --critically-- the proof behind the why, if it exists.

But that's not usually enough. I need to check in with myself -- through awareness of myself -- and compare the evidence with my self-knowledge to determine whether this is a reasonable shortcut for me.

 

awareness turns shortcuts into tools

The classes I teach are driven by a practice in awareness, building awareness skills while also moving in a way that feels good and is self driven.

Building that awareness can and does happen in many different ways; one path can be through learning movement/body concepts and skills as taught by another person, and then practicing putting your understanding (or questioning) into action, transforming the skill into your own awareness.

Awareness of myself has always been necessary to develop a practice in anything. Following someone else's suggestions only works if I know how to make them my own. And I suspect the same is true for lots of folks when it comes to building a movement practice.

Building awareness of yourself through movement often comes through trying new things or taking a familiar action and looking at it from a new angle... and it can also come from doing the same thing day in and day out and making new realizations over time. There's no one way and some ways are more comfortable than others --it's fine to choose one path over another.

For my part here, I've chosen ten awareness-building skills that we don't typically think of as skills --more like innate aspects of being-- but are indeed learnable, practice-able, and possibly foundational to pursuing movement, exercise, and sport for fun and achievement. I plan to introduce each of them --the what and the why-- and then offer a short session for putting the concept into practice if you wish. I created a quick video introduction to what I plan to share. Watch the video here.

Stay tuned for the first practice in the next two weeks --and if you want to engage with this idea in the meantime, perhaps consider whether you can come up with three movement skills that you think are fundamental to moving well and with joy!

 
Be moving, be true, be you,
Esther
esther
 
 

photo credit jamie davies, found on unsplash

How do you build awareness in movement? There are many ways, and one might be learning some movement concepts and practicing applying them. I had the idea to offer just such a series of movement concepts and below is the introduction!
 


 
Be moving, be healing, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit gils coolen, found on unsplash

Body awareness and being you

You might be here because you want to feel joy in moving in your body --and in being yourself. One way to recognize joy as such is through cultivating your body awareness. So what is body awareness?

 

Defining body awareness

There’s the body and then there’s the awareness.

 

Body

Body can be “a body,” a specimen of the human body. The kind of body we study through many lenses (science, medicine, sociology, history, art, and more). Collectively, humanity knows a good deal about this body!

Body can also be your body. Unique, experiencing, being. Individually, you can know a good deal about this body, too.

 

Awareness

Awareness can come through your knowledge of something. Like what we collectively know about our bodies (and any one of us can then look up or study). Your knowledge affects your awareness, which is why I’m including it as a kind of body awareness. Body knowledge is part of how you can be aware of your own body.

Awareness is also your sense of, or consciousness of something. Awareness is what you can tune into and feel or notice or hold in your mind's attention, either while it's happening or after it’s happened. You don’t need to be able to label or define or understand an experience to be conscious or aware of it.

Some sensations guide our basic survival behaviors (hunger, shelter, sleep, community). If we feel them, we usually understand them instinctively. Without anything else to get in the way, if you feel tired, you will rest, if you feel hungry, you will seek out food. Of course, there is plenty that gets in the way, including our own history of experiences and our meaning making.

Because we are all meaning making creatures. When we become aware of sensations we don't understand instinctively, or can’t explain through all we’ve learned, we tend to seek meaning. Sometimes it’s an urgent quest, sometimes we come to that exploration gradually.

Making meaning is not body awareness. It comes after. It's the stories we use to make sense of what comes into our awareness. It's the individual contribution or connection to the collective. It's the knowledge building that we do. Of course, once the knowledge is learned, then it can become part of our capacity for feeling, for being aware through our own senses.

For most of us, body awareness is a blend or blurring of felt sense and learned knowledge of our body. Where that blurring can happen I’d like to unpack further in a future post and for now simply share some examples of what might be just one type of awareness or the other.

 

Felt sense
  • Sensations coming from within
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Fullness
  • Emptiness
  • Sex drive
  • Pleasure
  • Pain
  • Being warm
  • Being cold
  • Being hot
  • Feeling stiff
  • Feeling sore
  • Feeling numb
  • Wholeness
  • Separateness
  • Belonging
  • Being
  • Being you
  • Stillness
  • Movement

 

Learned knowledge
  • What part of me are bones
  • What part of me are muscles
  • And all my parts in anatomical terms
  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Shape
  • Size
  • How I fit in
  • How I stand out
  • What I look like
  • Belonging

 

What can you do with body awareness?

Does all that we’re aware of need to have meaning? Do we need to explain all that we can sense in our bodies? Of course not.

Being aware of being, of sensing without explaining --or being aware with curiosity and patience-- can be a gift.

When I’m meditating, my sense of my body, how my body feels, is unique to meditating. As a novice, I sought labels and explanations for the feeling, but that search yielded more mysticism dressed up as science than solid information, so I let it go. I try to just enjoy the experience, understanding it in myself -- even if I can’t explain it to anyone else.

On the other hand, pain in my body, in my muscles, bones, and organs, tends to drive me to seek meaning, and persist in the search. That’s why I study anatomy, teach yoga, and love helping others move out of pain and into healing. When I’m hurting, I want an explanation or cause, so I can either understand and accept or accept and heal.

I’ve learned over the years strategies for cultivating awareness --and being ok with whatever it can teach me. Movement and meditation practices have been key in my own education, which I love to share here, and of course there are also many, many other ways to go about it. I encourage you to explore what works for you, and let awareness of your body, of yourself, be part of being you.

 
Be moving, be true, be you,
esther
 
 

photo credit lisa yount, found on unsplash

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