The power of yoga and nose breathing….

Our breathing and respiratory system is unique in that we are both a passenger and its pilot. We can leave it to our autonomic nervous system responsible for unconscious actions such as our heart beat and digestion or we can override and take over the rhythm of our breath consciously.

The health benefits of nose breathing include the sinuses releasing a huge boost of nitric oxide with the inhale back into the lungs and respiratory system. This nitric oxide is a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen to the cells. Immune function, weight, circulation and mood can be influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body.

When we breath slow and deep using the whole of the lungs our parasympathetic nervous system is activated and we come out of our fight / flight mode allowing the body to rest/ digest.

Yoga movements and breathing techniques increase both lung capacity and efficiency. When we move and stretch in yoga asana we can ..

a) change the dimensions of the rib cage, allowing the intercostal muscles of the ribs to be more free to allow for contraction and relaxation.

b) find mobility in the thoracic spine which moves subtly with each in and exhale.

c) open the pectoralis muscles allowing the shoulders to be more open. Tight pectoralis can create a compression in the front of the upper body, which can limit movement of the thoracic spine, the intercostals and the diaphragm.

d) find movement in the diaphragm, the major muscle of respiration…when breathing deeply imagine expanding out into the bottom two ribs letting the belly rise and fall with the breath. The vagus nerve descends through the diaphragm too and facia connects the diaphragm to the pericardium so when we’re breathing deeply we’re giving the heart a little massage too.

If we mouth breath, we are more likely to snore, have high blood pressure, insomnia and health problems such as diabetes. Today’s scientists are just catching up with what the yogi’s have been doing for thousands of years. Inhaling and exhaling slow deep breaths through the nose.

I’ve been reading a great book, Breath, The New Science of a lost Art by James Nestor and its incredible how much of our basic health is linked to quality of breath and nose breathing. Here is a fairly recent podcast interviewing James…”your breath as important as foods you eat”. Worth a listen if you have time.

For your further investigation and information.

Patrick McKeown of Oxygen Advantage is a driving force behind the Buteyko method (a controlled type of hypoventilation) breathing based on Light, Slow, Deep inhales extending time between inhalations and exhalations using mini breath holds to train the body to breathe in line with its metabolic needs. Buteyko breathing increases carbon dioxide which we need to open blood vessels and breathing through the nose increases nitric oxide which is a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation. Athletes have benefited greatly from using Buteyko breathing but it is not fully supported by the NHS.

Wim Hof is another famous breath user and uses a controlled hyperventilation to increase oxygen levels in tissues that then flood the body with adrenaline. He famously uses cold therapy alongside this breathing technique. “You are inducing voluntary a short stress response which ultimately will lead to more resilience towards everyday stress, mentally and physiologically” – Wim Hof.

All agree with those ancient yogi’s, breathing through your nose is superior to mouth breathing and will have positive affects on your health. Namaste, 🙏🏼

Why I think yoga has helped me….The Power Of The Vagus Nerve…

For some time I have been teaching about and fascinated by the power and workings of The Vagus nerve, trying to unlock what it is with yoga that makes me feel so good and works …where medicine and drugs failed. (After being diagnosed with relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis.)

Dr Stephen Porges, the author of The Polyvagal Theory is the professor revolutionising our understanding of autonomic physiology since the 1990’s.

The tone of our vagus nerve is key to our health. So what is it? (Briefly)…

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system and regulates vital organs including helping to control heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. In addition, the vagus nerve is a major constituent of the inflammatory reflex—that controls innate immune responses and inflammation during pathogen invasion and tissue injury.

The vagus nerve has two branches, dorsal and ventral.

Normally the dorsal vegus nerve serves a very positive function. It helps the body move between arousal and relaxation. So when we tone the dorsal vagal nerve it puts us in that nice rest-digest state of feeling at ease and safety.

However, one branch of the dorsal vagus state is immobilisation when the dorsal vegus nerve can shut down the entire system and we go into freeze. It is thought that Fibromyalgia could have it’s roots in vagus nerve problems.

The ventral branch of the vagal Nerve affects body functioning above the diaphragm. This is the branch that serves the social engagement system and self soothes and calms the body’s regularly active state.

The last ten or twenty years study of the vagus nerve has revealed that the vagus nerve is a significant immune system regulator. Stress and anxiety can inflame the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve signals are being looked at for an ‘early warning system’ for inflammation in Multiple Sclerosis.

How Yoga helps Stimulate Good Vagal Tone

When I started practicing yoga, inflammation markers and acidity levels in my body were probably being calmed and coming down. Doing a better job at making me feel better and healed than the injected medication which made me feel worse.

Our bodies are amazing and sometimes just need a chance to be given the right conditions to heal. For me Yoga gives me greater Interoception and intuition allowing me to live a full life by tuning in and listening to my body.

Yoga and movement with breath (moving meditation) and conscious breath work activate good vagal tone. The vagus nerve passes through the vocal cords and the diaphragm and stimulated everytime we breath deeply. A moving asana yoga practice also helps to get back ‘into the body’ unlocking any freeze or shut down state.

Other ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

Singing, gargling, chanting or Bhramari (humming bee) breath will stimulate the vagus nerve passing through the neck as will laughter.

Wild swimming….or a cold shower or even a splash of ice cold water on the face will benefit. And enjoy being out in the cold weather ….all these cold exposures will help to improve vagal tone since the sympathetic nerve activity is reduced so that the parasympathetic Nervous System can take over to regulate the body.

Meditation allows a rest and relaxation response. By practicing meditation, the body strengthens the parasympathetic Nervous System.

Eat healthily for good gut health. Processed foods and high sugar diet disrupts the vagus nerve function.

Soooo…….Enjoy Life. Sing, hum, laugh, practice a movement, breath exercise such as yoga where we can tune in to our breath and calm and boost our immune system. And you will be optimising your vagal health. With Love 🙏🏼

Yoga, Interoception and Healing (and anniversaries!)

35 years a go my now husband and I went for our first weekend away together to Glastonbury. We were into Echo and The Bunnymen and it was 1985, when you could get tickets the week before. The last Glastonbury I went to was 1997, by then the corporates had already moved in but it was a great line up year to finish. I don’t recognise it on TV now.

Another anniversary this year for me was being diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis 15 years ago, 2 years after my son was born. At first I listened to the experts and the doctors but found injecting myself 3 times a week with disease modifying drugs made me feel physically worse, worse than the MS.

These drugs were costing the NHS about £8000 a year. I started to realise ‘Big Pharma’ is an industry. I started back a regular practice of yoga and whilst meditating one day in the sun of the window felt instinctively that I was going to be alright but I had to start listening to my body, not hand over my autonomy to someone else.

I have been off all medication for 10 years now. Yoga is a way of life. The meaning of yoga is to ‘yoke’ , join or unite and by practicing yoga we become more conscious beings. Leading us to a more intuitive existence and a union between the body, mind and breath of the individual with the universal consciousness.

Ours bodies are amazing machines designed by nature and in every moment communicating to us what they need to stay in balance. We just have to be quiet enough to listen. When we practice yoga and connect our minds and spirits to the same intelligence of the nature around us we move into a deeper sense of interoception and intuition and can tap into the body’s innate healing response.

And that’s the wonder of yoga, it helps us to reconnect with ourselves and find those tools and resources already in us to help ourselves  and you can find them too.

We all come to yoga for different reasons, whether it’s to find a little peace, to heal, find some connection to something bigger or improve how I bodies move, yoga is the key.

The following statement is as relevant today as over 2000 years ago. “The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” – Hippocrates 460BCE

The light in me acknowledges the light in you, Much  love, Karen

Love Our World….

This has been an unprecedented week for the nation, the world, humanity.

As we took our first steps online to a live streamed yoga class this week, what was very apparent, as we negotiate this turning point in history and as people retreat further inwards, was the need of contact and to connect.

Honouring the spring equinox, the earth continues it’s journey towards summer. We celebrate the ending of winter but also the beginning of waking up from  a deep slumber which is how I feel as humans, we are being shaken to our core, to awake. This spring more than ever, go outside, wake up to the stuff we’re not paying attention to.

Every breath in class this week we acknowledged gratitude and set our seeds of intention for the coming spring.

We have a deeper need more than ever to take time to align, ground and become centred.

Breath deep, stay healthy, stay happy, love deeply. Karen


Trust and Surrender…..

Two years a go I turned up at a gym I was teaching two yoga classes at and was asked if I was able to teach for free and bring paying “Facebook Friends”, as this was what another local teacher had offered. Merry Christmas I thought and said goodbye. The truth is I never really enjoyed teaching these two classes as much as others. The space was huge and cold and classes big and fairly impersonal.

I worked on other things for a couple of months, still teaching yoga at other venues but then had a dream one night waking with the word Dhama on my mind. I really wanted to teach the type of yoga I enjoyed.

I started to put together  a 4 week beginners course and soon I had the 10 spaces filled.  I am so grateful to still be teaching these people nearly 2 years on. Thank you.

The point is, the universe does this thing where it aligns you with people, things and situations and sometimes you just have to trust and let go of the things that no longer serve you whether you have a choice in that or not.

Raise your vibration and trust and surrender to what instinctively feels good. The more you raise yourself up and improve yourself the more you’ll attract what you want in life.

I am full of gratitude daily to all that are in my life; family, friends, yoga teachers and students.  Namaste