give yourself some space

by michelle on October 25, 2011

As you know from that whole butterfly bit, I’ve been thinking a lot about struggle and challenge and change.

Apparently many of you are wrestling with some of the same qualities — thank you for your messages and comments. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

In the spirit, I taught a couple of classes in this theme to play with the body’s ability to adapt to unknown territory. Specifically, how the breath will wax or wane to meet the circumstances of the moment.

On one level, there’s nothing we need to do to make this happen — this amazing body-system will take care of itself. Mostly we just need to get out of the way.

On another level, we can affect the nervous system by using the breath to stimulate relaxation — easy, smooth cycles with long, sinking exhalations. It’s important to access this calm breath in a quiet, restful posture — perhaps Constructive Rest or Savasana. Here we teach ourselves how to cultivate a state of relaxation.

It gets interesting when we bring this approach to challenging situations. We can recall that state of relaxation with deep, long, spacious breath. Even in times of stress. Even in tight corners.

Some yoga postures are intentionally stressful so that we can practice using the breath to make space, to nourish, to maintain a presence of calm. In that way, we raise the nervous system’s bar and what was challenging or stressful is no longer so.

People often tell me how thrilled they are with their new-found mental or heart equanimity. It’s equally fascinating that physically—physiologically—the body is also changing and adapting.

Lately I’ve been having malfunctions with my recorder, and unfortunately it recorded only 18 minutes of the beginner class. So… I offer this intermediate flow class. This is not a beginner class. While challenge can be good, forcing isn’t. (A good rule is to not go further than the place where you can breath deeply and fully — holding the breath or gasping are signs of overdoing.)

If you’re not into the class, take a moment with the following piece from Barbara Kingsolver. Be aware of your breath as you read it. If it triggers a memory or emotion — a tight spot — use your breath to expand into that space. Reset your bar.

Be well, friends.

(And if you haven’t already, be sure to enter to win a weekend with Pema Chödrön (from the comfort of your own home)).


Free Intermediate Flow Class

Working with Challenge
Right click and “Save Link As” — then you can open in iTunes.
Have a strap or robe tie. Start on the back.


Barbara Kingsolver

Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job… and onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another — that is surely the basic instinct… crying out: High Tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Madeleine October 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Interesting, there’s going to be a lot of butterfly in my classes this week – I had forgotten the connection with your recent writing.

Thanks for sharing this, dear – and love the Kingsolver quote.


michelle October 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I saw an orange butterfly today and thought of you. xo


Amy --- Just A Titch October 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm

That Kingsolver quote is amazing (as is your post).


michelle October 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Thanks love.


Anna Guest-Jelley October 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I love how the breath really gets into our nooks and crannies — in the lungs, of course, if we can access it, but also in the tight spots of life. Thanks for this lovely reminder. Also, I love those pics of the lungs and want to put them up in my yoga room, and the Kingsolver quote is fabulous!


michelle October 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Nooks and crannies… so true. Dusty corners.
I know, aren’t those lungs amazing? xoxo


Leili Learning Life October 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Michelle, you’re really good.


michelle October 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

And when I’m bad??? :P Thank you, Leili. <3


Kim October 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Thank you for your encouragement and wise guidance in regard to breath and responding to change, discomfort, and difficulty. It feels particularly timely, for a number of reasons, but here I’ll reflect upon our transition into this Autumn season, where vata (air & ether elements) dominates, and so many of us can relate to experiences of increased tension, nervousness, restlessness; for me, a feeling like a static in the air, on my skin, nerves. Autumn is change itself. And we are the Earth. The slow soft longer exhale, and the grounding almost instantaneously available to us when we can access that out-breath is so powerful. A gift. A help and support. As are Barbara Kingsolver’s words. Change is the nature of Life. I’m so grateful to you for sharing from the heart of your own learning in and around it.

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


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