New resilience-building class!

Breath-centered Practices for Resilience

WHY: If you want to master stress rather than escape it, this class is for you. From world leaders to homemakers, from cyber-citizens to those living off the grid, resilience training can make the difference between mere survival and thriving, between being stressed out by the daily tempest and surfing the tempest like a master. If you want to create a stronger inner gyroscope–with less wobble, this class is definitely for you.

WHAT: A short yoga practice to prepare the body for breathwork and meditation. Breath and meditation techniques for building mental and emotional resilience. This is not a traditional pranayama class; we will combine ancient techniques with cutting-edge research from the military and law enforcement.

WHERE: Sky House Yoga in Silver Spring, Maryland

WHEN: Mondays 7:40-8:40pm

FIRST CLASS: March 20, 2017

WHO: Joseph R. Roberson (my contact email is: joeATjosephroberson.com)

What is transformation?

1. In the world of business, leadership development, organizational development, change management, et al, the term transformation is the process whereby an unprecedented future is brought to reality. This created future is not mere change–improvement or fix of what has already happened in the past; nor is it predetermined, as is the case in a butterfly’s natural, albeit radical, metamorphosis.

2. In the world of spiritual growth–yoga, breathwork, meditation, et al–the term transformation seems to consistently denote metamorphosis–the process whereby one’s natural potential is brought to reality, as in the ubiquitous example of a butterfly. Typically, the goal in this kind of personal transformation is to remove whatever is in the way of an unfettered ‘natural state.’ This so-called natural state is typically said to be a state of happiness, wellbeing, joy, and, ultimately,  a transpersonal experience of Oneness.

The difference between these two meanings of transformation is outer vs. inner: in business, what is pursued is a specific state of affairs of the organization; in spiritual growth, on the other hand, what is pursued is a specific state of affairs of/within the individual. This is an oversimplification, of course; yet it effectively highlights the contrast.

How can these two disparate worlds of transformation enrich one another?

Please give to BreathCon2015 scholarship fund!

As a rule, I never post requests for my personal gain. This is an exception. You will gain from this, too. That is my intention, at least. And you’ll be supporting a truly worthy cause. Oh, yeah, and there are some amazing perks for anyone contributing $20 or more!

I hereby request that you make a donation–even if it is for only $1–to our scholarship campaign for BreathCon2015 (Breath Immersion Conference: From Science to Samadhi). When given at the beginning of a campaign, even a $1 donation helps build momentum by demonstrating broad support for the cause. It encourages others to give when there are a lot of people giving, no matter how large the contribution.

I am requesting this as a personal favor because I am one of those who need this scholarship money. I do not have the funds to attend. I really want to attend.

If you are a current or former student of mine, you likely know that breath has always been my passion. It is one of my absolute favorite topics to study, to practice, and to teach. While I have stopped teaching for the most part, I do continue with the series of workshops at Sky House Yoga on breath. I am excited to attend this conference and bring back to you what I learn in upcoming workshops.

If you are not a student, perhaps you will want to read my blog posts and articles during (and after) the conference.

Attending the conference will help me finish writing “Transforming Breath.” In it I will compare and contrast two disparate ‘camps’ that study and/or deliver  transformation. One camp is the academic field of Transformative Learning Theory, as expounded by Jack Mezirow. The other camp is the field of therapeutic breathwork, as typified by Dr. Judith Kravitz’ Transformational Breath.

The members of each camp are not even aware of each other’s existence, or so it seems. For members who do speak of the other camp, it is typically to criticize the other: those in the academic camp criticize the lack of intellectual rigor among those participating in so-called spiritual pursuits, such as Transformational Breath or Stan Grof’s Holotropic Breath; those in the breathwork camp criticize the ineffectiveness of cognitive theory without a somatic praxis. Basically, TL theory is criticized for being heartless and the breathwork camp is criticized for lack of rigor.

It should be noted that the breathwork field does embrace medical research, and is thus grounded in sound anatomy and physiology. I am concerned, rather, with the other major aspect of experiential breathwork: transformation. My contention is that whether you call it spiritual growth or transformative learning is more a matter of semantics, of terminology, than of substance. The two camps are saying much the same thing, just in two different languages. What a difference it could make if these two camps incorporated each other’s strengths!

Anyway, that is the best I can do today to explain why I want to attend this conference. Thank you for reading. Thank you for considering my request. Now, get yourself to the IndieGoGo scholarship campaign and make a difference!

P.S., As part of my contribution to the conference, I created this video.

Hallelujah Breath

Lying in bed, mid-morning, listening to H-Nap 2 (from Monroe Products/Hemi-Sync) through my Bose noise-canceling earbuds. I’m wearing a blackout meditation mask (MINDFOLD) that allows me to have my eyes open without discomfort. An Ace bandage is wrapped around my head several times over the mask to block the light more. It also keeps the earbuds in place and blocks a bit more sound. My head has settled comfortably into my favorite memory-foam pillow. In my right palm rests an amethyst egg; in my left, one of rose quartz.

This new breath technique I’m practicing is good so I want to share it with you. It’s not really anything new, except for the way the elements are combined. But it feels like a new technique to me. I feel like it really helps power up and center my gyroscope. It helps me to focus and strengthens the ‘eye’ of my ‘hurricane.’  I like it a lot. Try it and let me know your experience!


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it releases.

Repeat steps 1-4 for three cycles or four cycles. Once you have mastered the technique and are ready, increase each session up to a maximum of eight cycles.


 

If you do try this please let me know your experience. There’s no reason why you can’t do this sitting or even standing rather than lying down.  Oh–and by the way–the mask and quartz eggs are optional.

*NOTE: Below you will find additional details listed as options. I thought it better to keep the instructions short and simple initially, in case you are new to pranayama. You may prefer to think of these options as progressive stages towards the full technique:


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
    *Option 1: Silently count to 8 while inhaling. “In-Hale-Three” fills low lungs; “Four-Five-Six” fills middle, armpit lungs; “Seven-Eight” fills top lungs.
    *Option 2: Inhale in 8 separate sniffs/segments.
    *Option 3: Listen to the sound of your inhale as the syllable “So” or “Sa.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the inhale traveling from your pelvic floor, up the back body and spine, over your skull towards the front until–at the conclusion of your inhale–this movement brings your attention to the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
    *Option 1: If you can feel your heartbeats, count 8 of them.
    *Option 2: Gently ‘tap’ this ridge with the tip of your tongue with each heartbeat.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
    *Option 1: Silently intone “Ex-Hale-Three-Four-Ha-Lay-Loo-Yah!” (and feel the meaning!).
    *Option 2: Listen to the sound of your exhale as the syllable “Hum” or “Ham.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the exhale traveling down your front body, down through the throat, heart, lungs, belly, sex organs, until it ends–at the conclusion of your exhale–back at the pelvic floor.
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back, in as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it instantly snaps back.
    *Option 1: On each pump, silently repeat “Wa-Hey-G’Rue!” (“Great, indescribable light!”).
    *Option 2: Each pump is actually comprised of three distinct pulls: first, draw your navel slightly back; second, more back; third, as far back as possible.
    *Option 3: The first part of the pull is “Wa,” the second is “Hey,” and the third is “G’Rue.”
    *Option 4: Before you begin the next inhale, imagine/feel this vitalizing energy– generated by the navel-activating pumps–down to the pelvic floor, the origin point of the next inhale.

 

Homeostasis vs Growth

There are two fundamental movements that drive all life forms, and indeed all of existence: homeostasis and growth. Homeostasis, here represented by the circle, is the basic urge for stability and survival that governs behavior in all living organisms from the one-celled eukaryote to the trillion-celled human. Growth is here represented by the movement of the circle forward along the time axis. Growth is the expression of the urge to execute the purposes of the organism, such as reproduction (although reproduction can be viewed from a higher level as the homeostatic mechanism to maintain the stability of the species), and evolution of the species towards more successful organisms.

The Chakra system can be pictured as this same movement of circles along an axis: each realm of life is one circle, one chakra, and the seven chakras all share the same axis, which is the Shushumna, the spinal cord. Each chakra regulates one realm of life and maintains homeostasis. The forward-moving thrust towards growth and fulfillment that results in the development of higher capacities of mind, self and consciousness is, in yoga, called Kundalini. Kundalini is maybe even synonymous with the fundamental movement forward of all of existence which we call evolution.

Life moves in daily cycles of work and rest, eat and sleep, cycles that yoga helps me maintain by regulating exercise, diet, and by getting sufficient rest. Life moves forward in a straight line, never repeating the same day twice. In order to make forward progress toward the fulfillment of my aspirations, dreams and possibilities I must maintain stable habits.

I don’t understand how anyone can stay on course, much less stay healthy, without yoga and meditation, or something that satisfies the need to maintain homeostasis- physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I don’t understand how anyone can stay on course towards their life mission, towards the fulfillment of their SvaDharma, their exuberant expression of the potential of this one life, without the centering practices of yoga.

The Lure of Yoga: Avoiding the Soul

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their own souls. Thus the soul has gradually been turned into a Nazareth from which nothing good can come.

-Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy