Here’s how to breathe away overwhelm, frazzled nerves and sleeplessness: The all new BREATH CHALLENGE with Dan Peppiatt.
This challenge is perfect for November with the launch of Movember – a superb time to bring awareness to men’s mental health and wellbeing. But of course, you don’t have to be a man to take the challenge. This is for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, having trouble sleeping or would like to feel more energised!
We asked Dan to tell us more about the challenge and what to expect. Here’s what Dan had to say:
Seeing The Signs
Of course, regardless of sex or age, we all have the potential to suffer from mental dis-ease and to my mind there is no more obvious physical manifestation of this than a disturbed breath – the feeling of a tight chest and shortness of breath can be very clear signs that you are under mental strain of some kind.
Resetting The Breath
Correspondingly there is no simpler way, if we persevere and apply ourselves, to remedy our mental stress than by recognizing the fluctuations in and ‘resetting’ the very same breath that has become disturbed.
One Of A Kind
It was with this in mind that I have put together my all new TEN DAY BREATH CHALLENGE. It is the most exciting set of videos that I have put together and I don’t believe that there is a challenge like it, drawing on so many breath work disciplines, anywhere on the web (that’s a bold statement!)
From A Place of Breathlessness
I have always been very aware of my breath, or specifically my lack of it at certain periods of my life. From a very early age, at least four or five, I suffered from asthma. I have very clear memories of birthdays and Christmas, where my dad would have to carry me from my bed downstairs to open my presents because I had so little breath that I couldn’t talk, let alone walk. I’m sure it must have happened at other times, I guess these days just stood out in my memory. I don’t remember ever feeling particularly afraid, although I guess I might have been, but I do remember being acutely aware of how it felt to be denied the very thing that I most craved.
Later in life my asthma became much better controlled but, like most people with similar experiences, I remember the two times as a child that I thought I was going to drown (once trapped under a windsurf sail and another time under a boat full of bodies that I could not move) with absolute clarity. That desperate struggle to get back to the surface and the all-consuming panic at the thought that I might not.
I have never felt a desire for something anywhere near as strong (to breathe again) or an aversion as powerful (to not breathing!). It follows in my mind that this is one of the reasons that the yogis of old were so concerned, not with postural practice, but with breath mastery, because in our need to breathe we can see the two most fundamental connections to the Kleshas (negative mental states) of Raga (attachment) and Dvesha (aversion). One of the primary concerns of yoga has always been to pass beyond these earthly illusions.
Most of the time we don’t even notice that we are breathing. Although we can exert conscious control over it if we choose, for most of us it just ticks along on autopilot. However like anything that we barely notice it can slowly start running out of sync and less efficiently than it should do. We can think of this a bit like our computers, they work pretty seamlessly when we take them out of the box but over time, as we burden them with more and more work, they get slower, stall more frequently and become erratic.
The free flowing, efficient breath that we are born with can be disturbed by a huge number of things, illness, diet, posture and mental state to name but a few, however it is mental state and posture that seem to be the bane of breathing efficiently in our modern world.
Driving, sitting at desks and chairs, necks craned over handheld devices-all of these constrict our breathing apparatus. Stress and anxiety that don’t have a logical resolution because they are largely self-created cause us to feel threatened, our brain knows no difference between a tiger chasing us and the stress of an unwanted email-it reacts the same, readying itself for fight or flight-and that significantly affects our breath. It is a cycle that the majority of us are at some point stuck in, and the longer it persists the more challenging it is to break.
The Good News
The good news is that the breath is not only symptomatic of our mental state, but if we learn to return it to our default setting, we can signal to the brain that actually we aren’t under threat, everything is really OK.
What To Expect on the Ten Day Breath Challenge
In this challenge we take a look at all of these things, and then go on to a few simple exercises that can help to free up your breathing. Although many of them seem like drills, in reality we don’t want to control our breath, we want to allow it the freedom that it deserves.
The Disciplines You Will Explore
Although I love yoga pranayama, I genuinely think that the way it is currently taught on the whole is not well understood except by a few teachers who immerse themselves fully in the subject. Yoga pranayama as I understand it, was very concerned with breathing less, not more deeply, with the absence of breath and slowing the breath down.
Many other ancient and modern disciplines, from Daoist breathwork to freediving training, Russian Buteyko normalisation and the martial arts like Kung Fu and Systema mirror this philosophy of less breath – Lao Tzu is purported to have said, ‘A perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing’ and the ancient Samurai used to hold a feather under the nostrils until it could be undisturbed by the movement of their breath.
I have had the pleasure to dip my toes into many of these disciplines, to spend time with some amazing individuals from pranayama teachers to ice divers and freediving record holders. To my mind all of the disciplines have something very valid to say and some great techniques to offer.
So in this challenge I have selected a few of my favourites, I have tried to put them together in a logical context and user friendly way that I hope will offer some benefit to those of us that feel stressed, anxious, depressed, burned out or simply out of breath!
Practice Makes Perfect
Please stick with it. No lasting benefit ever came from doing something once. It is only with practice and perseverance that you will start to see the true benefits.
For those of you that want to explore in greater detail I run day and weekend workshops where we work on these topics and many more in greater detail, please see my website for more details www.yogalikewater.com