harmony slater bowl of life podcast

Episode 51: Breathwork: What is It and How Does it Work? {Harmony Slater}

In today’s episode, Sarah talks with Harmony Slater, one of 20 women in the world to hold the title of Certified Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and Wellness Coach, about the benefits of breathwork. Harmony has not only studied breathwork and yoga but she specializes in helping her clients overcome the negative physical and mental effects of chronic stress by creating awareness around irregular breathing patterns, which can lead to feelings of fatigue, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of mind-body connection. 

Talking points from today’s episode: 

  1. Why is breathwork important?
  2. Is breathwork different from meditation?
  3. When is a practice of breath work useful? 
  4. How long has breathwork been practiced? 
  5. Are there any dangers to breathwork? 
  6. How often should one engage in breathwork?
  7. Are there different types of breathwork?
  8. What are some simple breathwork techniques a beginner could do?

Harmony also gives us a peek into her upcoming breathwork course!

Connect with Harmony: 

Podcast Transcript

Bowl of Life (00:00:00):

Today on the podcast. I am so excited to introduce you to Harmony Slater. Harmony is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher and a wellness coach. She is actually one of less than 20 women in the world to hold that title of certified Ashtanga yoga teacher. Just so cool. She has so much knowledge about yoga, about breath work, and she’s studied it extensively all over the world, which is just so astounding to me, just her passion for it. And today she talks all about breath work. And during our conversation, I just was trying actually to even do some of the inhale and exhale practices that she was talking about. And just, I’m just so eager to learn more about that because I feel like as I’ve gotten older, as well as maybe just over the last year in the pandemic, I feel just a lot more anxious, a lot of the time.

Bowl of Life (00:01:13):

And I’m one of those people who’s always just like so quick to action, and sometimes they don’t need to be that way. I need to take a breath and just slow down. And so that is what I love just about this conversation is that she just lets us know all about breath, work, how to do it correctly. And just her knowledge about everything is just so great and how she relates it as well. It just, it makes so much sense the way that Harmony talks about it. So I’m so excited for you to listen to this. As you can tell, you can find all the show notes for this episode at our sponsored blog, bad to the Bowl.com forward slash 51. So let’s jump in and meet Harmony. It’s time to adapt to a plant-based palette, minimize waste and respect our environment. Hello, we are Joe and Sarah Hayes, and we are the hosts of the Bowl of life podcast, where we are encouraging you to join the plant forward food movement

Bowl of Life (00:02:23):

For vegetables to move from the side of your plate, to the center. And we are here each week to help you.

Bowl of Life (00:02:29):

So increasing your vegetable consumption and limiting your animal protein sounds like a win-win to you go grab a spoon or fork, and let’s dive in to learning more about how you can be plant forward

Bowl of Life (00:02:44):

Today. I’m so excited to have Harmony Slater with us on the podcast. Harmony is one of only three certified Ashtanga yoga teachers in Canada. How cool is that? She’s also an entrepreneur life and wellness coach, as she describes herself, a mama of a young Jedi, as well as a fellow podcast, host of her own show, the finding Harmony podcast, perfect name and perfect podcast title. I love that. I won’t give it all away though, as Harmony can tell us better in her own words, but I’m so excited to have her on today to talk about breath work personally, because reading slowly and sewing down just is so hard for me. I just love to be on the go, but I do know when I feel anxious that often kind of stepping back and taking a deep breath really helps me. So I’m so excited just to learn more about this, especially, you know, we live in a world where we’re just so anxious all the time, just with ongoing things that keep going on. I wanted to mention the name of that. We all know that. So I’m so excited to learn more. So Harmony, welcome to the show. Thanks

Harmony Slater (00:03:56):

Sarah. So nice to be here with you today.

Bowl of Life (00:03:59):

So excited to talk. We’ve been, I feel like in podcast class together, we’ve been in a business class together and you know, you’re in Canada, I’m in Michigan and it’s just so cool how that can happen, you know, with you know, to be in classes together and meet people all over the world these days. And I know we can feel a little zoomed out, but

Harmony Slater (00:04:22):

Fatigue is real for sure.

Bowl of Life (00:04:24):

But it’s also very cool how you can just meet people these days.

Harmony Slater (00:04:29):

Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s the, world’s just opened up so much that way and you can really develop like some, some real solid friendships with people online through these different classes or connections and courses. And it’s amazing. Yeah,

Bowl of Life (00:04:46):

Definitely. You can expand you outside the horizons of your own community, which is, is so great. So first maybe you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, like maybe the a hundred thousand foot view of how you got started in yoga and you know, to where you are today.

Harmony Slater (00:05:05):

Yeah, sure. So I guess my interest, I kind of always had sort of an interest in Eastern religion and philosophy not like a serious interest, but it was something that I was curious about when I was a small child. My mother was into transcendental meditation and had like, you know, be here now rom does his book and a bunch of different sort of Eastern philosophy books. And she taught me to meditate. She had a monstra and so it was something that was introduced to me at a young age that I was kind of curious about. That’s how I ended up with the name Harmony, of course. She, soon after maybe when I was about five or six, became a born again, Christian, so all of this sort of, you know, Indian type, you know, I cannot gruffy and Eastern mysticism kind of books exited our house shortly after that.

Harmony Slater (00:06:15):

But it was something a seed had been planted. And when I went to the university of Calgary here in Canada, I did two bachelor’s of arts degrees, one in philosophy and the other in religious studies. And when I had originally gone into the religious studies department, I thought that I would probably, you know, go into studying Christianity or Judaism or something, you know, in the Western religious realm. But when you begin, you know, you take a bunch of different kind of, I guess, survey courses and what really drew my attention in was Buddhism. And so I became like obsessed, I guess, in a way, but I really wanted to study and learn, and I just love the philosophy of the Buddhist philosophy. And so I really went deeply into that and ended up doing a research, a massive research paper on Buddhist meditation that involved me traveling to China and studying on upon a meditation of a passionate meditation in some of the Chan monasteries there.

Harmony Slater (00:07:24):

So that was probably my first I guess, exposure to like a real traditional kind of practice of observing the breath, which is more like the, on, upon a meditation and using the breath as a tool for concentrating the mind and then also like Eastern philosophy as well. And then shortly after that I traveled to India two years later and dove, I had been taking some yoga classes in, in my home city here, Calgary and was really enjoying them, was really into it had been also, you know, studying of course the philosophy of yoga. And because I was in finishing my degree in religious studies, I was sort of at a place in, in my studies where I could kind of pick my own topics and research them and write papers. So of course I was writing on just like yoga and Buddhism and like whatever I was I was into at the time.

Harmony Slater (00:08:30):

And and so after I finished university, I went straight to India and stayed there for five months to start with. And that’s when I got really immersed into the Ashtanga yoga practice. And shortly after that, moved to Thailand to teach and manage a yoga retreat center there. And that’s where I met my pranayama teacher, Sri [inaudible] from the Kavala Dom Institute in LA novela India. So he basically introduced me to pranayama practice in a very traditional way. That’s based on a text called the hot, the pro Topeka, which is a text ancient texts written around the 13th century or 14th century sort of medieval times in India. And it’s basically a text that talks about all different types of hot, the yoga practices. And so this is where we find the origins of basically all of the pranayama, all of the breath work techniques that people are teaching today comes from this Eastern, you know, a very vast amount of literature and traditions and practices in India.

Harmony Slater (00:09:48):

You can trace pranayama all the way back to like the first century BC. Like, so even before the common era it’s mentioned in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, it’s mentioned in the bug of a Gita. So it’s a, it’s an ancient practice that has, you know, come from India and also of course traveled from India to China, to Japan. So it has this real Eastern origin to it. Pranayama, prana means life force or energy. It also means breath. And I am a means the expansion or the extension of this life force of this breath. So this idea in India that your life force, your energy is intimately connected to the breath. This word has this double meaning. And it’s like in Chinese medicine, we would talk about she, so many, maybe many people have had acupuncture and, and are familiar with this idea of this life force or this G energy or in Japanese, Japan it’s called a key.

Harmony Slater (00:10:56):

And so it’s all interrelated. But that was my beginning of the study. And I ended up living in Southeast Asia for six years, continuing to work and study and practice and just like completely immersed myself into the yoga practices, learning breathwork learning Asana at a very advanced level of contortion ism. And and then shortly after back in 2009, I moved to Canada and opened up my own yoga school here had my son, but even then I would continue to travel back to India every year for 2, 3, 4 months to continue my studies, even with my son, he’s lived over a year of his life in India. So yeah, so it was really, it was really an amazing experience and an adventure, I guess, to kind of be so devoted to learning these ancient practices and techniques.

Bowl of Life (00:12:00):

Yeah, yeah. Wow. Yeah. So much here. That is so cool. And, you know, I think it’s so cool too, right. When you first said like how it kind of influenced you even at the age of six. And I feel like I’ve been thinking about that lately as my kids get a little bit older, I just like, you know, what type of foundations am I laying for them that they’re going to come back to some day or remember, and you know, stuff and get, I even think about how I grew up and all of a sudden I’m like, you know, river, you know, thinking back to that and thinking, oh, wow, well, I guess that’s why I think that way are do that because that foundation was there, even though I maybe didn’t like it at the time or whatever, so yeah.

Harmony Slater (00:12:44):

Yeah. And we didn’t, I mean, it’s interesting as parents, we don’t necessarily know what seeds you’re planting, which is a little bit frightening.

Bowl of Life (00:12:51):

Yeah. Right. I know why we need breath work right now. So what’s that hard. Like when you like go and just immerse yourself in, you know, more that yoga culture and you know, areas to come back kind of through the west, like, was that a hard transition to go back and forth?

Harmony Slater (00:13:17):

Yeah. I mean the first, the first time it was very challenging. I definitely had culture shock coming back to north America. I mean, I think I also had culture shock going to India for the first time. Cause it’s really like another planet if you’ve never been there. To China, I didn’t have as much culture shock, I think because I had a translator, a teacher who was with me and it was a bit more, it was like a very organized sort of routine that we were doing and, and living in, you know, monasteries and I mean, it was amazing. I loved it. I loved the land and the people and it just like, you know, whet my appetite to get back to Asia as soon as possible. But India was like my own adventure, you know, it wasn’t organized or there was no structure to it.

Harmony Slater (00:14:13):

Exactly. so it was sort of me going and discovering, you know, everything for myself without any type of translation. The interesting thing about India is many people speak English really well because of you know, the colonization of the English to India. So you can travel there, like fairly easily on your own as an English speaker, you know, and get around and understand things and people of course there’s their own indigenous languages to the area as well as Hindi. And the Indian people are amazing at languages. In my mind being only an English speaker, I feel a little bit limited, but it’s, it was, yeah, definitely like a different planet. It’s just so many people and so busy and so many smells and colors and the way people drive and the way they do things, it’s not linear, it’s not predictable.

Harmony Slater (00:15:12):

So it really like kind of changes your brain. And then when you come back to north America, it feels very sterile in a sense. And so to me it felt really, it felt really weird, but yeah, it was a very strange transition coming home, but also the more I would go and then come back, the easier it gets, you know, what to expect, you know, it’s maybe like a child going from their mom’s house to their dad’s house or something, you know, you know, okay. When I’m at mom’s house, things happen like this, when I’m at dad’s house, things happen like this and you just kind of adapt to the different cultures and ways that things go on and inside those little, you know, microcosms,

Bowl of Life (00:16:01):

Right. Yeah. For sure that, yeah. Yeah. I can’t even imagine I have not really traveled, I’ve traveled to Europe, but not to as far, you know kind of Eastern, my husband used to travel quite a bit to Japan and in China, but not really anymore since that, since the pandemic, but 

Harmony Slater (00:16:20):

No one’s traveling anymore,

Bowl of Life (00:16:23):

Which is unfortunate, but but you know, also you know, why the work that you’re doing is so important though, because we are in this, you know, ongoing state of kind of on subtleness to say breath work probably, you know, has been good to have that to lean on. Right?

Harmony Slater (00:16:44):

Yeah, no, it’s, it’s been incredible, actually. It’s so important to have like a very grounding practice, I think in these times something that you can come to daily and that really helps to reset your nervous system, you know, helps to tap into your, your fight or flight response, your ability to change between, you know, that fight and flight response and your relaxation response easily. Because it’s really easy to, I think we’re all been experiencing, especially during this time of so much uncertainty and locked down and like, you know, one, one day things are open the next day they’re closed. We never know really what’s going on in things aren’t so predictable as they used to be. And and that creates just like a chronic low level feeling of stress in the body, you know, because we’re not really sure what’s.

Harmony Slater (00:17:49):

And so our amygdala, which is a part of our limbic system in our brainstem, it’s part of the autonomic nervous system, which means that things are happening. It does things automatically, right? So it controls things like our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breath rate and also it’s related to the hypothalamus, our emotions, and it also regulates emotions as well. So when we’re feeling this low chronic stress, or we feel any kind of stress, right. Which could just be, you know, it doesn’t have to be something huge. It doesn’t have to be traumatic. It could just be somebody saying like, oh, you can’t leave your house. Right. That feels a little stressful. Sometimes you’re like, well so then the amygdala will release. It stimulates the release of stress hormones, you know, primarily adrenaline. And that prepares our body to like fight, fight or flee or freeze. Right. And so we have this sympathetic nervous system response, and that increases like our sense of fear or anxiety or aggression or anger. Right. And so you get triggered by, it could be something even small, even an email, you know, in your inbox. Oh God.

Bowl of Life (00:19:14):

Like at the time of this recording, like my kids just started back to school and I felt that way over the weekend because suddenly like a mandate came down from our health department and suddenly the school year, just overnight things started to change. I did feel like that I felt all this, like, whoa, like what the heck’s going on? Like, oh my gosh. Like I thought, like we were on a good path here.

Harmony Slater (00:19:39):

Yeah. Right. Things were going smoothly now. Oh my gosh, there’s all this, you know, unpredictable things to deal with and, you know, things to look after and restraints to, you know, be mindful of. So yeah. It creates this, this kind of sense of anxiety, you know, I think most of us describe it as that. But it can also create like anger and people. Right. People get really angry about things and you’re like, whoa, like it’s okay. Just calm down. Right.

Bowl of Life (00:20:10):

Like the system pick it or whatever.

Harmony Slater (00:20:13):

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s interesting, like all, exactly all that political sort of like stuff that’s going on, this increased anger in people, you know, even when you look at like, you know, people who are for vaccines, people who are against vaccines, you know, and it’s not really it’s not really rational to be that angry about these things. Right. But it’s, it’s actually because of the sympathetic nervous system, you know, that fight or flight response is being triggered so frequently. What happens when it gets triggered so frequently you kind of get stuck in it. So then you’re more easily, you know, switched on to anxiety, aggression, anger, fear, like all those emotions and the littlest thing triggers those emotions to come up.

Bowl of Life (00:21:05):

Wow. Yeah. That is such a fascinating, right.

Harmony Slater (00:21:10):

Yeah. And the interesting thing is when you get triggered and you release this adrenaline, and then, you know, the cortisol gets released, the cortisol actually starts to turn off your frontal lobe or your forebrain, which is involved in thinking planning, reasoning. Decision-Making right. This is like our center of consciousness and personality. And it’s sort of the last part of our brain to develop, you know, this is why children don’t get to drive and they don’t get to, you know, vote or drink because they’re not like fully developed in their, in their frontal lobe and their forebrain for thinking and planning and reasoning and decision-making, and when the amygdala gets triggered, it then kind of overrides the forebrain and the cortisol kind of like puts it in a, in a state where it’s unable to think plan reason or make decisions. And so that’s also why, like, during these times of stress, you know, you’re like, it feels difficult sometimes to make decisions. Like, I don’t know, should I do that? Shouldn’t I do that. How do I respond to this email? I don’t know, you know, do I want to go out next week? Do I want to stay right? You just feel like kind of paralyzed. Yep. Yeah,

Bowl of Life (00:22:26):

Yeah, no. And yeah, totally have been there, but I’ve also been on the and I know you and I have been in some Enneagram stuff together too through some classes and I’m an Enneagram eight, so I am quick to jump to action. So but in that instance, since I know that about myself, that I’m quick to like fire off an email back, like, you know, our, whatever like I, I don’t get stopped in that parallelization, so it’s good for me to actually stop and take them home. Right.

Harmony Slater (00:23:01):

Because it could be the other thing like the fighting, right. It just like, ah,

Bowl of Life (00:23:07):

Yeah, like that. Sorry. So in times like this, I can see how a practice of breath work could be very useful, right? Like this is where that would come into play are our

Harmony Slater (00:23:25):

Yes, for sure. I mean, it’s, it’s one of the best ways to help tone and strengthen that relaxation response. So breath is a little bit unusual because it’s very closely tied to our emotions. Right. And you can see this in yourself, like when you’re getting angry or, you know, your, your way of breathing changes, your pattern of breathing changes, or if you’re concentrating really acutely on something, again, you know, the breath pattern changes. And so it’s also governed by that autonomic nervous system it’s happening mostly unconsciously, you know, along with our digestion, along with, you know, the constriction and dilation of our blood vessels, along with our heart rate, it’s, it’s just going on, you know, we don’t have to sit here and think, okay, inhale, exhale. Al-Aqsa we can just forget about,

Bowl of Life (00:24:22):

I feel like, wow, I just had this conversation. So we live on a small lake and kids were jumping off the boat, then, you know, they were saying something like, but I didn’t do that when I jumped or whatever. And I’m like, you may have thought that you didn’t. I said, but your brain and body responded automatically to doing whatever they thought they weren’t doing, like closing their eyes or nose or something like that. Or, oh yeah. I think it was the opening, the mouth like this, I didn’t open my mouth when I jumped. I was like, you’d be amazed. So what your body and brain had you do.

Harmony Slater (00:24:58):

Yeah, exactly. That’s the, that’s the thing is like certain things are just happen automatically and we don’t necessarily have control over them. And some things we can’t, you know, really easily take control of like, if we could regulate our blood pressure, when that’d be, you know, amazing, nobody would have to take any kind of like beta blockers or anything.

Bowl of Life (00:25:18):

Yeah, for sure. So having a breath word practice then can kind of bring that back into.

Harmony Slater (00:25:24):

Yeah. So exactly what happens is because breath is mostly, you know, happening on its own unconsciously. It also can, we also can take control of it, right? Unlike our heart rate or unlike our digestion we can actually go, okay, I’m going to hold my breath or I’m going to lengthen my inhale. I’m going to slow down my exhale and we can manipulate our breath. And so when we are use the breath in this way, what happens is it’s a feedback loop. It starts to actually change our body physiologically. And so it’s the same when our body starts to change. You know, maybe say we’re being overly stimulated in a stressful way. What happens is the centers of our brains start to change. They change in shape and size and also in connectivity and the neural networks. But when we use the breath to stimulate this parasympathetic response, so the brakes to the stress response, what happens then is again, the brain starts to actually change the structures, change in size, and you can increase the connectivity.

Harmony Slater (00:26:42):

You can increase the circulation back into the frontal lobes so that you can think and plan and make decisions more easily. You also have all kinds of amazing results when you change the way that you breathe. You know, we are able to absorb more oxygen when we start to lengthen and slow down our breath, we eliminate more CO2. We can restore the pH balance to the blood, which allows cells to eliminate waste more efficiently, and also helps to decrease inflammation. We are also stimulating. It’s very, when we talk about the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s the main sort of nerve is the 10th cranial nerve called the vagus nerve. And this nerve comes from the brainstem and it moves down through kind of the jaw and the throat down through the lungs. It touches every organ inside our body and then terminates down in the pelvic floor.

Harmony Slater (00:27:45):

And so this Vegas nerve is like the braking system to our breathing, or, sorry, not to our breathing, to our stress response. So when we start to lengthen the breath, we start to stimulate this vagus nerve, which allows the vagus nerve to get kind of stronger. You can think of it that way. You know, it becomes more easily accessible to us. And that allows us to then switch more quickly between the stress response and the relaxation response so that we’re not getting stuck in that fight or flight, right. We’re able to like feel stress and then immediately feel relaxed. If you have low vagal tone, you get kind of stuck in that stress response. And that increases then of course, anxiety, depression you know, feelings of, of rage or anger, all these things, you know, your start feeling all the time, which then leads to all kinds of health problems.

Harmony Slater (00:28:48):

But when the Vegas nerve is toned and strong and easily accessible, then it helps us to switch between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. So it allows us to lower our heart rate. It releases a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that increases our ability to focus and creates a sense of calmness in our brain, which then of course also reduces those feelings of anxiety or depression. And there’s all kinds of other wonderful neuro chemicals in our brain that get released when we breathe deeply and fully regularly. So there’s more dopamine gets released. Serotonin gets released, oxytocin gets released, all those like, feel good. Oh, how I love you brain chemicals start to stimulate our prefrontal cortex so that and reduce the buildup of that cortisol in our, in our body and in our brains. So breathing is so important and it’s something that we kind of know intuitively right? When people are upset, we say like, just take a breath, right. Or, you know, slow down your breathing, slow down, breathe deeply. Like we, we kind of intuitively instinctually know this. But it’s something that most of us don’t maybe take the time to really like develop a habit around consciously breathing daily.

Bowl of Life (00:30:27):

Yeah. So is it as simple as that, like as just taking a deep breath you know, thinking back to, you know you know, you hear that a lot in sports or whatever. Okay. Calm down, take a deep breath. Or, you know, maybe when someone’s very upset about, you know, we’re both parents. So, you know, I say that to my kids, I’ll tell, okay, let’s calm down, let’s take a deep breath. So is it as simple as that? Or is there more to it?

Harmony Slater (00:30:53):

Yeah. I mean, in a way it is a little bit as simple as that, you know, but that’s sort of responding to an acute situation, right. So that’s sort of like the emergency measures, like, oh my God start breathing. But when, you know, when you’re not necessarily in a stress response, when you’re not feeling those feelings of anxiety or, you know stress in your system and say, you just wake up in the morning and you say, okay, I’m going to take 10 minutes and I’m just going to breathe. And one particular thing that’s very helpful in increasing this vagal tone is lengthening your exhalation. So there’s been a lot of scientific studies done about lengthening the exhalation. This is a very traditional way in India that you would start a breathing practice or a pranayama practice. You would inhale maybe for a count of four and then exhale for a count of eight. And when you do this, sometimes it’s called resonance breathing. You’re slowing down your breath rate from, you know, maybe your normal 16 breaths a minute to something that’s more around five or six breaths a minute. And so learning to lengthen the inhale and lengthen the exhale and increase that exhalation to be twice the length of the inhalation is incredibly helpful in getting all of these benefits of being able to strengthen the parasympathetic response to lower stress in the body.

Bowl of Life (00:32:29):

So it’s kind of like, so if you have a breath work practice and your body will remember that, or your brain rather, probably.

Harmony Slater (00:32:38):

Yeah. Well, what happens is it’s sorta like going to the gym, right? So it’s like, if you’re a, you know, being attacked by a tiger, and then you’re like, oh, okay, I’m going to do some like pushups and like, like, you know, pump up my muscles. So I can like fight off this, this, you know, wild animal or even like a human, right? Like someone’s coming at you. And you’re like, Hey, I’m just going to like pump up my muscles here first. You know, it’s like not as effective as if you go to the gym every day when you’re not under attack and like build up your muscles. And then when the attack comes, you’re ready, you’re prepared, right. You can fend it off easily. And it’s the same with the breath. If you’re practicing daily, you know, even five minutes, 10 minutes of practice, you know, maybe first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, like whatever time works for you, the best and you’re doing it on a regular basis, then what happens is you’re strengthening your ability to relax in a sense, right?

Harmony Slater (00:33:44):

You’re strengthening your ability to switch from being stressed out to a more normal, you know, relaxed, focused, clear state of mind. And it has all kinds of benefits of like improving your digestion, increasing, you know, your skin, like making your skin look very radiant, decreasing like the blemishes, the toxicity that comes out of our pores, it improves with your sleep. And it’s helped with sleep disorders. It also helps you lose weight because when you’re holding on to all this cortisol in your body, your body’s also holding onto weight. So a lot of people, when they first start doing a breath work practice, you know, daily we’ll actually start to lose weight. One of my students lost five pounds the first week just by breathing, doing nothing else. So yeah, it also can help to manage cravings. And then of course, whenever you’re reducing tension in the body, you’re gonna alleviate things like headaches you know, pain, chronic pain in the body. And also because it’s dealing with alkalizing the body in a sense, you’re also addressing some hormonal imbalances as well. And so it’s, I mean, it’s amazing. It’s an incredible tool that we have, that’s completely free and accessible to us at any time, but we, you know, it takes a little effort and that’s, I guess maybe where, where we lack the discipline sometimes because you have to make the effort to do the thing in order to get the benefits. Yeah. I think you think you hit the

Bowl of Life (00:35:37):

Nail on the head there, right? Like, but when you think about it, you said, okay, try just to start five to 10 minutes in the morning or at night. And that, that really seems doable, right? Like five minutes, maybe I’m not scrolling my social media, which actually causes more anxiety.

Harmony Slater (00:35:56):

Yes, exactly. Yeah. It’d be good to like create some kind of anchor, like turn on Instagram reminder. Oh, right. I’m going to breathe for five minutes before I look at,

Bowl of Life (00:36:07):

Well, maybe it’s just as simple as that. Right. Like you, like, you jump on to Instagram or Facebook, but then that like, oh wait, okay. I told myself that if I press that button app on my phone, that I would do my breath work for.

Harmony Slater (00:36:22):

Yeah, exactly. It’s helpful to have those little reminders in our day because of course it’s not like, you know, it’s not necessarily easy to create that time and space for yourself in your day. And because you don’t necessarily get like an immediate sort of reward for doing it. Right. It’s, it’s a long-term reward that you’re getting it can be challenging for people to commit to doing it.

Bowl of Life (00:36:52):

Right. Yeah. So, so what are just some simple techniques that a beginner could practice, maybe listeners listening, and they’re like, know, I really, I love this idea, you know, of, you know, changing my response to, and learning how to breathe better to deal with the world and to just calm myself down more. So what are just some like simple techniques to start?

Harmony Slater (00:37:17):

Yeah. So I would say like probably the most simple breathwork exercise you could do or pranayama exercises just inhaling through both nostrils exhaling for twice the length through both nostrils. So always using the nostrils. When we breathe through our nostrils, we also increase the release of nitric oxide into our blood, which helps with that absorption of more oxygen and the elimination of the CO2, which is, has all kinds of positive effects as well. So just that simple breathing of extending the exhalation. And if you wanted to maybe do something a little bit more challenging, you could hold the breath. And oftentimes there’s a race ratio suggested like inhale for a count of four hold for a count of seven exhale for a count of eight. Personally I think that’s a little bit challenging for beginners and as I was taught, you would always start with a little bit of a lower lesser hold.

Harmony Slater (00:38:23):

It’s a little bit more soothing for the nervous system. So you could inhale say for a count of four hold for a count of four, and then again, exhale for a count of eight increasing that exhale length. So you’re holding for the same length as your inhale. So if you’re inhaling for a count of five, you’re going to hold for a count of five and then exhale for a count of 10. So that would be sort of a simple breathing practice with a retention or a breath hold. Those two are really sort of straightforward. There’s another one that’s quite good for calming the mind, which is called bhramari pranayama it’s named after the humming bee. And this also has the added benefit of vibrating or stimulating your vagus nerve. Cause as I mentioned, it runs down through the throat and touches upon the vocal chords. And so often this is called like the humming breath, right? You would inhale through both nostrils and then as you exhale, you’re going to exhale making like a gentle, soft, nice soothing, not like a hard angry humming sound, but like a delicious humming sound on your exhale and just make the exhale for as long as you possibly can. So you don’t have to like have any kind of like ratios in this one, you would just inhale through both nostrils and then exhale. Hmm.

Harmony Slater (00:40:04):

And you could do that 10 times. And it has, again that very calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system. And those are probably, I would say some of the simplest exercises that you could add into your daily routine into your morning routine.

Bowl of Life (00:40:22):

I love that as you were talking through them, I’m sitting here like trying to breathe in really slow. And then, you know, I think the hold part is something I did not know about. Which so it makes, it makes total sense. You know, now that I hear you talk about it and talk, talk it through. But I think it’s more just like inhale, exhale. Like I run a lot and you know, so that’s very focused on inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale about the holding part. I could see so beneficial and actually helps with that exhale on.

Harmony Slater (00:40:53):

Yeah. Yeah. And it really puts a pause like on your busy mind. So if you’re feeling really like, you know, your mind is super active or you’re feeling like a lot of stress that, that extra holding you know, inhaling hold for the same length of the inhale and then exhale for double a, it has a super powerful calming effect on your mind and on your nervous system also when you’re holding your retaining carbon, carbon dioxide, the CO2 in the lungs. And and when you do that, I mean in this is sort of the, the interesting thing with these breathing practices. If you try to hold too long, too much that holding or that retention of the CO2 will act like a poison in your system. So it’s not going to be beneficial, but if you hold for a short time, it has a very calming effect on your nervous system.

Harmony Slater (00:41:52):

And so what happens is, as you breathe regularly, consistently over many, many years, over a long period of time, your ability to increase your breath capacity goes up. And so when you first start maybe inhaling for a count of four and holding for a count of four and exhaling for a count of eight is very, very challenging. You might need to drop that back to like inhaling for three, holding for three exhaling for six. But say you’ve been doing this every day for, you know, a couple of years, you’ll find that all of a sudden inhaling for eight holding for eight exhaling for 16, inhaling for 10, holding for 10 excelling for 20 becomes very manageable. And partly that’s because you build up your capacity and your ability to retain that CO2 without any harmful or negative effects happening. And also you’re increasing your lung capacity. So you actually are able to breathe bigger and deeper and fuller. Oh, wow. Yeah. That totally, totally makes sense. So I’m curious, how long can you hold for?

Harmony Slater (00:43:08):

Well you know, when I’m doing my regular practice, the thing is too, is if you only do a short number of repetitions, so say you only do this five times. It feels very easy. If you start doing it for 10 times, you can feel a bit more challenging. Right. But yeah, I tend to hold typically for about 30 seconds. Oh wow. But sometimes, you know, a lot of people will, the thing is, is you don’t really want to hold past your capacity because that’s going to actually have the opposite effect. Right. So if your, if your ego gets involved and you’re like, I’m going to hold my breath for a minute. Right. Then what happens is you actually trigger your fight or flight response, your sympathetic nervous system. And it acts starts, you know, acting up. And the whole point of doing the breathing practice is to create that balance and that tone between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Harmony Slater (00:44:10):

But if your ego’s involved and you’re like, no, I want to hold my breath longer. You know, you’re not really listening to your body and you’re trying to like, make it like a practice. That’s, you know, a challenge, right? You’re like, I’m really going to challenge myself today, breathing. Then you’re already stressed out and now you’re doing another practice that is stressing you out even more. And what happens is it makes all of those effects, like the anxiety the, the easily triggered, you know, anger the irritability, the headaches, the inflammation, it makes it all worse.

Bowl of Life (00:44:49):

Yeah. We definitely don’t want that happening because you mentioned to me, you actually are releasing a breath work course. Right. So, so for those that are going to do that competition, no, no, no. Like maybe you need to like back and maybe learn a little bit more.

Harmony Slater (00:45:08):

Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of the thing with, with breathwork is, you know, it’s, it’s all of the breath work that we have today is based on these ancient techniques of pranayama. You know, that stem from India, but breath work is sort of a general term used to describe any type of practice or therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to help improve mental, physical, spiritual health. And so the breath work therapy that exists today actually kind of got its origins in the sixties and seventies, of course, with that consciousness raising era, right, where there was a lot of gurus from India coming to America and introducing these practices and people were doing them, you know, mainly for spiritual purposes, but then getting a lot of physical benefits. And so all those hippies, you know, ended up becoming scientists and deciding to research the effects of breathing on the mind and the body.

Harmony Slater (00:46:14):

But you know, there are some sort of, I guess, dangers in that, you know, of course, if you have like, you know, a cardiac arrhythmia or like a very slow heart rate or a history of high blood pressure, you should definitely ask your doctor before, you know, just taking up any kind of breath practice. And you should also learn from somebody who’s like very steeped in the tradition of pranayama or of breathwork who has a lot of experience there. And by a lot of experience, I don’t mean mean took like a six month course, you know, like someone who’s been doing it for years, because it’s really important that you have somebody who knows how to help you, especially things start to feel a little bit like they’re going off center because you’re dealing with your nervous system, you’re dealing directly with your energy and with your brain and the chemicals in the, in your body and your fight or flight response and your rest and digest response.

Harmony Slater (00:47:31):

And so it’s really important that you learn from somebody who’s very knowledgeable. I would say that like the simple breathing, just inhaling and exhaling, lengthening the exhale for double is safe for everyone. You know, it’s, that’s a very simple, easy practice that you could do without any problems. And of course, if you’re finding that exhalation is challenging, then just shorten the inhale and find what ratio works for you. As far as like how much you need to inhale and how much you need to exhale. And after a few weeks of regular practice, it will feel quite easily accessible to most people. But that’s kind of why I started to teach this course because there’s a lot of misinformation out there about breath work and pranayama and breathing practice. And a lot of people who, in my opinion, have no business teaching. You know, it’s like, I usually maybe practice for about 10 years first and then start teaching you know, telling people what to do.

Harmony Slater (00:48:41):

And it’s a bit crazy. Like it’s a bit out there and, you know, I dunno if you want to experiment with your own health and sanity, then I guess go for it. But I would rather kind of use these practices in a way that’s going to be beneficial to my mind and my body. And like slowly, gradually develop them in a way that’s adding benefit to me rather than, you know, experiment with things that, you know, somebody learns off Tik TOK last week. Yikes. Yikes. So, yeah, I’ve actually taught my breathing course four times now since 2020 and yeah, I’ll be offering it again in October around starting around the middle of October and it’s, it’s grown quite a bit at first. It was a live course that I was teaching. You had to kind of attend the live classes or watch the recordings after, but I’ve broken it down to so that each practice has its own video.

Harmony Slater (00:49:45):

And so you can watch like, okay, just the video for this practice. And then there’s also philosophy involved. We look at these ancient texts, like the hot, the pro Topeka that come from India. We look at like the whole sort of tradition of breath work and and breathing practices and some of the scientific daddies and benefits of them. And then we learned the eight pranayama practices and some of the cleansing practices as well that come from India that are found in this ancient text. And it also live classes as well. So you get to actually practice and I watch and coach and observe and ask you, get to ask your questions within the live classes as well, but there’s six modules plus a couple of bonus modules. And yeah, it’s really, it’s, it’s quite comprehensive, probably more types of breathing practices than anybody would ever need, but they’re they’re all taught in a very safe way and you get to kind of figure out what your own capacity is and adapt them to whatever stage you’re at. So it’s not like pushing you into a place that you’re not ready for, which is really, I think the most important part when you’re looking at breath work practices is that if you’re feeling like it’s creating a sense of breathlessness or a sense of like anxiety or shaking or tremors in your body, then you’re probably doing too much or maybe doing something that’s not quite right for you.

Bowl of Life (00:51:37):

Yeah. Wow. And that’s what, what I love when you said, you know, it’s comprehensive, but it’s kind of broken down into all these different things, kind of maybe depending where you’re at. And then you kind of have the balance of the live to be able to ask the questions, you know, maybe somebody is experiencing a little shakiness and then it’d be able to ask you like, Hey, well that’s not normal. What should I be doing?

Harmony Slater (00:51:58):

Yeah. And it’s interesting because you’re working like with your nervous system, you know, some people might feel like a lot of heat, other people feel really cold. You know, our nervous system has all kinds of functions, functionality that we’re not maybe not aware of, you know, and governing sensations and feeling those sensations. And so it’s it’s interesting what can come up, but there’s also, you know, if you’re doing too much too soon, you could like develop, you know, hiccups or, you know, different, different kind of funny, not so funny things, you know?

Bowl of Life (00:52:33):

Right. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. I noticed thinking myself too, you know, and I think a lot, would you say the breath work comes down to a lot? It helps you to kind of listen to your body more? Yeah.

Harmony Slater (00:52:44):

I think definitely when you take that time in the morning, it’s a bit like meditation, right? When you take like 10 minutes or 20 minutes or however long in the morning to just sit and listen and you know, meditation’s a little different, cause you’re just observing, right. Normally maybe you’re chanting a month or maybe you’re just observing your breath or you’re observing sensation, but you’re not manipulating the breath or you’re not manipulating your sensations or your, your mind. You’re just observing things as they are typically. And when the mind, you know, goes off into imagination or into distraction or into thinking and planning, you’re just basically bringing it back to that state of, of awareness and observation. And it’s just a process of continuing to bring the, my back to that state of awareness and observation over and over and over again. And when you do that, you start to become very aware of like that subtle energy in the body, subtle sensations.

Harmony Slater (00:53:46):

And it also creates a sense of relaxation and calmness, right? Because it’s a way of using the mind and the mind goes off into its stressful planning, kind of a pattern into this beta wave, right. Where you’re thinking and planning and you know making grocery lists and, you know, making judgements about things. Yes, yes, no, no. Right. It’s like going really busy. It has a particular wave that you can feel it’s very active. And so every time it’s going into that, you bring it back into this observation wave, which is more of an alpha wave which is related more to that parasympathetic state, right. That calm state, that place just before you’re going to fall asleep, but not quite asleep yet.

Bowl of Life (00:54:35):

Y no, I love this. And definitely so excited to start to start more intentionally doing this in my own life, because yeah, I do have one of those brains that is always like shoot moving and like making lists make them to do lists, you know, let’s be, you know, effective and efficient.

Harmony Slater (00:54:54):


Bowl of Life (00:54:56):

So I can see this be so beneficial on, so excited to kind of just start with the beginner Skinner thing, that’s who it would be, where, where I need to start. And, you know, if people want more information about this, your course, or any of your other fabulous things you have going on your online yoga classes, where can they find out more about that?

Harmony Slater (00:55:20):

Yeah. They can come to my website, Harmony slater.com, or they can check me out on Instagram, Harmony, Slater, yoga. And yeah, from there, you can kind of find all the places my membership, which houses like a bunch of guided yoga classes, as well as some meditation and breathing practices, they can find out about my course or also my wellness coaching as well. You can kind of find everything from there.

Bowl of Life (00:55:54):

Oh, wow. This is, this is so great. And you truly are just an expert in the field. And it’s just so, so great that you can impart all this knowledge to us. And then we can, you know, take it a step further and connect with you online, as we were just talking about, you know, how interesting that is just to connect online and be able to do that these days. It’s so, so amazing. And we will link all of this in the show notes all your information where people can connect your classes, your courses, as well as if they want to listen to your podcast as well. We’ll link that over there as well. Cause that’s always fun. Maybe someone’s more of a listener than a reader, and that’s another way to connect, you know,

Harmony Slater (00:56:37):

The progress is it’s really fun. I, I co-host with my husband who is quite hilarious, also a yoga practitioner and it’s basically stories of people’s lives and sort of what brought them to a place where they were seeking out spirituality or a yoga practice or a deeper connection with themselves. And so it’s finding Harmony because I’m Harmony, but also finding Harmony within yourself. So what sort of, is that point in your life, or what led up to your life? You know, what were those seeds that were planted at a young age that then, you know, helped you, or, or guided you into seeking out like a deeper kind of way of experiencing yourself in the world or connecting to a higher purpose?

Bowl of Life (00:57:27):

Yeah, it’s so cool. And it’s so interesting, I think to hear people’s story as well. I’m a huge fan of that. And so thank you for bringing that to us. That is so cool. Harmony, thank you so much for coming on today and just, you know, telling us a little bit about breath work and just the beginning stages of it and how we can start to incorporate that eight. I found it so fascinating and I can’t wait. As I mentioned here, I was kind of inhaling and exhaling as you’re talking, just, you know, kind of thinking about that. And I’m so excited just to start, start practicing that myself. Oh yeah.

Harmony Slater (00:58:03):

Good. Go for it. It’s really, it’s really important. It’s, it’s gonna change your experience of, of yourself and the world and your ability to handle stress as well. It’s going to give you more tools to, to be able to take on the world and do all the things that you need to do, which is amazing. And so thank you so much for having me on your podcast today and for this conversation and for your friendship, it’s just wonderful to be here and to be able to share this knowledge with you in these teachings. So thank you.

Bowl of Life (00:58:40):

Thanks. I hope that this conversation with Harmony really made you think about how important your breath work is. And I just can’t stress that enough. It’s just so in pertinent, even a five to 10 minute practice, which honestly is something I could easily do. And as I mentioned, like, and actually after the podcast, my husband was working from home and I just went down and told him, I said, I think this is just so important for us to do and to teach our children. And also I think that I need to like build it in. So instead of like scrolling through Instagram all the time, I focus on practicing these breath work techniques because it’s going to be so much more beneficial to me. So I really hope that, you know, you take this to heart and really just think about how you can incorporate this in to your own life as a great grounding practice, as something that can just be a life long skill that you can fall back on any time that you know, you’re anxious or not even not anxious about anything, just something that’s just going to help calm you down.

Bowl of Life (00:59:59):

Because I think we’re all have moments, right? We’re human beings. We have moments that stress us out and knowing proper breath work is going to help us through that as well as if you really want to learn it. You need to learn it from Harmony herself. She is the expert. She can teach you how to do it correctly. And if you’re already a beginner at it, she can help you become more advanced at it. And I’m so excited about her breath work course. And we’re going to list all that information in our show notes and how you can connect with Harmony. So you can find all this show notes over on our sponsored blog, bad to the Bowl.com forward slash 51. Again, that’s bad to the bowl.com forward slash 51. Thanks.

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