Some thoughts on my final immersion at The Breathing Project

As I begin to prepare for my last-ever summer immersion (and the final program of any kind) at The Breathing Project, I thought I’d share some of the questions we will be considering during the five-day course of study I’ve titled “Bandha: Untying and Uniting Body, Breath and Mind”:

Is there a simple definition of bandha that can serve as a foundation for a breath-centered approach to yoga practice?

Can bandha refer to our natural tendency to hold, constrict, channel, and otherwise modulate our breathng mechanism in response to stressors, or should the definition of bandha be limited to the intentional techniques of breath manipulation more commonly referred to in yoga practice?

Can the yogic model of the five koshas help us experience the action of bandha on more subtle dimensions of our being?

Should bandha be taught to beginning students?

What is the relationship between traditional descriptions of the static application of bandha wherein the body is unmoving and the breath is retained, and the modern context of bandha practiced while the body and breath are in motion?

The great thing about using questions as an entry point into a practice-based group inquiry is that we can benefit tremendously from learning to be comfortable with not arriving at final answers. In fact, along with all the insights we generate, we usually end up with more questions than when we started.  I’ve learned to offer a disclaimer to that effect at the beginning of every workshop I teach.

If I had to to pick one perspective that’s been changed the most by my  last 14 years at The Breathing Project, it would be just that;  a greatly increased tolerance for having my answers questioned.  Or, as Richard Feynman so succinctly put it:

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

There are still a few spaces left in the immersion. It runs Monday thru Friday, July 24–28. Here’s a link to the full description and registration page.  We have assembled a truly wonderful international group of students, and I’d love for you to join us.

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An Appeal for The Babies Project

I’m sending this special message out to my networks to let you all know about a very special non-profit educational project that my good friends and colleagues, Amy Matthews and Sarah Barnaby have created: The Babies Project.

As many of you are aware, The Breathing Project is ending its educational programming at our Manhattan studio at the end of July 2017. What most of you don’t know is that we still have 2 more years on our commercial lease. If Amy and Sarah can successfully fund The Babies Project, we can accomplish the perfect transition for the use of our unique and beautiful space.

By working with yoga and movement educators and those who train them for the past 14 years, Amy and I feel that the exponential reach of our efforts has shifted the conversation about anatomy, movement and education.  The Babies project represents the next phase of facilitating positive change where it can do the most good — at the very beginning of a person’s life.

To quote Amy, “I am so passionate about this work – helping babies, helping caregivers – it feels like it helps heal everything.”

For years, Amy and Sarah have been offering classes at our studio for babies from newborn to walking and their caregivers, as well as adults of all ages interested in observing developmental movement patterns.  As an educational non-profit, The Babies Project will continue to offer these weekly drop-in Babies! sessions on a by-donation basis, as well as adding fee-based classes, workshops and private sessions. They will also add developmental movement classes for adults, and education for preparing and planning parents.

You can read more about the mission and vision of The Babies Project on their website and you can support them in any amount by going to their Indiegogo fund-raising page. It truly takes a village to raise a child (and educate a parent too), and with your help, the Babies Project can be one such highly innovative village right here in the heart of The Big Apple.

Please help contribute to this remarkable undertaking. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. I have personally donated, and will continue to support The Babies Project in every way I am able.

Thanks,

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Prequels to Beyond Anatomy: A Somatic Symposium, coming this weekend

We’re in the final preparations for this weekend’s Beyond Anatomy: A Somatic Symposium at my New York City studio, The Breathing Project, and I’ve realized I neglected to post links to three wonderful podcast interviews by Brooke Thomas of Liberated Body and an interview with Brette Popper on YogaCity NYC! Better late than never, here they are:

Pete Blackaby: “Whether we open fully to the world or shrink back from it will be dictated by the kind of world we have met, and the support, or lack of it, we feel we have had.”
Leslie Kaminoff: “Healing is different than curing or fixing.”
Amy Matthews: “The movement experience and the psychological experience are completely tied together. They are the same thing. They are indistinguishable.”
An interview by Brette Popper of YogaCityNYC with Leslie, Amy and Pete about the what’s and the why’s of Beyond Anatomy.

There are a few spaces left, Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2 from 9:00am-5:00pm. Register NOW to reserve your space!

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Meet the “Beyond Anatomy” presenters: Pete Blackaby, Amy Matthews, Leslie Kaminoff, interviewed by Brooke Thomas

The wonderful Brooke Thomas, creator of The Liberated Body podcast, will moderate our upcoming Breathing Project symposium “Beyond Anatomy” in New York City April 1 & 2.

In this special episode which kicks off the fourth season of her podcast, Brooke asks Peter Blackaby, Amy Matthews and me what “Beyond Anatomy” means to us. I’m sure you’ll find our responses thought-provoking, and hope they’ll inspire you to join us at the Symposium.

We already have people coming from across the country, and even across the pond (Pete has lots of fans in his home country, Britain, and throughout the UK), so sign up while there’s still space. We look forward to seeing you there!

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My busy fall teaching schedule has gotten underway

Gorgeous Northeastern colors along the PalisadesI love the fall, love the temperatures in the Northeast, and the colors, but mostly I love that my teaching schedule always kicks into high gear.

On Wednesday October 12 I’ll start my final year teaching Anatomy of Breath-Centered Yoga: Appendicular Body Focus at my New York City studio, The Breathing Project – a bittersweet occasion because I love this teaching and love the students and community we’ve built, but I am also filled with excitement about the opportunities for change and growth associated with closing the studio next summer.

Right after Wednesday’s class I’ll be heading to the airport to fly to Yoga Center of Minneapolis where I’ll present a four-day immersion focusing on breath and re-imagining alignment. We had a magnificent time at this beautiful studio last year and we’re eager to return.

Then we return to Yoga on High in Columbus, OH, for a workshop focused on the therapeutic aspects of Yoga. We’ll be doing some of my favorite things: a Hands-on Assisting Lab during which I’ll share teaching techniques developed over the past three decades of working therapeutically with groups and individuals.  Also scheduled is Case Studies and Clinical Analysis, which follows the format in which I observed my teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar, work one-on-one with clients.

In early November I’ll be going to Philadelphia to teach for the first time at the Yoga Garden Narberth, then onto Chattanooga, TN for another first-time visit, teaching A Breath Centered Approach to Alignment in Asana for the Yoga Landing on Warehouse Row.

To finish out my year in December I’ll be returning to one of my favorite haunts, Soul of Yoga, in Encinitas, CA. Each year I’ve taught there has provided an engaged group of teacher trainees. This year we’ll explore Yoga and The Respiratory System, covering the energetic phenomenon of breathing and how it occurs on every level – from cells to anatomical systems and beyond.

If you’re near any of these locations, or willing to take a little trip, I’d love to meet you in person so make sure to introduce yourself!

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Off the grid(ish), then back in the saddle

LK writing Truro

Greetings from Truro, MA and my annual Cape Cod writing retreat, where the days are unstructured, the sunsets are gorgeous, and data is at a premium (no wi-fi means everything goes through my cellular data plan).

I have several writing projects into which I am eagerly diving, and by which I expect to be consumed right up until the end of the month.  Then, it’s back to a busy teaching schedule in August.

First, I lead my 10th summer immersion at The Breathing Project August 8 – 12th: “Transformation Through Relationship.”  There are a few spots available, so there’s still time to sign up.  This year, we have a truly international group of students joining us from as far away as Australia, Rio de Janeiro, Israel, Sweden, Germany and Toronto.  U.S. visitors are coming from New Mexico, Minnesota, and of course, the tri-state area.

Then, the following weekend, I’ll be making my first-ever visit to the Atlanta area on August 20 – 21st to teach “Breath and Asana: an Individualized Perspective,” at East Cobb Yoga in Marietta, Georgia. I’m very much looking forward to sharing the essential teachings of individualized yoga with a whole new group of students.

The very next weekend, August 27 – 28th I am  returning to Portland, Oregon.  We have been invited by a new studio, yogaRIOT, to teach a practice-heavy weekend of classes and workshops we’ve titled: “A Breath Centered Approach to Asana.”    The event has just gone on sale, and you can get special early pricing right up until July 31st.

Once September rolls in, you’ll find us touring in the U.K. with teaching dates in Belfast, Glasgow and Cambridge.  More details on those gigs soon.

Now, back to writing, then another sunset.  Here’s last night’s…truro Sunset 2016

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Teachers and Students: Rule Making, Rule Breaking


Back in February, reporters for the Daily News and NY Post either accessed court records or received a press release pertaining to a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Jivamukti Yoga teacher against a senior teacher. The complaint contained enough details of intimate encounters between these two teachers to make for the kind of tawdry click-bait tabloid reporters lust after.

The complainant’s attorney apparently made his client available for a photo shoot in his office, as he prepared to try his case in the court of public opinion.

I read the initial news stories and formed my own opinions based on nearly four decades in this field, my personal history of student-teacher-guru dynamics, as well as my inside knowledge of many of the guru-teacher scandals of the past.  I kept my opinions mostly to myself until I was contacted by Michelle Goldberg who asked to interview me for a piece she was writing for Slate that would focus on the “cultish” environment at Jivamukti.  Michelle and I had a maintained a friendly connection since I had invited her to present an evening talk last June at The Breathing Project discussing her just-released book about Indra Devi “The Goddess Pose” so I agreed to the interview.

Over the course of about an hour, Michelle and I discussed many things, including my history teaching at Jivamukti in the early days (1992-1994) at their Second Avenue studio. I named a few other people I thought she should talk to who had more intimate knowledge of the current atmosphere at Jivamukti, but it never occurred to me to ask whether anyone had agreed to be quoted on the record.  Apparently, I was the only one.  To be fair, had I been offered the option of being quoted anonymously I would have declined because in my opinion anonymous online commentary is cowardly.  Though I was quoted accurately in the final article there was far more that wasn’t quoted.

I enjoyed reading the Slate piece. I like Michelle’s writing style and she treated me fairly as far as she quoted me. Predictably, she chose the most controversial things I said for her article. I have no problem with that – she was doing her job, and doing it well.  I even called to leave Michelle a congratulatory message the day the article came out.  I thanked her for quoting me accurately and helping me sound critical without trashing anyone personally.  As it turned out, not everyone agreed and some people felt very personally trashed by what I said. They wasted no time condemning me as an insensitive, brutish “victim-blamer.”

The most notable criticism came via Matthew Remski who interviewed the complaining teacher and her lawyer, as well as Sharon Gannon and David Life.  Matthew gave me a chance to respond to their points of view (which I did), and to retract any of my quotes (which I did not). Matthew did include small excerpts of my lengthy reply in his blog post on the topic.

This past Wednesday, I decided to deliver a heartfelt talk on this topic for my monthly members event at The Breathing Project.  We made a video recording and have edited the 90-minute talk down to about a half-hour – which is still pretty long, but if you stick with it, I can guarantee it will at the least provide food for thought. If you have limited time, skip ahead to the 25-minute mark to hear how rules, ethical guidelines, vows and boundaries can actually provoke transgression.

I may have more to say on this topic in the future, but for now, this was the most efficient way to get a response out there.

As always, feel free to leave a comment.

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Breath Education Myth #3 — "Habitual Breath-Holding is Harmless"

Excitement is growing here at The Breathing Project for our upcoming symposium Breath Education: Art, Science & Soul on the weekend of October 24-25.  We anticipate a sell-out, so sign up soon if you want to attend!

For our third installment of breath myth-busting, we hear from presenters Lynn Martin and Jessica Wolf – two of the country’s most experienced breath educators – who weigh in on the subject of breath-holding.

MYTH: “habitual breath-holding is harmless.”

Lynn Martin
Jessica Wolf

There is nothing positive to be said about habitual breath-holding. It is often an involuntary response to a moment of anxiety or stress. Many of us hold our breaths when we are trying to think of the best verbal response to a challenge, or the correct answer to a question that has been posed. But there is no perceivable benefit to doing that. If one needs a pause to think before speaking, it would be more productive to continue the flow of air into and out of the lungs while pondering the situation, thereby increasing the possibility of oxygen renewal to the brain.

Breath-holding interrupts the synergy and organization of the neuro-musculo-skeletal coordination that keeps the breathing process moving freely and fluidly. Breath-holding brings the diaphragm and all of the respiratory muscles to a sudden halt. It builds up unnecessary pressure in the thorax and in the throat, also interfering with the potential oscillation of the vocal folds as they prepare for the next spoken utterance.

Our teacher, Carl Stough, coached competing swimmers not to hold the breath while swimming under water. He suggested that the swimmer should first inhale and then extend the exhalation phase for the duration of time that the head is submerged, surface for the next inhalation, then exhale again under water, thus keeping the continuity of breathing movement.

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Breath Education Myth #2 – "Deep Breathing is Always Better"

As promised, here’s our next breath “mythbusting” contribution courtesy of my esteemed colleague and co-presenter Amy Matthews

MYTH: “Deep breathing is always better.”

It is NOT true that we should always breathe as deeply as we possibly can. There is not one single ‘right way’ to breathe, and the most effective breath is the one that is most suited to that person, in that moment.

Sometimes a shallow breath is the most effective choice – in biological systems the qualities of being deepest, longest and biggest are not necessarily indicators of success. Success arises from being effective . . . just good enough. So taking a deeper breath than we need might literally be a waste of time and energy.

Instead of always going for deeper and stronger breaths, can we instead cultivate adaptability and responsiveness?

Our October 24 & 25 symposium is filling up fast, so be sure to register now!

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Breath Education Myth #1 – Diaphragmatic vs. …?

Lung Tree Early Bird
Our amazing symposium “Breath Education — Art Science and Soul” is starting to fill up.  Don’t miss your last chance to attend at the early registration rate, which expires in one day (Sept 12).

As a lead-up to the event, our presenters will share their favorite breath education myths, which they will debunk at the event.  For me, myth #1 is probably the most pervasive one in the field: the term diaphragmatic breathing itself. If I had my way, I’d completely banish the term from breath education.

ALL breathing is diaphragmatic.  No living person should ever be told that they aren’t using their diaphragm unless they suffer from paralysis (and in that case, why would you say it to them in the first place? — they already know).

The term “diaphragmatic breathing” is as redundant and silly as the term “foot walking.”  When that term gets used, it’s intended to distinguish healthy breathing (diaphragmatic) from some other pattern an educator has judged to be unhealthy, but it would be absurd to say the unhealthy pattern is “non-diaphragmatic.”  The real issue isn’t whether the diaphragm is working or not, it’s whether it is able to work to its full efficiency without undue obstruction.

For a fuller explanation, and SO MUCH more, sign up now for “Breath Education — Art Science and Soul” at The Breathing Project!

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