We all breathe. It’s what keeps us alive. In fact, we each take over 23,000 involuntary and unnoticed breaths every day. Intentional breath work (paying attention to and harnessing the breath) is a powerful tool that helps reduce stress, balance Vata, Pitta and Kpaha and improve mood and energy. Breath work is an important part of my morning routine and one of my favorite mindfulness and healing techniques. It can be as simple as focusing on the inhale and the exhale, noticing the rise and fall of the chest, breathing fully into the abdomen, diaphragm, side ribs and chest or listening to the soothing, rhythmic sound of each inhale and exhale. I typically do breath work after my yoga practice and before meditation but it can be done any time you feel like you need it. I like to start with three deep, mindful breaths then do a series of various breathing techniques, finishing with a cooling breath because this Pitta girl is always hot! I’ve listed three of my favorite breathing techniques below along with their effects on the doshas, benefits, and contraindications. You can choose the technique that feels right for you based on how you’re feeling in the moment or do all three in the order listed below. These practices take less than five minutes to do and can be done by almost anyone, anywhere. Keep in mind that these techniques are best learned in person from a qualified teacher. That said, I’ve included video links below to introduce you to the basics and get you started.
BREATH WORK TO PACIFY VATA DOSHA (Nadi Shodhana)
Vata, the energy of movement is made up of ether and air and is light, mobile, and erratic. Excess Vata tends to manifest as anxiety and feeling ungrounded and jittery. Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, with its slow, steady rhythm, is one of the best ways to pacify Vata dosha. It balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain, promotes deep relaxation, and cleanses the nervous system. It’s simple and extremely effective. It’s one of my favorite breathing techniques to do any time I’m feeling a little on edge and can be done anywhere. It’s not uncommon for me to do five to ten rounds on the plane, in the car, or when I’m having trouble falling asleep…
BREATH WORK TO PACIFY KAPHA DOSHA (Kapalabhati)
Kapha the energy of stability is made up of water and earth and is cold, heavy, and dull. Excess Kapha manifests as lethargy, sluggish digestion, respiratory congestion and brain fog. Kapalbhati, or the skull shining breath, uses a forceful exhale out the nose and passive inhale through the nose while pumping the abdomen to relieve congestion, enkindle digestion, and invigorate and energize the body and mind. I like to do this technique if I’m feeling lethargic and need a pick me up. I recommend starting with three rounds of fifteen. Since this technique is heating, I always follow with three rounds of sheetali to cool and calm. Note: Kapalabhati is contraindicated on a full stomach, for pregnant or menstruating women, high blood pressure, heart conditions, asthma, hernias or recent abdominal surgery.
BREATH WORK TO PACIFY PITTA DOSHA (Sheetali)
Pitta, the energy of transformation is made up of fire and water and is hot and spreading. Excess Pitta manifests as inflammation, feeling overheated, headaches, skin rashes and hives. Sheetali breathing is a quick and easy way to balance Pitta dosha and instantly cool the body and mind by pulling cool air across the tongue and soft palate. I often do three to six rounds of this after my yoga practice or after more vigorous exercise to cool me down and keep me from overheating. Note: If you are unable to curl your tongue (apparently it’s a genetic thing…) you can do this breath by inhaling through the teeth (as if you’re smiling). Note: Sheetali is contraindicated for low blood pressure and asthma.
Now for a little about this Horchata Mocha Latte! The base is a horchata type almond/rice milk with loads of cinnamon. I added cocoa, coconut butter for creaminess, maple syrup for a hint of sweet, and brewed chicory “coffee” for that mocha flavor. It’s the perfect cozy Valentine’s Day treat. Enjoy!
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for my Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse Workshop here in Seattle. This cleanse is one I learned from my teacher and have been doing twice a year for the past eight years. It has been transformational for me and I’m excited to share it with you. It includes internal oleation, a week long kitchari cleanse, daily epsom salts baths and self-massage, and herbs and teas to encourage cellular detoxification, healthy digestion, stable blood sugar, and lymph flow. During the workshop we’ll cover the basics of Ayurveda, how to make ghee, and go over the cleanse protocol in detail. You’ll leave with recipes, resources, and a take home cleanse kit with everything you need to get started. This cleanse is an opportunity to set the stage for optimal health and well-being by adopting a simple diet, nourishing the body and mind, and letting go of old habits and patterns in order to come closer to your true nature.
You can learn more about the cleanse and register HERE. Space is limited so sign up before it’s too late.
*Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and tag photos of my recipes #tendingthetable.
Horchata Mocha Latte
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup white rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon Teccino
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon coconut butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
Place the almonds, rice and cinnamon stick in a medium bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight. Strain and rinse then transfer the almonds, rice and cinnamon stick to a high speed blender. Add 1 1/2 cups cold water and blend on high for 30-60 seconds. Strain through a cheesecloth lined fine mesh sieve or a nut milk bag. You should have about 1 cup of milk. Meanwhile measure the Teccino into a glass measuring cup or jar and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Combine the milk, Teccino, cocoa powder, coconut butter, maple syrup and salt in a medium pot set over medium heat. Heat the mixture until just barely simmering then transfer to a high speed blender and blend on high until frothy. Serve hot with a dusting of cocoa powder.