Healthy Breathing, The Secret To A Balanced Mind

Tibetan Yoga of Movement & Breathing Weekend
October 31 – November 1, 2020
Dzamling Gar

Co-sponsored by Shang Shung School of Tibetan Medicine and Atiyoga Foundation

by Ellen Hoden-Storrie
Author of ‘Nurture Nature & Being Happy’ and Director of Celtic Spiral Healing Center

When I enlisted for the Tibetan Yoga of Movement and Breathing weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who runs a wellness business I’m always intrigued by different forms of medicine and so Tibetan was definitely on my list of things to check out. I availed of the opportunity to turn the experience into a weekend retreat and booked myself into a comfortably spacious apartment in the Tibetan Medical House. Just next door were the rooms in which Dr Irina and Medegma give consultations and massage. That night my creaking set of bones and brain went into a trance – I was so relaxed after the hour’s treatment with Medegma that I fell asleep on the sofa at 8 and slept for ten hours.

The following morning, our workshop kicked off at the civilized time of 9.30. As soon as I arrived, I was made to feel welcome by Alessandra’s warm and wide-open smile. As everyone began talking about yoga mats and cushions alarm bells started going off in my head. It doesn’t make much sense on reflection but my optimistic mind had somehow imagined that the poses would be optional. I love yoga but with my spinal trouble I usually have to flounder about on the floor for a good five minutes in-between poses and so tend to avoid formal instruction. Alessandra put me at ease saying that we would all have chairs beside our mats and could work from these if we liked. But somehow – whether it was the gentle ease with which we began before going into the deeper poses or else the warm nature of both Alessandra and Ilaria – I was clamoring up on my feet and back down on the floor in record time.

Alessandra Policreti (left) and Ilaria Faccioli teaching the Eight Movements and Breathing

Thubten Rabgyi giving meditation instructions

The class was small and well-spaced out – things have to be these days due to Covid – but somehow people gelled and the room was filled with a nice vibe generated by peer encouragement and gentle guidance. The breathwork activity where we breathed into our bellies first then felt the air fill us up to the brim seemed to really stretch out and relax my insides but the magic moment was when we were left to do the breathing exercises in tandem without instruction. It felt as if we were all connecting to each-others energy and flow and this gave a strong sense of synchronicity. It was at this point I realized that my over-quick and unnecessarily busy mind had totally slowed down.

That said, later that afternoon when I understood that we were all to learn a traditional Tibetan dance together my heart started to race. I thought about scuttling for the door but there were no hallways in which to hide. I would have to brave this one out and hope nobody noticed my two left feet. Turns out that, with enough repetition and some clear instructions even my brain was able to catch up a little and I started to understand the concept of joy behind these dances. Whilst I won’t be giving Shakira a run for her money anytime soon, I managed not to fall over and get maybe two – or one – out of every three movements right and so will take that as a win. What was really precious for me in all this was the movement in which everyone turned to the person on their right and bowed – this felt like a beautiful energy exchange connecting us all still further.

The next day, we had the honor of listening to Menpa Wangmo, head of the Tibetan Medical School speak with Ilaria live via Zoom. Her strength and stillness, deep knowledge and intelligent understanding of the connections between health, breath, our minds and emotions were an inspiration and left me hanging on to hear more.

When I returned home to my husband in El Porís, I was surprised to notice a spaciousness in my chest and between my ribs that I’d never consciously experienced. My brain had slowed its pace, my heart was open and I could remember enough of the weekend’s instructions to be able to incorporate the exercises into my morning routine. Sign me up – I’m ready for more.

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