the refined collective

The Refined Collective: Just Breathe

Inhale....exhale...breathe here. Relief stress in life and your workouts by simply breathing.

These are the words I have been hearing every single day in each and every single one of my yoga classes and throughout my Yoga teacher training through Corepower Yoga. As I've mentioned before, I have a love/hate relationship and sometimes still find myself really struggling with my breath. So when one says just breathe, I wonder are they telling me this while I'm in a difficult asana, a different moment in my life, or both? Every notice how they often say in yoga, "What you do on your mat here, take it with you in life.." The greatest lesson I've learned in my short lived yoga practice is how important it is to let go and allow yourself to feel the difficulties and just breathe.

Our minds and bodies are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. What we can achieve if we give ourselves a chance is simply amazing. But do you ever notice that when you're training and that rep is extra heavy or you're in a challenging pose, the one thing your body seems to do is hold onto your breath. It's a defense mechanism our bodies initiate when we feel we're in danger. We brace our entire bodies, tighten up every fiber inside us, and hold on to our breath as if its the last one we'll take. It's as if we our lives are threatened.

Breathing doesn't just affect our physical state, it also controls our emotions more specifically anger and fear. Your breath can engage the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as your rest and digest system. Breathing deeply into your lower abdomen engages the relaxation response and makes you feel more calm, present, and centered. This has a huge effect on your day because when you feel calm internally, everything going on externally feels much less abrasive. You can handle road bumps, deadlines, and anything else that comes your way with a greater sense of ease, intuition, and presence.

During a workout and in life there are two methods of breathing that can help you relief stress and get you through your movements. 

SOFT BELLY BREATH

Practice in bed in the morning or evening with your knees bent. If sitting in a chair, sit upright so you’re able to support your own spine. Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and fingertips below. Allow the belly to expand under your fingertips on the inhale and to contract on the exhale.

Envision an ocean wave: The belly expands on the inhale – the wave rises; the navel contracts on the exhale – the wave returns to the ocean. If you aren’t getting any movement, press your fingertips gently into your belly so you know it’s contracting on the exhale. Release the press on the inhale. As the expansion and contraction become more natural, focus on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern, where the inhale and exhale are equal. Soft belly breathing can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm.

ECCENTRIC/CONCENTRIC BREATHING

Concentric muscle actions (the muscle shortens under load) and eccentric muscle actions (the muscle lengthens under load).  You think of this as lifting, holding and lowering the weight or the best trick I remembered this motion during yoga anatomy class was concentric was for contracting muscles and eccentric was for elongating. 

The basic breathing during exercise is inhale during the lengthening or eccentric portion of your movement or exercise, and exhale during the concentric or contraction phase. To give an example using a bicep curl as the example, inhale to start when your muscles are lengthened and exhale when you curl the weight into your shoulder and contract your bicep. During a squat form it might be a little confusing because the contraction or shortening might look like its in your body, but think about the muscle you are working, the glutes. Inhale as you lower your body down, exhale as you push your body back into standing position.

It's important to understand breath in every area of your life to bring self awareness in to your day to day actions and into your movement during exercise. 

This Post is curated in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and read the other articles on "Just Breathe" today by: The Refined Woman,  Jackie V.Tonyha Kae, and Tutti del Monte, Julien Garman, Nikkia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow

Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say.

The Refined Collective: Love

LOVE. How can a four letter word be so complicated? How does one thing that sounds so simple to understand turn into a complex language that has numerous layers just piled onto one another. Relationships are complicated. No two are the same. 

Just like any thing and everything we’ve placed a label on what the “perfect” love looks like. We’ve created this idea that love is supposed to be happily ever after and forever and always. Movies and media have shown us examples of both good love and bad love. And because we’re so heavily influenced by what we consume, its easy to forget what love means for one’s self. After being married for 9 years and hearing so many different stories about love I’ve learned how to define my own version of love.

In our culture, many of us idealize love. We see it as the cure to solve all of life’s problems. And yes I agree to a certain degree, but we overestimate that this will truly solve it all. 

Love is simply not enough. In order to thrive in a healthy relationship you have to understand that it requires more than just lofty ideals and pure emotion. Love, like your health and fitness goals require a deeper understanding of one’s values, intention, and respect from everyone involved in the relationship. 

You can fall in love with a wide variety of people throughout the course of your life. You can fall in love with people who are good for you and people who are bad for you. You can fall in love in healthy ways and unhealthy ways. You can fall in love when you’re young and when you’re old. Love is not unique. Love is not special. Love is not scarce. - Mark Manson

A healthy relationship requires an understanding of one another’s values and having the mutual respect that your values may be slightly different than the other person’s and may change over time. After all you are two people in the world experiencing life through two different lenses. You’ll gain a different perspective in the world based on these experiences. Of course we always look for someone who can sweep us off our feet, it’s what we all idealize. But you also need to evaluate someone’s intentions, values, and the how the respect and treat themselves and others. 

Love is a wonderful experience. It’s one of the greatest experiences life has to offer. But like any other experience, it can be unhealthy or healthy.

This Post is curated in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and read the other articles on love today by: The Refined Woman,  Jackie V.Tonyha Kae, and Tutti del Monte.

Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say about love.

The Refined Collective: Self Care

Self-care, self-love, self-discovery. These three things have been the theme of my life for the past 4 years and every single time I've learned a thing or two about each area, life seems to throw me another curve ball to teach me another lesson about what these areas mean in my life. 

When I became a mom, I did exactly what most women do when they become a new mom. They pour out all their love and energy into raising a family (as you should). But the one thing that I didn't recognize or value in the first few years, or 9 years of motherhood, was to find ways to fill my own cup so that I can continue serve others especially my family.

You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
— Eleanor Brownn

The life of a working mom began and soon enough I was hustling left and right, backwards, sideways, you name the direction I was there. I was overworked and overwhelmed with the idea of juggling motherhood, work, my passions, my relationships with girlfriends, and my relationship with my husband. I remember feeling spread thin thinking that it was a normal feeling until I started to find myself dealing with anxiety and depression. Things got rough and then I started to focus on my health and it improved. 

In my books, exercise will always be the number one form of self-care, but I also know that for some exercise might be a challenge so here are some self-care practices that I try to do at least once a week in order to refill my cup. 

  1. Journaling. This has been an instrumental piece of of maintaining and improving my mental health and the easiest form of self-care that I can practice whenever I'm feeling lost in the moment. I started to journal regularly this year as another onset of depression hit me just a few weeks ago. If you're unsure what to write about you can start with my favorite thing which is to list down 5 things you are grateful for. 
  2. 10 minutes of mindful breathing and meditation. I used to think that meditation was for yogis and just for yogis. Some days my mind feels like its a super highway, thoughts and ideas just whiz by. The perception I had about meditation was that you had to control those thoughts, until I discovered Headspace. 
  3. A bath and candles...ALONE! This one is very rare in my house to do because typically the bathroom door opens and I have someone saying "Mommy..." before I can roll my eyes to the idea that private moments is no longer a thing in my house. So when I can spend 15-20 minutes alone in a bath to simply relax from my day, unplug from my emails, phone, and studying it becomes pure bliss and the absolute best form of self-care.

A few other things I like do for self-care are: monthly massages, recovery time in the hot tub or sauna, a face mask, and even just laying in bed quietly while listening to music and diffusing essential oils in the air. A self-care practice is vital for your health. It's one that we take for granted these days especially while we're so busy juggling all of life's demands. Make sure to make time for it and remember its called a practice for a reason. You have to make time for it just like you make time for others in life. 

Just like exercise and eating healthy or living balanced, a self-care practice is just as unique as the individual practicing it. Your self-care routine will look different from your girlfriends and what you choose to practice, how you practice, and when you practice is entirely up to you. I hope I was able to provide you some inspiration to build your own. 

This article is written in Collaboration with some of my favorite women! Every 2nd Tuesday of each month we'll be sharing our thoughts on topics that tug on our heart strings, so make sure to check back in March to see what we've got lined up for you.

Check out their thoughts on Self-Care today too:

The Refined Woman // The Refined Collective Self-Care

Lauren Scruggs Kennedy // Self Care

Chelsey Korus // Self Care

Tutti del Monte Photography // Self Care Practices