Square Breathing - A Simple Breathwork Practice

I love breathwork. I mean, I LOVE breathwork.

Meditation is a struggle for me. Sometimes yoga feels like something to accomplish. But breathwork? It just IS. It lets me just BE. And, as someone who has struggled with body acceptance for most of my life, I find my breath (when at rest, anyway) a great place to explore how my body works without the fear of judgement.

If you do a google search, you’ll find that there are a zillion different uses for this type of breathing. Square breathing supposedly helps you calm down when anxious, energizes when low, and centers when over-stimulated.

So it sounds like it is a pretty catch-all type of breath practice. I personally find it useful when someone doesn’t come to a full stop at a four-way stop or when my Herschel cat just won’t stop pawing at me and I don’t know what she wants.

This breath is pretty easy to explain.

  • Four counts in.

  • Four counts pause.

  • Four counts out.

  • Four counts pause.

  • Repeat (but feel free to take breaks and come back to the practice).

Another piece of this practice that I love is that you get to decide how fast or slow you count to four. You get to find a pace that works for you. You get to explore your own breath, and by exploring your breath, you get to know your body just a little bit better. I just love this practice.

And I left the original thumbnail because it made me literally LOL.

Breathwork and meditation are just a few of the things that we teach during Resprout.

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Resprout is a joint project between me and my dear friend Cassie. Over the course of six weeks, we show you how to befriend and enjoy your body through food, movement, and self-reflection. I am so very excited about this project. We don’t officially go on sale until Monday, July 22, but you can get on the waitlist here so you don’t miss any of the excitement that comes your way!


Yoga Resources for Bigger-Bodied People - Part 1

The first yoga book I purchased was in the fall of 2000. I was working the overnight shift at an emergency shelter for teenagers. My co-worker and friend Andi brought Yoga for Dummies to work one night. And I was hooked. We spent the time between bed checks and grocery lists trying to figure out what in the world our bodies were supposed to be doing in these weird shapes. At the time, that was about the only book I could find locally about yoga. So it was what I used. It was a great way to spend a summer.

These days, I seem to have quite the opposite problem. There are SO MANY books about yoga and I want them ALL. In the past several years, multiple resources have been created for people like me - who I like to call the atypical yoga practitioner. I am not thin or blonde or young. I don’t spend my time in hand stands or deep splits. Nope. None of the above. I’m over 40. I’m fat. I like my yoga practice to get me deeper into loving my body. And there are a lot of books out there for people like me (and maybe you!).

I have a lot of yoga books. Lots. Some resources are from familiar faces around the fat yoga sphere. These books cover yoga poses and philosophy, personal yoga experience, and yoga and body image issues. Some are not-as-popular books that I found deep on the internet that gave me a fresh appreciation for the work that has been done a little more behind-the-scenes to support full-bodied yoga students. Each of the resources I’m going to discuss have their place on your shelf. You may want to reach for different things based on what you are looking to learn or needing in your practice.

This post will discuss the usual suspects. In a few weeks, I’ll tell you about some deep cuts I found.

This is not a definitive collection. These are simply the resources I have in my personal collection. (That might embarrass me just a little. Do I have a book problem? Maybe. But we won’t talk about that today.)

Also, please note that these are Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Of course, we’ll start with Curvy Yoga by Anna Guest-Jelly. She is my teacher, after all. I still get excited when I see this book in bookstores (and I do often). If I am in an independent bookstore, I often make a point to chase down a bookseller and let them know how happy I am to see such an important book on the shelf. Anyway, the book.

Anna begins the book by telling her personal story with yoga, diet culture, and body acceptance. She sprinkles yoga philosophy, affirmations, breath work, and self inquiry practices into her story in a way that makes my own self-curiosity seem logical and natural. The final 60 pages of the book teach how to get into yoga poses in ways that are body curious and body aware. Instructions on how to use props are also included with most poses. I just really enjoy seeing my teacher and friend Anna.

Curvy Yoga is a great place to start. The book is a great balance of storytelling, philosophy overview, instruction, and photos of a curvy body in each yoga pose. I may be showing just a little bit of favoritism, but I love this book.

Y’all. I have had a huge yoga crush on Jessamyn Stanley for a very long time. Strong, free, fierce. She lives her truth in a way that blows me away on a regular basis. I remember counting down the days until her book was released and then stalking the delivery truck. I was incredibly excited for this book.

And I was not disappointed.

Where Anna’s voice is something like, “you are worthy of taking up space,” Jessamyn’s voice is more like, “TAKE WHAT IS YOURS.” She tells her story while incorporating yoga FAQs she receives. She talks openly about what to expect in a yoga class and how important it is to commit to being there. Jessamyn presents a variety of bodies in her pose instructions and descriptions. She also includes a few flows based on what you need to feel or learn.

I also really love this book. Jessamyn reminds me that I have power. That I am a badass. I will give a language alert (which I obviously don’t mind). It is worth noting, however, that Jessamyn doesn’t really discuss props or teach how to use them in the poses. Just be aware you may need to seek out other resources for props and modifications.

Dianne Bondy, friends. She is a FORCE. Several years ago, I completed the Yoga For All training that she leads with Amber Karnes and was just smitten. Her work in accessibility is empowering and inspiring. This book was another that caused me to stalk the delivery truck. The cover alone is exciting. The variety of body types and props is a wonderful hint toward what is inside.

This book is 99% informational and 1% storytelling. It is a great resource for you if you want no fluff and just poses. Dianne and friends review and instruct just about every yoga pose with multiple variations for each. I love that Dianne teaches and writes in a way that reminds us that there is no “full expression” of a pose. No one’s pose is better than anyone else’s. There are a few poses and variations that I would suggest having a teacher or at least a friend with you (like shoulderstand in chairs), but her knowledge of and passion for accessibility just shines.

She also includes several ideas for yoga flows, listing just pose names and page numbers.

I have followed Val Sagun for years on social media. I was so excited about her book deal and this book doesn’t disappoint. Her flexibility is amazing to me and I enjoy how comfortable she is in her body. Her book begins with a very wide intro of yoga topics. She discusses chanting, dynamic movements, and mental health.

She also walks through different ways to practice yoga - at home, in studio. on the internet - and how to get prepared for different types of practices. The last 2/3 of the book is a 30-Day yoga challenge where Val shows a pose or short flow for each day. She includes variations and uses some props. What I really love is how she includes twists and side bends in some of the poses to help explore body experience and awareness. She shows a variety of shapes to stop and explore different versions of the shape. I dig it.

I’ll be back in a few weeks to tell you about a few deep cuts that I found and adore. But just in case you know of something I don’t, what have I missed? What other bigger-bodied resources deserve a flip-through?

repetitions and reflections

Do I see because I'm looking? or am I looking because I see?

I feel like that line is a little dramatic. But it gets my point across.

In the fall, I had a lovely snack dinner and nature date with my lovely friend Becks. As we sat beside an amazing waterfall and ate the best curry hummus, we talked about signs and coincidences. Making an offer and receiving exactly the amount of investments I needed. (thank you, thank you, thank you.) Random animal encounters foreshadowing people we will meet.

And I am seeing repetition and coincidences play out again and again in my life. Just in the last few days.

The book Becks gave me after my massage was the basis for the teaching in Week 1 of C-School.

Both (completely unrelated) courses I am taking have used discussions of radio stations as framework for how we can understand our brains.

I talked about compassion vs. empathy on Instagram and then it comes up in a course I'm working through.

Oh! And after spending a weekend completely immersed in chakra work, it comes up in one of the courses too.

So Chakras, Tarot, Consciousness. And they are ALL intersecting in ways that are amazing. And that I never would have predicted.

I'm so curious what will continue to come up if I just open my eyes. If I look for connections. What is waiting for just to see and connect?

What do you see in your life if you REALLY look? I’d love to know.

you don't have to be in the ditch.

The other day, Nathan and I were talking about what we are learning. I had just finished C-School with Jess Lively. Nathan finished Michael Pollen’s new book. So, for a while, we shared bits and pieces of information and I totally geeked out at how it all fit together. (And Pollen’s book is now third in my to-be-read stack.)

One of the things Nathan talked about was how the brain creates ridges in our patterns of thought. And, because it isn’t possible for us to actually take in all the stimulation we encounter, we default to these ridges. We take in the information that supports these ridges and we don’t absorb the information that doesn’t fit into these patterns. I immediately thought about the ridges that cars create driving in highway lanes over and over and over. The water pools there because there are indentions and dips.

I’ve been thinking about how this relates to my limiting beliefs and my patterns of destructive thinking. I have identified two major beliefs that keep me small.

There is nothing special about me.

I’m going to screw this up so why even try.

I have been trying to use affirmations to come at these, but it isn’t working for me. Because the discussion feels like I’m trying to reason with a toddler.

I was laying in bed this morning, trying to go back to sleep after work stress woke me up about an hour before my alarm. You need to see Patient X and send that appeal. You’re going to screw it up. Krissie. Stop. You haven’t ever screwed this up before. You’ve done a few and they have been fine. This is completely in your competence. I’d feel better for a few seconds, but then the panic would come up again.

Out of my half-sleep haze came this voice that said GET OUT OF THE DITCH.

I could see myself. Walking along the ditch of doubt and fear. It wasn’t deep, but it was rocky and I wasn’t wearing shoes. Just beside me - maybe shoulder level - was lush, soft grass. The ridge. I didn’t climb out. I pictured it like a video game where I was plucked out of the ditch and placed in the grass slightly above. And I kept walking.

Then another situation came to mind. An email I sent that could have been read a different way. She is going to think I’m incompetent. She’s a bully and she’s going to call and yell at me tomorrow. No, Krissie. You know she read the email yesterday and didn’t respond. You are FINE. Again with the inner argument. And again GET OUT OF THE DITCH.

And BOOP. There I was. Walking along in the grass.

Then it got a little fun. I’d intentionally bring up a situation. Feel the anxiety and BOOP pluck myself out of the ditch and onto the soft grass but without the discussion. I did it a few times so that I even have a sound effect in my head to go along with it.

Before I knew it, I was walking along a lush green countryside. I could see the ocean and the rocky shore below me at a safe distance away. Kinda like how I imagine Ireland. I’m sure the ditch was there somewhere, but I wasn’t in it. I was in the grass.

I am not sure if this will continue to resonate with me when I’m not half-asleep, but I’m going to try and see what happens.

Out of the rocky ditch. Onto the lush ridge. Not with argument, but with a BOOP.