Habits & Health episode 56 with Robin Rothenberg, a Certified Yoga Therapist, Buteyko Educator, and author of the superb book, “Restoring Prana: A Therapeutic Guide to Pranayama and Healing Through the Breath”.
Robin has been assisting people in transforming health habits using the teachings and tools of yoga for over 35 years. She offers tele-yoga-therapy across the globe and is Program Director of an IAYT Accredited Yoga Therapy Training Program. With the pandemic, Robin’s focus has developed to support people with Long COVID in managing symptoms and regaining their energy.
We discuss yoga, breathing, origins of yoga and how in recent times so many yoga instructors around the world have wrongly focused on the stretching elements of yoga rather than its true essence of breathing.
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This video is related to an older episode featuring Tara Bianca
Tony Winyard 0:00
Habits & health episode 56.
Welcome to the habits and health podcast, where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. Brought to you by an educator and coach for anyone who wants to create a healthier life. Here's your host, Tony Winyard.
Tony Winyard 0:19
Welcome to another edition of the podcast where we give you ideas to improve your health and create better habits. My guest today, Robin Rothenberg. She's a certified yoga therapist, a Buteyko educator, and author of The Great Book "Restoring prana, a therapeutic guide to pranayama and healing through the breath". Robin's done a lot of research into breathing and especially the ancient traditions of yoga breathing. And we discussed some of what she found in that research, and how it applies to many yoga instructors today around the world. And she has some interesting things to say about that. So that's coming up in this episode with Robin. If you do know anyone who would get some value from this episode, especially if you know any yoga instructors, they may be quite surprised by some of the things that Robin reveals about the best way to breathe when doing yoga. So I hope you enjoy this week's show. habits and health. My guest today is Robin Rothenburg. How are you Robin?
Robin Rothenberg 1:28
I'm doing great. Great to be here, Tony.
Tony Winyard 1:31
Hey, it's great to see you. I know you're in Seattle.
Robin Rothenberg 1:34
I am indeed.
Tony Winyard 1:36
Is that where your from?
Robin Rothenberg 1:38
I pretty much I mean, I wasn't born here, but I've lived here most of my life. And you know, it's gorgeous today. It's gorgeous. It's actually Sunny. It's a little cold, but it's sunny out. So like the UK you know when it doesn't rain is a good day.
Tony Winyard 1:54
It's not many of those days. Yeah. We're actually today we've got a beautiful day. So yeah, I can't complain. So we were here today mostly because I read your amazing book a couple of years ago Restoring Prana so for the listeners who maybe aren't familiar with your name, give them some some background about how that came about and what happened before that.
Robin Rothenberg 2:18
Okay, so first of all, I have a 35 year history of deep steady practice and, and training in yoga and yoga therapy. So at this point, I I'm very well versed in the European yoga philosophy as well as in adapting multiple tools of yoga, Asana, breathing, Mantra, Mudra, meditation, restorative practices, to support people with chronic health conditions, including, you know, mental health, like emotional imbalance. And I spent the last 15 years training yoga teachers to become yoga therapists. So that's a whole other level my programmes 1000 hours above a basic 200 hour teacher training, right. So my, my world really revolves around yoga and health and healing and tools that can help people to feel better and what got me going on that path of yoga as opposed to maybe the yoga fitness path is because I had a lot of chronic health issues myself as a, as an as a kid. And even into early adulthood, when I started practising yoga, I started feeling better. And then that caused me to look at other habits that I have, like my dietary habits and my relationship habits and my physical activity habits and all kinds of things, you know, changing those up, and I realised that I had a lot of power and say over how whether I felt good, or whether I felt bad. And that was to me the the ticket to freedom because as a kid, I felt like I didn't understand why everybody else seemed to be fine and be able to do all these things and never get tired and I was always tired. And, and easily, you know, getting sick and that kind of thing. So So yoga was it wasn't the whole story, but it was definitely the foundation for a new story, where I began exploring other avenues to support myself in health and well being so so then fast track, all that was going great, until there was a sort of series of you could say a perfect storm of things that coalesced with some personal stressors in my life with health issues. I have people in my family and new grandchild and so more responsibility for me in terms of caretaking And then my programmes really grew to where I was doing an excessive amount of talking and teaching for hours. On end days at a time, I would do these 10 day trainings where I would talk all day long. And I started going backwards in my health, I started having a real real resurgence of the fatigue, and the coughing, and some other you know, and just more respiratory issues coming back, reminiscent of my childhood, I couldn't figure out the timeline, why that was happening. That led me through a series of things to find Patrick McEwen, and started to work with you take a breathing, which completely transformed my life and my understanding of breathing. And then that, of course, stirred the pot of yoga, because I've been teaching pranayama and teaching pranayama for various conditions for a long time. And what I've learned one of the things, I learned many things from Patrick, one of the most
difficult things I learned was that I didn't know anything about the respiratory system or breath. And I'd been running around, claiming I was a breath expert. So I had to do a lot of you know, like, you know, cohosts around that. But but when I was with Patrick and I was learning all this stuff about how the respiratory system works, and what functional breathing really is, and the problems associated with big breathing, and getting balanced between oxygen and co2, and all of those things. I thought, okay, as soon as I get my head wrapped around this, and I can actually speak it in a coherent way. I have to write a book, to inform my colleagues and my peers in the world of yoga, so that we wake up and really understand what it is we're doing, because we don't really know what we're doing. Sorry, all of you who are yoga teachers listening, but really, like, check it out. What don't you know, about the respiratory system, I guarantee you unless you have been given that information, if all you've learned are pranayama techniques, you're missing a big part of the story. So. So that's why I wrote the book on what happened between working with Patrick and writing the book, though, was that I went back to the yoga texts to the original, you know, like the Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. And a variety of other texts that won't get into that really focused on pranayama breathing techniques, and what it says about breathing, and what I came to find there is that no 1000s of years before Dr. mutato came on the scene and suggested that people might in fact be breathing too much, and that this could impact their health. The Yogi's, were recommending that people learn how to stop breathing, you know how to how to control their breath, to such a way that they're able to suspend their breath for longer and longer periods of time. And it's clear, if you go and you study the texts, that they were all about the comeback as the breath holds, or the breath suspensions, not about increasing their inhale and exhale, and doing all of that kind of breathing. That was net, there's nothing in the texts that indicate that so I was like, okay, so that was validation. Because I did have a moment of sort of identity yoga crisis, like how did the yogi's get it so wrong? When I they, I've been so inspired and supported by these teachings for, you know, three decades and plus, and like, how could this be so wrong, and then coming back to find out that, actually the original, you know, authors of those texts, seriously understood respiratory physiology, in an innate way, right, through their own observation that by breathing less, they can control their mind by breathing less, they could control their health, they could control their bodily functions, they, there were so many things that they could regulate, by controlling their breath and in the direction of last, and then somehow something got lost in translation to where now we have people all over yoga studios being being instructed to big breathe and do those big exhalations through the mouth because it increases oxygenation, which could not be a bigger lie. Than you know, I mean, you know, it's just not true. But it's it's everywhere. It's pervasive in the world of exercise, too. But I focus very much on the love of yoga.
Tony Winyard 9:38
And so I guess a lot of the yoga, is it yoga instructors that are coming to you?
Robin Rothenberg 9:47
to different to different populations that I serve one. I work directly as a yoga therapist. Now virtually so I work with people from all over the world with chronic health conditions, not just breathing conditions, but I do a combination of yoga therapy and, and referee training. So depending on what people have with it, what's going on for them and what they need some kind of combo. So I do that. And then I also run trainings and a full on therapist training for yoga teachers, as well as continuing education programmes for yoga teachers who want to become more skilled in these various areas of working with people with health issues.
Tony Winyard 10:30
So when they initially come to you, I'm wondering, the first time that they find out that they've been doing the breathing wrong for for however long they've been doing it, I must be very difficult for them to take in.
Robin Rothenberg 10:44
Yeah, it doesn't usually go over too well. So I learned the hard way. I was presenting at the International Association of yoga therapists. So these are yoga therapists. So these are people like myself, who have gone on and done extensive education beyond their basic yoga teacher training, right? And has studied a lot more anatomy physiology, psychology, I or VEDA, you know, like that they really entrenched themselves in learning. And so then I got up there, and I basically said, you know, I didn't, I didn't actually say you're doing it all wrong. But I did say, This is what I learned. And I've learned that, you know, I, there were a lot of things, there were a lot of gaps in my knowledge. And, and unfortunately, I was passing along that information to my students sort of, you know, carrying on the lineage of ignorance. Yeah. So people were fascinated, it was basic, it was the big buzz of the conference that year, I had people who were really pissed off. And just blew me off. And you know, there's no way that's not what my guru says, whatever. Who does she think she is? I had people who were intrigued, certainly. And were like, I want to know more. And, and then, you know, I had people who said, well, great, so you said, you know, hear you put it out there and said, We're doing it all wrong. And you know, I had slides, I had a lot of science that was backing it up, and but you didn't tell us what to do? Like, so there was that frustration, like you didn't teach us the right way to breathe? You just told us what we were doing is wrong. And then, I mean, I could only do so much. I had like 45 minutes to give a presentation. Right? It was like, What could I do? I was just trying to like plant a seed. And then I had people who came up to me to the, throughout the conference, pulled me aside, yoga therapists with tears in their eyes saying, I think this is true for I think what happened to you with your health declining? I think this is the truth for me too. And they were embarrassed and ashamed. I understand that. And like, you know, kind of like, a, you know, like a little anonymous club. Like, don't let anybody know. But I think I have a problem with my breathing too. And I think I'm my I think my pranayama practice is making it worse, too. And I don't know what to do about it. And I don't know how to talk about it. Right. So it was an interesting response. But yes, I do. I get pushback. When I wrote the book. You've read it. So you know how many citations are in it, I gave up counting. I never I mean, as a kid, all I wanted to do was write fiction. When I was in the middle of writing that book, I'm thinking, What the heck, why am i How is it that I'm writing a textbook, like, really, but I did that, because I wanted it to come across as science because it is based in science. I mean, I quoted the Vedic sciences, the yoga texts that I referenced, right. And then I also pulled up study after study after study coming from the world of respiratory physiology, not just beautiful, but like, you know, looking at this issue, and, and validating that this is a real thing. This isn't my opinion. It's not like I just decided, Hey, I know I'm just gonna turn the world of yoga on its head and just know create this breath revolution because I think it would be fun. And it's because it's necessary for our health. And I really do hold such incredible respect for the yoga teachings and the wisdom that is inherent in yoga in terms of transforming patterns and helping us to become better with our own self efficacy and being change agents for ourselves. And, and pranayama breathing is like central to all of that. So we need to get it I just want us to get our facts straight, right, then we can do then we, you know, go out go forth and conquer but like, you know, let's just make sure that what we're what we're sharing is, is truth and actually a benefit to people not just because My teacher said so
Tony Winyard 15:02
if we've got any yoga teachers listening, who now may be wondering, well, what is the proper way to breathe then? So what would you what would you tell any yoga teachers listening? What is it that maybe could be changed?
Robin Rothenberg 15:17
I could talk about it, but you know, practice as you know, makes a bigger impression. How about if I just do like a little short breathing practice for you, listeners? Is that okay? You
Tony Winyard 15:30
know, this is audio only. There's no video when it when it's published. Okay, that's fine. That's fine. I can do it audio. Okay, does that that work? That sounds good. Yeah.
Robin Rothenberg 15:41
Okay. All right. So let's have you set yourself up straight and tall. Plant your feet on the floor. And so that you've got a good extension in your spine, and bring one hand onto your chest and one hand onto your lower ribcage. So you can feel what's happening with the breath. So as you're doing this tune into the felt sense of first and foremost, where you feel and how you feel movement happening with your breathing. So notice, if you feel more movement under your upper hand or under your lower hand, or a combination of the two, notice if the breath moves more up, down, or laterally out in, or if it changes with the breath cycles. And I'm going to invite you to put more attention for the moment on your exhalation breath. And as you exhale, imagine that you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans and you're hugging your abdominals inward. And with that, drawing your lower ribcage inward, almost like you're squeezing the exhalation, breath out of the body from the bottom to the top. And then with your in breath, instead of trying to get the breath in. Just relax the abdominals and relax the ribs. Just let it go so that it opens back out again. And just notice your diaphragm smart, amazing, wonderful muscle organ that it is it will breathe you. Right. So focus on the exhale and the hugging inward. With the exhalation, breath abdominally driven and then relax the abdominals and allow the diaphragm to do its its thing. So starting there with just getting you into more of an abdominal diaphragmatic rhythm. And then with that, again, lips are sealed. So all of this is nasal breathing. If you take one finger, just place it underneath your nose, like your index finger place in under your notes and just get the felt sense of how much breadth you feel brushing along your finger. And let's just have you scale it back 10%. So it just feels a little less or a little lighter. And that might still feel pretty easy. So just like scale it back another 5% Go to this soft edge where it feels like, Oh, this is a little challenging. And, and and and it's sustainable. Like you can stay there with this just lighter, lesser gentle breath in gentle breath out through the nose, low, slow, and light. And then you want to just be able to sustain that for four or five, six minutes, 10 minutes at a time. And just breathe that way and train yourself for short periods of time throughout the day to be able to drop into that breathing. And notice how that contrasts to your bigger, more excited breaths when you're all hyped up. And what I say is like your breathing a tornado through your body as opposed to this gentle breeze and become more able to sustain a gentle breeze level of breath throughout your day. Regardless of what you're doing, and even train yourself in exercise to be able to breathe nice and light not as light, perhaps as when you're just sitting like this, and relaxing or resting. But definitely not huffing and puffing and allowing yourself to go into that chain reaction of bigger movement and bigger breathing.
Tony Winyard 19:18
And by adjusting how not only how they themselves breathe, but when they're actually teaching people in their classes. What kind of benefits can they expect to see for themselves and for those students?
Robin Rothenberg 19:30
Yeah, so as a yoga teacher, one of the hazards of our occupation is talking and talking while moving and talking usually in an animated voice as we're projecting and we're wanting to like, you know, share and even even when we're taking people into relaxation, and we're monitoring your voice and talking very softly that also takes a tremendous amount of energy. So one of The things that I noticed remember I said that I was doing a lot of caretaking with my granddaughter, I was singing songs to her and rocking her and queueing with her. For hours at a time, I was doing these long trainings where I was bla bla bla bla bla talking incessantly for hours, right, and I was ending up exhausted. So yoga teachers if you retrain yourself to breathe, and then also learn how to pace your speech. So you're not over breathing when you speak. And still work that's that's a work in progress probably will be for me the rest of my life. Because I'm an animated speaker, you'll find I think that your throat doesn't get as dry, you don't tend to get tightness in the back of the throat, you'll feel less exhausted and you're at the end of your classes. You'll sleep better. You'll your brain will function better like literally get more oxygen to your brain when you work like this. When you breathe like this. If you train yourself in physical movement, like your asana practice, or your exercises to breathe lighter, you'll find that your endurance goes up, your aerobic capacity goes up, it's actually pretty remarkable. And you won't get a sore afterwards, you can do more like weight trading and things like that and not end up with as much lactic acid buildup. And there's a lot of chemistry behind this. We don't need to get into that. But but there's a there's all upsides, the sleep is huge. If you tend towards sleep, insomnia issues, or snoring, sleep apnea. Learning to breathe like this can make a huge difference in terms of the quality of your sleep and waking up rested and refreshed in the morning. So yeah, and I'll just throw this out there too. In the first few months of my doing the breath retraining, without changing anything else before even trying to change anything else. I lost 15 pounds. And this is not that unusual, because my metabolism changed so dramatically. And I was I didn't it wasn't like I was trying to eat less or trying to diet I just found just as with the breath, like I was satiated with less, that I felt satiated more easily with food as well. And I had more energy, I needed less sleep, less food quality of sleep improved. The need for more sleep because I was super exhausted. When I started this whole process, I was really tired all the time, felt like I could never get enough, right? I was grasping for energy. But increasing the oxygenation in my body by working with the efficiency of my breathing system by breathing less, had a tremendous upswing in my energy levels. And so I just didn't need as much certainly didn't need the carbs was not praising the carbs like I was and was not needing the sleep like I happen.
Tony Winyard 23:10
When you start the book off with you talk about a number of myths in the yoga world. Can you recall any any of them? Or maybe you can recall all of them?
Robin Rothenberg 23:23
Don't test me on that. But so yeah, so a couple of the big ones is that the more we breathe, the healthier we are. And I liken this to food, you know, even even kale, right? We can all agree that kale is a very healthy food. But you know too much kale is probably not so good for your system. Even even good food in too much quantity is a burden to the system, it makes it harder for the digestive system to work. And that has an impact on all the other systems because they're they're not independent, they're interdependent. So what happens in one, if one stressed out, the others have to compensate in some way. So there's actually an optimum amount of breath that we should be ought to be breathing through the course of our day. And breathing more than that, actually also is a burden to the system and has a cascade of competent compensatory reactions in our body that create can create ill health, you know, can can throw throw our health off. So that's one breath myth. Another is that oxygen, you know is the good guy and co2 is the bad guy. And so we should you know, especially in the world of yoga, you know, there's this, you know, exhale, you know, clear all the air from your lungs, which is another breath myth, because that's not actually possible. Thank God, you know, there's always a residual reserve level of air in our lungs. And that's a good thing. We don't want to could we ever completely I mean, when we die, that's when that happens. Otherwise, we always have some in there. But that co2 is not like this horrible toxic thing that we need to get rid of. And in fact, we cannot utilise the oxygen that we take in. Unless we have sufficient levels of co2 in our body. co2 is actually critically important for balancing our health, our pH and a variety of other things. So there's a right amount. And that when we breathe a lot, we don't get more oxygen in another breath myth. But what we do is we off gas more co2 out, which means, again, we are less able to utilise the oxygen that we've taken in, which will leave us feeling breathless and lack of energy. And so then the idea that gets perpetuated is I just need to breathe more, if I could only get more oxygen in front loaded, then I would feel better. And that is just completely like, there's no truth to that at all. And the only way to turn that tide around is to quiet the breath, slow it down, right? Make it lighter reserve conserve that co2 So that as we take oxygen in our tissues are able to actually absorb it and and and then we can feel oxygenated. Now we have that sense of energy and our ATP is being produced well in ourselves and all of that. So those are those are some of the big ones.
Tony Winyard 26:39
I mean, obviously I'm gonna suggest anyone listening to this, especially if you're into yoga, you should definitely get the book, it's a must have, especially if you're instructing yoga, it's a definite book you should have.
Robin Rothenberg 26:56
But can I just say that with that, that I do have a whole year long restore your prana training for yoga teachers who want to become adept at teaching pranayama in with this science behind them, the Vedic Science and the Western science, and it's all online. So that it's it's created in a way that I have people from all over the world I people in the UK and Belgium, in Australia, in Hong Kong, you know, as well as in the States and Canada, who are taking this course. So yeah, consider that as well.
We hope you're enjoying this episode of the habits and health podcast where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. If you're looking for deep support to create the health and life you want, we invite you to consider one on one coaching sessions with Tony. coaching sessions give you personalised guidance to fit your unique goals and life situation. Only a limited number of spots are available. But you can easily get started by booking a free introductory call at Tony winyard.com. Now back to the show.
Tony Winyard 28:03
And you mentioned about the the conference you spoke at a few years ago. And when you initially presented and there was, different reactions. And I'm wondering, the people who reacted negatively and didn't accept it and were very; that's a load of rubbish or, whatever it was they said, and that is kind of understandable that some people would react like that immediately. But I wonder if some of those people then went away, maybe reflected or maybe sort of researched more, did any of those people come back to you and realise that they were wrong?
Robin Rothenberg 28:41
Yeah, I mean, it's been, you know, since then I've written the book since then, James Nestor came out with his book, Patrick's book oxygen and managed as a result of James's books has gotten more play my book, you know, all three of us. Our books are playing off of each other and informing each other. So I get people, often who will find me from started with James nesters books, then then went to Patrick's book, and then found me, right, because they're Yoga people. So yeah, so I have had people who come full circle and like, I didn't get it then but I get it now. So there's been there's more certainly more information. It's not as complete. I mean, it's still certainly out of the box for a lot of people and I you know, if you're listening and hearing this, and this feels like the very first time you've heard anything like this, I understand that still, that's still very much a part of our world. And there's many more people who have had some exposure to this idea of low level chronic hyperventilation or the problems with mouth breathing, you know, versus nose breathing and things like that. So, there has been definitely some shift and and I've been pleased to see how the Well the book has done and and how You know, I've gotten a lot of feedback from people from yoga teachers around the globe, saying that it has really transformed their practice, and their understanding and their teaching, which is really, you know, I just wanted to share this information, it felt really vital. It's not about me, it's about what we're offering to our students and making sure that we're offering optimum tools that are really going to be a benefit and not causing harm.
Tony Winyard 30:27
Hmm. And have you had any teachers of other methodologies been in contact like such as Pilates teachers? And maybe teachers of other therapies?
Robin Rothenberg 30:42
Yeah, yeah. The PTS, I've had PTS working with me. For sure, and an OT is some Pilates, an exercise people, but they're more likely to go towards oxygen advantage, right? Exercise fitness people on so because I'm, I really try and stay in my home base of yoga, right. And the language of restoring prana is really offered in the language of of yoga, right, there's a lot of yoga philosophy and teachings in it, because that's how that's the lens, I see the world through, and a disco, you know, full on discussion of pranayama and pranayama, in the context of this western understanding of, of respiratory physiology and health, so that I tend to get, you know, most of the people are people who are interested in invested in yoga, teach yoga, and want to become more skilled at that.
Tony Winyard 31:46
And you've been doing some work with people who've been suffering from long COVID as well.
Robin Rothenberg 31:51
Yeah, so because of all of this, right, this background when COVID happened, and then within within a month, I had a student, a client, who had long COVID. I mean, who shoots she, it was before it was even known as long COVID. But she had had an acute case of COVID seem to get better, and then ended up with this kind of malaise. And she was a yoga therapist. And so she was reaching out to me because she had some exposure prior to Patrick. And so then, you know, she saw this, we'd like, oh, there's this yoga therapist who's done this breathwork as well. And we started working together. And through her I became aware of and then through the next few months, May June, they're starting to become these, you know, these reports started coming out about long COVID and long haul or syndrome. And I was looking at that going, well, let's see people are in this state of acute respiratory distress. They're coughing, their lungs are right like they, some of them are on ventilators. And their blood gases have to be all wonky. And even if they were functional breathers before after this, for sure, they're going to be dysfunctional readers, right? They're going to have disordered breathing patterns. And if nothing else, it's really important that yoga teachers don't have this idea. I have this image of yoga teachers with all good intent saying, Oh, well, you just need to purify you need to clear out all that toxicity in your system. So let's do Chapala Battier. bustering get right that fast, you know, hyperventilate, Tory breathing. And I was just like, oh my god disaster for these people with post exertional malaise and low co2 levels. But like all these things, I'm just like, oh, so I started talking about and I actually created a presentation for global yoga therapy today and had, you know, a lot of people who tuned into that. But I couldn't get a lot of traction out there in the world at that point. This was in 2020. This is in summer of 2020. I was like looking ahead going, there's going to be like people are worried about how do we stop people from getting sick in the first place or dying? There are a lot of people looking at that. And I'm thinking, what are we going to do about these 1000s Millions, potentially people on the back end? Who never get better? What are we doing for them, and at that point, nobody was very interested. I'm now here 2022. I have been I've just did a whole nine hour course for yoga therapist for IOI T, working with a client with long COVID over the course of four sessions and demonstrating in action how using these breathing techniques can make a tremendous amount of difference tonight and day between first session and the ending session for this woman I'm involved in. So part of that was being in the long COVID task force. iytc in developing this programme, I did a group of classes for people with long COVID through give back yoga and I Whitey, together, that was a four, four series course that was attended by people around the globe. And that's still accessible, anybody can go to good back yoga website and download that. And then I'm involved now in a UK study, looking at developing protocol, a protocol for people with long COVID. And addressing their concerns. And I'm, you know, I've seen a number of clients with that, including a number of my yoga therapy colleagues who have contracted COVID, and then long COVID. And working with them. So it's, it's an area that has become a major focus. And in March, I have a two day eight hour training, specifically for yoga teachers and yoga therapist who want to have a better understanding of the tools, a better understanding of the science, so that they can work with people with long COVID with a little bit more intelligence and knowledge and skill.
Tony Winyard 36:11
Who would you say yoga therapy is aimed at?
Robin Rothenberg 36:17
Well, so because yoga with yoga, we're working with the multi dimensional human being, man, it's always like that, where there's never somebody with back pain that doesn't also have a life, right? And perhaps have relationship issues and maybe some depression or anxiety and or some GERD, you know, or, you know, migraine headaches. So we're always working on, you know, on all levels. Which means that, you know, sometimes people think yoga therapy is like PT, yoga style, but it's not. Because muscle, the musculoskeletal system is just one of the systems we work with, I work a lot with people with MS and Parkinson's and neurological conditions, anxiety, depression, like I said, all kinds of chronic health concerns, autoimmune conditions happens to be one of my areas of expertise, I have colleagues who really focus on cancer, or on, you know, on digestive issues, or, you know, other cardiac issues. So, it can be, it can be fine tuned, because the tools of yoga for a human being, we're always addressing me human beings. So the question is what's happening? For this human being in front of us? Where is the source of their suffering? And how can I use the philosophy, the mind training of yoga, the understanding and wisdom of life, which has everything to do with habits, and becoming more aware of our habits, and then fine tune the tools of yoga movement, and breathing and meditation and mantras using sound and vibration, you know, deep resting techniques, things like that, to support this person in their healing, and helping them to come back to a sense of equilibrium within themselves.
Tony Winyard 38:22
So it sounds like it's a much more personalised rather than just typical yoga classes. It's a it's kind of more one on one rather than a group session.
Robin Rothenberg 38:31
Yeah, it's, it's either one on one, or it's a group session that's tailored to a specific demographic, like yoga therapy for people with low back conditions. And then it's focused educationally around that, or yoga therapy for people with, you know, to addressing chronic, you know, anxiety or insomnia or something like that. So it's very specific. Lee that two that way. And then even with within the world of yoga therapy, we also require individual intake, even within a group class so that if I have five people in my therapeutic class, I also have an understanding that not everybody's the same, even if it's a class for people with MS. You know, there's a range of symptoms and degrees of severity that people can have with them. So I need to understand that and I also need to understand that in addition to having ms, they also have a life and they also have other issues going on. So I need to know all of that. So that I'm able even within the group context to individually and adapt and say, okay, Tony, for you, let's have you do this this way. Or, you know, Sarah, for you. Instead of doing this, let's have you do this other thing that, you know, works better for you so that there's still customization happening within the group. But that takes a lot of education. That's why there's 800 plus hours required on top of the teacher training to become a yoga therapist.
Tony Winyard 40:01
So typically those 800 hours how long? I mean, it's a bit like, how long is a piece of string? But how long is it on average taking people to complete that?
Robin Rothenberg 40:10
Well, the International Association of yoga therapists requires that the programmes be no less than two years long. And the reason is that there's an understanding that learning takes time. It's not like a month long intensive. And you know, you get everything jammed in, in your head. And then like, you know, half of it falls out, but that it's titrated. So that you're really there's a time time given for the actual learning to happen. My programme is closer to three and a half years, because it's over 1000 hours. And that's after people have even as much as 500 hours I've had, I've had yoga teachers who've been teaching for 20 years, and have had over, you know, 1000 hours of teacher training, calm, and they still have to start with me at the beginning of my programme, there's no transferring. And because there's so many points of difference between my orientation with yoga therapy, then typical teacher training programme that I find, I tried to do transfers and it just didn't work. There were gaps like in this breathing piece. And then some of the way that I work with anatomy and physiology is it just the anatomy and the approach to Austin is quite different than a lot of people have been trained in. So I just find it's easier to have people start from the beginning. But other programmes do. I mean, there's, if you're interested in yoga therapy, I recommend you go to the International Association of yoga therapies website, it's dot org, and look at look at what it takes to become the standards and competencies required for a yoga therapist. And then there's a list of training schools, there's I think, close to 70. Now internationally, that have been accredited through it, and start to look through and see, you know, what appeals to you in which which kinds of programmes there's a wide swath, it's not like everybody's programme looks like mine. Everybody's programme looks like their own programme, within but we all have to meet the standards and competencies.
Tony Winyard 42:11
And do those standards include the breathing?
Robin Rothenberg 42:17
The standards and competencies include training and pranayama. But as we know, and as I've just, you know, articulated, that doesn't necessarily require that people are being taught good respiratory physiology and functional breathing. So yeah, that's pretty unique to my programme, also, because of my restore your prana training programme. I have programme directors from other programme other schools who are coming to me to learn that piece, so that they can then take that piece into their programme. And be be sure that they are qualified and able to teach their students properly. So one of the benefits of doing that restoring your prana training is that then you're certified to teach pranayama in this way, which, you know, I'm hoping gets traction over time, and then becomes the new, you know, just the way that pranayama is taught is from this perspective.
Tony Winyard 43:18
You've touched upon habits a couple of times. So I'm just wondering about how yoga philosophy changes or helps with habits.
Robin Rothenberg 43:28
Yeah, this is I wish that people understood that yoga is not about stretching. It's not about physical movement. It's not about it's not that it's not about that, it's just that what it ultimately is about, is first and foremost, there's a recognition that suffering is a part of life being human, as part of being human. We get stuck, we run into, you know, we smack into the same wall many, many times. And, and that, in order for us to change directions and stop running ourselves into that wall, we need to become more self aware. And then that's the first thing and say, oh, there's a problem. I keep hitting this wall. And then we need to look and see what it is we're doing that's driving us into the wall. And we need to stop that. And we need to transform it. And that yoga is ultimately it's all about transforming patterns. That is the bottom line. The word is samsara. And it actually doesn't mean habit. It goes a little deeper than that. It's the imprint. That's the Left. Right. It's the tendency that toboggan run groove that's laid down by repetitively doing something again, and again and again, that increases the likelihood that we will do it again and again and again. Right. And so that perpetuates it. So waking up and becoming aware like Oh, this is a problem, something's wrong, right? And then turning ourselves around and going, What have I done to get myself here? And then what would take me in a different direction and, and shift this? And then of course doing it, it's all about action, not just thinking it, but actually doing it. It's like this the original cognitive behavioural therapy. Right? I mean, really, it's that's the, that's one way to think about it.
Tony Winyard 45:29
And is there an element of I mean, with the social media being so big now, it's really causing problems for people, for many people regarding focus and distraction, and so on. So does it look at that sort of thing as well?
Robin Rothenberg 45:47
Well, yoga is first and foremost, about the mind transforming the mind, because that's from the yoga perspective, that's where the problem lies. And you can think about it in terms of how many people with very severe disability, you know, what we consider physical disabilities or health issues could be terminal, and yet, they're smiling and beatific, and half, you know, like, they're happy, how can that be? And then somebody else who has perfect health, you know, plenty of money, and they're like whining about a hangnail, right. So is the problem, really, the physical condition or is the problem, the way we relate to whatever is happening with ourselves physically, or, you know, environmentally in terms of our life, like, we have a lot of control over that. We don't always have control over circumstances, right. And it's not about like, blaming, like, we should make lemonade out of everything, sometimes things suck, like, being in Ukraine right now would really suck, you know, like, that's that there's reality. But then again, even within that, what you do with it, is so much an inside job. So. So in terms of does does yoga address the mental piece of it, that's ultimately what it's always going towards. Even if we're working with somebody with changing their postural pattern, their mind, we're not, I'm teaching the mind, I'm not teaching the body. If I was going to work with you with your posture, I'd have to get your attention, right, I'd have to find your language and what what helps you to, like, get excited and inspired and motivated to do something different, as opposed to I'm not suggesting that you slump, or that there's anything wrong with your posture, I'm just saying, you know, like, I have to address your mind, I have to find a way in, that helps you to then take it on own it and then want to change it, whatever it is, for yourself.
Tony Winyard 47:48
I can't remember if it was in your book, or I know I've read somewhere in the last few years that the origins of the word yoga is actually more or not so much the word but the origins of yoga were more much more about breathing, rather than stretching, and so on.
Robin Rothenberg 48:04
Well, it's because the breath is considered to be the most direct way to impact the mind. So, so the pranayama practices, were intricately connected to the meditative practices and the transformation of the mind to take one into that state of Samadhi, or nirvana or bliss, right. So, you know, that's the definition of yoga is the state of mind in which the mind is still well, the mind can't be still if the breath is, you know, blowing like a hurricane all over the place, right? The only way the mind can become stills if the breath is still so the practices of pranayama were central to the practices of yoga. And the original teachings were much more on about that piece. And then years later, Hatha Yoga which developed more of the system of physical practices developed that was like, you know, 1000 plus years later, that those practices emerged. And then, you know, in the West were very physically oriented. So, those were really what we, what we connect into, as opposed to the more mental and spiritual practices, the original practices, there was a lot of ritual, Mantra, you know, prayer, really surrendering our ego, which is not a popular idea in the West, you know, really not a popular idea. But definitely in the east the idea is, you know, surrendering to God, like you know, lining yourself up Godspeed. And so, when yoga was trance transmitted to the west, a lot of what got lost were those deeper internal practices and the quieting of the mind and the stilling and the reverence and the opening up the space for, you know, God or, you know, that sense of cosmic connectedness to emerge in that from that stillness, and it became much more focused on, you know, can you put your leg behind your ear and then that are your head. And that means, I don't know what it means you have really lacks the ligaments and you're highly prone to hypermobile. Mobility and, and joint issues. That's really what it means. In the long run, but but, but what people think it means is that you're really an advanced yogi. And if that were the case, then all of the sort of just lay people and amazing acrobats in the world would all be in a state of great wisdom and Nirvana. And I venture to say they aren't. So having physical flexibility does not equate to having mental serenity.
Tony Winyard 50:58
And you've made me think about, there's so many different styles of yoga now, you know, we've hot yoga and you know, the various other styles. What are your thoughts on all those other styles?
Robin Rothenberg 51:13
So, I think there's a lot of different ways to practice yoga. And there's a lot of different types of people in the world. And it's nice to have variety. I'm an artist, I love all the all of the colours, and appreciate that I have a wide palette to choose from, and lots of ways that I can combine them. And so I think it's important people find what they have an affinity for. Because I am connected to the original, the actual philosophical tenants of yoga and I have that's where my heart lies, is in the transformation of Mind and Life and Health. And well being on that holistic level, as opposed to mastering postures, you know, that's obviously I'm drawn to teachings and practices and lineages that embrace all of that. But it's not everybody's cup of tea. And, you know, I've seen people go to come through the world of hot yoga and power yoga, and then get curious and interested in learning about more and digging deeper and finding themselves, you know, you know, loving blissing out with chanting mantra. Right. And, you know, and so I think it's good to have the doors open. And I think it's also important to recognise that there are many ways of practising yoga that are a far distance away from the original teachings. And, and I would encourage anybody who feels passionate about yoga, to go and study the Yoga Sutras, and really learn about classic classical teachings of yoga, that have to do with this, there's it's wisdom. I mean, if you're interested in becoming wiser in your life, not just more flexible, or in better shape, but really want to become wiser, there's so much you can keep doing your hot yoga practice. And you can study the text and learn more about these deep, rich teachings that are about the human condition and the ways in which we tangle ourselves up in knots, and how we can untangle so that we can live less encumbered, and be a better service to those in our lives.
Tony Winyard 53:27
We're coming towards the end, before we finish, is there any aspects of what you do or yoga or Prana, that we haven't touched upon that you feel it is important for people to know?
Robin Rothenberg 53:41
You know, we've really touched on a lot of the big things, the most important things. I think that I mean, and I assume that the people who are tuning into your podcast, Tony, are people who are interested in change, and are motivated to change. And so they're inherently curious, inquisitive people. So just educate yourself just like give yourself permission to not know, like, that's one of the most freeing places we can enter any room from is like, I don't know, right? Because then there's possibility to learn more. So when I when I put down my own sort of temper tantrum, you know, frustration with like, Oh my God, how could this possibly be true? How could all of my teachers have gotten it wrong? And oh, no, what if I, you know, when I put that down, I went, Oh, my God, this is an opportunity. Like, I get to learn a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't know before. And then I have all that more wealth of knowledge to share. So just become more educated about yoga about the breath, about the human condition so that we can help to write this world. There's so much suffering in this world. So the less we contribute to that, the better for everyone.
Tony Winyard 54:57
Do you have any thoughts on doing a follow up to the book?
Robin Rothenberg 55:02
Well, there wasn't already a follow up to the book. So I did the there's the restoring prana is the text, which does include practices and then the spidey eye breath journal study, I mean, self awareness. So it's the, your, your breath journal, you know, tracking your breath. Through the practices that practice journal, I actually created as a companion to restoring prana. And we use it as a as the manual for the restore your prana training, I'm still really convinced at some point in my life, I'm going to write that piece of fiction, which may or may not have a yoga component to it, I can't imagine that there wouldn't be some threads of yoga woven in. But that fiction fiction has always been my first love. And I've been passionate about writing since I was eight. So yeah, so that's on my on my list. And I don't know something probably, if I was going to do something around. Yoga, maybe more around this philosophical piece, because philosophy is so rich. And if when it gets broken down and spoken, and just plain old language, people get it, you know, they really understand it, and they're able to utilise it and make a difference in their lives. So, yeah, thanks for asking that one.
Tony Winyard 56:23
While we're talking about books, can you think of a book that has really moved you in any way?
Robin Rothenberg 56:31
Yes, I lots because I'm a voracious reader. And the word move, I mean, I would say this one of the books that has been most poignant to me, for me over the in the past year and a half, I came, came keen to know about it, in the midst of the pandemic is called "The wild edge of sorrow", by Francis Weller. And it's about grief. And it's about honouring grief, recognising grief, I think that there's a lot of grief that people are carrying in the world. And there's not a lot of conversation about what do we do with this, there's hardship, there's a, there's a set, you know, like, there's a lot of other things that people talk about. But there's also grief over what we've lost, you know, world has really changed is continues to change, and it's not looking particularly promising. So, like, what do we do with this vast internal sense of that we've lost our way of life, our way of connecting our you know, the freedom that we had to just in even the innocence of three pre pandemic, that we could just go on the way that we were, I mean, it wasn't sustainable. So there's, there's that wake up. So anyway, if you love beautiful writing deep wisdom, and appreciate practices that can guide us towards healing, I recommend the wild edge of sorrow. It's, it's gorgeous, from beginning to end, just lovely, lovely, lovely, beautiful piece.
Tony Winyard 58:16
And if anyone wants to connect with you, and your social media and website and so on.
Robin Rothenberg 58:21
Yeah, so my website is essentialyogatherapy.com. And from there, you can reach out to me directly. I'm on Instagram, essential yoga therapy and restoring prana and Facebook, I have both, essentially yoga therapy and restoring prana. And I think I have a Twitter account, but I've never ever used it. I have a I have a young person who's amazing. And she does on my social media because honestly, I hardly know how to post anything. But but she knows, I mean, what she posts is really representative of me and, and a lot of my work on my, on my website, there's a digital store, there's a lot of practices that you can download a lot of practices on breathing a lot of practices with physical practice, when the pandemic first happened, I did this 40 days, called 40 days of blessings, I just put it out there that I was going to teach every day for 40 days straight from seven to 8am in the morning, and that we would chant the prayer for health and and with this meditation of, you know, like kind of blessing the world. And in between, we would do whatever I was inspired to do that day. So some of it is like really strong physical work and sometimes it's breath work and more meditative, but 40 days straight. So anyways, that started that launched this whole thing where I started doing these series and these morning practices and they're all recorded and so you can scroll through those and there's there's a lot of ways to, you know, to to work with this style of practice. Then I'm I'm sharing. And yeah, I'd love to hear from any of you that are listening.
Tony Winyard 1:00:06
And just to finish Robin do you have a quote that you particularly like?
Robin Rothenberg 1:00:15
Again, many, many, many quotes that I like. One of the quotes that I use a lot when it comes to breathing, and that I use a lot in the world of yoga comes from Leon Chai Tao, who is one of, you know, he recently passed, but really he was, he was a major mentor for me, his book, The multidisciplinary approaches to breathing pattern disorders was, you know, like a godsend in terms of research for my my book. And he said, "Breathing is primarily a chemical matter". And I would not have had a clue as to what that meant before I met Patrick and started working with the Buteyko breathing. And now I really understand that breathing is primarily a chemical matter. And our chemistry matters a lot. And we can control our chemistry tremendously by controlling our breath.
Tony Winyard 1:01:16
That's a great place to leave it. So Robin I really appreciate the time you've given me the information and knowledge you've shared with our listeners. So thank you very much,
Robin Rothenberg 1:01:25
Tony. Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity. So awesome. And I love I love what you're doing anything that helps people to transform habits become more aware of their habits. I just think it's the key to everything.
Tony Winyard 1:01:43
Next week, episode 57 with Teresa Bitner. She partners with those who have been knocked down by life and want to bounce back to live a bold life. She's a coach, speaker and author specialising in resiliency change and loss. So that's next week, episode 57 with Teresa Bitner. If you know anyone who is really into yoga, especially any yoga instructors, please do share this week's episode with them from Robin, I'm sure that many yoga instructors will get a lot out of some of the information that Robin shared with us. These days, many people have associate yoga with just stretching when yoga is much more than just stretching. So please do share the episode with anyone who could really benefit from it. I hope you have a great week. See you next week.
Thanks for tuning in to the habits and health podcast where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on your favourite podcast app. Sign up for email updates and learn about coaching and workshop opportunities at TonyWinyard.com See you next time on the habits and health podcast.
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