Breathing Room

My coach recently posed this fill-in-the-blank challenge to me: I want to BE THIS, so I will DO THAT, so I can HAVE THIS.

Which made me question…what do I really want? The tendency is to start with what we want to HAVE. Right now, I think I want to HAVE a stable income that will cover health care and college savings so I will FEEL a certain way. Safe. Not panicked. Not guilty that Mark has to do it all.

Some breathing room.

There’s a certain amount of “proving” that I am drawn to – not struggling to pay the bills. Serving AND feeding myself and my family. And also knowing that I’d be okay if I was on my own — which I DO know…I could get a “real job” if I needed to. So many people do this – put their work and their art out into the world – it’s so admirable

Uh oh…here I am, doing this exercise in reverse…focusing on the HAVING instead of the BEING. So backing up: I want to BE ______.

I WANT TO BE a self-sufficient full-time yoga teacher who helps people change their lives through movement and breath practices, so they can be stronger, more resilient, more calm, and more compassionate.

I want to feel some breathing room. Some capacity to manage. 

I recently taught the first session of my Intro to Vinyasa series to 10 students (which was great to see in this new program at Luma Yoga).  We went around the room and I asked each person to share why they were there, what they hoped to get out of the series. And most people said “stress relief.” Number 1, by far. A couple of people said to gain flexibility or to support their bodies as they get older, but mostly, it was about stress.

So here we were, back to needing some breathing room.

Just as I am seeking breathing room in my own life as I deal with the new stresses of being off the corporate grid, this same need to remember how to expand breath, to calm ourselves down when we feel panicky, to FEEL the simplicity of the body in space and time, to not feel cramped or trapped, to know that we have the capacity to find more space and mobility is a common struggle.

The following practice was born out of this concept. Do all or some of it, and create some breathing room from within.

Robin Penney Mermaid Pose Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

Yoga Sequence to Create Breathing Room

Create some more space for breath in your body by moving the attention of the breath gently and deliberately into the ribs and even into the belly.  This sequence incorporates shoulder work and side bending to work creating more awareness in the wide expanse of the torso and the center of ourselves so we can get out of the HEAD just a bit, and more into the physical experience of space and the creation of breathing room for ourselves.

You may enjoy the support of 2 blocks for under your hands for some parts of this practice, or use fingertops on the ground (as opposed to hands flat) to encourage more breath into the body.




Move the breath down into the ribs and lengthen the sides of the the waist to create more breathing room in the torso

Warm Up (shoulder opening, lengthen side body, and feel space in torso)

Sukasana (Easy Seat)

  • Spinal circles
  • Half Gomukasana arms –> Open arms into a side bend –> Roll top shoulder down into a forward fold in Sukasana (Note: This basic pattern will repeat in different parts of the practice)

Breathing Room Warm Up - Seated Postures to Open Shoulders and Side Body

Reverse Tabletop –> Navasana –> Seated Bakasana –> Baddha Konasana –> [Right side: Janu Sirsasana –> Half Rockstar] –> Reverse Tabletop –> Navasana –> Seated Bakasana –> Baddha Konasana –> [Left side: Janu Sirsasana –> Half Rockstar]

Downdog –> Uttanasana –> Tadasana

Surya Namaskar A (3-5x)

Round 1 of Flow

Tadasana with Half Gomukasana arms –> Open arms to Crescent Side Bend with bottom arm at side –> Roll top shoulder down and all the way into a forward fold, Uttanasana –> Bend knee and roll up –> {other side}


Round 2 of Flow

Standing Back Arch –> Tip Toe Utkatasana –> 1st round: Uttanasana, 2nd round: Bakasana Prep –> Step back to Lunge –> Vira 2 –> Trikonasana, add side bend with roll of top shoulder forward and reach top hand to front foot –> Lunge –> Anjaneyasana –> straighten front leg and fold to Ardha Hanumanasana –> Anjaneyasana –> Twisted Lunge –> Downdog –> Vinyasa


Wall Work

Trikonasana at wall / Ardha Chandrasana at wall {focus on length in bottom side of pose so both sides of torso are long and full of breath} –> Bakasana with props {compact shape, rounded in, feel breathe in the back body}

Round 3 Flow

Downdog Split –> High Lunge –> Half Gomukasana arms –> Crescent Side Bend in High Lunge –> Roll top shoulder forward and into lunge with hands on the floor –> Standing Split, hips open –> sneak back foot over front foot for Crossed-Ankle Uttanasana –> Roll up to Garudasana {compact shape, find the space within it}  –> Utkatasana –> Bakasana –> Ardha Chandrasana –> add thigh stretch –> Release and step back LONG into Vira 2 –> {Level 2/3 practice: Reverse Trikonasana –> Trikonasana, rounded forward, reach for front foot with top hand –> Floating Triangle or Vishamitrasana –> Fallen Warrior –> Uppa Vista Konasana to back of mat — Ardha Matseyandrasana –> Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 –> Downdog facing back of mat}



Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Prep with Half or Full Gomukasana arms or Mermaid


Roll Down –> Supta Padagustasana Cycle


Guided Breath Work – 3-Part Breath

9 min

After this practice, I felt very open to creativity. In the beginning, I had no idea where it was going to go. I just started with this concept of BREATHING ROOM.

To me, breathing room about enhancing the ability to breathe WIDE and without anxiety, and opening up through the ribs and chest and side body. It’s a doorway into the heart.

I ended up doing a lot of hip work too, and it all built on itself into a ladder flow. It’s the first time I’ve built a sequence like this…backwards (usually, I start with a “peak pose” in mind and and work up to it, but this was NOT what I started with today).

From the first Half Gomukasana into the side bend and forward fold, I thought maybe I would build on that in lunges and would end up in Mermaid and Visvamitrasana because both of those poses have a lot of reach and length through the side body. I also played with compact shapes like Nested Eagle, Bakasana, and Bound Ardha Matseyandrasana – looking for ways to find breath
and space, even when things feel constricted.

My body feels great, I really relaxed. Only lingering feeling is guilt and responsibility for the kids. But…I’m more equipped now to support them fully tonight. Off to check on homework status and make dinner. We WILL sit down at the dinner table and I will take care of them tonight. They are my heart.

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