A project dear to our hearts
 Raising Our Voices
 Writing Our Lives
Stories That Want To Be Told
 The Calming Breath

 A simple technique


Yoga.  Yes. Really good. I have done yoga sporadically for years and now as an Old Tomato, I realize I should have done away with the sporadic and gone for the steady and serious. What was easy a few years ago is now hard because I basically have to start over with this new(old) body. But if I want to survive well in this rush rush, eat fast on the go, defensive driving, breathless shopping, run run, stop and crash, not enough sleep world of contemporary life, that many of us live, then I need yoga.  And, neuroscience now tells us why.

Yoga with it's meditative focus, its slow steady stretch and hold, coordinated with The Calming Breath strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system from which all things that sooth us flow. The fast rush breathless pace of contemporary life revs us up and puts us in that hypervigilent mode of flight, fight or freeze that sets stress hormones coursing through our bodies. Stress breeds stress. So much of our lives are lived as though there is a very aggressive and speedy woolly mammoth on our tails ( though I am not sure if they can run, and if I saw one I wouldn't wait to find out) and I would be running for my life. Only we aren't. Really.  We are running for the bus, the train, the snack cart, the car pool, the bottom line or the report that has to be done by tomorrow at 9:00 am but guess what our bodies don't know this is self induced stress. Yoga brings the nervous system out of fight and flight and into balance. Now, this is not going to happen immediately. It takes time but until you have those new neuropathways, you have to keep at it until discipline turns into habit.  It takes a couple of months without slacking off -- for some it's quicker and for others longer.  But if you don't want the whole package, you can leave the yoga poses behind  -- though I hope you don't --and roll up The Calming Breath along in that lime green mat you bought at The Yoga Hut or Barnes and Noble. Be sure you at least take that. Because. Breath is enough.  And what I like is that breathe is something we always have and can control any time we want to take charge. Any where. Any time.   Breathe:  Deep. Rhythmic. Slow.  Inhale. Count to seven. Hold it. Count to four.  Exhale squeezing all the air out of your lungs  while counting to seven. Do this seven to ten minutes minutes at both ends of the day and you have a practice that will yield results. When I do this, I am less reactive. I sleep better and I am more resilient. Negative feelings don't last as long.

People doing disaster work offer The Calming Breath first thing.  Well, maybe not the very first thing but it is right up there. It is simple. It's effective. Yogi's have been doing this for a few thousand years and they didn't have mental health licenses. We often do classes with our favorite and very experienced yoga instructor.  You can find breath work on this page or go online and type in: Breath2relax.  It is a free app and our people like it. 

I say. Go. Take the Class. Learn.  Become a teacher if you are called to it. Do and teach breathe work, learn yoga for yourself and teach it - just putting together a ten minute series of postures you will find the results are relaxation.  If you start there you may end up going to a half hour and then a 45 minutes routine.  It is addicting in the best sense.

Who We Are

We make art in order not to die from the truth.

Ashlar Center for Narrative Arts is a U.S. 501c3 non-profit organization designed to serve the personal story and address the trauma it may contain. Our work is educational and skills driven -- grounded in thirty years of community based experience.

We use photos, interviews, and teach guided writing (Writing Through the Body).  For those people for whom revealing identity is unsafe or who are non-literate, they are offered an opportunity to  build a multi-media piece to contain and share the story in an abstract or symbolic form. Our goal is Witnessing and facilitating the creation of a coherent narrative for our students as they move with us toward well-being and resilience. 

Following from our initial work with Story, we collaborate with students to create a culturally relevant Self-Care program facilitated by them.

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