Ahead of our next 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training, we’re catching up with some of our previous graduates to hear how completing the training has advanced their careers, deepened their practices, and led their lives in new directions. As part of their training, each student completes a research project on a subject of interest relating to yoga.

Here, 300 Hour Graduate Jessie Rogers talks with writer Alaina Isbouts about her yoga practice and her focus on breath work, or pranayama.

Tell me how yoga came to be such an important part of your life.

In 2011, I graduated from the University of Denver and immediately experienced an identity crises. Up until that point, the course of my life had always had a clear path. I knew exactly what I needed to do to excel both academically in the classroom and competitively on the soccer field. I found comfort in sharing my story through the lens of a hard-working student-athlete.

After spending a year of boredom in a corporate job, I felt the need to redefine myself and invigorate more meaning back into my life. In search for my next academic and physical challenge, I turned to yoga. Taking my first dive into subtle body awareness, I healed from things that I did not know needed healing. The scope for how I viewed the world and my relation to it shifted and expanded.

How did the idea of using pranayama in everyday life come to you? 

I will never forget the first time I learned about the breathing technique of Nadi Shodana (Alternate Nostril Breathing). While my instructor was breaking down the basics of how to do it, he also explained how our nostrils fluctuate throughout the day from being predominately active to more blocked off. Since that day, I never stopped being intrigued by pranayama. It has been my guiding force into subtle body awareness and I am always intrigued to learn more. So, for my project, I opted to dive deeper and learn more about how breath work affects the internal landscape of the body. I posed the following question: “Can the use of pranayama help bring extreme states of energetic imbalances (i.e. when a person is experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, lethargy, sorrow, anger, etc.) back to a state of equilibrium?”

In short, my findings led me to conclude that yes, through various forms of intentional breathing, we can change our current state of being.

How do you suggest people start practicing pranayama everyday?

I suggest people start with three minutes of conscious breathing every single day. Set a timer if you need to. Sit down, check in to how you are feeling, and according to those emotions, try some breath work.

    • To help bring mindfulness into your day, try a Three-Part Breath. Take a deep inhale through the nose, pause at the top of your breath, exhale through the nose, and release chest and diaphragm down to the belly. To help reduce stress, you can opt to lengthen the exhale. This will help tap into your parasympathetic nervous system activating your “rest and digest” senses.
    • To clear and energize the mind, try Breath of Fire. This breath work focuses on a quick, sharp and forceful exhale out through the nose as the naval snaps in towards the spine follow by a passive intake of air through the nostril as the naval releases back out. 
    • To calm and awaken both sides of the brain, try Alternate Nostril Breathing. Use the right thumb to close off the right nostril and the right ring finger to close off the left nostril. Alternate blocking off the right nostril and breathing in through the left and then blocking off the left nostril and exhaling out right. Then inhale through the right nostril and exhale out the left. Repeat.

What made you specifically pick The River?

I had heard about The River through several friends over the course of a year. Feeling ready to reboot my practice and shake things up, I finally checked the studio out, and several teachers kept me coming back for more. Eventually I sat down with Christen Bakken after one of her classes to learn more about the 300-HR YTT training. The timing and materials were just what I was looking for, so I signed up and am so happy that I did!

What do you think it means to be a yoga teacher in your community?

To be a yoga teacher is to hold space for self-growth and change. Whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pursuits, yoga practitioners step onto their mats for an array of reasons. Through sharing the ancient teachings of yoga through movement of the body and breath, yoga teachers can offer a space for practitioners to safely heal and improve their lives both on and off the mat.

For more information on The River’s upcoming Advanced 300 Hour Training beginning February 28th, visit us here.