Beyond Pranayama: An Insight into Rewriting the Story of Our Health and Growth with Doug Keller


Doug Keller has been sharing yoga knowledge with students at Yogacampus since 2010 and next week, we welcome him back for two very special trainings, a 2 day workshop on the 5th and 6th of October entitled ‘Pranayama is More Than Breath’ and a 5 day intensive on the Therapeutic Wisdom of Yoga Training series, on ‘Rewriting the Story of Our Health and Growth’, from 7th to 11th October. We sat down with Doug and asked him to give us a little bit more insight in to what these trainings will entail.

Your 2 day workshop is entitled ‘Pranayama is More than Breath’ – in what way do pranayama practices extend beyond the breath?

While this workshop will contain practical details and practice of pranayama, it will go far beyond that. 

Pranayama consists of more than simply technical details of how to do particular techniques: it is a full body experience of the breath and of Prana meant to immerse you in the experience of your own true nature as consciousness.

 

What will the workshop consist of?

This workshop will contain very practical and helpful biomechanical experience and understanding that is essential to benefitting from the practice — especially concerning the sacrum and pelvic floor as well as the neck, shoulders and upper body. 

 

How does a deeper understanding of the anatomy contribute to a pranayama practice?

These user-friendly insights lend a deeper understanding and experience of the bandhas and the breath. This is essential not just to a fuller experience of pranayama, but to dealing practically with pain problems that are intimately connected to breathing disorders. 

 

What will the approach include?

Our approach to this will include some asana to help us understand these actions, while greater emphasis will be upon the pranayama practices themselves. This will definitely be news you can use in every aspect of your yoga.

 

Will the training be mainly biomechanic or will it go in to more history and philosophy also?

And beyond the practical biomechanics, we will go more deeply into the evolution of the tradition of pranayama. Of all of the terms that spanned the history of yoga, the idea of prana and related ideas such as the vayus have undergone the most evolution, and became increasingly vital and intrinsic to the practice of yoga and of Hatha yoga in particular.

 

How did the rise of Hatha yoga play an influence on this?

The Hatha Yoga tradition attempted to strike a balance between the physical techniques developed by the more ascetic traditions of the yogis, and the deeper layers of feeling, imagination, energetics — and the cultivation of the ‘mantra body’ and Yoga Nidra — developed among the more tantric-oriented yogis. The ideas they incorporated into the practice were meant to take us much deeper than can be reached by physical techniques — and can also be seen as approaches to the breath that were more body-friendly than the ascetics emphasis upon extended kumbhak or breath retention.

 

What were these ideas focused on and where did they lead to?

These were ideas focused upon installing the experience of the prana in the body, moving prana through ‘marmas’ or vital points to enter deeper states, as well as of unravelling “knots” or obstacles called ‘granthis,’ as well as of course ideas of chakras, and other ways of conceiving and experiencing energetic locations in the body. These approaches lead naturally and spontaneously to Yoga Nidra and deep and healing meditation. They bring us to a realm of breath awareness rich with possibility for work on deeper mental and emotional levels.

 

This special workshop is then followed by the five day intensive on The Therapeutic Wisdom of Yoga: Rewriting the Story of Our Health and Growth.

 

Will this intensive also be following on from the theme of breath and pranayama?

While I have chosen to include the theme of the breath as essential to understanding and overcoming pain problems, the training will be deeply rooted, as it has been in the past, in practical, news-you-can-use biomechanics applied through asana practice. The Intensive covers, step by step, pain problems arising from alignment and movement patterns in all areas of the body — both as they arise in everyday life and in yoga practice.

 

What will each day of the course include?

Each day starts with guided practice, for an experiential understanding of how to apply and instruct the themes of the course simply and accessibly in a class setting, and finishes with a deep, nourishing yoga nidra. We will cover topics in specific areas of the body, providing principles for movement and action, as well as remedial work and variations on traditional alignments to bring greater integrity to the body and to relieve typical pain patterns.  This includes learning tools for assessment for posture and movement as well as for sequencing of poses. These ideas can make your classes more fun, interesting and effective, as well as being immensely helpful for individual work with students.

 

What are some of the areas of anatomy you will focus on?

A key opening theme will be sacroiliac stability and low back health, with an in-depth look at the sacrum, its movements, and the actions by which we balance freedom of movement with stability.  We’ll especially go into pelvic pain problems associated with the sacrum and surrounding myofascia — to understand them and how to recognize them, as well as how to work through these movement problems through asana practice for a more pain-free sacrum and low back. From this foundation we’ll expand into all areas of the body, with new information and approaches to the knees in particular, the hips, feet, and upper body — shoulders, neck, arms and wrists and so on.

 

As the title suggests, there is also a heavy focus on the ‘Therapeutic’ application of these key themes - What does this involve beyond anatomy and physiology?

The theme of the breath will be woven through this, with insights into how to join breath to asana — with special attention to a stable core. We will include assessment techniques and sequencing ideas in relation to what are called ‘Movement System Syndromes’ at the root of many kinds of chronic pain, as well as insights into the ‘Fascial Distortion Model’ — an evolving approach to recognizing sources of typical forms of chronic pain in fascial distortions. Also included will be insights into scoliosis — how to recognize the patterns and work clearly and productively with the condition. Better breathing, pranayama and relaxation will also be included as essential aspects of the therapeutic wisdom of yoga.

 

How has this training evolved over the years and why is it essential for yoga teachers and yoga therapists?

For nearly 10 years, this training has evolved as a foundational experience that gives teachers insight, understanding, confidence and user-friendly approaches to bringing the therapeutic dimension of yoga to their classes as well as private work with students.

 

Join Doug for a 2 day workshop on the 5th and 6th of October entitled ‘Pranayama is More Than Breath’ and a 5 day intensive on the Therapeutic Wisdom of Yoga Training series, on ‘Rewriting the Story of Our Health and Growth’, from 7th to 11th October. You can also find him at the BWY London Yoga Festival this year - click here to find out more!