Ashtanga Yoga with Harmony Slater
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Guest: Harmony Slater
Release Date: 6/13/2022
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Steve Washuta: Welcome to Trulyfit. Welcome to the show code podcast where we interview experts in fitness and health to expand our wisdom and wealth. I am your host, Steve Washuta, co-founder of Trulyfit and author of Fitness Business 101. On today’s podcast, we’re going to be discussing Ashtanga Yoga. What is it? What are its origins of it? Why is it different than other yoga practices? We have harmony Slater on to discuss all of this.
She is a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher. You can find everything about her at Harmony Slater official on Instagram. She’s also a life and wellness coach, and she’s the host of the finding HomeReady podcast, we talk about everything from general breathwork and meditation to how to become a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher, which blew my mind her answer did and I’m sure it will yours as well. It was a great conversation.
She’s an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to everything yoga. With no further ado, here’s Harmony. Harmony. Thanks so much for joining the Trulyfit podcast. Why don’t you give my listeners in the audience a brief bio. On who you are and what you do in the health and fitness industry?
Harmony Slater: So are happy to thank you so much for having me, Steve. I am a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher expert in breathwork or pranayama, as it’s called in Sanskrit. And a health coach or life Wellness Coach certified. Board certified by the National Board of Health and wellness coaches in America.
Harmony Slater: So I do some life wellness coaching, as well as teaching yoga. Being asana practice or the stretching what we typically understand as yoga these days. As well as pranayama, or breath work exercises, to bring about more health and wellness and create sacred space within and without in people’s lives so that they can, you know, relax de-stress, have better sleep, have better digestion, but also connect to that inner voice to that inner space that’s healing and quiet and calm within. So that’s what I do. I’m sure we’ll get into a bit more of how I got to be here. But that’s a brief bio of what I’m doing right now.
Steve Washuta: I think we’ve only done maybe one yoga podcast, maybe two at the most. We are having somebody on to break down the five most popular yoga poses. And talk a little bit about them. I don’t know if this will be released before or after that. So why don’t we just go ahead and give a description of Ashtanga Yoga, you can give an origin description. You can give your description of what you think it is or any little tidbits that you can pass on. And I will say if you could explain it from the perspective of not just personal trainers. But the general population who may not know the nuances of yoga.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, definitely a stock is such a funny word. It really frightens people because it’s in the Sanskrit language, which is the ancient language of India. But the word itself comes from a text that’s called the Patanjali yoga sutras. And this is your sort of foundational text on yoga.
Harmony Slater: Pretty much all yoga styles. Refer back to this text because it’s the oldest one that we really have to refer back to. But it’s mainly actually a text on meditation practices. It’s not really about physical, all Asana practices, or moving your body or stretching at all. And the word Ashtanga means eight limbs. So Asha means eight. Onga means limb.
Harmony Slater: So it’s the eight-limb path of yoga. So what we typically know these days to be Ashtanga Yoga. Is more of like a vigorous, dynamic, flowing yoga sequence. So it’s using breath with the body. With sort of energetic locks in the body like squeezing the pelvic floor drawing in the lower abdomen. But it’s sort of the, I would say, perennial sequence and style of yoga. That any dynamic flow, power yoga, vinyasa, yoga. All these different flowing types of yoga that basically you’re gonna find at any kind of gym. Is based upon it was a type of yoga that originated with Krishna Macharia in Mysore, India. And his student, Sri K. Pattabhi, Jois popularized this system. Through many of his North American and European and Australian students who then went out and taught many of us. And I actually traveled to Mysore.
Harmony Slater: I’ve made over 15 trips, they’re long study trips of three months to six months. One trip was eight months. And so to become certified in this specific type of dynamic flowing yoga following a set sequence of postures. You have to go to Mysore, India to the source to the lineage holder at that time was Sri K. Pattabhi, Jois. Now is his grandson actually. Shirat Rangaswamy Joyce And, and have them sort of teach you and see your practice and get to know you. And then when they feel that you’re ready to practice, you have to practice asanas at a very advanced level. So there are six sequences. But you have to at least have completed the third sequence before you can get the certification.
Harmony Slater: And there is sort of another level called authorization which you get before this certified certification. So there is sort of levels of teachers within this sequence. But so that’s what we understand to be a stronger yoga. Now it’s kind of difficult, you know. It’s not really the type of yoga we think of when we think of the sort of like old women and units hard in a dark room stretching. That’s like a different style, maybe hatha yoga or a yangarra yoga.
Harmony Slater: But Ashtanga Yoga is more like what you know. What gets demonstrated in advertisements, or, you know, different, young, healthy-looking people doing miraculous things with their bodies. This all stems from this lineage or style of yoga, this is stronger Yoga. But the word itself refers back to these eight limbs. Which happens to be a philosophy, a whole philosophy for living, it’s a lifestyle philosophy. It’s talking about living a life of compassion, or non-violence. Being honest, or truthful with your words with your speech. Not stealing, not taking more than what you need. Being generous and, giving. You know, focusing on your energy in certain ways, or being very restrained. How you’re behaving and your behaviors, as well as having some discipline in your life.
Harmony Slater: People who are very traditional ashtanga yoga practitioners practice yoga every day. For at least an hour, typically, often two hours. Because the sequences are getting longer and longer. So you keep adding more and more time. And you know, they’re typically very regimented. With their diet, with their lifestyle, with their sleep schedules. Sort of a whole package that goes along with the practice of the Ashtanga yoga sequence of asanas.
Steve Washuta: Let me clarify one thing, if you let’s say, go to San Diego on a trip. And you want to take a yoga class. You look yoga up, and this is Oh, there’s an ashtanga yoga class. I then go off the assumption that that person has traveled to India to learn. Or are there other smaller certifications that are, let’s say, like in the United States? And people can still claim that there are yoga certified.
Harmony Slater: People do claim all over that they’re certified ashtanga yoga teachers. But if you’re very accurate in your description. You would have to have gone to India to receive authorization or certification to teach. That is very nice. There are millions of teacher training. And so then they just say, Oh, I’m a certified Hatha teacher, vinyasa teacher, Ashtanga Yoga teacher, you know, they sort of like name all the yogas flow, JJ.
Harmony Slater: But yeah, if you’re like very, if you’re a very serious practitioner. You would probably go to San Diego and look to see who says that they’re authorized or certified. And you might even go to the website in India. The strat Joy’s Yoga Center website, and look to see which teachers are approved by him. And then you would go and practice with that teacher.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that was my next question. I think you might have just answered it. So do you use a particular terminology like authorized on your website to sort of differentiating yourself from the others?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, I mean, because I have certification. I do say certified. But it’s, it’s kind of a vague term. Nobody really, it doesn’t make a difference to most people. But to like a few people who actually know what it is, it makes a big difference.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, well, I mean, you would hope that it would make a difference. And that maybe you can continue to spread the word. And then yeah, it’s something we’ve talked about a lot in this podcast. Is sort of the barrier to entry for other health and fitness and nutrition-related things. Sometimes it’s very easy and that’s not a good thing. And at the same time, I’m, I don’t really know the answer.
You want everyone to be involved in it and have a chance to do it. And I’ve met people who are great at let’s say, whatever yoga or personal training or nutrition-related advice. Who have little to no certifications, and vice versa, people have the highest level who don’t really have any good information to give. So it’s a difficult thing but just very interesting had no idea that that was that that was the case with Ashtanga Yoga.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, it is it’s such it’s you know, I think anything in the health field is really tricky. Even like when I became a health and wellness coach, again, there’s no real I mean, there is sort of a now a national board committee and that they have like an I guess a what do you say standardized exam that if you want to get certified by the national board, you have to take that but it’s pretty recent. ‘s only in like maybe the last, like four or five years that they’ve really been in place to certify health coaches. Because otherwise, anybody can say they’re a health coach, anybody can say that they’re a wellness coach, and there’s nothing to really.
Steve Washuta: And they do that, right? And they still do because it’s very difficult for the general population to sort of weed through what is certified, what is authorized, what is not, and even just the levels where it’s like, okay, this person gets a certification overnight because they paid $200. And they filled out a form, where did this person study for years behind another professional and go through this process? It’s, I don’t have the answer. I don’t pretend to I’m not really sure what it is, I hope that someday there are fewer of these certifications. And they involve having people have to do more things.
So for example, Steve would have to maybe shadow an Ashtanga Yoga teacher for 100 hours, even if he’s not going to use it in day-to-day practice with his personal training clients, he understands what it is, and, and allows him to understand the body as a whole better. And I think we need to have yoga teachers and nutritionists and orthopedics and personal trainers and all sort of work together to develop a program where we can really help our clients and, uh, you know, the full spectrum, wholesale health.
Harmony Slater: Totally, totally, I think that would be amazing. I think that really good, like health trainers or, you know, coaches or yoga teachers, I do feel like, if that’s like, really your passion and your field, you do tend to kind of like go outside to, like, explore other areas so that you can be of greater benefit. As you say, I mean, some are, some are maybe like, never certified, but have a lot of like Dunloe a lot of research and a lot of personal development and like a lot of practice. And so maybe they’re amazing, right, and others who get certified, maybe just get certified and like don’t do any of it.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, it’s something to be said about throwing just, you know, anecdotal workout. I don’t like to do that. You know, some people don’t have the certifications, but they’ve been working with themselves and other people for a certain amount of years. And they’ve developed this experience. And I think that that does hold some weight with me. But anyway, I think we’re getting a little off topic here.
I can go on and I can go on a tangent for an hour about the barrier of entry and how we fix that problem. But tell me about your breath work personally. Is your breath work learned from Ashtanga Yoga or is that separate from a stronger yoga and do you integrate them?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, so when we talk about the eight limbs part of you know, we have the lifestyle disciplines which are the first two limbs a lot is encompassed in that and then we have the asana, which is the movement you know, the stretching the putting your body in certain shapes to create greater circulation and cleansing within. And then you have the pranayama, which is the breath work, which prana means energy, but it also means breath, and I am a means to extend or expand.
Harmony Slater: So through controlling your breath, or lengthening the breath, the inhale and the exhale, through holding the breath, you are extending or expanding your energy or increasing your life energy. So this has sort of double meaning and that’s the 123 fourth limb. The fifth limb is like starting to move into meditation. So it’s withdrawing the senses. And then the last three limbs are different levels of meditation, so concentration meditation, and then sort of full absorption.
Harmony Slater: So it’s like a whole system for sure. But I did study Pranayama or the breath work in Mysore India with Sri K Pattabhi Jois. But I also actually studied mainly most of my time also from an institute in India, but in a different city in India, another area called La novela. Shri Opie tamari is another Indian teacher whose whole life has been dedicated to the practice and study of yoga and specifically the breathing exercises, the breath work, the pranayama exercises that are all based on a long history of practice being passed down from teacher to student.
Harmony Slater: And all of the practices are found in ancient texts and medieval texts. It was written around the 12th century and called the Hatha proto pika. Again, a nice Sanskrit word to freak everyone out. But it’s, it’s all I could say it’s all very, you know, very traditional, very systematic so that you’re slowly starting to expand your inhale and you’re always lengthening the exhale.
Harmony Slater: And then you’re teaching yourself to hold your breath for longer and longer periods of time in the middle, and everything grows together. And so I’ve practiced with him for over 15 years as well going to India or Thailand or different retreats, the He was teaching around the world. Basically, you know, using this practice and this breath work daily to see how it changes your nervous system, your mind, and your body, and starts to maybe awaken a higher level of consciousness within. So that’s how I started learning breathwork. And it’s a really powerful practice, I would say it’s even more powerful than just twisting and bending and stretching your body.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, and obviously, for those who don’t know, you, and you could expand on this, you need the breath work in order to meditate, right? Those things come in concert with each other, as you learn to focus on the breath, you learn to, you’d get to the next steps in your sort of meditation journey.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, typically, it’s understood that way that first, you learn to control the breath, and you start to start to then control your energy within, you start to withdraw your senses from all the distractions that are trying to pull us into the external world, you move into the internal world. And then more, you can pull the senses in and focus one-pointedly on the breath, and controlling the breath, the mind will automatically move into a state of meditation.
Harmony Slater: But that’s a very specific philosophy to sort of the hatha yoga or the yoga practice Ashtanga Yoga, however, you want to call it Raja Yoga, using the breathwork as the entry point or the gateway to meditation. If you look at Buddhist traditions, like Vipassana meditation, which I’ve also practiced and studied for a long time, they don’t manipulate the breath so much, they’re not using the breath work or the pranayama. To control the mind. They’re just using, I guess, the regular breath or natural breathing and trying to focus the mind on the natural, incoming and outgoing breath rather than trying to lengthen or extend or control or hold the breath.
Steve Washuta: So in these, let’s say, these meditation apps, I have one that I use called waking up, I would tell you that I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point yet where I’m actually meditating. I’m just in the process of breathwork. And I’ve been doing it for two years, but it’s very difficult. Due to these practices coming more from one end than another end, like these meditation apps, are they more in line with a particular set of yoga values?
Harmony Slater: I think it probably depends on who is, you know, doing the app. But, but I feel like in the West, you know, in North America, probably in Europe as well. And probably, I mean, probably all over the world these days. But we’ve combined, we’ve taken a lot of Buddhist teachings and philosophy and practices and a lot of yoga, teaching philosophy and practices and kind of like smush them together into one sort of big category called like mindfulness, right, yeah. And so we’re using, you know, different practices from these two traditions, to help too, you know, control our stress levels to focus our mind to hopefully one day move into a deeper state of meditation.
Harmony Slater: And I think it kind of draws on these traditions from both. And it’s sort of interesting because Buddhism originated in India, and the yogis and the Buddhist monks, the practitioners were very much in conversation and kind of came up together. So there are a lot of similarities between the two traditions anyway. It’s just that Buddhism eventually left India and went to Tibet and Sri Lanka and Burma and China and Japan, where it flourished. And India more the other traditions flourished are the other fill philosophical systems.
Steve Washuta: So what are the physiological benefits one can see from let’s not go down the path of like, extreme meditation as far as someone being an expert, but like somebody just focusing on their breath work, what will they say? Yeah, so
Harmony Slater: the breath works amazingly because it works directly with your nervous system. But also in that way, you need to kind of be careful, which is one thing that when we’re talking about sort of that entry point, like, you know, I think it’s really important that you investigate your teacher because there’s like, you can become breathwork.
Harmony Slater: There’s a lot of like, breathwork coaches or breathwork trainers, who have like, taken like a weekend course. Or maybe even like a two-month course or something, right, but it’s not something that’s in their body that’s in their practice. They haven’t been doing these practices for very long. If something’s going wrong with you, they might not know how to help you or fix it. And so that’s sort of the I think the danger is that you’re working directly with your nervous system so you can kind of mess yourself up if you’re doing it. incorrectly.
Harmony Slater: But, you know, the, in India everything’s kind of metaphorical. So we have both our nostrils, our left, and our right nostrils connected to what they would call the sun and the moon channel. And the sun channels like the day the heating, the act of energy, the moon channels, the cooling, the restorative, the softening kind of energy. But these two nostrils are also then related to the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, which are the two branches of our autonomic nervous system.
Harmony Slater: And so by manipulating, you know, the way that you’re breathing, you can actually create more resiliency in your nervous system, which helps to bounce back from a stressful situation. So it’s, you know when we’re stressed, our heart rate goes up, especially like chronic stress, we, I think everybody’s kind of is heard, you know, all of the negative effects of these little chronic stressors all day long in our life, right, and then we’re drinking the coffee too.
Harmony Slater: You know, our adrenals are fatigued, and we’re building up inflammation, and that’s leading to its own, like problems, autoimmune disorders, and it’s sort of a big mess, right, because we don’t know how to relax. And so you have that busy mind, your mind stuck in like that beta wave, that processing, you try to lie down, you try to go to sleep, and your mind is still processing your body’s like, unable to move out of that fight or flight response into that parasympathetic state into that rest, and digest and relax and release where you can, you know, like, feel, feel in love with your partner where you can experience beauty where you can feel creative and have that creative energy, that creative flow, we need to be able to relax for that.
Harmony Slater: And so this is where things like exercise and fitness or yoga practice, you know, really become very powerful tools because they help to move us out of fight or flight. It’s called fight or flight for a reason, right? Because if you run or you do something physical, it’s a natural release of that stress, your body will come back into a more relaxed state, hopefully,
Steve Washuta: you maybe explain in your own words. And this is a leading question. But yeah, how it’s different for one to let’s say disassociate than to meditate, meaning, like, sometimes people will go, oh, well, you know, I meditate when I’m working out and put my music on, I don’t have a care in the world, I enjoy it. I’m like, well, that’s not really meditating, right?
You still have a million thoughts going on, you’re looking at Bob on the treadmill and thinking he’s he’s kind of slow. And you’re looking at Judy, over there doing a deadlift and thinking her form is wrong like you’re not meditating, you think you’re disassociating, from like, and maybe you are, in a sense, from like, your standard day to day problems, but your brain is still running in the background.
Harmony Slater: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s a really great question. Because I like to think of it as like tuning out or tuning in, right? And so you can, when you put on the music, or you’re just like doing your thing, you can kind of tune out your stress, right, you’re focusing on other things like the music or, you know like you say, all the things around you, you’re sort of the mind is still working, it’s still going and still moving, however, it wants, you’re not really in control of what you’re thinking or doing.
Harmony Slater: And you’re not really trying to control it, you’re just like really trying to relax it so that it’s not like stressing out or thinking or ruminating over something, you know, that happened before you got on that treadmill and like we’re running. But when you tune in, it’s actually about, like, whether it’s yoga or breath work or meditation is taking one-pointed focus. So for all of these practices, typically you would use the breath.
Harmony Slater: So like with Ashtanga Yoga, each movement, you know, you lift your arms, you inhale, you fold forward, you exhale, each movement is synchronized with a breath when you’re doing a pranayama practice, you’re inhaling, then you’re holding for a certain amount of time, then you’re exhaling for a certain amount of time. So you’re focusing on the length of the breath, the quality of the breath, and, and the mind can’t wander because if it wanders, you lose count, you lose your focus, right? And same in the yoga practice.
Harmony Slater: Your mind can’t wander, even though of course, it’s our minds wander all the time, but you notice right away because then you’re like, Oh, I’m not breathing correctly. You bring it back. And the same in meditation practice. If you’re using the breath as your point of focus, and you’re trying to concentrate on the breath and tune in to the quality of the breath, the sensation of the breath. You’re becoming very embodied, right?
Harmony Slater: You’re becoming very present to your immediate experience to your immediate sense. sation to what you’re feeling within yourself. And when the mind starts to wander, like go on vacation to Hawaii or think about, you know, what you have to do after you’re finished meditating, you notice it becomes like a disruption, right? You gently just bring your focus, then back to the breath, and it becomes this pattern of the mind going off and no, come back.
Harmony Slater: No, come back. I’m sure you’ve experienced that, right, where you’re just continually gently bringing your attention back to that place where you’re supposed to focus. The idea is that the more you practice, the more that you do these concentration exercises, the less the mind wanders, the more easily it tunes in, and the longer it stays focused in that one spot in that one place, which has a very positive effect on your central nervous system.
Steve Washuta: That’s a great definition, I really liked that term tune in because I think the average person who’s never tried to meditate or doesn’t understand breathwork and meditation, would not think that’s the case, they would think it’s more of like a sleep Esque state where I’m just completely disassociated, where it’s not, it’s that your, your hyperfocus is just on one thing, and not letting the surrounding things, you know, get your attention. And again, this is something I’m not good at. I don’t think most of us are good at that. And still an absolute beginner. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be good at it.
But I do think it’s important. And I and I have seen if nothing else, there have been benefits psychologically with me, I think, you know, just being calmer, making, making more conscious decisions to maybe wait before I answer questions, things like that. I feel like that has helped me. Is there any other sort of psychological things that you personally anecdotally have experienced from your meditation practice or with others that you work with?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, I think, you know, you just become less reactive, like you’re saying, You’re, I think when you’re, you’re always in that little bit of stress, you know, we’ve all been there, we all get there, where you feel a little irritable all the time, right, or you’re like little sleep deprived, you’re a little irritable, all the time, you snap react more quickly at people, when you take these moments, you know, even two minutes during the day to just like focus on your breathing, to go within, to feel embodied to get really concentrated on sensation.
Whether it’s the sensation of the breath, or the sensation of two fingers rubbing together, the sensation of, you know, the hair on the top of the head, whatever sort of the point of focus, you want to tune into it, I would say, down regulates your nervous system so that you move into that more like rest, relax into a space where you’re not just, you know, stressed out anymore, you’re able to like come back into yourself.
Harmony Slater: And that then you’re taking longer, deeper, fuller breaths, your body is also able to take up more oxygen, your brain is also able to take up more oxygen, so you can think more clearly you become more focused, it becomes really easy to like, process things and to like get things done efficiently because your brain isn’t like running in a million directions. It’s like now sort of being channelized in one direction in the direction you want to move it in.
Harmony Slater: And so yeah, that’s, that’s what I’ve sort of found that it’s, it’s a really amazing thing because you get, like, in a way, you become more productive, even though it seems like taking you to know, 15 minutes or two minutes or 10 minutes, however, you know, 20 minutes an hour out of your day to breathe or to, you know, do this type of meditation practice.
Harmony Slater: You know, you would get less done because you’re losing hours, in a sense, right? Where you’re losing time because you’re focusing on your breathing or you’re focusing on, your, you know, meditation. But ultimately, it gives you hours back, because you’re able to see things more clearly. And like, be more specific and direct in your actions. I think, like take actions in a way that’s very conscious and deliberate. And like you say, build in a little bit of space in the response time so that you’re responding rather than reacting, which in itself like solves a lot of problems for us. Yeah, we’re not like running in circles trying to clean up, you know, messes or fires that didn’t need to be started in the first place.
Steve Washuta: Do you have any first-time advice that you give to either the people you work with or that you have been given when somebody is just initially starting this game of breathwork leading into meditation?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, I think probably one of the best ways Um, is to stimulate your vagus nerve. So maybe you’ve heard of the vagus nerve, it’s the 10th cranial nerve and it comes down through your, you know, from your brainstem down through your jaw, it touches your voice box or you learn x, and then it moves. It’s like the wandering nerve.
Harmony Slater: That’s why it’s called the vagus nerve, it touches every major organ system in your body and then terminates at the pelvic floor. And there are a couple of ways that you can stimulate this vagus nerve. And what the vagus nerve is, it is the brake to your autonomic nervous system. So when you’re stressed out if you have good vagal tone, or the vagus nerve is like, I would say, like awake, really awake, it’s not like kind of sleepy, and it takes a while to like activate, then you’re going to come back to a normal or neutral sort of place and your nervous system a lot faster than somebody who doesn’t have good vagal tone, right.
Harmony Slater: So if this nerve is a little bit tired, and not used very often, then you’re going to just kind of be stuck in the stressed-out space. If you start to stimulate it, then it can switch on quicker, which can move you out of that stress response into a more, you know, relaxed, beautiful space. So one of the ways is by lengthening the exhale. So even if you just take 10 breaths, this is super simple, 10 breaths, inhaling through both nostrils, and then exhaling for double the length of your inhale.
Harmony Slater: So you’re starting to kind of focus your mind, because you have to kind of count like maybe three seconds or four seconds or five seconds, and then you have to lengthen the exhale. So six seconds, eight seconds, 10 seconds. And it will take about two minutes, just to do 10 breaths like that. And if you just in the middle of the day, you’re feeling like oh, I can’t focus, I’m really tired, and you just stop, sit down.
Harmony Slater: Take a nice, deep inhale. And then a long exhale, trying to lengthen the exhale for double the length, that lengthening the exhale starts to stimulate or trigger that vagus nerve, which then moves you immediately more into that parasympathetic state where you’re going to feel more relaxed, calmer, more, like within yourself, it’s going to move your brain into more of an alpha pattern, instead of being stuck in that beta pattern where you’re like, you know, consciously, like, consistently, just like making decisions and analyzing and judging and like a little right move you into a more creative flow like relaxed Brainwave.
Harmony Slater: There’s another thing you can do, because it’s also stimulated through talking, or singing or humming. So any kind of vibration of the vocal cords will help just strengthen and tone your vagus nerve as well. So, so that’s why like, sometimes if you put on music, and you’re like singing right to your favorite song, you start to really like relax and feel good because you’re moving out of a place of, of stress and like feeling worried or anxious or upset, and moving into a more relaxed like creative, happy, loving receptive space.
Harmony Slater: So you could sing a song, or you could hum, there’s one breathing practice where you inhale through both nostrils, and then you exhale with a humming sound. It’s called the humming practice. It has a Sanskrit name, but I won’t scare you with that. And you just exhale again, this time for as long as you possibly can. With the humming sounds, you’ll inhale and then exhale. And repeat, then you do that maybe 10 times. And you just like feel the vibration in your body, listen to the sound.
Harmony Slater: And just like it’s again, emphasizing that longer exhale. But plus you get the vibration effects in your body really calms your mind. It’s great. If you have trouble sleeping, it’s really good to do before bed. Because it automatically puts you more into that space where you’re able to fall asleep easily. The other way is like it’s a feedback loop. Right? When you feel you know, loving when you feel empathetic. When you feel like you’re in the flow and there’s a lot of creativity moving.
Harmony Slater: You’re automatically strengthening and toning the vagus nerve, right? So, you can do it by like stimulating the vagus nerve. Or you could just sit and like, you know, do gratitude journaling. Or gratitude listing or just think of people you love and feel love, you know. In those moments and that will also help to gain, move you out of that. At the sort of like, stressed out plays into a more relaxed and parasympathetic state that would you really want to be in, you know, we don’t want to be stressed out all the time, because that not only leads to mental problems, like increased anxiety and depression, but it also leads to a lot of physical problems as well.
Steve Washuta: The vagus nerve gets a bad rap. Typically, when you mentioned it’s taboo. It’s, you know, woo-woo, let’s say. But we did an episode, which is one of my most listened to episodes, for some reason. On the vagus nerve, it’s just called vagus nerve one on one with a physical therapist. And she goes down sort of the physiological components. Then everything else and the studies or the lack thereof, you know, sometimes. There haven’t been enough studies in certain areas showing what exactly the vagus nerve is doing.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not doing it. Because it’s not, they haven’t proven that it hasn’t done it, so to speak. So it’s, it was very interesting episode. And for anyone who wants to learn more about that, and go down that rabbit hole. I will self-promotion here, because
Harmony Slater: I’m gonna, I’m gonna do it and listen to that.
Steve Washuta: Well, because that, you know, I haven’t known anything about it. I made sure I sort of pushed her a little bit and asked the tough questions. Because, you know, from a personal training standpoint, we we don’t get taught those sorts of things, right. It’s not really there is no mind-body connection, it’s just body. Now you have interpersonal client connections. And through that, and through experience, you’ve learned how much that matters and the dynamic of your relationships matter. And then, you know, every trainer takes their own avenue for niching, so to speak, right?
So you may niche in an area that is a little bit more spiritual or mind-body. Where some people niche in an area where they’re just analyzing the body, physically, and they’re not going that route. But nevertheless, you have to eventually merge all of these things. Or at least work with someone else who’s merging these things, right? Because it matters for your client, right? On the psychological side and the emotional side. If your client is stressed, and they’re not sleeping at night. And they’re divorcing their significant other and their dog just died. Guess what, they’re not going to have the energy to work out. Or maybe they’re more likely to get injured. Not just because you’re not paying attention, but because everything else that’s going on.
Harmony Slater: So yeah, that’s super interesting. And it’s, it’s fascinating, too, because I think sometimes like the, you know, spiritual side. Or the mental emotional components are a little bit scary for people. But really, anything you’re doing to your body is changing that side, that spiritual connection, that mental emotional connection. The same way that you know, when you tap into the mental-emotional stuff. The spiritual stuff, it can also like change your physiology as well, right.
Harmony Slater: And so, I had one student who we were doing breath work. And even after just like two weeks, she lost five pounds, she changed nothing else. In her day-to-day life, she just added in, you know, 10 minutes of breathing in the morning. And she lost five pounds, you’re like, kept it off. And it’s like, it’s amazing, right? Like, it’s not something you’d think would be, like an immediate result of just changing the way that you breathe.
Harmony Slater: But when we’re stressed out, or we’re going through a very stressful situation. You know, our body’s gonna, you know, hold things. Like increased cortisol, it’s gonna hold onto body weight, because it feels stressed out. And it’s like, oh, no, we might need this later.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, it’s the sort of the chain of events that happens. The first physiological thing is, yeah, maybe I’m just opening up my lungs and, and getting a better sense of my breath. And having, you know, better-breathing practices. But then that sets off a chain of things right then could be that now that you’re breathing and focused on your breath, you’re lowering cortisol, and so on, and so forth. I always compare the body to a car, maybe not the best, you know, analogy or comparison.
But there are different things that you can change in a car at any given time to make it run better. It’s not just the car just needs gas. And that’s it, right? You have to change the oil, you have to change the tires, you have to make sure that all the different liquids are filled and that the cars are resting for a certain amount of time. There are a lot of intricacies and you don’t know which one you may be missing unless you’re making unless you’re doing them all.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, or at least like aware that maybe, maybe the problem isn’t actually like a physical problem. Maybe it’s like occurring beneath the surface and you have to go a little deeper.
Steve Washuta: Yeah. So walk me through, I would call it your client experience. Steve signs up for harmonies class, I walk in through the door, and you start to lower the lights. What are the first five minutes of your class like?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, I mean, you know, it kind of depends in the Ashtanga yoga tradition. So funny talking about this because it’s so kind of weird to people that aren’t don’t do the class, but there are different types of classes. So you could come into a yoga class that’s a lead class that’s guided where I would talk you through each and every asana and that sort of more your typical kind of class that you know, gets taught these days. It’s similar to like a Vinyasa or flow or power yoga style. or we have something that is typically called Mysore style. Sometimes it’s called self-practice style. And that’s where you already know the sequence of asanas.
Harmony Slater: Because in this style of yoga, there’s a set sequence, you know, the sequence of asanas up to a certain point. And as a teacher, there’s no talking really, there’s no direct guidance, except there’s one-to-one guidance for students. So it’s more of like an open space where you come in, you start doing maybe your sun salutations, you start moving through the postures, and as a teacher teaching this Mysore style or self-practice style.
Harmony Slater: I would like to give you adjustments, physical adjustments in your body to help like open up your spine, or to lengthen your hamstrings or to create a better alignment in the body, you know, something’s a little bit off, you’re typically not practicing in the space with mirrors, because that’s very distracting, again, where you’re looking outside yourself all the time, you want to go in and try and feel the alignment, feel your body in space, listen to your breath, Move with your breath. So it’s quite quiet, quite meditative.
Harmony Slater: And the students would come in. And even if you’re a brand new student, and you don’t know the sequence, at that point, the teacher would guide you, the teacher would lead you through the first you know, sun salutations, and through the first postures directly like one to one and then maybe you’d repeat a couple of times, so that you’d remember the ideas that you’re going to come back the next day, and do it all over again. So that’s sort of one style of class that you can find all over the world, people all over the world are practicing this, this sequence and style of yoga, this Mysore self-practice style.
Harmony Slater: And it’s really beautiful, because, you know, I could go to Tokyo and not speak a word of Japan, and walk into a Mysore class and know exactly what to do, the teacher immediately is going to recognize that I know what to do.
And all of a sudden, you have an entire community of people there that you’re connected to. So it’s a pretty incredible experience, actually, to be able to go almost anywhere in the world and have a space where you can practice and a teacher that can help you. So that’s kind of beautiful.
Harmony Slater: But if it was a lead class, which is your typical, guided class, then you’d probably come into the space. And we would I like to always start with a little seated kind of meditation guided, looking within, you know, watching the breath, just kind of taking note of where you’re at, on that day. And I might even add in some breath, work at that point, doing a little, you know, maybe alternate nostril breathing, or some type of breathing pattern, and then move into an Asana class, where I would guide you through the movements, and we would do some typical kind of stretching, I like to always move the spine in all directions.
Harmony Slater: So Forward Fold, backward fold, twisting, side to side, and then also compression, and then extension as much as you can. So ultimately, I think that’s sort of what we need to keep our bodies generally in good health is to move in all those ranges of motions and directions to the best of our ability. And then we would end with a period of relaxation, where you get to rest and let go.
Harmony Slater: Usually, I guide people through a little bit of a guided relaxation time, which, you know, can be is like a slight meditation, but you don’t have to sit up and hold your body straight.
You can lay down on the floor and just really relax and let go and, and let it all kind of sink in and then tune back into your body and see what’s changed for you see what shifted, see what you’re feeling now. Because I think that’s really important.
Harmony Slater: Because all of these things that we do, I mean, everything that we do, everything that we eat everything that we do in our lives affects us, right, we don’t think about it often enough, we don’t realize it often enough. And I think it’s really helpful to like before you do something kind of feel like okay, what’s going on with me? How am I feeling and then you do the thing? And then you’re like checking back in like how do I feel now? Right? What did that do? For me? I think it’s really important to have that before and after awareness.
Steve Washuta: It’s very important and as personal trainers, it’s very important that we teach our clients how to do that. And sometimes it’s teaching them how to do it not only psychologically which is not something you know, we learn how to do if you have that skill set, you have that skill set, but verbally, meaning some clients will come back and say This hurts well describe the hurt what kind of pain is this? Is it a shooting pain, is it a stinging pain, is it a soreness pain?
Does it feel like a bruise it’s a feeling like a hit right and using that language over and over and over and really digging in my my my wife is a pediatrician and she calls it the what else? What else you just have to keep asking because the, you know, somebody doing yoga for the first or second time is not going to have the vocabulary of the body that harmony has, in order to explain what’s going on right harmony might say, You know what I just I feel like my calf is is a little tight here, my soleus.
And I think I have to make sure that I’m watching when I’m in down dog or whatever, right. So like, the clients not going to be able to say that to the personal trainer. So you have to really dig and use a combination of our parlance with layman’s terms. Figure out what’s like and what is going on. And I think the best way to do that is to try new things like for a trainer to try Ashtanga Yoga. And then ask themselves those questions. So what am I feeling? How would I describe this?
Harmony Slater: Yeah, no, it’s great. It’s so it’s always fun to like, try new disciplines into like, an experiment in different areas. You know, and especially like, as a, yoga teacher. I don’t get to do that quite as much as I used to. You tend to kind of stay in your lane and do your practice. But I think there are a lot of benefits to really like, trying different movements. And different ranges of motion in your body.
Harmony Slater: And also, like, even just developing strength. You know, Yoga has a lot of stretching of lengthening. You develop strength, but it’s a different kind of strength, it’s not so much like the pulling strength, right. And it’s good to create balance in the body. Otherwise, even if you’re doing all the yoga in the world, you can end up kind of imbalanced. And then that also leads to more injuries, right?
Steve Washuta: Yeah, I sent a lot of my golfers to trainers that I knew who were certified in yoga. Or have been doing yoga for a long time. Because there’s a big crossover in golf movements and yoga movements. And sometimes they don’t even know it’s like, I think this is like the really big missing thing in the industry, there just needs to be like this golf-centric yoga fusion, where you have to sort of have that thoracic rotation, like something you would do in a triangle, but really be aware of what your hips and your legs are doing.
Because in golf, you never want to sway, you have to keep the lower body stable and your upper body has to rotate. And there are so many of those things where the further you can rotate backward. And the more you can open up your shoulders, the more swing speed you can generate. So yoga is just is so good, right for opening up.
And you see all these golfers now picking up heavy weights and thinking I can get stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger. When really what it is, is they need to get stronger, but they need to work the smaller muscles, the accessory muscles, and loosen up and I always I push my golfers to go to yoga. And even though I’m not doing it as much, don’t do as I say do. Whatever the saying goes, Do as I say not as I do.
Harmony Slater: It’s funny, you bring that up, that was a very popular class. You’re back in the early 2000s, when I started practicing yoga. Was yoga for golfers It was like one of the most popular.
Steve Washuta: All golfers are willing to do anything. So they’ll spend 1000s of dollars a month on memberships and clubs and private lessons. And so you know, you throw fitness in the mix. And they’re willing to do whatever it is to get a little bit better. But it is there’s a huge benefit for golfers. And then also any sort of, you know, I talked about this. Our goal with our clients should always be long-term health and wellness.
And for golfers no different, right. They want to be on the golf course. For your client, they want to be on the ground playing with their grandchildren. Or you know, walking around a room with their wife. They can’t take these trips in retirement if they’re not healthy. And the best way to do that is to make sure you’re going. Working through all kinds of motion like you described. Then using different modalities and not just doing the same thing over and over. Which you know, yoga is very challenging in that respect.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, I think even like some professional and NFL players like the football players. Have also like started practicing or adding yoga into their like, warm-up routine. Or what they’re doing like on the field before practice or after practice. To reduce the number of injuries because again. Like if you’re just really strong, often then the muscles aren’t able to like lengthen so much. And you’re more easily like going to get that tear of the ligament or the tendon. So yeah, it’s helpful to be kind of a bit more balanced in our our bodies and our minds to
Steve Washuta: Harmony, This has been a wealth of information. I appreciate your time telling the listeners where they can find more about stronger yoga and more about you. Specifically where you practice and where they can best find you online.
Harmony Slater: Yeah, well, I would love they can come to my website, harmony slider.com Easy to remember. And pretty much you can find everything there. Links to my breathwork program that I teach a couple of times a year. You get direct one-on-one guidance from me as well as like it’s all pre-recorded videos and audio and P EMF. So it’s a great course that you can take. And I even have a free breathwork essential breathwork practice course. That you can sign up for and get the little mini course it’s only like three or four modules.
Harmony Slater: So it’s easy. It goes through some very simple practices that you could just implement at home. And free sort of audio and video of a 15-minute breathing practice with meditation. . So all of that you can find at Harmony slater.com. And in person, I’m sort of around traveling and teaching in different areas. So if you want to look me up. I usually have a schedule up on my website there where you can find me in person.
Steve Washuta: My guest today has been Harmony Slater. Harmony, Thank you for joining me.
Harmony Slater: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
Steve Washuta: Thanks for joining us on the Trulyfit podcast. Please subscribe, rate, and review on your listening platform. Feel free to email us as we’d love to hear from you.
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