Welcome to today’s podcast featuring Jill Miller, an accomplished author, self-care fitness leader, and creator of Tune-Up Fitness. Jill’s latest book, Body by Breath, is a powerful resource for anyone seeking to improve their health and well-being. In this episode, Jill shares her extensive knowledge and insights about the complexities of the body and breathing, offering practical tips and tools to help listeners improve their mobility, age gracefully, and feel better in their own skin.
Jill’s expertise and experience in the field of movement and fitness make her a true pioneer in the industry. Throughout our conversation, she shares emotional and empowering stories that will inspire and educate listeners on the importance of self-care and breathwork.
Whether you are an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or just starting on your wellness journey, this episode is a must-listen. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of body and breath, and discover how you can transform your health and well-being with the help of Jill Miller.
Connect with Jill, Book Signings & Retreats:
Listen to the episode here:
- Jill’s Story [00:03:59]
- Education is the Way Out [00:11:26]
- Parenting Challenges [00:15:47]
- Body by Breath’s Genesis [00:21:08]
- Building the Foundation [00:34:45]
- What is Fascia? [00:37:54]
- Movement Practice [00:46:55]
- Yoga, But Not Yoga [00:52:13]
- The Bully Muscles [00:55:02]
- Five Ps of Parasympathetic Dominance [00:59:35]
- Jill’s Parental Role Models [01:10:45]
- The Chocolate Chip Breath [01:22:30]
- Bedtime [01:25:10]
- The Diaphragm [01:31:59]
- The Breathing Brain [01:44:23]
- Mindset [01:51:59]
- Writing [01:53:43]
- Listening to Your Body [01:56:40]
- Treat While You Train [02:00:48]
- Immersion [02:04:51]
- Book Guide and App [02:07:46]
- Singing and Writing [02:13:13]
- Parts of Successes [02:16:35]
- Partnership [02:18:40]
Breath Your Way to Better Health: Insights from Movement Pioneer Jill Miller on Mastering Breathwork for Pain Relief & Resilience
“All global indices, especially with the pandemic, say that every single demographic is suffering and struggling more than they ever have before. This is a planetary problem. In the mental health industry, there’s no way they can be equipped to manage that on a social or individual level. Medication is not the solution for many people, it is for some, but many people can probably do other things that can give them a better baseline than the medication can. That’s why this book needed to come into being now for myself and all of us.”
“Breathwork isn’t a nose-to-lungs experience and your mental health is a body-wide experience and it can be accessed through body-wide breath work. You don’t need my tools to do it, you can use household things to do it, and make a huge difference in your own affect so that you can be a better participant in the world around you and be able to be more sensitive to yourself and others’ feelings through this type of work.”
My guest is the author, self-care fitness leader, and creator of Tune Up Fitness, Jill Miller. Jill is somebody I’ve known for years and she is somebody I go to when I’m trying to solve a physical problem, with me, it’s usually navigating or trying to manage or heal from some type of injury or dysfunction. I’m excited to talk to her because her first book was called The Roll Model and I use that all the time to help with my own self-care practice.
Her book, Body by Breath, has taken her 8 to 10 years to write. It’s like having a couple of kids, writing for a medical journal for a little bit, having your practice, having your certifications, and she got this book done. She said this is her life’s work in one place and what a gift to us because Body by Breath is something you could have at your house and it will teach you, first of all, how to breathe better, how to move better, and how to get ready for movement better and that would mean aging better, feeling better, sleeping better, and feeling less anxious.
She is an incredible combination of highly intelligent yet all the information, she makes achievable, and you can understand it. It’s science but yet she knows how to give it to us in bite-size and in ways that we go, “I know how I’d apply that in my life.” I have such deep respect and love for her because her motivation and reasons for doing things are genuine and she makes it effortless. The amount of work that goes into it, it’s easy to see all of the work that’s gone into it. The book is Body by Breath. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
You’ll get another one in the mail from the publishing company.
I’ll give one away.
This is one signed to you and Laird.
I keep your books like workbooks. It’s funny, I was talking to Viola, the daughter I brought to you. She’s in Spain playing tennis. She was talking about her glutes, this and that, and I always say, “Pull up some videos by Jill and find out.” Let’s go back to your story. You go in and who do you see to talk about this?
First, I thought, “Maybe I should talk to my dermatologist because it’s the skin, you have this reaction in your skin.” The mast cells are being recruited all over my body when I encounter cold. For example, this room is cool and I don’t know if I’ll have a reaction to the cool so that’s I have a jacket. I can start to feel it coming on because it feels like you’re being burned.
When you sleep at night and let’s say your husband likes it cold.
He does. He has a cooler and he has his set to cold. You’ve seen these women often and this was the only relationship I had with urticaria. You see these women and they’re covered in white hats, white net, and they have white gloves. They have heat urticaria, they have an allergy to the sun. I am the opposite, I have this cold urticaria but it’s part of this other cluster. I’m realizing the older I get is I probably am on the EDS spectrum and I have a lot of comorbidities that go along with hypermobility. One of those comorbidities is mast cell activation syndrome and it got activated by the traumatic loss. I deal with it.
It’s a switch. I’m probably the opposite in certain ways when you talk about hypermobility. Julia and I always joke about Kelly Starrett’s flexibility privilege. We’re like, “Can you ask him to check his privilege at the door?” He’s like, “Get into this position.” He squats down and you’re like, “Shut up, Kelly. Normal people can’t move like that.”
It’s also a little weirder with him because of his mass so he has a muscle on top of it. This is the first time I’ve heard about it, with the exception of people talking about hypermobility and then saying, “Sometimes it’s dangerous for certain sports or maybe explosiveness in certain ways.” You’re maybe not quite as explosive or there might be certain things. I’ve only heard it in training or physical dynamic. You mentioned a series of things even collagen maybe breakdown. I’m glad you brought it up. You’re born this way, correct?
I didn’t know I was born that way because I wasn’t flexible, I was just a couch potato, and I was a reader. I had big and thick glasses, I was overweight, and it wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 years old in 6th grade that I started to confront my body’s lack of movement. My mom brought home a couple of videos and this was in the ‘80s.
My mom brought home the Jane Fonda workout and the Raquel Welch yoga video. We lived off the grid, we lived in a solar community in Santa Fe. There was no TV so if you wanted to watch anything, it was a video, a beta. We started to do these videos. It was through doing the videos that I started to lose weight and started to discover my body and movement. I didn’t know I was hyper-mobile years later.
You were already practicing some form of yoga by 19, you were into a practice by then on some level.
By 1984, 12 years old.
That’s amazing. Do you realize, in that environment, “I’m good at this,” when you watch other people? We use other people as the gauge of, “Am I doing this well or not?” Most times.
I am one of those people that is good about putting on blinders in a space. I grew up with a competitive sibling so I knew to keep my nose down, do my best, be impeccable, grind it out, and learn from the master I’m learning from. My relational work was with the teacher and trying to glean everything I could possibly learn from the teacher and implement it on myself. Take the coaching and practice because that’s how you got good and also, that’s how you got out. I knew I had to excel in order to get killer grades so I could get out away from my family.
[bctt tweet=”Adaptability is constant throughout our lifespan. We’re always adapting in one direction or the other.”]
Get away from the solar community.
There was a lot I was getting away from.
Isn’t that funny? It’s an interesting thing. This is a side step. Laird and I talk about this a lot, you want to create a beautiful environment for your family but you feel like, “Yes, but in order for people to leave and to build their own badass life, they have to almost push against you and push away from you.” We understand it when were the kid.
Of course, it makes sense, I had to get out, and I had to get away from my family. As the parent, you know that’s also part of the deal. It’s not that it’s bittersweet but it stings a little. You’re like, “Is it that bad?” You realize that if they’re going to go build this life, something about the world you’re in has to repel them. For you, getting out was getting away from what?
My mother and I fought all the time and my sibling and I fought all the time. My mom was going through such hardship, she was left by her husband, left bankrupt, and left in the middle of the night, he took everything we had, we lost our home, and we lost our car. I remember when she was 43 and I was 14 years old, she sat us down, and she was like, “I give up. You guys take care of yourselves from now on. I need to take care of me.”
She got into this women’s empowerment group and she started to do inventory on what had gotten her to this place of having gone through two husbands, having moved across the country, started a business, the business failed, and then the husband up and left and took “everything. She had to face herself and we were like, “Does that mean we still have to get straight As?” “Yes.” “Can we come home whenever we want?”
Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
You didn’t rebel at all.
I didn’t rebel because I was such a good kid. I knew the ticket out was education. I knew that the better I was in school, the better able I’d get a good scholarship, and the further away I’d be able to get from this situation.
Do you think you would apply that same because it’s a different time? I’m curious. For your own kids, would you say, “Education is going to get you to wherever you want to get,” or would it be different now? We have to adapt, our world is different. Besides some of the obvious things, like, “Figure out who you are, what you like, and know how to take care of yourself,” some of these basic principles. Maybe I’m selfishly asking because I’m always checking myself about where I’m trying to help my kids look towards. Would you say education is the way out?
Your question makes me emotional because I was pushed hard, it was relentless. We got grounded if we got Bs. It was insane I love my mom and I know why she made the decisions that she did. She believed education was the way out and she had dreams that she didn’t get to fulfill in her life. She got held back not by her how smart she was but she got held back by other circumstances so she didn’t want that for us.
What I’ve learned as an educator is I’ve learned to help people learn and I’ve learned to help facilitate their learningness. To me, the most important thing for my kids is that I want them to enjoy learning. When you say education, it puts this whole other pressure on them. I want them to love learning. I don’t care what it is that they get interested to learn because the way is in every path.
How do you encourage that as the mom? It’s different from the neighbor or the auntie. There’s natural built-in testing of boundaries. You’re a little bit the boundary. How do you encourage that?
By asking fun questions and making them go into wonder. I never studied education. All of this is strange to me. I stumbled upon multifactorial learning by teaching my movement practices, to different people, and trying to reach them. I’ve come up with what I now know is a pretty good pedagogy. I didn’t even know what the word pedagogy was because that’s not what I studied, I didn’t study methods of learning. I try to excite my kids about learning the same way I excite my adult students. I set up traps where they’re going to make discoveries.
That’s a lot of work.
I’m not a homeschooler. Let’s be clear, they’re in school. If I’m helping them with their homework or with a project mm-hmm, the work that I do in the classroom with my students has a good carryover. with them. It’s interesting because when I watch my husband work with my kids, I cringe the whole time because the way he works with them is completely different than the way I do.
That’s what their thing too. That’s their experience. What you’ve learned is like, “You have that dad for your reason.” There’s something liberating about it but when we start to realize, “You had that obstacle for your reason. It’s not that I can’t protect you from that but this is your life.” It’s all building the bricks to their story.
Also, part of that is good for them to have that different exposure because different coaches, different teachers, every person, and every adult that you learn from are sharing their learning work with you differently. You got to be nimble in terms of processing and digesting whatever it is people are trying to get you to understand.
Is there anything that you have that surprises you that was unexpected or more challenging about parenting? The thing about you and what’s interesting is, for me, you’re this weird assassin where you’re smart, capable, you get in there, you understand things, and you have an incredible learning memory.
Every time you talk or teach, you refer to every muscle in every place, tendon, and ligament, and you think, “She doesn’t even realize how smart she is.” I’m curious. Now, you’re years into it. You have a son and a daughter. If anything showed up that you’re like, “That surprised me or has been something that I’m going to have to spend more time learning how to do than I realized.”
Regulating myself. It’s the basics like not getting triggered when my son or daughter spiral. Instead of spiraling with them, trying to be the base. I find that I can end up being as much of a piccolo as they are instead of being the base. That is problematic for me psychologically because you want to be able to manage all of their drama and not let it make you feel worse about yourself as a person. I’m human and I’m a parent and some days are better than others. This morning was pretty good come to think of it. I would give myself a B+ or A-.
Do you do days, weeks, or months, or do you do bigger chunks? Sometimes I look at phases instead of looking at each day because sometimes that can be such a rollercoaster. It’s like, “Everyone’s alive and they’re in bed.” Some nights, that’s as good as it’s going to be, no one has killed themselves or each other. Are you that hard on yourself that you’re doing an inventory on how you’re doing?
One night I was hard on myself because I made an outrageous and irrational proclamation, like, “No more dessert ever during the week.”
You did the evers and never.
During the week so that would be probably Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
You before a weekday. In Friday night and Saturday night, go crazy.
It was irrational. Asher started crying and Lila put on her good-girl shoes and got in bed. They weren’t getting in bed, they were being non-compliant, and they had said if they could have dessert, they would listen when all the cues came up for getting ready for bedtime. Bedtime is a nightmare. I have 2 kids and you are way past that.
They’re close together. Mine are spread. I love the never. We call it the Never Cake, it’s big, you eat it, and it’s like, “Really?” Laird always jokes about Never Cake, he’s like, “You’re going to have some Never Cake.”
You’re then like, “I got to backpedal out of that proclamation.” I set myself up for failure. I wish I had not gone into that Piccolo mode and gone into that stress state and let it take me out.
Isn’t it great sometimes? When I say that, it’s because you go, “For as much as I know, I still have so many opportunities to be better.” It must be interesting for you. We’re here talking about your book, Body by Breath. Your first book, The Roll Model, I use as a tool. I encourage people to look at it because these are textbooks that are for personal use.
This is not you speaking to people and saying, “Here’s all this information I know.” This is like, “I’m giving you a tool and I try to spell it out for you.” It’s even better when you can say that and you already know. You probably think, “I’m shallow breathing and my diaphragm isn’t moving.” I’m sure as you’re doing it and acting like a psycho, you even know what’s happening in your body, which makes it even funnier.
It was charming to see Jill lose her crap.
It’s great and important. I find that a lot of people I talk to that are solving problems for people, it’s because they’ve had to navigate their own hurdles. You spoke a little bit about your childhood and then moving into a yoga practice and being hyper-mobile. You had a bout with anorexia and bulimia when you were younger.
People have to understand that you’ve been there, meaning some of the theirs that there are. It’s not like, “It’s been amazing. I was a ballerina and this was a natural transition and everything’s been cool.” You’ve had your own bouts with different elements of health and emotional well-being and things like that. That makes you a more compassionate and thorough instructor if you will. I feel fortunate to touch what I haven’t dealt with this with my daughters.
Going through puberty and body image is an old story, controlling eating whether it’s anorexia or bulimia. With social media, everybody is fabulous. If you could direct somebody either going through it or a parent for some type of eating disorder, what would be a starting point to have a conversation in the right direction? People get flipped upside down. Maybe they have a kid and they don’t know a starting point.
A lot of the origin story of Body by Breath is centered around my own eating disorder history because it’s a helpful lens to look at this body of work. I was disconnected from my body and I couldn’t feel its signals, I couldn’t interocept, and I couldn’t sense subtle physiological signals. Interoception, by the way, is our subtle sensing system so people may be clear about proprioception being the body’s positional sense but interoception is the movement of your organs, it’s the movement of blood, and the movement of air. It’s the perception of hunger and satiation and it’s the perception of sexual hunger.
What do you mean by sexual hunger?
Lust is an interoceptive pathway. Also, the perception of time. This is all in the book. You can look into the research of Bud Craig. Have you had him on your podcast?
No, I haven’t. After reading your book, I went down a little bit of a rabbit hole.
Unbelievable. With the bulimic and anorexic, there is a real muffling of interoceptive feedback. Of course, the behaviors that you engage in continue to further muffle. I started starving myself right around when I discovered yoga and the Jane Fonda workout. Right around age 12, I started to not eat. I ate a lot less and I lost a lot of weight.
I never dealt with why I did that or why I felt compelled to do that. Eventually, that eating disorder “ended” but then it morphed into this bulimia where I could eat as much as I wanted but then I could throw it up. I still wasn’t dealing with any of the underlying sadness, fear, rage, self-hatred, disappointment, or being able to confront my parents or family about the issues that were part of this fire of dislike.
I am not an eating disorder specialist and I have not gone into the therapeutic space although people who study with me do. I try to empower educators to do this work. What I would say to anybody, any mother, a parent, or a caretaker who has a loved one that is still dealing with an eating disorder is to start to try to facilitate a dialogue with the voices in their body that are silent or trying to speak and trying to increase communication.
How do we do that? I do it through pressure so I use tools. I use this thing in my dorm room when I was 18 or 19 years old. I rolled up a hand towel and shaped it into a honeybun-looking thing. I put it on my belly and I lay face down and I breathed into it. I would move it all around my gut every morning, 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM, whenever I woke up. I’d go void my bowel holes or my bladder and come back into the room and do this practice of trying to feel my feels and feel my feelings through pressure through an object.
Now I have a tool called the Coregeous Ball that we use in that same manner. It’s to try to provide a little tactile nudge, a supportive nudge to say, “What’s going on in there? What’s it feel like to be inside today? What are you noticing? I am here to listen.” Not demanding, like, “What are you feeling in there?” That’s what you’ve heard your whole life and that’s where the shutdown is.
They’ll even ask you even worse, “What are you thinking?” When it’s a feeling. It’s even worse. I will say this about the Coregeous Ball, I appreciate that it’s soft. No matter what, even though you can progress and make it seem firmer, it always feels soft. I appreciate that. You had an instructor that put you on almost like a hamburger-looking device first and then you modified it from there to make it a little softer for you.
[bctt tweet=”For me, the ultimate bond was and has been with my children.”]
I remember when one of my daughters was little and I was like, “What’s going on?” This is my perspective, everything was okay. You’re safe and fed. Here comes Laird, he walks in, and looks at her, he gets down on the floor and grabs her, holds her, and hugs her. I was like, “Got it.” The deeper you go into these things, it’s this whole idea of, “You can’t think your way out of a feeling problem.” Also, your tools are almost a touching point to bring awareness and consciousness to these parts of our bodies. Not only is it a tool to open up the fascia and do all these other things, but there are also multiple things happening at the same time.
I want to say so many things about what you just said.
Go ahead then.
The tool is an amplifier for those voices and those parts of you that have been under-touched, underseen, ignored, avoided, or punished. I used to punch myself. I couldn’t feel my abs, I couldn’t feel my feelings, and I hated my belly fat. I would strike myself with my fist. I’d be angry after I would throw up or I’d be angry that my belly looked a certain way. No wonder I didn’t know what was going on inside. I had to wall myself off from myself.
When I reached out to this yoga teacher, I don’t remember their name, but I was going to yoga classes in addition to being full-time at Northwestern because I was intrigued by yoga. Yoga had always helped me because it downregulated me and it gave me a sense of home in my body. Even though I couldn’t feel all the parts of me, I always felt better after a yoga class. I’m a highly anxious person so it settled me.
I was also in the dance program at Northwestern and my roommate was pre-med. I managed to sneak into the Pilates classes. We would go to Pilates classes together and she would always be sore. She’d be complaining that her abs were so sore after Pilates and I was like, “I’m not sore.” It’s because I was using my limbs. I was limbing the classes. I was disconnected from my abs, I couldn’t contract them, I couldn’t feel them, and I couldn’t feel inside.
I confessed that I had bulimia and I also said that my abs don’t get sore. I knew somehow these things were connected. I had a hunch. She gave me this prop that looked like a hamburger bun and it’s a prop from the Iyengar Yoga space that they used to use for headstands and it’s filled with sand. It’s heavy and dense. She said, Lay down on that and breathe. Put it on your belly and breathe.”
That was my first introduction to this. It was miserable, it’s like laying on concrete when your inners are completely shredded from upchucking every weekend with the chocolate chip cookies or whatever I was eating. That visceral pain, that interoception was finally sparking up. I finally felt the pain but then I also was able to start to process and have good emotional pain come out of my body and not be stuck there anymore.
One of the reasons why I wrote Body by Breath is when I wrote The Roll Model, I sent a call to action out to my community, and the call to action to the community was, “How has this work helped you?How has the rolling helped you? Please, share your story. Would you be willing to share your story in my new book?” I got dozens and dozens of stories and I thought I was going to get stories about, “My knee replacement went well because of the balls,” or, “My back pain went away because of the balls and my elbow.”
I did get those stories but every single story that came to me had a shattering emotional component. Everybody reported that the balls helped them with their emotions and with their heart, with their self-regulation. I knew this was true for me, too. I wanted to investigate, “What were the aspects of that part? What are the mental health aspects of this self-mild fascia release thing that no one’s talking about?” We talk about self-care.
All global indices, especially with the pandemic, say that every single demographic is suffering and struggling more than they ever have before. This is a planetary problem. In the mental health industry, there’s no way they can be equipped to manage that on a social or individual level. Medication is not the solution for many people, it is for some, but many people can probably do other things that can give them a better baseline than the medication can. That’s why this book needed to come into being now for myself and all of us.
I want to break down some of the things in the book. You can easily pretend that I am in 3rd or 6th grade. People hear words like fascia and diaphragm and they think they know what it is or what it does. A lot of times, when I go deeper into this stuff, I’m like, “That is amazing.” The function of the diaphragm is important. You say Body by Breath but it’s bigger because then people think, “It’s a breathing book.”
Breathwork is a big component of it but it’s not a nose to lungs trip, this is a body-wide experience of respiration, the muscles of respiration, and as well as the ripple effect through the soft tissue and the nervous system. It is not just to sit there, in through your nose, out through your mouth, hyperventilate, and hope for the best. In fact, most of the book is dedicated to providing novel parasympathetic exercises so that you can build a compound pharmacy to build your resilience in the parasympathetic side of the nervous system.
We’re used to training to go from 0 to 60 and to perform at our peak and perform at our best. If we don’t do exercises and practices that help us to build a tolerance in the parasympathetic side, the opposite side of the spectrum, then we’re going to slowly whittle away at our high-performance peaks. I want to help people go from 60 to 0 without falling apart or breaking down. It’s a slow, methodical, and sensitive approach that uses breath, position, pressure, palpation, mindset, and as well as lots of different ways of becoming aware of both gross and subtle sensations and you get to learn what those mean for you.
If I’m a householder, I’m a layman, and I’m listening to this before we dive into some of the brass tacks, could I get away with 10 or 15 minutes of practice, 5 or 6 days a week, and make significant changes? Sometimes, for example, when you receive a book like this, which is beautiful and dense, sometimes people feel like, “It’s one more thing I have to do.” For me, it’s reminding people that once you get some foundation underneath you, a little bit can go a long way.
There was a meta-analysis about breathwork that came out that said five minutes of breathwork is as effective as meditation. They’re not even doing the breathwork that I’ve gotten in here, which is spine-changing, rib-changing, and neck-changing stuff that’s done simply. It’s not to oversell, like, “If they had only studied my stuff, they would have even better results, 2 minutes or 2.5 minutes.”
Within seconds of laying in a certain way on the Coregeous Ball on your ribcage, your waist, or your abdomen, you experience state shifts from the pressure that the ball induces into you, and you get the biofeedback of how it is you’re breathing. When you put a ball in your ribcage or you put the ball in your abdomen, it’s going to tell you, “Breath here instead of up in your neck, which is that stress zone.”
To rewind a little bit to your question, there are two parts to the book. The first part of the book is chapters that cover neuroanatomy that cover fascia and that cover the role of performance and this work. All along the way, there are these escapes for you. There are QR codes that take you to videos on YouTube where I simplify the explanation and even give you practice. The second part of the book is all the practices.
The second part of the book has a hundred different exercises in the category of breathe, roll, move, and non-sleep deep rest, which is another way of saying yoga nidra. Thank you, Dr. Andrew Huberman, for that amazing term. In those exercises, I wrote them simply that my mother could do them. It’s like somebody handed you a great cook, you’re going to go straight to the recipes. You’re not going to read when those chefs were in Sicily and milking goats and the smell of the hair of the goat. That’s the first part of the book.
The second part of the book is the recipes. Each of the exercises is maybe 3 to 5 minutes. You can do one and you will have a state change, you will have a breath change, and you will feel completely reset. It’ll be a completely different you at the end of it. That’s how I designed the book so that my mom could pick it up and she could start with that part two and then wonder, “Why is this happening to me? Why do I feel this way?” You then go to the front of the book and you start to read about the vagus nerve or you start to read about the sensory neurons in your fascial tissue and you start to understand, “This is that experience I was having.”
People hear, “You’re fascia,” and all this stuff. You said that sensory neurons are double or more than in our skin or something like that.
You read well.
First of all, what is fascia? Why do I need to care about it? For somebody who doesn’t understand anatomy the way you do, can I impact it? Everyone knows if they’re 25, it’s like, “I should start.” What if I’m 60 and I’ve been sitting around in a chair working at a desk, do I have a fighting chance at changing my fascial structure, pliability, and all these things? Is it going to make a difference?
Yeah, adaptability is constant throughout our lifespan. We’re always adapting in one direction or the other. You can continue to adapt to a desk shape and continue to get shorter and tighter in certain parts of your body and have overstretched syndromes in other parts of your body from that position or the couch position. We are always adapting and we can interrupt that with different inputs.
Your fascia is a webby membranous structure that integrates all the cells of your body and ties all the parts of you together from cell to the skin, foot to face, and everything in between. If you ever look at butchery or if you ever have prepared meat, you can see there are these white fibers lining throughout and then there’s the fatty layer on the outside, these are different fascial membranes and different fascial connections.
If you want to look at the anatomy of a muscle in and of itself, every muscle cell you have is surrounded by a film of what’s called the endomysium. When you have these muscle cells that come together, they’re wrapped in another fascial layer that’s called the perimysium. The perimysium surrounds what we know as the fascicle. You start talking about muscle physiologists, they love talking about muscle fascicles. It’s like, “We could call it a fascicle because that’s a big fascial wrapping around a group of muscle cells.” Those fascicles are bound together in another layer called the epimysium. We have these fascial tissues running throughout every muscle.
We’ll use the simple analogy of the muscle. If you have an injury in the muscle, the fascial tissues are what’s there to help start the repair process for you in a good way. In a bad way, sometimes when fascial tissues repair, we get these gnarls and scars inside of our body and our body has to adapt and meander around that. Those gnarls within healing can start to create different imbalances within the appropriate glide that should happen within any muscle and within any tissue.
You can right now take a hold of your bicep and squish it and you can move it up and down and right and left. The only reason it’s moving around is that it’s living in all of these different fascial membranes that permit slide. I can’t give you an hour of fascial anatomy but you can certainly look at the two chapters in the book that cover fascia and that will help. There are abundant sensory neurons loaded into your fascial tissues all over your body.
This is a relatively new science. The fascia research people thought that there were about 100 million sensory neurons in the different fascias throughout your body. There’s been a new recalculation to include the fascia that’s underneath your adipose tissue. Your fatty layers are right there on the top but then your fatty layer slides all around. There is something called the superficial fascial membrane. They started to include the fascias within the superficial fascia. That’s a long story.
There are 250 million sensory neurons in your fascial tissues. You have 200 million in your skin and about 150 million or 180 million in your eyes. You have this tremendous feedback loop throughout your entire body but these nerve endings are peppered, they’re docked, and they’re living in your fascial tissues. What are they doing there? We know what some of them are doing there and we don’t know what others are doing there but you have a lot of these free nerve endings that are unclassified.
It’s not clear what type of feedback they’re giving but most likely, they’re part of this interoceptive system, this subtle sensing system. They’re also there to tell us about heat and cold. We started off talking about my own cold disorder that I have but they’re also temperature sensors. They’re pressure sensors and they’re pain sensors.
We have all sorts of different autonomic sympathetic nerves within our fascial tissues that direct behavior we’re not even aware of. When you’re walking, in terms of proprioception, if you step on something uncomfortable for your foot, your body makes rapid quick changes to get away from that. Those sensory neurons happen to be in your fascial tissues. That’s exciting.
There is a part in your book where you show all these different postures whether it’s sitting orstanding. There are so many of us that have a version of this type of posture either with the head back or the lower arch in the back or all these different things.
The Picasso is my favorite.
Where did that name come from?
From the first book. Do you know Picasso? When you look at the Cubism painting, there’s a head and an eye over here, and then there’s a shoulder way back there, and then there’s a hip and a leg over there. It’s like a person who’s in every plane of movement.
At one time.
They’re so disorganized.
I feel like that somedays. I always said that the way I dealt with my stuff when I was a kid was I armored up and I can feel that I took everything into my hips. I took it and stored it. You weren’t going to read it on my face. I wasn’t going to be shrugged up like this. It was going to be like armor.
You’re ready to kick or run.
Yeah, probably. It’s been interesting because this fascial tissue, the quads on me are one of the beef jerkiest. Kelly used to joke around when he’d smash my tissue and I’d be like, “How is it?” He’d be like, “It’s some of the worst I’ve ever seen.” People work on me and they go, “What is going on?” You realize that people could say, “That’s from playing volleyball.” It isn’t. It’s from something that happened long before volleyball and that was where I packed it away.
Sometimes we have to understand, yes, we have these aches and pains. Maybe we do an activity, maybe we’re a runner, and maybe we do sit at our desks too much. Certainly, that can accentuate. When you start to have a movement practice of any kind for a longer period of time, you start to understand intuitively, “This is something about reflection of my reactions to the world I’ve lived in, to things maybe I haven’t addressed or I haven’t been able to unwind.”
It’s such a humbling opportunity because when you have these practices in place and you can make these little gains, you also realize that if you’ve emotionally tried to leave it behind, then the other part of the story is to physically try to leave it behind as well. It will be like maybe somebody who’s kept on extra weight as protection. It’s all of that. I want to remind people that you’re talking about things in and it’s scientific and there’s a lot of anatomies but that it is connected to something that all of us, on different levels, experience.
I want to bring that up because, for me, my physical practice has become so much more about trying to confront that even though I don’t want to because I’m not good at it. I’d rather bang iron and be explosive and do all that. I’m going to smash into a wall. It’s going to not be pretty if I keep doing that. There’s no way around it.
[bctt tweet=”To me, the most important thing for my kids is that I want them to enjoy learning.”]
Hopefully, I’m smart enough or aware enough to go, “Uncle,” at least. I want to encourage people. Laird is a person who’s bendy enough, strong enough, and has good cardio that he doesn’t shy away from anything. He’s like, “The iron bangers need to do yoga and the yogis need to go bang iron.” It’s the way it is. If someone is reading this, I want to encourage them not to be afraid of those.
It’s the first time I’ve heard of the iron banger. Usually, we talk about the Tin Man. I’m psyched to have another metal analogy. If you’re a heavy metal person and you feel trapped by your body, you feel stuck and stiff in it, here’s the deal, once you do soft tissue work and once you build the endurance of being able to tolerate the softer side, take some of the edges off by doing rolling, by using non-sleep deep rest, and by including breathwork in fun and stealth full ways, your performance gains are out of the stratosphere.
I’ve seen that again and again in my clients who were afraid to do too much of this because it might affect their lift. There was one athlete, I did a three-day Body by Breath course in New York a few years ago, and she was about to go compete down in the Dominican. She was about to do a weightlifting competition in the Dominican Olympic weightlifting competition.
She had been training for months for the competition. She loved me and loved my work and this was the only time I was going to be teaching this on the East Coast and she was afraid of taking the course. I said, “It’s going to make you better. You have to trust me on that.” She took me at my word. She did three days of recovery work. This is deep recovery work.
Of course, she went down to Dominican and she took first place in all of her competition brackets. She knows she won because she was able to refill her tank. She was no longer smashing barbells against the wall hoping to get faster and more precise. She was able to recover completely so that she could bounce into that performance state and crush it. That’s the cell.
I’ve never not seen that work. I have never not seen any of my muscle head people do this work and not have some astonishing thing happen. Their cough went away, their nervous cough that they have all the time, or their neck pain, or this weird thing on their medial knee that they’re hoping would somehow disappear during the course of the weekend and didn’t come back. Doing this work, when I say the weekend, I’m talking about the three-day training. I’ve never not seen it be effective that way.
I want to get back to your quads. Most people, if they’re in touch with their bodies, everybody has kinda like a bully muscle. There’s one muscle group or one muscle that’s like, “I’ll do this for the rest of you, guys. I can handle it.” It’s like the survival skill of that one muscle group. For me, it’s the right trap. My right trap is like, “I got it, everybody.” I have to always have a dialogue with my right trap. I also have some cervical degeneration that probably is making that right trap say, “Hey.”
I will say this disclaimer for all the yoga people out there, my neck degeneration is from long-held headstand, shoulder stand, and plow poses. When I say long held, I used to do five minutes headstand right into a shoulder stand and right into a plow pose every day. It’s about a 15 to 17-minute practice on my cervical spine. I have some beautiful wedge deformities that I can show you from this.
Do you get bucked sometimes? Everything’s about tribalism.
I’m past it.
I’m sure. Think about this, if people are taking time to breathe, of course, they feel good. We’re not bagging on yoga practice but this idea of hyperextending your knees and being in these curved positions or taking the curve out of your lower spine to get into almost any position. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a primal pattern. In a way, I could get down a little more if I manipulated it. The yogis sometimes seem to get us upset.
There’s another woman I know. Have you ever seen YogAlign, Michelle Edwards? She’s from Kauai. She was a serious yogi and yoga instructor and was like, “If we tweaked a couple of things and we inhale into the move instead of exhale.” She had some postural things, it’s different than you but not in conflict and people get upset.
The first format that I brought to the world was called Yoga Tune Up. We haven’t even mentioned that.
We’re going to talk about Yoga tune Up and Yoga fitness. If I could be honest, I would say, “Check her out, Yoga Tune Up, but it’s not yoga.” That’s what I would say. Especially with my athletic friends, I was trying to get them to refocus and reorient on the self-care part.
There can be market confusion around the difference between Roll Model and Yoga Tune Up. I hope Body by Breath doesn’t make any more confusion. I started Yoga Tune Up because I thought there was probably a better way to help my students to do some of these outrageous shapes that most of them couldn’t do.
The way I thought they could best do them was first to get to know their body. If I could help them learn every joint and articulate every joint and teach them about appropriate range or if it didn’t have appropriate range, we could coax it, we could help it with a therapy ball or two. There’s the Roll Model. They could map it. They could propriocept where their body was and then they could ultimately make better choices about a yoga pose or a CrossFit move or if they were a Pilates person.
It was never about yoga per se. Although what I love about all yogas is that special element of this parasympathetic pie that is a part of the practice. I wanted to isolate and understand, “What were these mystical experiences I was having? What were these transcendent feelings? What was that?” It was coming from my body. A lot of that information is also part of what Body by Breath is. What is all woo without assigning it necessarily into yoga lingo? What does science say about that?
I want to add to that. You did say, in your book, that the breath was the link between the conscious and the subconscious. I thought about that when you talk about some of the woo. I’ve done a breathing practice where I do see colors and all this stuff and I’m completely fine to go there because it’s been explained to me about what is happening. I don’t want to just go on a trip, I’m not built like that.
We’re Capricorns, we don’t do that.
You know me. I’ll go woo after you explain to me what’s happening. I don’t want to go to Burning Man and lose my mind for three days. It’s just not me. I will go on the trip once you understand. What I also appreciate is you explain exactly even about the way cells breathe and the importance of CO2. Why would you want to breathe a certain way? It’s so that your CO2 is higher and things like that. You break down that first half of the book. Whether they take it all in, that means so much to people. Let’s go back to my quads. We’re talking about the beef jerky and my fake knee.
We’re talking about the bully muscles. We all have survival skills but then parts of us have better survival skills living in our own bodies. For you, your quads were like, “I’m in charge. I’ll take care of it. You guys can go to sleep. I’m on deck here. I’ll defend and protect. I will over-engage,” to the point that your knee wore out.
Maybe bully is the wrong word because this is this inner supporter. Bully implies that it’s bashing the other muscles. He’s not letting the other muscles have their voice. We want to, in a way, talk to those overactive muscles and let them drain their shpilkes. Shpilkes is a Yiddish word for the excess, the overflow. The overflowing milk is shpilkes. We have muscles shpilkes that need to be managed and that management is letting it talk out.
It’s interesting that we’re circling back to the body parts talking again, this deep listening. The way you canhelpa quad is through pressure and maneuvering, this is what would happen on a massage table, and then start a dialogue. We don’t have the funds to have a massage therapist so we can put a couple of balls together in the tote. We’ve got the pair of Yoga Tune Up balls or we’ve got the pair of PLUS balls or in the case of larger mass, the Alpha Twins.
What I like to do is I like to double up pairs if something is jerky like a quad. I had a hip replacement years ago. We all went through our replacements within, you, me, and then Kelly. All of us are bionic. Isn’t it wonderful? You’re always learning a growth mindset on this one. It’s giving the soft tissues a chance to stop having to control everything and so that happens with pressure and that happens by doing contract relaxed type of maneuvers.
One of the role model techniques we use is drawn from PNF, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. By contracting and relaxing, you start to allow the brain to say, “I don’t have to maintain my clench on the quads, I can let go for a minute. Maybe I can get another muscle to be in charge now or maybe I can be quiet and let this tissue have a chance to deeply rest, restore, recover, have fluid come back in, wash out the stuck stuff that’s stuck in there from the weeks, the months, or the decades of holding on to Gabby instead of letting all of Gabby be there.”
I always express it in about, in a way, how far I get from the ground. The tighter I get, I get so far from the ground. Your knees aren’t bending and then you feel vulnerable. When your body doesn’t work well or the way you need it or you can’t go from here to there, you start to feel vulnerable. You’re in touch with your limitations. Another thing that I find important is surrendering to believing that it can be different. People can be like, “I’m this way.” I have learned through a lot of hard lessons and being stubborn and getting injured, torn labrums, and other things. A little bit can be different.
It doesn’t have to be pummeled either into submission. It needs to be supported if you listened to the invitation.
Your books, not only in The Roll Model but in Body by Breath, have these. People go, “How do I start?” You have a clear starting point. Sometimes when you listen to that intuition, it’s like, “What should I do today?” You find it. Once you have your little bag of tricks, your exercises, or your little routines, you know which one is needed.
If there’s one thing that every person and then every educator could take away from this is this concept of the Five Ps of parasympathetic dominance. The Five Ps is an easy-to-understand process to welcome a dominant parasympathetic state and that’s going to build your resilience so that you’re not in that high-stress state.
The Five Ps are, one, perspective. Perspective has to do with mindset. Mindset can be as simple as, “I am a safe place,” or, “All of me is welcome here.” Whatever that mindset is, it’s about knowing, “I want to have a cognitive frame because I’m about to welcome so much body-based feeling.” It’s not that there’s a separation from the brain to body and body to the brain but this is the way to say, “I’m relating to myself here and I will hold this space for myself here.” That’s perspective.
The second one is place. Place is important. Place is not always ideal. Sometimes the place that we’re in is in the stress universe like we witnessed a horrific accident where we’re on the wait list to get on an airplane. Where’s the ideal place? It’s a little bit dark, it’s quiet, and that’s ideal but ideal is not always there. You also have to sometimes work to cast the space as, “It’s okay for me to do this practice right now and right here.” The ideal space for parasympathetic dominance is warm, dark, and quiet.
After place is position. Get to the ground. If you can get low, you can get grounded if you can let gravity be your friend. Position is always going to be as low to the ground as you can get. For some people, that might be their bed. For some people, that might be their couch. For other people, that might be their floor. We want to get the body low so that we can take advantage of something called the baroreceptor reflex.
The baroreceptor reflex becomes dominant when we’re super low. We’re so low that our head is lower than our heart. If you can be in a place where there’s a gentle slope to your body where your head is lower than your heart and your pelvis may be elevated on something like a Coregeous Ball or a block or a stack of books. What happens there is your brain only wants so much blood coming at it and so you have these big arteries on the side of your neck called the carotids. Braided in with the carotid are some nerves including sprays of the vagus nerve.
When you’re upside down-ish and that blood starts to come towards your brain, the sensors in the carotid pick up on that extra blood flow, it can happen so it sends a quick message to the brain to narrow the arteries, slow down the heart rate, and slow down the breath pace. You get a free relaxation response by getting low and maybe lifting your pelvis up a little bit. If you can’t do that and you’re in a chair, you can lean forward and get your head below by your knees and that will also induce that same relaxation response.
The fourth P is the pace of breath. The pace of breath can induce a relaxation response instantly. What’s the pace? Longer exhales. No matter what amount of inhale comes in, increase the size of your exhale. As you get comfortable with that, increase the inhale but always make the exhale longer. There are lots of other tricks. In the book, I go over how an inhale can also induce a relaxation response. If we go into Dr. Jack Feldman’s work, the sign neurons. Know that if you increase your exhale, you’re on your way.
The fifth P is palpation. Of course, that palpation is self-touch. I use my squishy, grippy, and pliable roll model balls to induce that pressure into the body. This gets us back into the sensory neuron story. It also gets us into large swaths of a maneuvering structure. I’m pointing to my ribcage and thorax because what many people don’t realize in the palpation game is that there is more room to move in your body if your respiratory muscles aren’t always in a state of constant contraction to support your posture.
For example, we’ll do a rollout on people’s backs and we’ll have them check in with a basic breath prior to and then they’ll do a back roll and then they’ll breathe again and they cannot believe how much the shape of breath changes within their body. Because they’re so busy keeping themselves upright with their back muscles, they didn’t realize that the back muscles should have some elastic play in respiration but they’re not.
They’re unconsciously so focused on keeping them upright and it’s jailing the breath, it’s making it a shorter, tighter, and more limited breath. That’s a small example. In the book, there are dozens and dozens of rollouts that we do in what I call the zones of respiration. These guys did a great job on the illustrations.
Organizing this stuff, I can’t believe you’re still married. Goo job.
My husband was not a part of this book.
You still have to come home and stuff. It’s like, “What’s for dinner?”
I’ve got it all planned out, all five meals per day. You know kids need snacks too.
I can’t wait, I’m sorry. I don’t want them to grow up but if I don’t have to do their laundry or provide snacks, I will be happy.
We’ll get into that another time. Honestly, a confession, it was not done for me that much when I was a kid so I overdo it. I’m like, “I can do this for you right now because you live here. It doesn’t matter that you’re 6’1” and talking to me about driving, I’ll cut your apple up for you.” Honestly.
Still cutting the apples.
Apples taste better. Doesn’t everything taste better? Why do we like chopped salad? I love chopped salad. It’s the same thing but it’s small and cut up. My point is you do that but then there’s this weird other thing. The school thinking was like, “You should do it for yourself.” It’s like, “I have two other kids, they’re basically out of the house, they both know how to cook, and they know how to do it because they watched.”
I have one more that milks it for all its worth and is a natural-born princess, has no shame, and is like, “You can do my laundry if you like it.” I’m like, “Good. Can you get it in the laundry room?” In my mind, besides parental insecurity, it’s like, “She’s out of here in two years or whatever.” There are all that but snacks and you got to take snacks in the car because they need a snack and it’s all that.
What about writing a book about people taking care of themselves and downregulating and being in their parasympathetic and it’s creating so much extra work for you? Are you sitting there going, “It’s BS if you’re going to try to get anything done in your life.” Were there little mini practices within juggling, spinning all the plates?
Even having these longer exhales, were you rubbing and massaging continuously? What were your personal little hacks for doing this? You juggle a lot, you have two little kids, you work in some areas with your husband, you have clients, you’re teaching, and you’re trying to be cool. For me, I can be more of a brute and lean into everything so it gives me a release. You’re like, “Great, let’s try to relax.”
[bctt tweet=”All of us are bionic. Isn’t it wonderful? You’re always learning a growth mindset on this one.”]
I don’t think people see me that way. Maybe you see me that way.
Do you mean your kindness and your slightness? You’re not a brute.
I’m a big personality.
You are? I find you so kind, gentle, thorough, and clear.
I have personality dysmorphia because I see myself loud and obnoxious.
That’s what I’m always in awe of. I’m like, “How is she getting all this information out?” That’s why I’m curious, what are your releases?
I can’t wait to tell you.
When we talked about the first P, perspective, we’re trying to be decent humans, we’re trying to respond correctly, and we’re trying to have the right perspective on the world, what’s important, and what’s not. With the amount of work that it takes to be that person, you sometimes want to be like, “Everyone eff off, I want to be mean, and I want to be snappy,” and you don’t. What’s your in-place thing to down-regulate for yourself?
All the practices in the book are practices that I do, for sure. The Coregeous ball is like a barnacle, it’s always near me in my office. My husband, too. We have balls all over the house. I know that within moments of rolling, I will induce a state change. It’s like drugs.
I was going to say it’s like not-drugs drugs. It’s perfect. Mommy will be right there. I’m going to roll.
#RubberDrugs. My kids will roll too. You should see Asher, he’s adorable.
Do you see how moms talk about their sons? It’s unbelievable, “Look at him, he’s so amazing.” When they talk about the daughter, they’re like, “She’s…”
She gives me a run, for sure. She challenges me. We are different. I know I was a little girl once but I was different.
You didn’t have the freedom that you’re giving her, remember that. When they act like that, it’s because they have freedom.
By the way, you are one of my parental role models.
Don’t do it.
I’m humbled because I’m always like, “Gabby is one of my parental role models. I listen to her podcast and I learn all these mothering tricks from her.” It’s true. Here’s what I did. First of all, this book took about eight years to write. There were some seed writings that had been done ten years prior to that so that I got to draw from. It took eight years plus there was significant writer’s block during the writing of the book.
I took an entire year off to write a chapter in a medical textbook called Fascia Function and Medical Application. I did a chapter on self-myofascial release. To do the research and write on that was a huge break from writing this, which I always felt like an anvil over the back. I was like, “I have to get back to Body by Breath.” It was this horrible pressure because this is my life’s work. This is it, this is what I was meant to put out into the world.
Roll Model was awesome, I love Roll Model but this is the book I wanted to write first. I knew that Breath was not trending and no one wanted to hear me talk about the diaphragm years ago except for Kelly Starrett. I was like, “We got to wait for the rest of everybody else to catch up and then I’ll know more at that point.”
Thank God that we’re in a different time right now but during the pandemic, we’re blessed to have a music teacher come to the house and work with my son on keyboard skills and singing. This was a music teacher that he had at the School of Rock. There was a little underground in the world, they were like, “Are you okay to come here? You wear a mask if you want.” He was like, “Sure, I’ll come over.” I can see Asher is not dealing well on Zoom. You’ve got a three-year-old doing Zoom music classes. It doesn’t work, folks.
I always think that this man risked his life and came to my house and gave my son music lessons. I’d be writing and I’m like, “I used to sing. Someday I’ll do a voice lesson with you.” That used to be what I love to do. It’s true, I grew up singing. My first experience of the respiratory diaphragm was in a vocal lesson when I was in elementary school. I said I was a sedentary kid but my passion was singing and I wanted to be Annie. This was an era when all little girls wanted to be Annie. I was a good little singer.
When I got to college and spiraled into my eating disorders, I wasn’t a good singer anymore. For obvious reasons, I was throwing up, I was completely disconnected from my emotions, and I was having difficulty. I wasn’t as good as the other people. You know when you’re great and you know when you’re okay. I was okay. It was like, “I’m going to cut out the singing. I’m not going to try to go to the Broadway path that some of my colleagues are having.” I stopped singing.
I was doing opera and Broadway training, classical, whatever that is at the time. I turned in my first draft of Body by Breathe, it was June 2021. I emailed Chad and was like, “Chad, I want to do the lesson with you today because I turned in my first draft. This will be my gift to myself, I’ll do a lesson with you.” He comes over, works with Asher, and then worked with me. I cried the entire lesson because it was my voice and getting in touch with my voice.
I work with singers and there’s a chapter in here on voice and I was like, “If should keep this up, I should probably retrain myself now that I’m in this body and not the Jill that was suffering all those years ago and re-experience this thing, which is singing.” Singing and training with Chad over the last two years become my most valued new input aside from all the stuff.
It’s been easy to retrain from bad habits because I have been doing this work on my structure and learning to sense things, interoception, and feeling these vibrations striking places within all the “resonance” areas of the body. These were completely foreign to me when I was in my early 20s and trying to sing. I didn’t feel those vibrations. I didn’t feel it was different sounds. The acoustics were going in my structure because I was out of my body. That’s been an incredible journey back into my voice.
Has motherhood brought you also more into your body? I feel like motherhood can do that for women. Also, a little bit of maturity and time. You don’t have to try and it shows up because of the challenge. Even doing work like this, anytime we’re doing work, something great shows up.
One of the things that I feel blessed to have learned during the process of being pregnant, which was a pregnancy after a loss so it was a lot when you’re carrying that around, is to learn about the work of Dr. Stephen Porges and Polyvagal Theory. It’s one of the frameworks within the nervous system aspect of the book because the Polyvagal Theory coincides so beautifully with the zones of respiration. It’s too complicated to explain on a podcast.
There’s this incredible overlap where the vagus nerve innervates in different zones of the body and where we tend to house our breath and the stress relationships in those different zones. One of the things that Polyvagal Theory talks about is our biological design is to be co-regulating with another. For me, the ultimate bond was and has been with my child and children. I never knew that kind of bonding. I don’t remember that with my own mom. I’m sure I had it but so much got in the way over the years, so much is in the way.
There’s something so pure about the nervous system and soft tissue breath bond between mother and baby, father and baby, or caretaker and baby. It’s that uninterrupted organism that you are as one together. I learned a lot about the rules of Polyvagal Theory through becoming a mom and then learning how to mother and then trying to apply those same rules to myself.
Recognizing that if we can get to a place of co-regulation of stable communication contact whether it’s I or body. We’re going to be in a much better place of communicating whatever it is we need to communicate, whether it’s anger, rage, glee, exhaustion, or whatever it is. I definitely have learned a lot by being a mother and I enjoyed those early years because it was unco complicated in that way.
You’re tired but it’s pretty straightforward. Speaking of kids, if somebody’s reading this and thinking, “It would be interesting if you could at least teach your kids some basic habit to connect with their breath or to use the breath whether they’re getting upset, they’re nervous, the teachers ask them to come to the front of the class and give a presentation, or they’re playing a sport and they get anxious.” How do you communicate with a kid or what tips would you give to say, “Let’s talk about your breath.”
One of the breaths in the book is called The Chocolate Chip Breath and it was for my daughter.
Even though she’s not getting any during the week. No more chocolate chips.
She’s getting whatever those protein bars that she loves. She loves all the packaged food, Gabby.
Don’t worry, they outgrow it. It’s built for it, don’t worry. Did you ever have Fluff or Fluffernutter when you were a kid?
Did you make it? It’s like, “We’re going to be okay.”
We got sandwiches with peanut butter and marshmallow.
It’s the worst artificial spread. Who knows what’s in it? All I’m saying is you are here.
God knows what microplastics are in my liver. I feel dirty on the inside.
Was there anything worse than Fluff? I don’t know. It’s going to be okay.
Fresco. I want to throw that one up out.
Kool-Aid. We’re going to be okay.
My daughter was in kindergarten when the pandemic hit. Kindergarten ends, “Where did all my friends go?”
That’s got to be some of the hardest ages.
It was tough. She went to first grade. She was in a school in first grade where the kids are separated. This is like a historical document. Also, people in other states, not Los Angeles, may not have had this experience.
New Texas and Florida people. We’re trying to share an experience here.
School desks were six feet apart and there were plastic and masks. The teacher was piped in on the screen. The kids were in school together, kind of, but the teachers are piped in on the screen.
Did you have to pay for that?
We can talk about that offline. My daughter was 1 of 22,000 children in all of LA that attended in-school. We found a school that had kids coming to class, us, and a couple of Catholic schools.
My daughter goes to a Christian school. We joke that the Christians are rebels.
The Jew, the Hasids.
It’s like, “What?”
Probably within two months of school starting, it’s a different school than kindergarten, she’s showing a lot of signs of panic. She starts to get panic attacks. I can recognize it because I’ve had many panic attacks and I also studied them. Seeing your daughter not be able to breathe and also try to compulsively yawn all the time because that’s another way of inducing a relaxation response. I’m seeing all these patterns in her and she’s not willing to listen to me. We’ve found a therapist to get her a little bit of help.
One of the practices that I designed for her specifically to help when she was struggling with panic was the Chocolate Chip Breath, which is based on Dr. Jack Feldman’s research. When you double an inhale so you can take an inhalation and then take a little extra sniff on top of the inhale, there is a trigger in the brainstem that initiates an overblown relaxation response. This is a good thing.
In the yoga space, we have a breath called Viloma Pranayama. You take one inhalation and you interrupt it with three brief pauses. It always relaxed me like crazy and I never knew why. You always thought that excess inhaling, especially wholes after inhale, that’s supposed to make you more anxious. Why is this Viloma Pranayama is relaxing? Jack’s work explained it. I was like, “Bingo.”
The Chocolate Chip Breath works like this, you imagine you are smelling a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and you let that scent enter your nose and fill your body. You then want to take an extra little cheat sniff and then exhale it out through your mouth. You can make a sound if you want. You can let it out and then you bring in your next chocolate chip and sniff that scent. When you’re totally full, take a little extra cheat sniff and then exhale. That’s the same process that will initiate that parasympathetic dominant state. That’s in the book.
Sometimes bedtime is a little tricky. Nobody wants to go to bed. Did you ever sneak in any practices for the kids to get them down-regulated to be all chill before they go to bed?
What does that look like?
Side-to-side rocking helps. In the book, I have something called the Hug Roll.
If your kids are 160 pounds, what’s happening? I’m kidding.
The hug roll is you hug yourself. You wrap your arms all the way around yourself and you lay on the bed or you can lay on the ground and your knees are bent and you slowly roll to one side and you slowly roll to the other side. It’s that act of the pressure around your ribcage. We get back to the pressure thing. I’m not making this up. You don’t even have to use a ball, this is your own arms and the floor acting as pressurizer into the ribcage, and then the head turning from side to side.
What that does is as you’re rolling from side to side, your head will rotate and twist and it will gently compress the carotid. What did I mention earlier about the baroreceptor reflex? We can get pressure into the carotid into that same vagal reflex with the side-to-side rolling of the head. There are lots of little tricks. It’s instinctive that you would bundle your kid and rock them and give that side-to-side inducement. That’s a good one.
I’ll also try humming with them or singing with them. Lila’s got a Kindle now so she’s like, “I’m checked out. I got my Kindle.” Asher is receptive and we’ll do things like snake breath. Snake breath would be the extra inning on the exhale. We’ll have snake breath races. The snake breath, by the way, is not in Body by Breath but it’s a good one. You see who can have the longest, thinnest, and sneakiest S.
Do you let them win?
No. I’m always like, “I want to PR this right now.” I’ve been training. It’s like, “He should catch up to me.” I won’t let him win.
Somehow in the real world, kid, you’re going to learn it here. No one sleeps, we know this. People don’t sleep. We talked about preparing for sleep. Let’s say someone is mind grinding or they’re stressed out and they wake up at 2:00 in the morning. Do you have a suggestion for them besides writing your thoughts and feelings down by the nightstand? Don’t turn the light on though, keep it dark. I always love that one. I’m like, “How do I write it down but don’t turn the light on?” If there’s a little tool to offer them.
[bctt tweet=”Everyone used to think that human respiration was governed by a firing from the brainstem that creates this inhalation but that exhale is reflexive. Exhale happens automatically.”]
First, I want to make twenty calls to all the people who told me, “I sleep with the balls by my bedside. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I put it over here and I fall right back asleep.” My dad sleeps with the therapy ball. He’s a doctor and he can do that. I would never tell anybody to sleep with the balls in their bed but I have a number of people that have the Coregeous ball close by to do pressure in their ribcage and then it helps them to fall back asleep.
The face work, the fascia-facial, working the jaw and the temples help especially with people that are grinding at night because that’s when the teeth clenching shows up. For me, there’s a practice called Analumvolum. It’s called psychic alternate nostril breathing. What a head shrimp this is, psychic alternate nostril breathing. Analumvolum roughly translates into the psychic alternate nostril breathing. It’s the one that works for me and it’s like you’re flossing your brain with your breath.
There’s no pressure so you’re not using your fingers to close but you’re imagining a flow from the left nostril to the right hemisphere or brain. The energy migrates to the left hemisphere of the brain and then on an exhale, it seeps out through the right nostril. You then inhale in through the right nostril, it taps into the left hemisphere, and it migrates to the right hemisphere. On exhale, it leaks out through the left and I keep looping those back and forth. Justin, you don’t need to twist your head.
He’s closing one eye. I started closing an eye to try to push it over.
It’s an imagination thing. For some reason, that one’s always worked for me. I don’t know why but you have to find the thing that works for you. There are over 100 exercises in here and 20 of them are activating but 82 are deactivating which should send you into sort of a parasympathetic paradise and help with sleep. What I find is if people do some of this practice during the day, there is a carryover into nighttime sleep, or they can do a practice close to bedtime and it can shuttle them in. The non-sleep deep breath stuff can be helpful to do right before bed.
A lot of people are already listening to apps, they’re listening to people talk them through cues that help to induce the relaxation response. I like that a lot myself. I also don’t like crutches. I want sleep to take me. I hate finding myself in a position where I’m dependent on a med, a practice, or an outside stimulus like somebody else’s voice to do the sleep for me. That’s what I did for my children for the first three years of their life. I was their crutch, I taught their bodies how to let sleep take them. Eventually, you want to let go of those crutches and be able to be the being that deserves sleep. We all deserve sleep. You’ve had so many breath scientists on here.
It’s different because it’s the recognition of the power of the breath. Yes, here are some exercises. Your whole-body integration, for me, is what’s powerful. I want to talk about two more parts of the body. I could go on and on but I’m going to be polite to the audience. Can you talk about the diaphragm? I know you love the diaphragm but it’s the diaphragm. I wouldn’t be a responsible soldier if we didn’t talk about the diaphragm and the vagus nerve. It’s important for people to understand the why. It’s even easier to make this commitment.
The respiratory diaphragm is like a tarp on the inside of your ribcage and you can’t sense it. You probably have when you’ve had the hiccups, that’s pretty much the only time when you’ve probably felt your diaphragm because the diaphragm is devoid of these sensory neurons. Remember how I said, “Your fascia is loaded with all these sensory neurons.” If you had to feel your diaphragm every time you breathed 22,000 times a day, you would go mad. People who have paralysis of the diaphragm and have to use other muscles to get breathing into their bodies suffer.
When you said that, you made a vertical breathing shoulder-shrugging move. I want to bring that up because for a lot of people, if they start to pay attention, and if you tell people, “Take a deep breath,” I’d say 50% of them will shrug their shoulders up so it isn’t that round horizontal breath. You go, “Take a deep breath,” and they take a deep breath. I want to bring that up because it’s a great indication.
Let me tell you how disconnected humanity is from your breath baseline. When you breathe in normally, the diaphragm lives in this cove inside your ribs and when you inhale, it contracts, and when it contracts it helps the atmosphere to come into your body, that’s air coming in. When your body senses that it has enough oxygen, your brain says, “I don’t need to contract a diaphragm anymore.” That stops and then the diaphragm flips right back up and then outgo the CO2. That’s normal breathing. You don’t have to think about it, it’s happening automatically, and it’s a gift.
I go to the doctor and they put this stethoscope on my back and they say, “Take a deep breath,” and so I do that. I breathe with my diaphragm so that my diaphragm descends and I also include my intercostal so I get some broadening of the ribcage. I remember the doctor saying, “No, like this.” They showed me how to breathe by lifting their shoulders up and I was like, “You want me to take a stress breath. No problem.” We’re disconnected from breathing that it’s like we’re being medicalized into doing a stress breath. I’m not saying all doctors do that, I’m sure. That was one incident that I’ll never forget. I didn’t want to turn to them and say, “Do you know what I do for a living?”
Not only that, you’re like, “I was trying to oppress you on how open I could get the back of my ribs to come towards your stuff.” That’s what I use. I always say to people when you’re laying on the floor and breathing, I go, “Listen, even if you don’t, feel like you’re trying to lift yourself off the floor a little bit with how round and open that breath is.” Give them something to push off. For me, it’s always been an interesting thing. Most of us think our diaphragm is down low versus up high.
To find your diaphragm, you go to your ribcage, to the far end, and to the flaps in front. You can tuck your fingers underneath the sides of the ribs and skim your fingers along the inside edge of the ribcage. and then breathe into those fingers and you’ll feel something pushing down into your fingers. That’s the diaphragm.
The diaphragm doesn’t sense itself so you can sense it with your fingers, you can sense the pressure move, and you can feel the ribcage move. The diaphragm is the primary muscle of respiration but it’s also inserting into the lumbar spine so you have these little tails that hook into the lumbar spine. The back of the diaphragm also has these fascial hooks for famous muscles of posture, the quadratus lumborum and the psoas.
There’s an intense relationship between your pelvic posture and your ribcage posture vis-a-vis the soft tissues of the diaphragm and these connections.I have a chapter on the diaphragm in this book that is a love letter to this muscle. I could have written an entire book only about this muscle. It’s hard for me to pick 1 or 5 things to talk about.
The other thing that’s important for people to know about the diaphragm is it is the roof of your organs. We have all these abdominal organs that would float up right into your throat if your diaphragm wasn’t there acting as the bouncer, “You can’t get up here.” As you’re breathing, this diaphragm is descending and ascending and your organs are like, “I’m getting this little bounce helping my bowels to move. It’s moving my food along. It’s petting my liver. It’s petting my stomach. It’s petting my descending colon. It’s helping keep things in order down here.”
Digestion, elimination, and all these things.
You also have these holes in the diaphragm. You have this passageway for your esophagus to get the food into your stomach. You also have the aorta and you also have a wonderful nerve called the vagus nerve that’s also passing right through there from the brainstem to get into your organs, to get into your viscera. We have this incredible relationship between this big-breath muscle pressure monger and your gut reality.
Going back to the muscle stuff for a second, your diaphragm should be able to move down and your ribs should also be able to spread out. There’s a rhythm to getting full breath into your body, which is a coordination between the movement of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles. For many people, this can be stilted and fragmented because of overtraining of the abdominal layers or overt stiffening of the ribcage and not allowing for the intercostals to do their thing, which is to allow the ribs to bucket handle up and down.
For many people, especially high-stress individuals, the ribs tend to be stuck up and they are stuck in a startle posture in general and this creates problems with emotional regulation. It creates problems with the shoulder overhead position if we take it into movement mechanics. One of the reasons the ribs can also get stuck up is because the abdominal muscles are rigid and they’re taught from over-training and a lack of glide there.
Maybe I can make this simple. The diaphragm and the transverse abdominis live in the same fascial layer. Hopefully, most of your readers have heard of the transverse abdominis, it’s the deepest of the classic core layers. The Pilates industry has made the transverse abdominis famous. The bodybuilders made the rectus famous. I don’t know who made the obliques famous. I try to make the obliques famous because I like them.
That belly-to-spine cue, if that’s over-cued and that’s taken extremely seriously, especially by dancers or by people who are trying to look thin and not let the belly pooch, we have this attitude of tension at all times in this collaborative layer between the transverses and the diaphragm. If you’re always bracing for a punch or you want to try to look skinny, your diaphragm has no option. We’re not able to descend the diaphragm down well, therefore, it’s also not going to stretch well. Things that don’t contract well, don’t lengthen well. It makes a problem for our diaphragm.
With that stiffness, we get thrown into our higher stress zones of breathing. When we’re breathing and the diaphragm fully moves and the transverse abdominis and all the guts and the abdominal layers move, we’re able to relax ourselves. If that area is full of tension from any of the aforementioned reasons or from scar tissue, maybe we have scar tissue that’s impacting stiffness in that area, we’re going to default into something called a Zone 2 breather or a Zone 3 breather. The Zone 2 breather is what we need for athletic performance but we need to be able to come down back into Zone 1, calm breathing.
Zone 3 breather is the in-case-of-emergency breath, that’s the breath and startle, that’s the asthma breath, that’s the I-got-to-get-out-of-here breath. It is a fraction of the time that it is tenable and those are the neck and shoulder muscles that most people have some stiffness there and that’s probably from holding phones and having their heads craning forwards over computers. Long story short, your diaphragm is important and we want to make sure that the environment that the diaphragm lives in have room to move and it’s not being strangled by tensions known or unknown.
It’s interesting because I didn’t learn until many years ago that you always think, “Inhaling.” I had an uncle who passed away and one of his issues was he couldn’t exhale. To your point, it’s the importance of this full range of motion and being soft in the belly. It is interesting, especially for females, how we walk around braced. If you’re needing to sit in a chair and support yourself a little bit but do it in a softer way and not being clenched and noticing even when you drive your car.
I noticed this when I played volleyball, my obliques were hyperactive and overdeveloped. It was like everything was on all the time. It was like, “You’re driving the car. You don’t need to be in a full clench all the time.” Having that awareness helps. Is there a breathing pattern that you would encourage people, because people are sitting at their desks, to support the end goal? It’s not the optimal environment so it’s not about freaking out like, “I’m sitting in a chair.” It’s like, “It is what it is.” Is there a breathing pattern that you go, like, “Most times, if you can be in this space, it’s pretty good.”
I have one in the book. I can’t remember the name of the breath practice. We shot all 100 practices, every single one of them. The mindset for it is My Breath Kneads My Posture. Every now and again, when you’re in a situation where you’re in a relatively static environment whether it’s sitting or whether it’s standing, maybe you’re in a line, it’s like, “Let me do a three-breath check-in here.” When I inhale, I want to feel that there’s swelling in my pelvic floor. I want to feel that there’s an expansion around my waist, low back, and abdomen. The same inhale grows into the maple of ribs flying away from the access.
On exhale, all of that recoils and draws in. There’s a general awareness of, “Do I still have the interoceptive and proprioceptive connection to feeling these reflexive stretches that can occur by manipulating my breath pressure into Zone 1, abdominal breathing, Zone 2, thoracic breathing, regardless of what the posture is.” It doesn’t have to be impeccable. Posture, it’s like, “Let me check in and feel the shape of me right now from inside out.” That’s all.
Finally, in The Breathing Brain chapter, I wanted to have you talk a little bit.
It’s easy to talk about brain science.
Sometimes a book like this, there is so much in here that I wanted to shed a little light because people will be like, “Breathing.” It’s like, “No.” There’s a lot going on.
We are being breathed by our brains all the time, it’s amazing. You don’t have to do anything. Your brain is orchestrating it all. I spent some time talking about the work of Jack Feldman, who’ve already mentioned twice before. Also, I’ve gleaned a lot from listening to Andrew’s work, the Huberman Lab. I love how digestible he brings different scientists and different research out. Also, Dr. Kevin Tracey.
He’s in your book and there’s you have a QR code for Huberman. This is a great extra bonus but you do have something with Huberman in the book as well.
There are interactive ways of gathering information. Especially if you get exhausted reading, you can always go to the QR code and there’s tons of free stuff that we have both on our website and on YouTube to help expand your intake of the material may be said in a different way than it is written on the page. Not everybody learns well from a book.
What I learned from Dr. Feldman was about the pre-Bötzinger complex, which is this small region of the brainstem that initiates inhalation. He found that there’s a nearby area of the brainstem called the parafascial nucleus that controls exhalation. Everyone used to think that human respiration was governed by a firing from the brainstem that creates this inhalation but that exhale is reflexive. Exhale happens automatically. If it happens automatically, you need good recoil. You need good pressures to get rid of the air.
What he discovered is that when you start to amplify your body through exercise or exertion, the body is like, “There’s too much CO2. We got to get rid of it.” The brain is signaling exhales to happen so that you have a good rhythm to get rid of that excess CO2 so that you are in homeostasis within your blood gases.
The other aspect of the Breathing Brain talks a little bit about emotional control of breathing. These breath signals that are coming from the pre-Bötzinger aren’t just going to the phrenic nerve to tell your diaphragm to contract but these breath rhythms are going to different areas of your brain all the time. There’s this communication.
What does that mean? What are these oscillations telling other parts of the brain? How is the brain functioning with these other messages? What role does that play? There’s going to be more and more information for all of us who are interested in that with these big heady scientists that know a lot more than I do. I’m just trying to process what they’re saying. Seeing that some of the science validates my felt experience is always an interesting thing.
People appreciate that even if you have to read it seven times. I read some of this a few times and I was like, “I know what neighborhood she’s in. I have no idea where the house is. I got to move a little closer.” When I get into some of the vagus nerve science, the number of edits that I did to try to pull back so that it was intriguing enough that you would keep reading. You might not get it the first time.
I certainly know that when I read things that I’m interested in, I got to dig. I’ve got to go back 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 times. It was also so counterintuitive when I first learned that the vagus nerve we know is the nerve that controls respiration, slows down the heart rate, and it’s gathering information from your viscera at all times. It shares nuclei with a bunch of different nerves of the face, neck, and head.
[bctt tweet=”I try to excite my kids about learning the same way I excite my adult students. I set up traps where they’re going to make discoveries.”]
One of the things that Dr. Porges talks about in his Polyvagal Theory is that these muscles of ingestion and communication were part of the design for us to co-regulate with caretakers and to regulate with others. That co-regulation also brings us into a parasympathetic rapport. Parasympathetic isn’t just, “I’m chilled out. I feel so mellow.” It’s also this harmony that we have with other people and that wasn’t something that I understood before.
This is where it gets in the weeds, that’s why you have to read the book. He talks about something called special visceral efferents and these are the muscles within the face, neck, and head. When they are stimulated, you can hit this co-regulation and tranquility button. It’s one of the reasons why I advocate singing and humming as ways of regulating but also specific facial massage exercises and neck-throat massage exercises that are wonderful vagal regulators or neural exercises.
Do you ever trick your family into completely flowing with you by doing weird signaling? I trick my family all the time. I’m joking but not really. You realize this once you’ve lived with people long enough that if you come at them a certain way, you can get them to get on board with you, sometimes. Little kids are trickier. We’re set up in so many ways. I talk about going first a lot but we can be the first ones to go there. We can bring the people around us there with an open face and look and a smile, a soft look.
That’s why I have to be careful when I’m working if I move in and around my family because I’m squinting, I’m like a predator, and I look totally different. When you’re in that zone, you’re like, “I got to get things done.” They look at you and they go, “My mom is a psycho,” or, “My wife, look at her.” Who knows? I’ve learned that I can bring where I want to be and exist with the people in my life. I can participate in a real way. What you’re saying indirectly is almost a different version of that from a different approach. It’s like, “I feel calm. I’m here. I’m open for you. I’m receptive to what you’re feeling.” It’s that relationship.
“I’m here to mirror you. I’m here to flow with you.”
Especially if it’s for good, it’s like, “I’m not trying to get you to do something I want. I want to try to be a person who creates a space that maybe is somewhat peaceful some of the time.”
I have above my desk the mindset, “I am a safe space.” That’s my ideal. That’s what I’m aspiring to do. I know how to get there and it’s through this work. I can get there for myself so that I can be that for other people. I can’t expect them to get there if I can’t be a role model and if I can’t lead the way. It is the eternal work because I am a highly anxious person, that’s what I come in from shpilkes. I help people with high shpilkes, that is my gift.
That makes sense. I don’t suffer from that. I see a lot of times when people have hyper-intelligence in a certain way, oftentimes what comes with it is this extra awareness that can turn into anxiousness and I’m like, “That’s what those IQ points will get you sometimes.” It’s this higher vibration understanding. I see that a lot with people. Someone like you who can write this book can’t produce this work without something that could also attach you to being something that would probably be a little more anxious, there’s no way.
They cut 400 pages out.
My book would be four chapters and they’d be like, “Can you try to beef it up a little bit?” I’m not walking around feeling anxious. It’s also understanding that not only for ourselves but seeing that in other people and recognizing, “Yes, these traits often dance together.”
I don’t jug myself for it. I’m like, “It is what it is.” It’s the energy. I am an insatiable creative. I get sparked all the time and I get ideas all the time and I want to play all the time. I get angry too. I’m a sparky person and I accept that. If I didn’t accept that, I would be in pain.
You’ve channeled it to work for you, that’s the other secret. For our kids, it’s like, “it’s great, all these traits.” What mix do you want to put together so that they support you and they don’t take you down? It’s not about, like, “You’re not supposed to be like that.” I have to say that you’re the most fit I’ve ever seen since I’ve known you.
What is that? Maybe 6 or 7 years or something like that.
I’ve known you longer. I wanted to throw this at you. I’m an MTV generation kid. One of my early jobs was in Santa Monica because I used to live in Santa Monica and had a rent-control apartment. You would come in and order take out and I distinctly remember you because you’re rememberable. I remember servicing you.
That’s not bad.
All those years ago.
You used to watch MTV sports and then you’d be like, “That’s one big witch.” I’m hard to miss that way. Was I nice to you?
Good. I try to be polite.
I remember you were classy.
That is the word. You were super classy. You had on a ton of makeup. You would come from the airport. You were probably in a shoot as I know you were. You didn’t tell me your life story. There was maybe a sense or two of information. I’ll never forget it because when you’re new in LA and you see celebrities, you remember those. I remember waiting on Beck.
Why are you as fit as you’ve ever been?
I am fit because I am listening to my perimenopause in the biggest way and taking in the research, particularly of Stacy Sims. After I had my hip replaced and I could finally do all the fitness things that I had been afraid to do because I was afraid of hurting myself, I dug in on explosive work.
You’re banging iron.
Also, making sure that I tried to get those heavy lifts in for my tendon body, for my bone body, for that speed body, and also for my emotional health.
What is that? Speed body? Are you doing sprints? What are you doing?
No, explosive work. I call that speed. I’m sure Andy would not call that speed.
Galpin? Don’t get that Terrier started.
Put a nickel. It’s amazing. He’s the best.
Dennis the menace as a scientist. Do you think that worked for you? I want you to know, whatever you’re doing is working.
About how freaking great you look?
Yes. The thing is I have been laying out my fascial body and attending to this fascial body for decades. All it needed was to have some resistance and some load added in. All those little fascicles are happy to be like, “We have something we can fit into.” We’ve got some good tailored fascia body that’s ready to spring up. I don’t tend to talk about aesthetics but because people comment so often, I have to be able to explain that to them. It’s better to feel better inside my shoulders than to look like Michelle Obama’s arms or whatever. The reality is that I attend to my joints and I attend to my fascial health. I also did a program with my girlfriend, Dr. Jen Fraboni. We have a hit-base program coming out.
Is it harder to do both?
Parasympathetic and sympathetic?
No, because that’s what it should be. When I work with these high-end type A sympathetic loaded athletes or humans and then I match that intensity with the parasympathetic side that they’ve been missing, then they are truly resilient. When you bring someone like me who maybe I’m highly anxious but I haven’t been testing my sympathetic gears, I’ve been living in these parasympathetic gears, I’ve overtrained there and I’m undertrained here. I’m trying to harmonize both sides of my training by working into more sympathetic realms than I had probably in the first 30 or 40 years of my life.
Since you have this deep well and deposits and practice of your parasympathetic, let’s say me, I’m coming to you, or a person, and I do this and that. Let’s say I lift, I do some cardio, and I stretch. Do you say, “You’re going to break it up. One day, you’re going to do this. One day, you’re going to do that. They live together on the same day.” I love the name, the Treat While You Train program, I remember that. Is it simultaneous or is it, “Do this first and then do that,” how does that look? For most people.
Here’s what I think is an ideal setup, it’s a good idea to do a little rolling and mobilization prior to the workout because stimulating yourself through the therapy ballsgives you better torque and it gives you better proprioception. Also, if you’re like, “I don’t have the shoulder thing, it always hurts.” When you roll, it gives you a little analgesic. You optimize proprioception, which means you’re probably going to be better at positioning yourself within the context of your workout.
There are lots of pre-recovery benefits to doing a little rolling, which we would consider mostly a parasympathetic ex experiment because to get the most out of rolling, you have to be in a therapeutic state. That’s the ramp-up. You then do your workout and within the workout, you may be like, “I’m not feeling my left foot in my deadlift. For some reason, all my weight is going into my right knee, right foot, and right hip.”
Take a minute to roll your left foot. Take a moment to roll your left booty. Develop the proprioception there. It doesn’t take long. You need 30 seconds on the foot. You can scrounge up like a cat against the wall with a ball on your butt. I guarantee you, your brain is going to be like, “I know where my left foot is.” That is the Treat While You Train concept. There’s no reason why you can’t interrupt with a little stimulus here or there.
For the recovery, this is where it’s important, you probably want to double the dose during your recovery. Sure, you can roll the stuff that you contracted heavily or loaded heavily but also, you want to do some of the things that are going to do a parasympathetic cascade across your whole body and that includes rolling along the ribs somewhere, side ribs, front ribs, or back ribs, it doesn’t matter. That’s going to help.
By the way, in the pre-recovery, it’s also always good to make sure that you’re doing breath work in conjunction with the rolling. You’re stacking those elements together and making what I call the compound pharmacy. In recovery, this is when we want to make sure that we get that gentle slope position in our bodies and probably want to go after the things that are going to give us a better night of sleep. If we can get ourselves into a state that’s going to give us more deep sleep hours, then we’re going to bounce out of bed the next day ready to go and be in a better-adapted state.
I thought about this, I’m confessing to you now that I thought, “I’m going to take six months and I’m not going to bang iron. I’m going to try to do the parasympathetic or yin-type motion to stunt or break the loop or feedback loop, then I’m in.” That’s the other thing about getting good at certain things, you can be going in the wrong direction at a fast pace. At a certain point, you almost have to be like, “We got to turn the car around and head in a different direction.” I’ve thought about that.
It’s like refabricating everything.
I thought about it and what brought it even more for me was reading it in your book because you sent it to me so I’ve been looking at it for quite some time. I thought it would be the time. I would lose the gains that I have, to your point, that maybe by doing that, I would be so much better in the future. I want you to know that I’m thinking about that. You don’t have to tell me what to do. I’m being dramatic and saying, “It might be six months. Maybe I’d integrate keep squatting and keep certain mechanics and patterns so the body is like, ‘Okay.’” As far as doing that, it’s almost like you have to break from it.
What would be helpful would be an immersion. For example, the three-day training where we don’t do anything else. It’s three days that are sculpted around Zone 1 and then we do Zone 2 and then Zone 3. What that gives to a person like yourself who is like, “I’m used to just running miles on this car.” It gives you a vacation from that pressure and you’re also hosted.
You don’t feel the pressure to make these parasympathetic things happen if they don’t. If you’re hosted by a teacher, it’s much easier to make a big emergency break because that’s what you’re talking about, “I’m going to pull the emergency break.” You are going to need a medic if you pull the emergency break.
It’s nice to turn over the control too. To have a teacher and they’ll say, “Do this,” and go, “Okay.”
To not have to deal with the choice of stress.
It’s a real thing.
It’s like, “What page should I start on?” Believe me, please don’t get the book because I’m telling Gabby maybe she should do an immersion. You should do an immersion too. T
This is an ongoing tool, this book.
It explains every exercise, it explains why things happen, and it gives you the reference. You know what to go back to and then you can build your own.
That makes sense.
I started working at a retreat center when I was 19 years old at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. I learned the art of removing oneself from one’s life if one could. I did work study for that venture so that I could live in a tent. I met my original yoga teacher there, Glenn Black. I learned many practices and learned so much about life and myself by living in a tent for a whole summer, which molded and was disgusting but that’s a whole other story. Being able to extract myself from my life is not practical for most people for 3 months or 2 months, but three days. Even online, I have classes where you don’t have the choice fatigue. You can be led and you can let and you can be well-directed into these different aspects of your nervous system, your soft tissue system, your breath, and welcome in those messages.
That’s an important suggestion. That would apply to so many things for people, that suggestion, if you’re going to try something. Justin, I’m going to give you a chance. Do you have any questions?
Is there a guide for such a massive book? Is there an app for someone that knows they should get started and doesn’t know where?
We filmed all 100 exercises that are in the book and the exercises are anywhere from 2 minutes to 5 minutes. There’s one twenty-minute exercise but all the rest of them are in an approachable timeframe. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t leave any community out, visual learners, book learners, and free videos on YouTube learners. I want to get the information out there that breath work isn’t a nose-to-lungs experience and your mental health is a body-wide experience and it can be accessed through body-wide breath work.
You don’t need my tools to do it, you can use household things to do it, and make a huge difference in your own affect so that you can be a better participant in the world around you and be able to be more sensitive to yourself and others’ feelings through this type of work. Yes, there are different entry points that I’m anticipating people will come to the work. Eventually, it’ll be an app first that will live as a cache on our TuneUpFitness.com website and that will come after the book is released.
That’s a scary-looking book. I’m sure it’s all in there.
Justin, say nice things.
How do I start? It’s all in there. Where do I start?
I did this with you and your daughter.
The first half is not just pictures only.
It’s simple exercises. I was expecting it’s wordy.
Even the science part, she has beautiful illustrations to show you exactly what they’re talking about. It’s, all of that.
That’s edited down.
400 pages less.
That happened and I cried and I was relieved that they took those pages out. Who can edit it that’s smart enough to figure out what to take out?
The publishers and editors.
Are they doctors?
How are they informed enough to know?
Believe me, there was something that was taken out that I got back in there, for sure. Mostly I had amazing testimonials because we did a call to action to students, students who’ve managed their life and pain, and their healing journey with this work. I wanted their stories to be in the book. There was too much. Their stories will be told. We’ll get the stories out there in some other medium.
Do you know what you should do? You should do a podcast around this book only. Maybe do it with Katie or Ido it with somebody that you’re close to and do it as a one-time special. Maybe do twenty shows so that you’d have all your chapters and then you can tell stories around where it makes sense for each one. It wouldn’t be for you that hard because the work’s already been done. Maybe you do a limited Body by Breath chunked-out podcast.
That would be yet another asset for the readers to also connect into.
It wouldn’t be hard. Shooting is much harder than doing a podcast.
I feel like I have to use so much more of my brain when I’m trying to explain visual things through a microphone versus doing a video.
That makes sense. What you do is summarize the chapter and then put relevant stories of these students and then move on.
I know who I would do that with too. We have somebody who was one of our teachers that works with us. She had a story in the book we had to cut. She is an amazing amalgamator. She understands my work so much.
It would be great.
I’ll talk to Robert about that.
Ending this interview, which I could go on and on, are you surprised where you have landed? I know you wanted to be a performer and you are a different type. I know your dad is a doctor. In ways, there’s a medical self-care component to it. Are you surprised where you have landed?
I never set out to be a writer. Now I’ve got two books plus I’m in a medical textbook writing. Once this book starts to have its own life, I’ll know better what that means. Right now all I’m focused on is singing and then all the other tasks I have to do for my job. All I think about is singing and then all the tasks I have to do for my job. Probably the singing is such a joyful distraction. I can’t believe the gift of the platform that I’ve been given.
I’m able to get this immense amount of information out to people. This has been how I survived the world. This is how I did it. The practices here are how I didn’t end up a drug addict or how I didn’t end up dying from anorexia or bulimia. I hope that they can help other people not only to cope but to move through what it is that’s agonizing them and holding them back from expressing the voices inside of them.
Sometimes we talk about people feeling anxious, sad, fearful, and all the things. Sometimes I feel like we start out this way as well as everything else. Instead of being surprised or shameful about feeling these things, be like, “This too is a natural part of being a human being and I have to find ways to manage it and acknowledge it and make myself feel better and still move through.” It’s been interesting for me to see it.
It’s fear. Yes, this is all part of being a human being. It’s like having a bad day or having a hard time. This is part of the good times and the failures are part of the successes. Sometimes I feel like in the communication of all of this, we don’t also remind people that it’s all a part of it and we have to learn how to steer the ship and not be like, “You feel anxious.” You’re a person. This world is crazy and it probably served a purpose when we were out living at a different time to be alert. How do we deal with it?
My other hope of having these conversations is to normalize feeling upside down and feeling wonky or feeling like you’re spinning in space. What are you supposed to do? Especially young people. Being a teenager and a young adult is brutal. All of a sudden, we’re 40. You’re trying to remember you were a little girl. All of a sudden we’re 40 and we’re 50 and we’re like, “What’s their problem?” It’s like, “Are you serious? You don’t remember?”
Unless that choice was taken out for you and then it shows up that you’re a raging alcoholic at 40 or whatever because your parents were like, “You’re doing this.” Somehow people were compliant and they were like, “Okay,” and then it’s like, “Why does Johnny drink so much? I don’t know.” For me, my other hope is to get people connected to their feelings, to their bodies, and be like, “Yes, okay.”
My father-in-law has passed away but my father-in-law was in New York City and he was in his therapist’s office. In the waiting room was a girl. You push the button. Everybody has a different therapist. Somehow he’s talking to this young woman in the weight room and it comes up that his daughter-in-law is Jill Miller, it was me. She’s like, “Jill Miller, the yoga teacher, is amazing.” It’s just going on and on with superlatives.
My father-in-law doesn’t psychologize or pathologize me but he knew me. It was interesting to hear that idolization came from his story of this girl. I hope that people don’t think just because I maybe could do a yoga pose perfectly, it doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I certainly don’t want this book people to think, “Body by Breath, you’ve got it all together.” This is my strategy for coping.
That’s the thing, people have to realize that it’s usually the people who had to manage it the most that make the work. That’s a great point. What have you learned that you didn’t know going into marriage that has been something that has been a wonderful insight? It doesn’t have to be one thing. We don’t know going in and it doesn’t have to be marriage, it can be a partnership, or whatever people want to call it, I don’t care. What tool, what technique, or what epiphany did you have or have you had that you thought, “This has been helpful.”
I have a marriage with my business partner.
Did you feel a swallow? I understand.
You and I have a lot of overlapping complexities in the many rules that our partners play in our life. Luckily, my husband and I do completely different things in our business. He could never talk about anatomy the way I do and I could never do spreadsheets as he does.What I’ve learned from being his partner, in particular, is that I’m in a relationship where somebody has my back every moment, even in my ugliest, most kickback, most feet-dragging moments. We had some of those moments during the pandemic when we had to pivot our business and it was all on me to get creative. I’m still writing this book but I had to pivot the business and go all online and homeschool the kids and cook five meals.
I remember being on my knees crying to him one day and how he took that information and that bottom that I was at and he came up with a new plan for us. I never knew that in my life, that consistency. Consistency has probably been the most special thing about this partnership. I can’t say the romance and the this and the that. It’s the consistency of growth. I also picked somebody who’s good in a crisis and so am I. We’re like, “We’re good in a crisis, aren’t we?” It’s exhausting.
I sense that your husband is an intense person. What I like about intense people is, in a way, what people don’t realize is you have to come up for it every day. We don’t get to just skate. With Laird, I don’t get to skate, I better be ready. It’s because they’re ready and they’re rolling. That’s another interesting thing. Something that you said though that is important for people to remember is he could also do that for you because you communicated what you were going through.
It’s important that showing that you’re getting a little buried or underwater doesn’t mean you’re not capable or that you’re weak. The only opportunity people have to make another plan for us is for them to understand what you’re going through. That’s another something to share, which is we can get it all done but sometimes we can say, “It’s a little bit hard.” We then get mad, why aren’t they doing something different? It’s because they don’t know what we’re going through. That’s important. I’ve met your husband and I’m like, “That’s an intense guy.”
We are well met.
You guys are probably sitting there looking at your kids going, “Why are they intense?” It’s like, “I don’t know why. I can’t imagine.” Jill Miller, please share all the places where people can find you and where they can find Body by Breath and let us know.
Body by Breath is on the places where you can purchase books. Amazon is the giant. It’s also available for all non-US and Canadian residents at something called Book Depository. We have many people that follow us in non-US and Canadian countries that Amazon is not shipping them there. I don’t know what they’re going to do but Book Depository is your place. My website is Tune Up Fitness. The book also has its own website. If you’re like, “I want to learn more about the book before committing,” there’s a description on Amazon but you can go to BodyByBreath.com
Will all those 100 videos be on there and such?
No. That will eventually be on the website. Of course, on Instagram, I’m @TheJillMiller. We also have a brand page, @TuneUpFitness, on Instagram. You can find those pages somehow on Facebook as well and that’s where to find me. We have about 500 trainers and teachers worldwide that lead our work. You can always find, hopefully, a teacher near you by going to our website and typing in where you live. Hopefully, a teacher or two will populate. You can also find me teaching online classes every week on my website.
There’s that too. I want to congratulate you because this is such a big birth making this happen. I want to thank you for all this work. You’re a person that I respect and I admire so much, not only your work but as a human being. Thank you for going along with me. I wanted to cover this. Thank you.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Thank you so much for reading this episode. If you have any questions for my guest or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the follow button, and leave a rating and a comment. It not only helps me, it helps the show grow and reach new readers.
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About Jill Miller
Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT, YA-CEP fascia expert, has 30 years of corrective movement expertise that forges links between the worlds of yoga, massage, athletics, and pain management. Her signature self-care fitness programs, Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® are found at gyms, yoga studios, hospitals, athletic training facilities and corporations worldwide. Jill is the former anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal, has been featured in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Shape, Women’s Health, O, the Today Show, and is a contributing expert on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the author of The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body, and a contributing author on self-myofascial release in the text book Fascia, Function and Medical Applications. She is the creator of dozens of instructional DVDs, including Rolling Along the Anatomy Trains with Tom Myers and Walking Well with Katy Bowman and Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT. Her new book, Body by Breath: The Science and Practice of Physical and Emotional Resilience will be published February 2023. She lives in LA with her husband, 2 kids and rescue dog. www.tuneupfitness.com