Grief, Loss and Febreathary

Happy 1st of the month my friends! How was your January? Mine was rather up & down to be honest, we lost our last bunny, Dasher mid-month, which was really upsetting as we lost his partner, Velveteen last March. They're both buried under the rose bush in our front garden. On Saturday just, we had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to our fur baby Piglet who was just 5 and a half years old

Piglet was such a clown; he loved meeting new people and other dogs. He considered himself the guardian of our "pack"; always letting us know when the postman was approaching the front door or if there was an unidentified noise outside. He had to be involved in everything that was going on, which meant being my Yoga buddy as well as zooming round the house like some kind of crazy dog, both of which earned him the nicknames "YogiPig" and "Parkor Piggie". When he was just 2 years old he broke his leg and was rushed to The Supervet for surgery, where they fixed him up with metal plates and pins. He recovered quickly and it did not dampen his spirits at all! Even last year when he was attacked by another dog to the point where I thought I was going to lose him, and went into full on fight mode to save my little man, he never feared meeting new dogs

Piglet lost the function of his back legs last weekend, so we rushed him to the emergency vets who immediately referred us to a specialist neurologist (The Supervet) who operated on him the very same day. He had a ruptured disc in his Lumbar spine that was causing pressure on his spinal cord resulting in the loss of feeling in his legs. We received daily updates from the amazing team and by Friday we were hopeful that piglet would be able to come home on the Sunday as he was pretty fed up and getting a bit stressed, which is totally normal for French bulldogs

The morning we were due to go and see him ahead of bringing him home we received a call telling us that he'd developed Myelomalacia (necrosis) of the spinal cord. Basically, this is the premature death of the spinal cord beginning at the point of the original injury and moving up towards the head, and is fatal because as it moves towards the Thoracic region where the lungs are it causes the Diaphragm to collapse, meaning Piglet wouldn't be able to breath. Essentially he would suffocate. It can take as little as a few hours or a few days, so we felt the kindest thing for him was to stop his suffering and say goodbye

We gave him so many snuggles and told him how much he was loved. It was so hard and there's been A LOT of tears in our house over the last couple of days but we know we did the right thing. Losing two fur babies in the space of 4 weeks was not how I envisioned my year starting and yet here I am. The best thing I feel I can do for my mental health right now is just try to navigate my way through these emotions. I'd like to tell you I've been moving each day, and in a way I have, since we still have two more bulldogs who need to be exercised daily. But I haven't practiced Yoga asana or Pilates, and as much as I want to I just don't feel like I can bring myself to

Which is why I'm glad that in the month of February, our focus is on our breath. I'm glad that I'm recording videos that will hopefully help me to breathe easier right now as well as help you. I'm glad I'm recording videos that allow me to sit, be and breathe, as opposed to requiring me to plan some kind of movement, flow or workout, because frankly that's not where my head is at right now, and I need to listen to that

First some interesting stats:

  • We can go 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water and 3 minutes without Oxygen

  • 25% of the Oxygen we breath is used by our brain, 12% by our kidneys and just 7% by our heart

  • We breathe, on average, 12 - 20 times per minute. That's roughly 20, 000 cycles in a 24 hour period

  • Neuroscientific research shows that nerve cells in the brain stem connect breathing to different states of mind

  • The power of breath lies in the control of our exhalation

What is Febreathary and how can we all get involved? Febreathary is the month where we, collectively, take the time to step back, stop and bring our focus to our breath because it is so incredibly powerful, underrated and taken for granted. There are so many different breathing techniques we can call upon in a variety of moments where we may feel like we're losing control. Trust me, the one thing we can always control is how we respond to any given situation and our breath plays a huge part in that

In Febreathary I'll be sharing a brand new YouTube video every Tuesday and Friday with a different breathing technique to add to our Wellness tool kit and call upon in moments of high stress, anxiety, lethargy & fatigue, and to help us relax. I originally had no plans to include breath work for grief but bearing in mind the loss of two fur babies this last 4 weeks, I've changed this because I realise that actually there'll be many of dealing with loss right now in some form or another so I feel breathing for sadness and grief is a very appropriate starting point for this month's challenge

I would love for you to share this with your friends too. I'm really focused this month on building our community and I would LOVE your help with that. So please do share this blog post and video below with your friends, your family and whoever you fell will benefit from taking some time to breathe, consciously

Breathwork, or Pranayama as it's called in Yoga, has the power to change, not only how we feel or how we may be thinking, but also how our body responds to our emotions or our situation. Our Autonomic Nervous System connects our brain to our body, and during times of high stress or anxiety for example, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is activated, and is more commonly referred to as "fight or flight" mode; we all know the signs:

  • Heart beat increases

  • Adrenaline courses through the body

  • Breath becomes faster & more shallow. In the chest

  • Digestion stops

By consciously choosing to increase our out breath by just one count we start to take back our power by activating our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), more commonly referred to as "rest & digest" mode. Now this can be challenging because focusing on our exhale forces us to look at what could be the trigger. However, when we do make this conscious decision, our brain further supports this shift by signalling our body to change the way it's reacting. In turn, the lungs and heart send feedback to the brain convincing it that all is calm, even when it might not be, and we begin to notice the following signs:

  • Heart rate slows down

  • Blood pressure reduces

  • Breathing slows down & is somewhat deeper, perhaps nearer to the diaphragm

  • Digestion is stimulated

Anxiety and stress literally can't live in our body when we make the choice to slow down our breathing. In order to thrive, anxiety and stress require fast and shallow breathing, and so by choosing to focus on the exhale and making it a little bit longer than the inhale we become more present in the here and now. We become more centred. We become grounded. Calm

This week's videos go live on Tuesday 2nd and Friday 5th Febreathary at 12noon where we'll be focusing on breathing for both grief and sadness, with two different techniques taken from one of my favourite books How To Breathe by Ashley Neese

Today I want to share another technique, which I believe is a good starting point for creating awareness of our breath; Lateral breathing is very often used in Pilates but it's a breathing technique I find myself going back to time and time again so I hope you find it helpful in creating your own foundation as well

And if you have experienced loss of a loved one recently then I really hope you'll give yourself the time to follow along with at least one of this week's videos because you deserve it my friend, more than anyone else, you reading this right now, you need this and you deserve this. This is for you

Stay Well



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