This Woman Entrepreneur And Author Is Transforming Lives With Yoga Breath Workouts!
Indian history has been an open book with Yoga being more than just a method of teaching; it was a way of life. Dedicating oneself to a lifestyle and culture that surpassed meditation techniques, people adopted it as a part of themselves. The yogic philosophy can get found rooted in a physical culture of health and well-being. The same, when coupled with breath workouts, explains why millions across the globe now practise this ancient tradition - because they had witnessed it's a hidden power.
Back then, conscious breathing got recognised as a personal experience with no scientific evidence supporting its tall claims. However, fast forward to the present day; conscious breathing now gets seen in action, almost as the latest fad, but, for life. In this advent, I bumped into Anu Lall, Founder of YogaSmith. Further, she is a certified Yoga & meditation teacher and a trained Ayurveda consultant. For about a decade, she has been teaching yoga programs for healing lifestyle based illnesses in Europe, Australia, India and Singapore. Ironically, she carved a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. And, she often jokes that she has a lot of karma to clear for which she started teaching.
On top of being a womanpreneur, Yoga teacher and Ayurveda consultant, Anu is the author of several books. She possesses the innate talent of merging historical practices and ancient teachings with conventional wisdom and modern science. Her latest book that I recently read is Breath WorkOUT For Life. As a yoga enthusiast, this book played an integral part in getting my feet under me. What stood out to me was her statement - Breathing is the gateway to the mind, health and consciousness.
Anu's book provides excellent insights and perspectives on how breathing exercises positively influence the critical functions of one's body. I got the opportunity to interview this amazingly knowledgeable woman. Learning about her journey as an entrepreneur, author, and a Yoga queen alongside why Breath WorkOUT For Life enhances one's relationship with one's breath to make it a personal religion forms the icing on the cake. Here are a few insights:
DR: What inspired this project - Breath WorkOUT For Life? What prompted you to write this book?
Anu: I have been teaching conscious breathing for many years, and this draft was sitting in my archives for years. Not many were interested in pranayama or breathwork (as is called in the West). COVID-19 shifted the spotlight on breathing. My classes on BreathWork in Lockdown saw massive enrollment, and it was a stupendous success. We completed 4000 working hours of live group breathing across 18 countries.
From the coming month, I have expanded the reach with 3 Breath WorkOUT webinars every day. Everyone gets invited. Somewhere between the classes, I wrote the book putting together 20 breathing techniques. My mission is to make each person on the planet breathe better. As my teacher gave out the call, 'One World, One Breath.'
Anu Lall - Woman Entrepreneur, Yoga Teacher, Author and Ayurveda Consultant during Breath WorkOUT Online Session
DR: We would love to take a sneak peek through the bestselling book. Please take us through your writing in brief.
Anu: Breath WorkOUT For Life is for householders; people like you and me, who are not monks. We can't meditate for endless hours and find calm. Neither are we celebrities with teams that manage our health and fitness. Our world is somewhere between the realism of work and home, taking responsibility for our own health. So, the first principle I followed was to make the practice accessible and doable. There is no dogma, no esoteric goals. Simple techniques put together for maximum benefit.
Secondly, Breath WorkOUT For Life applies workout principles to train your breath. It starts with breath warm-up routines, followed by endurance breathing to increase oxygenation, power hacks, self-induced hypoxia. And, finally breathing to generate nitric oxide in the body which is a natural bronchodilator. We cool down with techniques that help you find your calm. Breath WorkOUT trains the breath like a muscle in the gym.
The third principle is the sacred rule of all scientific methods– In God We Trust, all others must bring data. The book incorporates over 60 research reports, studies and clinical trials, backing every claim made. I firmly believe there is a need to understand Yoga traditions as not just mystical entities, but something that is firmly rooted in science.
DR: Do you think to change your cultural surroundings, and studying yoga played a role in generating your creative output? Is there a connection between the practice of Yoga and creativity?
Anu: When they talk of neuro-plasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire, creativity, the ability to manifest, most people miss a pertinent precondition – A calm mind. And, the tool to calm the mind is the breath.
Conscious breathing, in recent times, has been extensively evaluated for its impact on focus and creativity - especially in children and adolescents. In recent research done by the Department of Sport Science in Munich, it got discovered that breathing exercises complemented social, emotional, and artisanal learning activities,for kindergarten kids. Breathwork sessions, just twice a week, improved visual-motor precision and reduced hyperactivity in 5-year-olds. Breathwork is a life skill. Why don't we teach this to our kids?
DR: Considering the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, how does Breath WorkOUT For Life become an essential buy?
Anu: COVID-19, worldwide put the responsibility of good health, immunity in our own hands. No tradition in the world has such structured breath work traditions as we do. Makes me very proud to say that India is the only country, where ICMR and the Ministry of Ayush gave a call for pranayama and Ayurveda. The Department of Science and Technology in India called for research on breathing methodology. Not just COVID, but as research progresses on many disease areas, pranayama is emerging as a prominent aspect of prevention of many chronic ailments.
Personally speaking, Breath WorkOUT For Life was at the right place at the right time, which made it very successful. The book allows you to choose techniques, practices that work wonders in no time. Align your circadian rhythms to sleep better, calm down, boost lung capacity, improve your exercise efficiency, manage allergies. Most participants report lesser panting when climbing stairs and within a week. A powerful daily practice that gives you the energy kick for the day.
DR: 'Breathing is the gateway to the mind, health and consciousness.' Kindly enlighten us with your insights to this quote from your book.
Anu: This is the oldest tenet of Yoga and Ayurveda. The nostrils are the channels through which prana flows in the body. Breath coordinates the nostrils, to every system in the body, the channels in the lungs, the endocrine system and finally, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Any meditator knows the connection between breath and consciousness. We can train the breath to work for us, rather than let it run amuck with a 'mind' of its own. Only a calm mind can have it all.
DR: Why should one practise pranayama? How does it benefit individuals in different case scenarios?
Anu: Frankly, I can't think of a reason why one shouldn't. Like there is an app for everything we do in our daily lives, think of Breath Workout as your personalized, patent-free, healing technology app. There is a breath for whatever you want to work with. A powerful, trained breath is like a Jedi's sword and can be used for many purposes.
Breath WorkOUT Mobile Application
Do you want to tone the parasympathetic nervous system? Increase lung capacity? Clear sinuses? Do you want better digestion? Or maybe work a bit with the mind, deepen meditation and cultivate single-pointed focus and build awareness? The benefits are endless, and there is ample scientific proof for each of these claims.
DR: Do breathing exercises vary from person to person? Or, do they stand uniform for everyone? What kind of ailments does it cure?
Anu: It is good to learn the overall theory of breath. Overtime one needs to personalisze it. Like in a gym, specific exercises train the triceps, while others make the glutes stronger. One may have different reasons to practice conscious breathing.
Over the years, I have seen how my mom kept her weight in check, while a colleague at work, reversed arthritis with breathing. Elderly folks around me kept their blood pressure and cholesterol in check with conscious breathing. Some breathing techniques act as a vasodilator, used as an adjunct therapy for many dealing with BP issues.
When I was younger, an older uncle around us kept ringing in the ears at bay with breath work techniques. For a long time, I thought he was kidding us, but later I read a whole body of research on how pranayama techniques can cure early stages of tinnitus. My teacher had a family history of diabetes, which he managed with regular practice. Each had their personal practice. Building the same takes time, but that the most gratifying experience one can have.
DR: How do yoga breathing exercises help reduce stress and anxiety? Can they be helpful for mental wellness, too?
Anu: One of the most significant components of mental well being is Emotion regulation, is the ability to regulate one's own emotions and ability to handle moods and temperament of those around us. Emotion regulation is an essential skill for humans living in society, which makes us productive and skilled to manage our environment. When people are depressed or anxious, this ability reduces significantly. Conscious breathing is a very promising intervention for emotional regulation.
I quote an Italian study in the book, titles - How breath control can change your life. The researchers have documented how specific breathing techniques enhance autonomic, cerebral and psychological flexibility, and they explored links between parasympathetic activity, central nervous system activities, related to emotional control and psychological well-being. Pranayama helps immensely in emotional regulation and mental well being.
DR: What made you choose teaching Yoga and authoring related books over your well-established corporate career?
Anu: I had never planned that I would start a health-tech company, teach breathing and meditation. However, it was not a catastrophic event that brought me here, but several small nudges, pushes and bumps from life.
My mom taught me Yoga and pranayama to manage my respiratory issues. I can't tell you how much I loathe this practice as a child. In 20 years of my work life, I have worked with corporates and founded three start-ups. I started my career in pharmaceutical sales, as I often joke, I have a lot of karma to clear. My Pharma years set the stage for the science-backed, evidence-based teaching that I follow at Breath WorkOUT. As they say, when you look back, the dots connect.
About ten years ago, my practice transformed into a mission to take this to the world. That said, please don't stop taking your prescription drugs. God forbid, if someone breaks a bone or needs surgery, do not expect deep breathing to resolve it. The holy grail is balancing many healing modalities.
DR: So, from being a reluctant, yoga kid to teaching Yoga and breathing programs in Europe, Australia, India and Singapore, for more than a decade to authoring books about different aspects of Yoga, how has the transformation been? Also, how responsive have people been?
Anu: In India, some people are drawn to conscious breathing because they bring comfort in the antiquity of practices. My teachers from the Bihar school swear by centuries of tradition. My teachers in the West perhaps started Yoga as travelers in the '60s and '70s but then made it into an art form in their style.
When I was 15, mom sent me to a Yoga camp, where we were taught 'kunjal kriya'. As kids, we made faces and laughed at it, but did it, and not one kid questioned it. Over the years, this kriya became my go-to tool to manage my respiratory disorders and my dependence on antihistamines.
However, when I teach this today, children expect much more than instruction alone. They want to know the science behind it. At Breath WorkOUT, I explain the process and evidence behind every technique. How a kriya strengthens the gut-brain connection, impacts the vagus nerve, the pineal gland, which is called Shiva's 3rd eye colloquially but scientifically now regarded as the center of well-being. This scientific evidence also motivates my students to be more regular.
DR: If there was one key point, or take-away, from your book, what would that be?
Just exhale and lose yourself in it. Your relationship with your breath is your religion, which ends only with your last exhale. Explore it.
Breath WorkOUT For Life - A Book By Anu Lall
DR: Can you provide YourStory readers with a couple of great reasons why they should get a copy of the book today?
Anu: Don't practice conscious breathing just because it's a fad or to quote some Sanskrit from a samahita or sutra. Marry the empirical with experiential learning.
Breath WorkOUT For Life gives you enough reasons to practice and a lot of evidence to back it up. Irrespective of any evidence, what matters the most is your own experience.
When we apply the method of clinical investigations to conscious breathing, an element that gets lost is – mindset. In Sanskrit, it is called the manomaya kosha. There is no biomarker or blood test to test moods, mindset and happiness quotient. Even if a study captures a brain scan or an EEG, this aspect of human existence is completely lost.
Get a copy of the book, join our demo classes, experience it for yourself.
DR: We learned that you are additionally an entrepreneur with Yoga Smith being your baby! The name very much tells us it is associated with Yoga of course! But, in what ways does it cater to people?
Anu: Yogasmith is the combined effort of yoga teachers, naturopaths, doctors, Ayurveda doctors and nutrition experts. Our work is to make Yoga available as an adjunct therapy for many ailments. Typically, all our plans span over four to eight weeks. We use robust mechanisms to track biomarkers and assess progress. Technology tools extensively support our publications.
DR: Since you teach Yoga, do you think we can safely and accurately address the individual needs of yoga breathing through digitized yoga sessions? Or is a paradigm shift needed in how we share the teachings of Yoga to maximize potential outcomes and benefits?
Anu: COVID-19 and lock-downs, shifted Yoga and fitness online, in one single stroke. People who were sceptical about online classes have greatly benefited. Each time I run classes, I see higher engagement. Sometimes even better quality than in a face to face class. In any case, the medium of instruction becomes irrelevant after you know the theory, and have forged a relationship with your breath.
Breath WorkOUT is needed only till you haven't made an acquaintance with your exhales. Once the relationship starts and you find your rhythm, you won't need me. You will experience the magic yourself.
My observation being Anu's yogic practice and philosophy is a life-changing journey. Regardless of what our walk of life may look like, Breath WorkOUT For Life offers the chance for us to move, breathe, and relate to the world differently. Probably, to how we may have once maneuvered. I wish Anu the best of everything in life. It feels privileged to uncover the lives of such an inspiring womanpreneur as her. Whether through becoming a certified instructor like Anu or in remaining committed students, Yoga, expressly, breath work has provided an inner refuge to many of us.