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I spent the last week of April in a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. This stone cottage sat right upon the banks of Spring Creek, which in my opinion would have been more aptly named Spring River, given it’s width and swift current.

I went here intentionally to write, write some more in my book that is, and to be immersed in nature’s tunes, to spend much of it in silence and reflect on life thus far, having crossed over into a new, and yet another decade earlier this year…

The other thing I did with intention was to carve out much needed time to isolate from distractions, the big ones, that is, which for me are

  1. The News

( I’m historically a news junkie), though I never watch it on TV, and ever so rarely since the pandemic, do I even bother to listen to NPR when I’m driving, mostly because I can’t stand the opinionated, incessant inflection and emphasis news anchors and hosts have adopted on being entertainers instead of journalists, something apparently audiences have come to expect, or maybe conditioned to expect. And let’s face it, the people in charge who decide what’s newsworthy and will make it to airtime all seem to have degrees from Chicken Little University, where every moment is yet another disaster lurking right above our cerebral cortexes.

2. Social Media

3. Staying Off My Phone

To be honest, my JAM over the last several years, has been devouring the NY Times and Washington Post for a good couple of hours a day, and social media for probably that long too in a 24 hr. period.. And just for the record I don’t do TikTok, Twitter, and nearly never Instagram, despite the frustration it causes for the incredibly talented social media marketing person who takes care of my advertising for my business of yoga and bodywork. (This may lend you ideas about my relative age). So Facebook was my “go to”, but shunned it entirely for a week. And we do this as a way to imagine simply informing ourselves and sharing posts would somehow alter the decision making that goes on by the powers that be, whether lawmakers on Capitol Hill or the “friends” we’ve actually never met in person on Social Media.

Hey, I’m a body and movement guy. Besides teaching and practicing yoga and massage, I ride a bike, and walk my dog. But most recently, I am also a writer. As I said, I came to the mountains to write more in my book, and to make any progress with that daunting project, knew that I must leave my habits and significant others behind, including my partner; she freshly back from two weeks in the UK and Spain, and dog Frida, who is used to me doting on her way more than most dogs will ever experience.. We passed like ships in the night, she and I, tag- teaming the pup, with only the briefest stop at port for a couple of days before temporarily parting ways, amicably, again.

I wasn’t really sure how this would go staying away from outside influences of the mind that is,, as the last time I took a news and social media fast was about 10 years ago. But technology has changed a lot since then, especially the social media end of things, sneakily demanding, or rather insisting on much more of our attention. What I did learn quite suddenly upon arrival, after unpacking my car, setting up the kitchen, and finally kicking back in a zero gravity chair with the “creek” a mere few meters ahead of my toes, was the shift of my nervous system into a place that almost immediately had me breathing more deeply, (with way less effort mind you), taking in the visuals of trees, rocks, birds and terrain to further soothe me.

In the midst of all this I had discovered, thanks to my massage therapist Meg, a book by Cal Newport entitled “ Digital Minimalism”. It is because of her, that this became the inspiration for future yoga and breathing classes, and for a supporting theme for my upcoming yoga retreat I’m leading in Sicily this October, which I had already named “ Unpacking Your Busy”. In this retreat, I will offer us each day the recommendation that our tribe spend more and more time away from gadgetry and immersing instead in nature’s eye candy of beaches, orchards, healthy food, deep rest, walks, meditation, yoga, and Sicilian culture.

We don’t really know how much external stimuli has held us hostage until we remove ourselves from it. I learned lots of things, like how anxious scrolling through social media makes me ( and learned it’s actually linked as the source to many people’s supreme unhappiness). It makes me nervous and inattentive in equal measure. Causes a sense of lack, of “ I should be doing more”! Let’s face it. We put our best self forward on Facebook, especially when it’s a selfie, flaunting pictures from your perfect life in Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand, and Morocco. The meal I had with the 200 dollar bottle of wine, and the brimming faces with arms all around me; me with my perfect friends.

But all that comes with a price, of a sense of lack, of one ups-man-ship, and the nagging urge to continue the addictive dopamine surges, So denying myself these floods of virtual pleasures was indeed a blessing, that took so little time to not only appreciate, but to yearn for. So I put myself to the task of writing my book again, after months of not, of taking walks in the mountains, of having my meal prep be a meditation, as much as playing my guitar, and hunting for stones along the water’s edge. The absence of man-made sounds and btw, most of them, especially the most offensive ones are made by men, ( not women, mind you). You realize too how addictive your phone has become, your YouTube channel, your thirst for yet more data to further clog your already overwhelmed brain. I was sincerely amazed at how quickly my nervous system calmed down, how much that softened the tenseness in my shoulders and upper back, and how my jaw suddenly unhinged… And I was quite surprised first by how much I didn’t miss it, and how peaceful I felt without it.

And so, I did a bit of a role reversal, which seemed almost immediate. I became if not addicted, at least enthralled by leaving technology alone for the week. What I discovered was that my brain got to relax, reset, and renew. I was happy thinking random , even at times boring thoughts, as opposed to having my mind feel like a pin ball, with my phone and laptop on the internet like the flippers of that same machine, batting me around aimlessly, without connection, flow, or progress toward much of anything. This would, for the week of April 23-29, be my yoga.

The story has more good news too! I have come home carrying this habit, this rhythm. Now I am not going all day, mind you, without gadgetry; my career and family/friends can’t operate quite that way. But what i have done is make phones and such off limits for at least the first hour of my day, and this morning for instance, it was three hours before I looked at any device, and that was on a work day. I am proud of that! I feel much calmer, less competitive, more focused, and happy. I notice that I “notice” more, am more likely to look up at the sky, or see the detail in a tree or garden plant, to gaze into my dog Frida’s sweet brown eyes, and enjoy the length of time we both linger there. I am also much more proprioceptively and interceptively aware of my body, in space around me, in enhanced space within me. And, I am sleeping better… !

So my advice to you dear readers is this: Try leaving your phone away from you hands for the first hour of your morning, turn in face town and silence it. Turn off many of those needless notifications! Grab a beverage, sit with your family, or just stare out the window at a tree, or sit with your breath and bust a few spontaneous yoga moves your body craves. If that works, take a jaunt to the closest grocery store or gas station without your phone. And despite what Apple, Google, or Samsung might wish you to believe, you won’t die with out it, and you will be fine, and its quite unlikely that you’ll be less safe without it. It’s incredibly liberating! But if that’s just too much for now, just leave the phone in the boot (trunk or glove box) and then you’ll know it’s there just is case.

And please do report back. I think you’ll like the results!

Jeffrey Shoaf,

Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Educator, Bodyworker,

& Student of Human Nature

Yoga Therapy Charlotte

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Updated: Apr 14

Blog for April 2023 MSW
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Dear friends, welcome to my blogpost.

My training as a yoga instructor and in Yoga Therapy began from the Kripalu lineage, where

breath practice or pranayama, was considered as important if not more, than the postures, or

asanas were.

If we use not a top-down, nor a bottom- up approach, as is such popular lingo these days, we then can turn to an inside-out model, or to say another way, from source to form, as a place to start.

Healthy breath practice is not a skill we’re usually taught correctly, but it is one we were born

with, and even though we come into the world with a perfect breath patterning, we are quickly socialized , and “shaped”out of it. ( Fear works quite well too).

Every new and modern day that we live, coaxes us to distrust our body, our senses, and instead intellectualize the whole life experience. To be mistrustful of all the symptoms, senses, to insist upon measuring it scientifically before going down the rabbit hole of endless data verifications to question or disprove the obvious.

Breathing is that wonderful thing that, as Tom Myers said, “lies on the cusp of voluntary and

involuntary; (i.e.) if you pay attention to it, you can change it; if you don’t it will change based

upon your physiological needs…”

So much of the breathing techniques were taught from experience, by the “masters” if you will, of mindfulness and meditation, using breathing techniques to enhance both..It was handed down orally, to the devotee, and practices were often intense and consistent. If you want to change your mind, change your breath patterns. Back then, we didn’t demand scientific data to verify what was going on, either chemically, biomechanically or otherwise. We just felt differently and usually for the better ,and that was proof enough of its efficacy.

But we DO now have data, and breath work practices are EVERYWHERE!

The Importance of Pranayama in Yoga Therapy:

One of the things we get to learn as we move from novice perhaps to seasoned practitioners is that the beauty, the certain transformation comes from the subtlety. The knowledge that

consistent, gently, light, slow, deep practices ( LSD, to quote Patrick McKeown) with breath

retentions may prove to be the most effective, esp for us householders who don’t ( can’t) isolate for months in a cave to renounce society and all obligations to anyone but self to figure this stuff out. But that said, the more vigorous Tummo, or Wim Hot methods have their place too, in a gateway to transformation. Like medicine, breath work should be prescriptive to the individual, not to the masses, as each person’s constitution is different, as are their life experiences.

From a scientific perspective, much of the transformative effect of conscious manipulation of the breath is us getting used to handling a greater load of CO2, which ironically helps pull more oxygen off the hemoglobin, or red blood cells into the rest of our trillions of little body cells. (They need nourishment too). It’s tidbits such as these that distinguish Yoga Therapy from Yoga.

To not breathe well is to deny ourselves health and vitality, and from a microscopic and global level, leads to DIS- EASE… as starving the body becomes first physiological stress, which of course, can’t help but become psychological stress, and eventually illness.

Like your favorite balancing posture in a yoga class, the breath offers us additionally balance for all the systems, not just our musculoskeletal selves. Be it lymphatic, circulatory, nervous, or digestive, when we breathe well, to quote a favorite term of flight controllers affirming to the astronauts, “All Systems Are Go” ! But there is a skill set we must learn to make habit, and cultivate, and that is, surprise ya’ll, you can’t do this work and think! Read the end of that last sentence again..You can’t do this work and think! ( Yep, not a typo….)

And to your credit, when learning something new, yes we do have to understand what we’re

being asked to do, and use talking and listening to get there. But like riding a bike, once you

learn it, you really can’t ( and shouldn’t…, and don’t ) think about it and do it very well…

I hope in the coming weeks ahead I hope you’ll tune in consistently to learn specifically more

about techniques, starting from learning to access permission in your body, to expand, to feel, to relax, to allow more awareness of where in your body your breathing patterns reside, and how they affect your nervous system, be it sympathetic, or parasympathetic tuning that we need on a given day, hour, or moment.

A Breath Practice For You To Try Now:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

  • Place your hands on your abdomen, with fingers slightly interlaced, around the area of the navel.

  • Relax your elbows by your sides on the floor. Relax your shoulders and face too!

  • Breathe in, and feel your fingers on the left and right hands separate slightly separate.

  • Breathe out, and notice them come together again.

  • Continue and try to make the movement increase without undue force to make it happen.

  • Repeat this exercise for 5 minutes.

  • Simply notice how it feels (how YOU feel)

See you all again in May~ Reach out to me if you’re ready to start your yoga therapy journey!

Jeffrey Shoaf,

Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Educator, Bodyworker,

& Student of Human Nature

Yoga Therapy Charlotte

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Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Jeffrey Shoaf C-IAYT


I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing over the years, in fact since I started

practicing yoga in August of 2002. I’ve been especially thinking about it these last

two years, but differently now as we enter the start of the third year into this

pandemic. COVID has affected so many people of all ages, all genders, all races,

all continents, many of them unfortunately experiencing the worst outcome

possible, and countless others suffering long term consequences, months after

the initial acute phases have passed. This has caused me through recent

research to realize the majority of humans don’t breathe correctly. Most animals

do… Hmmm.

Where this all began…

As the lone middle aged male walking into that yoga studio the first day, the idea

of focused breathing began as a curiosity for me, as more of a by -product of

yoga, almost as a hobby if you will, and unbeknownst to me, my teacher was

indoctrinated in the “out -there”, transformational Kripalu Yoga tradition. It was

none other than Yoganand Michael Carroll. As a person who has danced with

anxiety in various iterations for periods of my life, both consciously and semi-

consciously, I realized intentional breath work was better than external

substances for controlling anxiety, depression, and your garden variety apathy…

For those of you unfamiliar, under -initiated, power breathing (aka pranayama)

as taught in the Kripalu tradition, was intended to be transformative, to change

your world view, to question “everything” you thought you ever knew. Suffice to

say, Yoganand would guide us most every time by uttering at some point during

our class, “Make your practice as strong as you’re willing to make it!”, with the

understanding that if you immerse in these techniques long enough, you’ll realize

you did too much, or as my friend, yoga teacher, and studio owner Jillian says,

you’ll end up with a “prana hangover”. But still, as lesson we all needed to


Why would a person want to practice so intensely? Well, according to the

masters, we need to:

1). Shake up our ego

2). Interrupt the incessant need to be validated

3). From the anatomical and physiological perspective, the powerful breath work

also frees up fascial restrictions in and around the tissues in the abdominal wall

and free up some of those psychological ones in the insane human mind. This

took me into the realm of coming to understand why the ancients practiced what

they did, and how essential it was/ ( is) to my own physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. What I did not understand at this time was much of the

biochemical and biomechanics science behind it.

Fast forward to January 2015: My First Myofascial Dissection Lab

After completing massage school, hundreds of yoga immersions; (classes,

workshops and teacher trainings and then becoming certified as an E-RYT500

and yoga therapist), I took it upon myself to begin looking into the science behind

proper breathing and enrolled in Tom Myers, Todd Garcia, and Elizabeth

Larkam’s 5 day intensive out in Phoenix titled “ Fascial Dissection For Movement

Therapists”. Just so happens all five students standing alongside me in front of

recently deceased “Martha” all were interested in the human parts responsible for

respiration. What a delightful coincidence! We learned the physical connections

between the vocal, respiratory, and pelvic diaphragms, all tethered along with

the heart/pericardium, to the spinal highway and rib cage, and also learned if one

off these structures wasn’t “playing nice”, none of them would/could…This

caused me to think back to words I learned long ago by the famed architect Louis

Sullivan that “Form Follows Function” ( from my earlier days as a builder and

construction guy). As I immersed deeper into the study of human anatomy and

physiology, I was called to turn Louis’ phrase around to say “Function Follows

Form” as I saw ( and continue to see) most of us humanoids with pretty lousy

posture, and therefore, with pretty lousy respiratory habits( it works the other way

too) ! I went from remodeling historic homes to remodeling bodies. ( BTW:

Bodies are way harder to change…)

Fast forward to January 2020: Connecting Breathing Practices In The Medical Community

As timing would have it, and as the universe deemed necessary, I was

introduced to Madhavi Parihk, a physicians assistant for Dr. Russ Greenfield, an

integrative medicine specialist at the Novant Cancer Center here in Charlotte,

NC. who learned about my emphasis on breath work as a mainstay for most all

my yoga classes. We had a meaningful conversation that led to my leading a six-

week pranayama ( breath work) class attended some of their colleagues in the

medical and wellness fields, which has since led me to using breathing as a

stress management skill for physicians, staff, and their patients in recovery or

remission from various types of cancers.

Fast forward to March 2020: Covid-19 Arrives In America

I was in New York getting ready to board a flight home after a weekend of visiting

my daughter. The 1:15 flight was canceled due to low numbers of passengers

and the following “make up” flight two hours later had only about 20 people on

board a one hundred fifty seat aircraft. I hadn’t seen a plane that empty in 20

years. I knew something was different, something was wrong.

It was also about this time that, thanks to Whitney Hodges, fellow yoga teacher

and colleague turned me on to a podcast interview with none other than James

Nestor, researcher and journalist extraordinare and promptly bought his book

“Breath”. And then I was down the rabbit hole in earnest, enrolling in a year long

dissection lab here in Charlotte, N.C. to continue my research into the anatomy

and physiology of breathing. And then came Patrick McKeown, brilliant author of

“The Oxygen Advantage” and more recently “The Breathing Cure” who has

spent the bulk of his live researching the biomechanics, biochemistry, and

cadence for optimal breathing for various conditions, including Covid patients.

Combining the ancient wisdom, my own personal anecdotal reports, and modern

science has led me to explore in earnest ways to breathe for our very best

health, whether we’re ill with some respiratory infection or simply trying to avoid


Fast forward to January 2021: Dawn of “The Breathing Club” / “The Virtual Breathing Clinic”

Timing is an interesting phenomenon. I don’t know why but I took it upon myself

to launch into various projects centered around breathing for better health. Since

Covid shut down my live yoga classes, my bodywork and private yoga practice

with one on one clients for about six weeks, I figured I better do something, so in

addition to moving my in person classes online, I launched a pilot class which I

called “The Breathing Club” and began working to create an online instructional

learning program geared toward physicians, medical staff, and patients called

The Virtual Breathing Clinic with Carol Davis of “Inspiring More” and Eric

Mugele creator of “Breakthrough Advocates”. I have since provided this to Dr.

Anthony Cooley, pediatric physician and associate professor at Emory University

Hospital and Medical School, where we’re looking to provide this online program

to assist with stress management among medical professionals.

Oh yeah, this Covid-19 thing I was promising to talk about….

So going about my work each day, triple vaxxed and masked, I, being a curious

fellow, am honestly ( and mostly) a student of human behaviors. As this applies

to the pandemic, I observe how people walk, act, and protect themselves ( or

not!) in the Land of Covid. I can be hypercritical, especially when I see so many

people seriously ill, making their family members ill, and so many people dying

from this disease, and the folks we now refer to as “Long Haulers”, ones dealing

with the long term effects of the post acute phase of Covid, and this has

happening way too often because people won’t mask up, won’t get vaccines,

vaccines, mins you that work, vaccines that no….,won’t implant a chip in you,

and vaccines that WILL keep your alive and pretty safe from the effects of

COVID, even if you do contract the OMICRON variant.

What I’ve learned as I continue to see way too many people (healthcare workers

included) sporting “chin diapers” ( you know what I mean…) where the mask

doesn’t cover the orifices that spread this virus, but somehow in their own minds

meets regulatory compliances with the signs that say “face coverings must be

worn to enter this building!”What I have come to discover is quite honestly most people don’t know how to breathe properly even without a mask on, but then create a “paper or cloth” border wall between the mouth, nose and outside air, and people really feel like

they’re suffocating. Nothing will trigger your sympathetic nervous system more quickly than feeling like you are suffocating . Fear is a powerful leader of thought processes…. So

let’s all offer at least a little compassion for the unaware that there is a cure, and

and easy one that’s in many cases, prove to be 100% free!

Some Considerations:/some facts:

We humans are mostly hyper-ventilators, breathing on average about 25,000

breaths per day. That's about three times more than we should breathe…

Many of us are mouth breathers, letting in environmental toxins and drying out

our air passageways, introducing foreign objects due to lack of a proper filter, and

creating inflammation as a result. We are breathing too fast, too much, and too shallow.

Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating and talking.

Improving our tolerance for CO2 will enhance HRV ( heart rate variability) and

pull more oxygen off the red blood cells for the rest of our body to enjoy.

It also enhances our relationship to our vagus nerve, the one responsible to

reminding us how our organs are doing… ( pretty important info.)

Nose breathing also enhances the use of nitric oxide, which is a booster to our

immune system function. Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of snoring, sleep apnea, interrupted sleep patterns which may contribute to anxiety, depression, and poor


So What Do We Do About This?

1). Practice slowing your breathing rate down gradually…

2). Work to slow your rate down to 6 second inhales/ 6 second exhales. (This

can take some time. But this will make mask wearing so much easier, as

good habits of slow nasal breathing are improved upon.

3). Once that becomes easier, try lengthening the exhalation even more, trying

perhaps a 6/8 or 6/10 ratio of inhale to exhale for helping symptoms of

anxiety or stress.

4). Pause to notice the calming effects on your nervous system, and how that

has positive effects on your entire body.

5). And although many “yogic breathing” techniques are loud, forceful, and

intense, conscious healthy breath patterns don’t have to be; in fact you can

safely practice many of these in public, or even driving, where the formula is

LSD (light, slow, deep).

6). Practicing these techniques in the waking hours will ( over time) improve your

breathing patterns while sleeping as well.

7). Consider “mouth taping” at night as we can’t always control which airway

we’ll use while sleeping. Small inexpensive strips of surgical tape may be

used, unless there is a pronounced obstruction in the nasal passages, or with

MyoTape, which allows for occasionally breathing through the mouth when


In conclusion, improving our respiratory habits overall, will increase our immune

system function, cause mask wearing to be not such a big deal, and will protect

ourselves, our families and loved ones, and the public in general..

For more information, and to schedule a consultation for individual conditions,

reach out to me

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