Let Jojo Struys' breathwork class energise you for the day
It was a lovely sunny Saturday last weekend—the perfect setting for an energising session of gentle yoga and breathwork. We had the pleasure of having Jojo Struys on our morning session of BURO. Hangouts: Live, where she led us in a 30-minute class.
The yogi is the cofounder of OhanaJo Studio and has 20 years of experience when it comes to Pranayama breathing techniques, and a yoga qualification from Rishikesh in India to boot. To follow along in real time, watch the video below (to skip the chatter and the interview, the class runs from timestamps 2:30-29:45).
We also sat and had a chatter about her practice, as well as the benefits of breathwork. Here's what she had to say.
On why we need to focus on our breath right now:
"I feel that we're living in a time of great uncertainty and this is causing feelings of anxiety; some people are getting panic attacks—they're finding it hard to breathe—because one of the biggest things that can affect your breath is your anxiety levels. So, the moment you're feeling tightness in the body or a kind of constriction in the chest, that would be a great time to focus on the exhale.
"When you focus on the exhale you're able to drain a lot of excess tension out of the body and it really sends a message from the brain to the body to take a chill pill—to slow everything right down. So, breathing is so important because it helps us to be present. I'm very excited to bring you guys through breathwork that would help you anchor yourself in this present moment as well as a little bit of yogic stretches to release all that tension. Nothing too crazy, this is not a yoga workout—I think that it’s a 'work in'. So, we wanna go within.”
On the positive effects of breathing exercises:
“I feel that when we practise breathwork it really depends on what you’re doing. I’ve been doing breathing techniques for over 25 years and it's very humbling because I feel I’m learning new ones even today—there’s so much out there. There are breathing exercises to help you fall asleep—like comatose, total relaxation—but then there are those that really activate heat in your body and that can activate your digestive system, so it’s really amazing."
On how often she practises her breathing exercises and why:
"I do (practise breathing exercises) every day because when I wake up I usually do yoga and though I may not formally meditate, all the yoga movements are paired to the breath. Inevitably, when in a grounding meditation before moving on my mat, I feel that I am meditating. But, in a formal sense, if I want to carve out time to just do breathing techniques, even a few minutes has benefits. So if you did it for 15? Wow. They say that 15 minutes of even deep breathing can be equivalent to a couple hours of sleep so it’s very very rejuvenating.
"It’s connected to your vagus nerve which is the longest human cranial nerve in the body so it affects the heart, the lungs, the digestive system—you just become a lot more efficient, actually.
"Our breath is really linked to our emotions so the way you breathe is the way you feel—the moment you’re angry, your heart rate goes up; the moment you are stressed, everything feels tight."
On why you shouldn't underestimate the power of a little breathwork:
"Some people have this idea that 'Oh I’m just going to be sitting still!’—it’s not easy to sit still. It’s not easy to meditate because your mind is like a monkey. In fact it’s more advanced than yoga. People can twist their bodies in all kinds of directions but they can’t control their minds. So, if you were able to master your mind, you master yourself and your life. It’s not easy to do so.
"I remember in OhanaJo there was this couple who had not done breathwork before and this guy was really physically fit—I think he was an instructor in physical fitness or swimming. He really didn’t do meditation but his wife dragged him to the class and when we did this intense breathwork exercise, he was shocked at how tiring it was.
"I asked him (how he felt) after and he said 'Honestly? There wasn’t a thought in my head. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have a thought in my head.' It’s because when he was really focused on the breathing, that’s the process of mindfulness because you cannot think—you’re actually focused on the instruction and the structure of the breath technique.
"I even had a girl who was training for Mount Everest base camp. She was going to the gym, doing all her weights, and was physically very strong; but it was with the breathwork that she started to notice that her endurance was improving when she was jogging because her lungs were becoming stronger."
If you enjoyed Struys' class and are looking for more, her studio will be hosting an array of online classes ranging from Hatha yoga to Vinyasa yoga to sounds baths and, of course, breathwork.
Find the full schedule on OhanaJo Studio's Instagram highlights.