Apprenticing the Breath by Jenna McDonald

Before one begins accruing their 10,000 hours or Apprenticing in their craft - there is traditionally a Rite of Passage that both humbles and strengthens them to "stay the course". My time abroad in Peru in 2004 was exactly that. A preparation to dedicate my life to the breath, and ultimately the philosophy and practices of Yoga. I went there innocently and came back changed forever. 

This is the story of my apprenticeship with the breath and the power it has to OPEN US to our wildest dreams and lasting healing. 

I remember arriving on Tracey’s doorstep, like it was yesterday. I was 21 years old and fresh back from Peru - where I had spent the previous 6 months living and traveling with locals.

My formative time in Peru & ‘Journey with Plant Spirit Medicine’ is another blog in itself, but for now it will suffice to say this: at age twenty in the raw jungles of Peru I came face to face with the entry point to my own shadow (everything I knew kind of dripped and deteriorated into a flimsy dream - a dream I had built to stay safe and comfortable). Simultaneously I was given a window into the sweet spontaneous nectar of healing that existed on the other side of control and complacency. It was POWERFUL.

The 3 most memorable downloads I received from that deep dive into the matrix of life were:

1) Sanskrit holds all the knowledge of our cosmic nature within it, to study Sanskrit is to study the nature of self, god and humanity (previous to my Ayahuasca experience - I had no more knowledge of sanskrit than the average American - basically I had seen the OM symbol and read “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass). During my vision quest, I saw pages and pages and pages of sanskrit writing - which I know know to be Devanagari.

2) Breath and Sound are our pathway to total healing and wholeness (Breath is NO LESS effective than Ayahuasca or other mind altering medicines - we just truly cannot BELIEVE - that we hold the medicine and the solution to all healing within us). Breath is the ticket to spontaneous healing and ultimately ...happiness. (See what I mean in this article on the vagus nerve & understand that the form of breathwork we are teaching is the key to toning the vagus nerve and healing the gut!)

3) We need teachers. Not just motivational speakers. We can read about these things but ultimately lineage matters - honor and humility matter. The heart needs to ripen. Allowing ourselves to be coached and taught prepares us for the surrender needed to shift into interconnection with all things and release our ego or “well-formed’ identity long enough to entertain new stories of belonging and purpose. We need teachers who see.

I returned from Peru and of course NOTHING in my life in America made sense.

Relationships were like brittle shells, career goals seemed a complete distraction AND even though I had received immense healing from my time in the Jungles of Peru - Inferno and Cusco to be exact - I was still suffering from lingering childhood asthma and allergies, the calling to heal the thought forms at the origin of my dis-ease was imminent. 

Basically, the Vasanas of my upbringing, cellular memory and mental fixations were still too powerful for me to work through on my own I needed a teacher. Many teachers.  If I wanted the life of my dreams, a life of happiness and freedom (which I glimpsed in my galactic time travels on Ayahuasca)  I needed support.

That’s when I started praying. Or Intending (or whatever you need to call it to please the ego).

I prayed for teachers, for lineage and radical, spontaneous healing.

Specifically, I prayed to heal my asthma once and for all.

- things shifted, I felt it. My desire was clear enough and strong enough to impact my trajectory  -

That’s when I answered an add for a new housemate on Craigslist.

I needed a new home (cause my partnership at the time was ending) and  Tracey Stover needed a roommate. But not just any roomate. A devotee :)

I had received in Meditation an image of a Large Yellow Room and when Tracey opened the door to show me her home - I entered into a large pale yellow room with no furniture.

What a relief! No pets, hardwoods, no furniture! Perfect for movement and my lingering allergies.

Tracey opened the door and said “Finally, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Ha! Life is so responsive to prayer and earnest desire.

When Tracey told me she taught Breathwork for a living and could help me heal my asthma and allergies for good, it was a done deal.

We lived together, I apprenticed and did as many breath sessions as it took to clear my asthma. (which is still cleared BTW). My allergies were eliminated by way of my bodies newly refined enteric nervous system and toned vagus nerve. I was able to intuitively eat. I cut out wheat, tomatoes and all recreational drinking and smoking at 21 year old. I followed my Gut by repatterning my breath. When my breath opened my experience WAS off the charts - I easily drew incredible people into my life, I played and worked hard, I was truly happy and rested in a sense of limitlessness - 95% of the time. No joke.  And I want that for YOU.

I realized through clearing my breath patterns that intuition comes from a healthy nervous system and embodiment more than some “set of practices”.

My Journey with the Medicine in Peru had also instructed me to seek Sanskrit and tutleage there which took me to Bali, Indonesia where I began study with Swami Vagishananda and later Swami Tattvavidananda at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. The combination of Tracey’s Breathwork, Vedic Study and traditional pranayama lead me to clearly understand the way in which breathwork is the entry point to true Yoga. It is Brave and completely redefining. It surpasses all asana and philosophy in my option as a means to reform the Vasanas in the mind towards enlightment - or if that feels too lofty - towards letting go of our unique stories of suffering and limitation.

For years after my return from Bali, Tracey and I have co-taught breathwork from Alaska to Japan and all throughout the Pacific Northwest. She has continued to support my breath and I her physical yoga practice.

To find out more about the transformative capacity of this work or begin a training to heal your own belly, vagus nerve and mental patterning, just click here, we want to help - but you have to say YES, to your own largest life.


PS. While I have found value and beauty in Plant Medicine, I want my readers to know that the plants themselves have instructed me to use the breath as primary medicine and place total faith in the human body as a self-healing mechanism. My work is in the breath, the postures and philosophy that reminds us - we are already whole.

Next Breath Awareness Training: Level 1  is June 1-3rd on Bainbridge Island




THE Single Most Influential Teaching by Jenna McDonald

Recently I was asked to teach a class on Vedic Philosophy and Yoga Sutras for a large group of Yoga Teacher Trainees in Seattle. It had me standing outside the usual curriculum of my own 200 hr Courses and asking the question:

What is the single most influential teaching of traditional yoga? And how do I give practices that help people unearth their patterns of thinking to reveal how powerful yoga truly is.

The single most influential teaching I have received from Yoga is:

drum roll please..

True happiness comes from learning to elevate yourself, then others.

Notice that I didn’t say happiness comes from self-care, then taking care of others.

It doesn’t. You can be fit, pampered, privileged and on vacation and still suffering immensely!

That’s because at a SOUL LEVEL we aren’t seeking self care. And for a huge population of the non-white, non-privileged world, self-care isn’t even part of the vernacular.

Yoga seeks to serve ALL beings, in all space and all time. And therefore it must be accessible to all. (Important to note that when I say yoga I mean the teachings behind the poses).

At a SOUL LEVEL we are seeking elevation, union with source energy - unlimited potential - the part of us that isn’t bound by culture and time and gender and race and religion. Not to negate that gorgeous, part of us that is our humanity, btw. It is just that, we seek more still.

Elevating yourself is NOT; making money, having a great partner and a perfected diet. This idea that “I need to be successful in the world to be of value or help anyone else” is false.

Showing up in your perfect imperfection, before everything is “well branded” is a vulnerable, humble and brave thing to do. Take it from the Dalai Lama;

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

-Dalai Lama

On the path to having it all - aka. Happiness that doesn’t come and go - we have some awareness work to do. #awarenessfirst

We all have unique, powerful medicine and turning your work in soul medicine for the planet requires you maintain clarity around the value of your SOUL.

I know because, of course, I’ve made the mistake of equating my net worth with my soul worth. Which society loves, as it creates a consumer out of me.

Releasing the resistance to present circumstances is precisely the key that opens the floodgates for a new kind of experience in the future. It requires you ALLOW for elevation to take place. Not necessarily that you ‘make it happen’.

Swamiji used to say, “You certainly won’t get more if you aren’t thankful for what you see now.” He was precise. What you see - your observation of circumstances can be a point of complete “bottoming out.”

Witnessing yourself or others in hard or painful circumstances can be where the whole process of elevation stalls. We see suffering and we can’t see the end of it. We decide subconsciously that it will repeat, and this is debilitating. We perpetuate the circumstance instead of coming back to THE teaching. ‘associate with what elevates the mind’ in order to get present and open the door to a new future.

Ever notice how you dream about what your mind cycles around during daytime hours? The people, places and feelings you have show up in dream because the mind is trying to ‘unpack’ its content. What you give your ATTENTION to becomes your intention.  Intention always gives way to attention. I might intend to live a joyful day, but give all my attention to a negative hiccup in my lived experience. When I give my attention to something repeatedly - it ACTUALLY REPLACES MY INTENTION as the most powerful force in creating my experience.

Elevating yourself is noticing the vibration of your thoughts and being able to choose thoughts that make you FEEL better than the thoughts that drag you down. It is a PRACTICE to pay attention to HOW THE THOUGHT MAKES ME feel Vs. IS THE THOUGHT RIGHT OR TRUE (in my perception). If we hang on to and recycle thoughts that bring us down simply because they are “accurate” based on present time perception - we will go unconscious.

I repeat. We will go unconscious.

At which point, solution orientation, connection with others and peace evade us.




There is a myth about the Goddess Saraswati (Pictured Above) in vedic tradition. She is the Goddess of Music, Art, Knowledge and Words. Of speech and passing on wisdom. When we speak in ways that are harsh, aim to harm others or are secretly aiming to create division SHE, Saraswati devi, doesn’t come around to bless our lives, homes and experience with her Divine Wisdom.

I think of this teaching every time I speak or act harshly, that I am in a sense repelling the blessing of the Goddess. Which isn’t what I want. In fact, personally I want the energy of the Goddess to bathe my ENTIRE life.

When I think - it is an action and the same applies! When I speak negatively and harshly toward myself and others - mentally I keep the blessing of wisdom away from me.


It doesn’t mean you ignore things that need your attention. But notice how focusing on what is lacking is actually making you overwhelmed and disassociated. Turning your attention EVEN to the passing clouds on a clear morning is more effective to elevate the mind then cycling the gap between “what you have and what you want”.

Elevating yourself is choosing to interface with things, places, ideas and people that inspire you and keep you feeling in alignment with yourself. Most importantly elevating yourself is a systematic unraveling of the PRESENT TIME experience you are having and the thoughts that birthed the experience.

In our Advanced Trainings and Courses we teach this level of unraveling thought and creating mind-medicine, anecdotes for the specific challenges we face. Learn more about Elevating self and others in a Teacher Training Program Starting THIS Friday March 9, 2018 or keep your eyes peeled for retreats and programs in the future.

#saraswati #yogateachertraining #cognitiveyoga #yogaphilosophy #traditinoalyoga #sadhana #yogapractice #elevate #innermethods #internalmeans #practielikeabeast 

Working Woman, Mother, Maiden, Matriarch... by Jenna McDonald

You take care of so many people, its time to take care of you. Yoga Teacher Training gives you clearance to expand your connection to spirit, body and like-minded community. With the right amount of culture and yoga tradition our 200 Hr YTT will offer you the structure you need to find the freedom you crave.

Read More