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.

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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

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TRAINING HERE.