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2 Simple Breath Techniques for Managing Stress

2 Simple Breath Techniques for Managing Stress

Daily Practice

Try These Soothing Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Body in Times of Stress or Anxiety. 

Calming the mind during stressful or uncertain times can feel overwhelming. Navigating fear and uncertainty can be challenging for the mind and body as well. The breath can be used as a simple tool to support the mind and body and tap into our inner resilience. Breathing naturally soothes the nervous system, which helps calm the mind. 

Today, I’m going to share with you two simple breathing techniques that you can do from home. Even though both of these techniques are easy, the trick is to remember to do them regularly. Developing a regular practice will help you build a healthy habit and reduce your overall stress level over time. You can do these sitting in a chair during the day or by simply lying on the floor. The beauty of this practice is that it’s incredibly versatile and easy to do from wherever you are at the moment, with whatever energy level you have.

Diaphragmatic Breath

You may have heard of the diaphragmatic breath, or belly breath before. The diaphragm is the most important of the muscles that helps move air in and out of the lungs. Attached to the ribs and lumbar spine, the diaphragm is shaped like a parachute or dome. When the diaphragm contracts on an inhalation, the dome pushes downward and if the abdomen is relaxed the belly will gently expand outward. On an exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back up.  Belly breathing can help most people feel relaxed. As you practice it, periodically pause and observe any changes in the mind or body.

Benefits of this Exercise

In our day to day lives, it’s easy to become overstimulated with electronics or notifications on our phones. This belly breathing technique will help quiet the mind and calm the nervous system from everyday stresses. The exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (these are functions like digestion and heart rate). 

  • Helps quiet the mind and nervous system. 
  • Exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic stimulus nervous system. This is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (things like digestion and heart rate). 
  • Eases fears of unknown, uncertainty and doubt, and monkey mind.  
  • Helps restore your sense of self, internally. 

How to Do It

  1. Sit in a comfortable upright position, or lie on your back on the floor. 
  2. Relax your shoulders, letting go of all tension in your upper body. 
  3. Put one hand on your chest and hand and on your stomach.  
  4. Breath in through your nose for two seconds, allowing the air to expand into your diaphragm. Allow your chest to remain mostly still while your stomach expands like a balloon. 
  5. Next, purse your lips and exhale for two seconds, gently contracting your abdominal muscles. If comfortable, seal your lips and exhale through the nose.
  6. Repeat this exercise several times for two minutes, in a slow and controlled manner. Afterwards, you should feel a sense of calm and relaxation in your body. 
  7. As you become comfortable with this breathing practice, explore making the exhale longer than the inhale to experience a similar (or different) calming effect.

Basic Bee Breath

This next technique is known as the bee breath, or brahmari. The name brahmari is derived from the Sanskrit term for bee. For this breath, you’ll be making a humming sound that resembles a buzzing bee. Known for its relaxing effects, this breath can help break up mental thought patterns that cause anxiety. 

Benefits of this Exercise

This exercise helps soothe the nervous system by focusing your breath and limiting outside distractions and thoughts. It can help calm the mind from racing thoughts and ease anxiety by using longer focused breaths. 

  • Soothes the nervous system with longer breaths. 
  • Helps create a calm, centered inner voice. 
  • Reduces inflammation in the body by decreasing stress. 
  • Eases your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system). 
  • Activates your body’s built-in stress release (parasympathetic nervous system).  

How to Do It

  1. Sit comfortably in a seated upright position or  or lie on your back on the floor. 
  2. Take a breath in slowly through your nostrils. 
  3. Exhale and make an “mmmmm” sound with your mouth closed. This should sound like a buzzing or humming sound. Keep your facial muscles relaxed and lips gently sealed. 
  4. Focus on the sound you make as you exhale and ignore all outside distractions and thoughts. Notice and feel and vibratory sensations in your body. This should create a relaxing and calming feeling. 
  5. Inhale again through your nostrils and exhale making the “mmmmm” sound. Repeat this exercise for two minutes. 

You can do these breathing exercises wherever you feel comfortable. Whether it’s sitting upright at your kitchen table or office chair, driving in traffic, or lying on the floor, you’ll be able to reap the benefits by simply taking two minutes to focus on your breath. Remember, no matter how overwhelmed, stressed, or busy you may feel, taking two minutes to slow down and focus on yourself can help you recenter and regain control of thoughts again.  

If you’d like to explore more, let’s get started. You can book a complimentary 1:1 consultation with me here.

Celery Root Fennel Soup

Celery Root Fennel Soup

Nourish

This soup is great for Kapha season as we transition from the cooler temps to the spring. Celery root, which is one of lighter of the root vegetables, is a mild diuretic and slightly warming for the lungs and sinuses. Fennel and celery are diuretics as well. All three help pacify Kapha and encourage healthy digestion. Adjust texture and flavor with other spices by adding a fingerling potato or splash of heavy cream or replace the quantity of butter with ghee or olive oil. You can also use the fennel stalks in lieu of the bulb if you aren’t sure for what to use them.

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 or 2 fingerling potatoes, chopped (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large celery root, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken, less for a thicker consistency)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 cup half & half (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fennel fronds or fresh dill for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil and butter. Sauté onion, fennel, and celery until tender for about 5-10 minutes, adding 1 tsp salt a few minutes into cooking. Add potato if using, then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add celery root, stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until celery root has softened. Remove from heat and purée mixture with hand blender. Add pepper and if using, half & half and stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish bowls with chopped fennel fronds or fresh dill.

Serves 4-6.

Building Resilience Through Mindfulness and Wellness Routines

Building Resilience Through Mindfulness and Wellness Routines

Wellness

Now that we’re coming out of the third COVID-19 winter and heading into spring, many of us are experiencing the struggles of transitioning back to work during these colder months and through a season of prolonged sickness. You may be asking yourself, “Will we ever return to the former lives that we once knew?” 

Finding strength and inner resilience during these times of uncertainty can be challenging.  Not only are individuals struggling to balance childcare, work obligations, and virtual schooling, but we are also experiencing trauma on a collective scale. This extends not only to the global pandemic, but also with the social unrest and climate change issues unfolding around the world. 

As you begin assessing the changes around you, here’s a few resources and strategies you can use to restore balance in your life during this time of resurgence. 

Steps for Getting Back to the Real World in a Pandemic 

Establish a schedule and set boundaries at home and work for greater balance. 

With the increasing demands of work and home life, it’s even more important to set healthy boundaries to protect your time and energy. Creating a schedule and allowing those around you to know your availability can help reduce the stress and overwhelm of feeling “pulled” in many directions at once. 

Another important area to focus on is your sleep routine and managing your technology usage at home. 

Tips for creating an ideal sleep environment: 

  • Get in the habit of turning off technology at a certain hour each evening. 
  • Keep your phone out of the bedroom to eliminate distractions and blue light at night.  
  • Set a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking at the same time each day.

Over time, your body will adjust to your new sleep routine, creating a feeling of safety and peace that will help regulate your nervous system and allow for better quality rest. 

Take a mini-break to reboot or take time to slow down.

Give yourself permission to pause, refresh, rest, unplug from the hustle culture. This is particularly important if you are taking care of children or parents at home that require even more of your time and attention.

When we can return to balance in this way, giving attention to our own stress and uncertainty without making it worse, we contribute to a greater balance and harmony in our environment as well.

For those who like to do-do-do and live a fast-paced lifestyle, it takes more work and a conscious effort to slow down. The power is in the stillness.

Embrace daily routines or rituals to restore balance in your life.  

A basic tenet of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” If you’re experiencing burn-out in areas of your life and work, you can seek out ways to restore balance.

Whether it’s ten minutes or an hour, integrate a centering and calming practice that promotes mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi. This can be as simple as walking outside to be with nature, or reading a book in a cozy quiet place. Such practices can be a natural way to refresh your brain. There are yoga breathing practices and postures that can help with fatigue and exhaustion and give the body and mind a reboot.

It’s important in times of turmoil to look for activities that ground and support us. Can you create an inviting, quiet spot in your home to spend some alone time thinking and reflecting? A blanket and some pillows  on your favorite chair or corner of the couch can make a great retreat from the world.  Look for the daily rituals that will help balance the constant energy of change.

Even on busy days, make sure to take the time to eat a nourishing diet. Soups and stews are great for colder weather and will help fuel your body during the winter months.  

Acknowledge that you are doing the best that you can in your unique situation. 

Strong feelings of fear, uncertainty and doubt can lead to distorted thoughts or a constant narrative of mental negativity. Try positive reframing of thoughts that are true and helpful. Hanging meaningful quotes around your home or in your office can also help spark much needed motivation when you’re feeling overwhelmed or low on energy on one particular day. 

I also believe that sometimes we must acknowledge that a situation is not ideal and then use it as an opportunity to go up from there or an opportunity to try something new.  

Once we learn to honor our obstacles, we can move forward with less fear.

Seek out help from your support system and create positive environments. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from a family member, a friend, a colleague or a therapist or wellness professional. 

Remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together, which can be hard to keep in mind when dealing with challenging circumstances. It’s part of our human spirit to help and be kind to others, and when we come together, that is when the healing starts to happen. 

If you’re interested in gaining more support for your wellness routine, feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation to discuss your individual needs. 

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Testimonials

  • "Julie is an incredible teacher. I began taking her classes when trying to gain strength and balance again after a knee surgery. I found her classes to be extremely helpful throughout my journey to feeling like an athlete again. Fast-forward years later, my new goal was staying present, strong, and healthy throughout my pregnancy. Julie’s classes helped me stay in a positive mindset and maintain strength despite a complicated pregnancy. The core and breathing exercises she shared with me ended up being so incredibly helpful in labor and post-birth recovery. She was very knowledgeable in poses that would benefit my body, especially those to help regain control of my core mindfully. We moved right before the babe was born, I only wish she would come down to San Diego to teach!

    Brooke V.
  • "Julie has been one of the best yoga instructors I have ever had. I have started practicing yoga with her following a back and wrist injuries. I have attended her classes as well as one on one sessions. I couldn't have been more satisfied. Julie teaches with a lot of kindness and generosity. She has shown me how to listen to my body at every pose. She always adapts her teaching to each person, even when in a class setting. When it comes to my injuries, Julie has helped me develop a training plan to improve healing and avoid future problems. I strongly recommend Julie. She is an incredible teacher.

    Elie M.
  • "If you're looking to make a positive life change, you must work with Julie! I've taken both group yoga classes and private yoga therapy sessions with Julie in San Francisco. She worked with me 1:1 to help me deal with chronic pain and fatigue caused by scoliosis. If you deal with chronic pain, I highly recommend trying her private sessions. I am able to use the techniques she taught me in my everyday life and have noticed a huge improvement in my pain and stress levels. She's also an excellent teacher and is equipped to help you through some of life's toughest challenges through yoga therapy and breathing techniques. Her calming techniques and her ability to listen are truly life changing when it comes to reducing stress and making wellness a bigger focus in your life. She can also work with you virtually, which makes it easier than ever before to book sessions with a busy schedule.

    Allyson L.
  • "Julie has an infectious energy she carries with her wherever she goes. This is essential as an instructor, especially for those that rely on her to disconnect from the stressors of everyday life outside of yoga. As a local Doctor of Physical Therapy, I recommend her to my patients, especially those that appreciate attention to detail and value nurturing instruction.

    Kevin F.
  • "My wife and I were very new to yoga when we found Julie. It’s now been about a year and a half that we’ve been doing private sessions with her twice a week – and it’s been great. Our sessions vary each time, so we are exposed to different positions and movements and it keeps it new and interesting. She has always given thought to planning what we will do and takes into account our recent practice, what we’ve expressed interest in, and other factors like whether it’s early in the morning or at the end of a long day at the office. We always feel great when we are done and we look forward to maintaining our practice and improving our strength, flexibility, and general mindfulness about how we carry ourselves throughout the day. We have many other positive things to say, but to state it briefly: based on our ongoing experience we can wholeheartedly recommend her to others like us who are relatively new to yoga.

    Andy
  • “I work with Julie 1:1 about once a week for private sessions. She's been an incredible teacher, and she's funny and kind on top of that. She spent the first couple of weeks working on correcting my form, which has been totally transformative to how I feel. Her background in PT and Ayurveda combined with her knowledge of yoga is incredibly valuable. She coached me during a health setback, researching and tailoring the practice to my needs. And now that I'm feeling better, each session feels tailored to where I want to build strength, and I keep getting stronger. My session with Julie is one of the highlights of my week.

    Erica K.
  • "I have been seeing Julie for private sessions for about 3 months now. I first met her when I took her Vinyasa class at Union Yoga, and really liked her teaching style. Since I’m a beginner, I wanted (and needed) one-on-one instruction to learn how to practice yoga. Julie is a knowledgeable and fun teacher. Not only can she demonstrate how to do poses, she also provides clear and precise instructions on how to do them. In my experience, not every yoga teacher has the ability to do that well. Julie also is really good about hands-on adjustments, which I like because it helps me to understand how to get into poses. I’ve seen real improvement in my practice since working with Julie, especially in my strength and flexibility. I highly recommend her as a teacher!

    Beatrice
  • “The moment we contacted Julie Watson for corporate yoga lessons literally changed our lives. She is a true professional who is warm, patient and empowers her students to feel confident and comfortable at their own level of yoga practice. Our small office consists of six staff members who’s age ranges from 18 through 60 years old, and four of the six had no prior yoga experience. Julie patiently corrects our form and makes adjustments to sessions based on unexpected injuries or limitations. She provides the expertise to enhance our well-being and contributed to our weight lifting and cardio performance. Since she has come on board, we have noticed significant improvement with balance, flexibility and coordination. To learn yoga from Julie is truly a gift!

    Judy
  • "Julie has a thoughtful and intelligent teaching style. I always feel that she is taking care of me, even in a large class. She has a great depth of knowledge and understanding of the body and it shows in her sequencing and cues. Not only do I feel great after her classes, but I always discover something new about a pose. She also has a genuine warmth and you feel it. I recommend Julie highly for your yoga practice in San Francisco!

    Susan G.