Ep.32- Hitu Jugessur: The Power of Breathing

Do you know that you have everything you need available to you at any moment? By focusing on the breath, you can remember that you are always being supported.  Join me as I chat with Hitu Jugessur on the power of the breath in helping us stay grounded, calm and peaceful.  She shares her stories of helping high conflict groups remember their power through breathwork. 

Gissele: Hello and welcome to the Love and Compassion podcast with Gissele. We believe that love and compassion have the power to transform our lives in our world. Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more amazing content and today’s podcast. We’ll be discussing the power of the breath. It feels though, you know, we feel like we’re breathless during this time.

We were just coming out of COVID. it, now it feels like, you know, the world is at war. it just feels like we can’t catch our breath and we keep holding our breath. It just feels like, Ugh, what’s going to come next. so today I’m hoping we can have a great conversation about how to, get back to our breath and, you know, be in a state of relaxation and love and compassion.

 Dr. Hitu Jugessur has over 20 years experience in teaching yoga meditation programs offered by the art of living foundation. She’s currently based in Canada, but has taught the art of living programs in many parts of the world, including over 20 African countries.

Gissele: She has a wealth of experience in teaching [00:01:00] in very diverse socio-cultural settings. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Hitu

Hitu: hi. No, how are you?

Gissele: Good. Thank you so much for being on the show. You know, we’re here to talk about the breath, which is very important. can you begin by telling our audience how you kind of got into this work?

Hitu: Yeah. So it was a 22 years ago or so. And, I was writing my thesis at the time. They were very stressful times and a friend of mine had, I had suggested to me, or there’s this workshop that you need to do. And that’s how it began for me. and the, the transformation was so.

No palpable and dramatic just within a day of the workshop that I, it was very clear to me that this is what I need to be doing for the rest of my life. So that’s what I do. I share these programs wherever we go, wherever I travel to. [00:02:00]

Gissele: Yeah. And the art of living is based on the works of our Shri Shri Shankar.

Hitu: Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder and spiritual master.

Can you tell us

Gissele: a little bit about him and some of his philosophies and how kind of the art of living. Yeah.

Hitu: So he’s a global leader. Peacemaker. If you will, a few many people heard about him. He, you know, he has done tremendous work in conflict resolution mediation in times where places, parts of the world where the need has been there.

But the philosophy, the mission rather is to uplift human values. And society, and to create a more compassionate, loving, peaceful societies through, by giving individuals the tools, very concrete tools to handle themselves, to master their own mind and emotions. And that is how the [00:03:00] communities are, benefited and transform.

thank you for that. I was just wondering how the actual breath actually helps us be more compassionate and loving towards.

Hitu: So breath is connected to our state of mind. It’s very fundamental. And, and you may have noticed that for every emotion that you experienced, there is a corresponding factor in corresponding rhythm in your breath, breath.

When you’re angry, you breathe in a particular way. When you’re sad, your breathing changes when you’re anxious, it changes again. So for every emotion that you experience. The breath changes. Now, it’s very hard to handle the difficult to handle the mind and the level of the mind, because it’s so intangible.

This is where the breath comes in. So by using the breath, we can bring the mind into a more calmer state and more present state and being more in the present moment, more joyful, more happy, and also dissolve the [00:04:00] negative emotions that we carry with us. So we become more resilient to stress and whatever stress is there, we’re able to shed it more in a more effective way, all through the breath.

And there’s science that, that, you know, backs this up. You know, it’s been known there in the system of yoga for thousands of years, but now science recognizes that the breath has a role to play. you know, And it’s connected to how you’re feeling, how, what emotions you’re going through. So for compassion to manifest in one’s life, one needs to be happy from within when it needs to be connected from within, and then connected.

to those around what needs to be in an uplifted state of consciousness. And then it’s a natural expression of one’s life is love and compassion. When stress is there, then we’re not even connected to ourselves. Our true nature and we [00:05:00] behave in ways that can negatively impact societies and people around us.

So dissolving the stress and how to do this. This is where the breath comes.

Gissele: And we’re seeing this kind of disconnection and stress right now being played out in our world, you know? And I think one of the best things about the breath is that it’s, it’s within us, right? Like it’s something we it’s, it’s something we already do naturally.

And I think that it reminds us that we already have everything that we need. but how do we know we’re doing it right? Cause you know, like when you, when you do yoga or when you do kind of the mindfulness or even meditation stuff, there’s kind of different ways that you can do that.

Hitu: It needs to be learned under the guidance of a trained instructor. A proper teacher who can guide you, who has the experience, the training, who knows the nuances, the skill who has the skill thank you for sharing that. I was just wondering in terms of. the [00:06:00] breath naturally occurs. And when we’re in our most relaxed, We don’t have to actually think about breathing.

Gissele: We naturally breathe. Right?

Hitu: Well, it’s the first thing we did when we were born. Right. We took a breath in and the last thing we will do when we die is the last breath out, but we don’t actually pay attention to. Through the whole course of life. We’re not even aware of it unless we run out of breath.

We’re, you know, out of breath or we’re exercising, that’s when the breath comes into the forefront. And then we realize, okay, I am breathing faster, or this is what’s happening with my breath.

and how did you come to do this work in over 20 African countries? And what did you find out when you were doing.

Hitu: Well, the people human beings, anywhere in the world are looking for the same thing. You know, we’re all searching for happiness. We want peace of mind. And so during my travels, you know, the [00:07:00] experience is the same human experience. People go through stresses, maybe in different. Contexts in different ways, in different parts of the world, but ultimately we want the same thing and we’re looking for it, not knowing where to look for it.

And once they experience the benefits, there’s immense gratitude and, and recognition. And, you know, you see when you see the smiles on people’s faces, as they, as they come to the end of the workshop, that gives us, that gives me immense joy and gratitude as well.

Gissele: Mmmhmm mmhmm.

 does the work that you do help you. Increase your awareness of how you’re breathing and also use different strategies for breathing. Yeah.

Hitu: Different breathing techniques that can, shift the state of your nervous system. Right? Move you from a fight-flight system to a more rest and relaxed state of mind.

So the breath is connected to your [00:08:00] nervous system. Right. We know this, you know, we know we now there’s a lot of information that shows how the vagus nerve also works. So. different breathing techniques impact our system in different ways, physiologically biochemically. And there’s one particular technique that we teach called the sky, breathing the acronym skiver it stands for sudarshan kriya, sudarshan kriya breathing..

It’s a rhythmic breathing processes that realigns the bio rhythms. So, so in, in, in more general terms, the sh the, the stress that we’re carrying at the cellular level, those things get shed, you know, whether it’s physical or emotional, and there’s a renewal from within there’s more energy. you know, you feel more energized.

There’s more clarity in the mind. So all of these techniques are impacting. physiologically as well. Definitely. Right. We need to physiological mechanism [00:09:00] and it’s it regulates the state of mind, you know, emotional regulation is tightly connected through the breath.

Gissele: Mm. Yeah. That’s so true. And how does this sky breath differ from other types of breathing?

I guess .

Hitu: the sky breakfast taught in over a few days,

Gissele: Ok.

Hitu: Specifically, you know, right now online over three, three consecutive days.

So what happens during the workshop is you learn the technique. Then you have a daily routine, 20 minutes of the breathing that you incorporate into your day-to-day practice that maintains that state of centeredness, serenity, calmness, despite your environment. So you’re carrying that, that expanded state of mind, wherever you go.

So we’re normally. Something would trigger a stress response in you. This doesn’t happen to that degree, or if it does happen, [00:10:00] you’re able to, after a few minutes of reading it, right. So it becomes like a shield around you that doesn’t allow the stress to penetrate. And even if it does it, doesn’t the impression of it business stay that long.


Gissele: How can we, become more aware of how, if we’re breathing kind of the right way. I know that there’s the specific training, but in everyday life for people, how can they become greater

Hitu: awareness? Just notice when you are angry, what happens to your breath? It’s going much faster. It’s erratic. It’s interrupted. Isn’t it. If at that time I said, can you smell this flower?

You won’t be able to do it because your breath is so shaky when you’re sad or depressed, there’s more emphasis on the exhalation. You know, it’s heavier when you’re anxious, it’s very shallow, superficial, fast. When there’s fear [00:11:00] for a moment, the breath stops. And when you’re happy, how do you breathe? And you noticed

Gissele: my stomach and it’s deeper

Hitu: in deep.

There’s more emphasis on the inhaling. Enjoy more inhalation. So you just become aware of, you know, this is what’s happening to my breathing right now. We, we know this, we so inherent to us, but we’re just not paying attention, but it’s very hard to then say, okay, I have to stop feeling angry, or I shouldn’t be feeling this way that you can’t hand me the mind like that.

This is where you need to sit down and do the breathing techniques that we teach. And then it comes back to the present moment. The mind it’s either you will notice it’s either caught up in the past, even, you know, in a moment, it, it moves from past to future. It’s doing this constantly and more, your nervous system is stressed [00:12:00] more.

There’s this tendency for the mind to vacillate from the past to the future. You’re not in the present moment. So the breath is in the present moment. It is the only it’s it’s happening right now. So it’s the tool that tangible concrete tool that you can use to manipulate you, manipulate the breath. When you notice the mind automatically comes back into the moment.


Gissele: And mindfulness is so important in terms of like you were mentioning. so often we’re either living in the past or in the future. never really living in the present moment, but really the present moment is where our power is. Right.

Hitu: It’s where life is happening. Right. You can be optimal.

Right now this moment you can, whatever action you need to do to take you take it right now. This is where life is. Life is not what happened five minutes ago is not there at one time. What’s coming in two minutes from now is not here yet. So living [00:13:00] mindfulness is what is more and more conscious, being more and more conscious of the present moment as it is.

And moving in that with the flow of that.

Gissele: Yeah, definitely! And wouldn’t it be like a better world if we just all were able to kind of hold space for ourselves and ground ourselves, has the breath work that you’ve done actually helped you engage inchallenging conversations. I don’t start my day without my practice. That is my way of taking care. I can’t be teaching something that I don’t practice myself. Right. So this, this is how, this is how it it’s, it’s tremendously beneficial in keeping you in a calm state of mind because you see like everybody right now, what’s happening is.

 We are seeing that we’re more, there are more demands on us. Whatever is the environment, the situation we’re throwing at us and in the pandemic [00:14:00] daughters, a lot of that is teaching still, and we have to deliver within that atmosphere, that environment. So the only thing that you really have control over is your internal environment.

Hitu: That’s right. And that’s where self mastery comes in, because life is going to throw you all sorts of things, but how you handle yourself in those situations, that’s up to you. And that needs to be learned. That’s a skill that needs to be acquired. In a state of mind where you’re frazzled, where you’re upset, where you’re agitated, stressed, burdened, or burnt out, even then you cannot do what you want to be doing, or, even relate in the proper manner to people around you.

Relationships get affected when we are feeling unhappy or stressed from within. So everything we experience is a reflection of what state of mind we are in. [00:15:00] And how, you know, we dealing with ourselves, how we’re conducting ourselves come starts from within. So you want a society that’s more compassionate, free from violence.

There’s more harmony, there’s more, love and caring for one another. You start, you need to start with yourself. You cannot even envisage, you know, it remains a far-fetched reality to have a world without. Conflict. If the individual is not happy, it’s not peaceful from within.

Gissele: Yeah. And completely agree.

And I think that’s one of the things that we teach at Maitri center, which is really it’s about starting with ourselves. We can’t holdspace for someone else. If we don’t do that for ourselves, it makes it really, really challenging. And I think that’s why focusing on the breath and seeing where we’re at as a barometer of where we’re at is so important.

and being able to support ourselves.

Hitu: Breath, meditation yah.

Gissele: In [00:16:00] all that, like you’ve done this work in over 20 countries. can you share some of the more powerful stories around, like how you have seen some transformations, in terms of some of the work that you’ve done.

Hitu: I taught in a few conflict areas, in central Africa. And then they were often, you know, people sitting in the workshops where post-traumatic stress had seen loss, tremendous loss and or who had experienced violence themselves.

And, you know, just do hear stories of how they were able to sleep better or those flashbacks that used to come to them, that they were not there anymore, that they, they could, you know, that they just, the feeling of comfort and security from within just after a few minutes of breathing, you know, these are common stories, you know, and, yeah, many, many instances like.

Gissele: yeah, I mean, if you think about it, if, if that’s possible, even on a smaller scale, [00:17:00] how much of it could be possible right now, if you know, the world leaders and the people that, you know, have quote unquote power would be able to sit down and just breathe through and have feel safety from within, without needing, you know, weapons and war.

Hitu: And either every leader, every individual on this planet needs to experience. Piece and expansion and connection from within, right. That’s what. Spiritual growth, right? When you’re feeling connected from within you’re feeling uplifted, and you’re feeling that the oneness with everything around you with everybody around you, it is the mind that creates the division or the judgment or the barriers or the identity limited identification by race, religion.

Culture, et cetera, et cetera, gender, whatever it is, that’s limited identification. But to recognize that we’re all the [00:18:00] same spirit, the same human, humankind, We all share that common humanness. It’s the same life energy that’s in me. It’s also there inside you as well, then there’s a different world, right?

Then there’s no space for conflict and violence and harming somebody else taking somebody else’s life. When you know, that’s the same life force that’s in mean it’s there in you as well. So the whole world would be a different place. And that’s what the work of the foundation is. They bring that.

Gissele: Which is so important because I think part of the issue, what we have found is really that as we become more harmonious internally.

You become your whole world becomes more harmonious. and I think when we start to recognize, and that’s one of the things that is the power of compassion, which is seeing the common humanity and seeing the. [00:19:00] I’m not separate from you. Are we are all interdependent on one another and I think COVID has

Hitu: shown us that.

Yeah, I do agree. In many times it takes a disaster to wake us up. Right. That’s fortunately, right? Yeah. That’s you, you see people coming together and, and, you know, rallying together to help one another. You know, if we could live our life on a day-to-day basis with that awareness, that we’re all the same, not just at the level of the words, but actually living life like that, you know, authentically living with that connection with that oneness, then it’s a different story.

Gissele: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. so I think, what do you think is stopping us? I mean, how do we overcome this fear that we have of one another.

Hitu: It’s the mind, it’s the mind that creates. And that’s why we need tools to go beyond, to recognize who we are [00:20:00] beyond the mind be. We’re not just this. See, there are seven levels to our existence.

Yeah. From going from the most gross to the most subtle we have the body, the breath. . And then going more subtle is the mind that perceives through the senses experiences, then going even more subtle as the intellect judges and divides and analyzes, then going more subtle than that is the memory. So to the ego and then the spirit.

So if you can recognize that you’re not just this physical body, this color, this shape, the size, the, your likes and dislikes your, your, your patterns, your habits, and that your spirit, your love. That is what it is. Love, spirit, compassion. It’s all that whose inner most, qualities, right. That we all are.

To recognize that you need to shed your stresses. You need to go beyond the mind. [00:21:00] And that’s where meditation is critical.

Gissele: Yeah. I agree with that. it’s so interesting. You know, one of the things that we see in our community and in the people that we work with in the, you know, environment out there is people’s focus on the body.

All right. We are very, very body focused, very, which, which is interesting because you separate the breath from like, as you were talking about the different levels, you separated the breath as part of something, but we see those part of the body in there. So it’s, we’re so focused on the physical body that it makes us afraid.

It makes us afraid of lack and makes us afraid of death. . that’s

Hitu: what spirituality is, right? Recognizing that you’re not just this limited identification with whatever it is, where you’re your body’s going to perish. But inside deep inside is, is, is energy. Just think of it as energy, if you will, if it’s too [00:22:00] intangible that life force in you, that same energy and the energy doesn’t get created nor destroyed.

We know that it’s eternal. So your body will perish whether you’re beautiful today with a, you know, your, your skin is tight. And

it will change. Your habits have changed. Your likes and dislikes have changed. Your attitudes about things have changed. Everything is impermanent is transient. And when you recognize that, that there’s something deep within you, that doesn’t change. That is the spirit. That is who you really are. Then you see life from a bigger perspective.

And you start living your life in a different manner. That is more life supporting for others, as well as for yourself, more in [00:23:00] connection, more in harmony with others, with nature it’s society, you know, everything is different when you’re, when you wake up to that reality that you’re not just this body.

Gissele: It, but the interesting part about it is that we believe this reality so much, right. If we really, really, really believe, because if the thing is that the book, the spirit is it’s not visible, so we’re so used to that’s. Right? So we’re so used to the tangibility. I have a computer. I can see you. So therefore I give a lot of credits and energy and attention to why.

Yeah in front of me then the, the, the intangible, but the intangible is way more powerful, which is

Hitu: it’s powerful and it’s, it’s magnanimous. Right? What do you see or experience through your senses through your mind is so minuscule compared to what it is that you cannot [00:24:00] experience or cannot even fanthom , you know, It’s it’s beyond comprehension.

So that’s where that journey, that spiritual journey begins when you recognize that that sense of wow happens inside you and as children, you are like that, right? As babies or small children, they have that sense of amazement. Wow. Wonder, you know, they will see the moon and then this, they see the stars or they’ll pick up a flower and there’s a sense of wonder.

Right, because you’re seeing things from a different way, different angle, you know? There’s a, there’s a total union. That sense of wonderment inside, you know, just comes up babies six, seven sense of wonder when they put their foot on the grass for the very first time. And that sensation creates that sense of, or they discover that [00:25:00] fingers and those for the first time, there’s that sense of wonderment and lost that we’ve become so programmed in.

So. Wired in a particular way to function in a particular way to achieve things in a particular way. We need to do ABC D and we’re looking at life from a very, very narrow perspective. And this is what we see in society today. Right. And that’s, what’s creating divisions and conflicts and prejudices and values, you know, love and compassion, those get going to the backdrop.


Gissele: That’s very true. And it’s, it’s so funny that, you know, we kind of lost the joy of living. Like, you know, like you see so many people surviving, it’s just about surviving. When you get to the end, right? Like you don’t want to have survive your life. You want us to have, you ideally would have liked to have lived it in joy, , and [00:26:00] cherished it, and have that kind of wonder.

But I think again, I go back to fear. We are F w some people are afraid to really relax and let go, because it takes a level of trust in the intangible. That is,

Hitu: is hard. Very true. Yeah. But if you can, the moment you wake up to the fact that you’re going to die. Something else opens up in you. There’s another state of awareness that, or, you know, just, we, we live in fear and insecurity because we think we’re going to be alive forever, that this is going this body, this physical form is going to continue forever.

We were afraid of losing something that we have acquired, or we we’re afraid of, judgment or we’re afraid of. Comparing, we compare ourselves to other people, you know, that this is living in a very, very small. Minded kind [00:27:00] of way, right? The moment you recognize that life is much bigger than all of this, this you’re just a speck.

What a, what are you and I, you know, in the spec of this, in the context of this universe, what are we few hundred, few years, 80, 90, maybe a hundred years we’ll be here, but what is that in the context of time in space, it’s not. Like the here a moment and then it’s gone. We’re gone. Like, it won’t matter a few years after you die, people forget about you.

You won’t even matter. You won’t it be over. So how you have lived your life while you been here, you know, whether you’ve lived. Joyfully living those human values of love and compassion. How much love have you given? How much have you get for this? How much have you uplifted? That’s the other people.

That’s the only thing that really matters in the end. You’re not going in your death bed. You’re not going to worry about your bank balance or [00:28:00] how famous you are, how successful we were, that those things will not matter. Yeah.

Gissele: Yeah, it’s so interesting because as you were talking, I think the word that keeps coming out for me is, is the allowance, right?

Allowing ourselves to not resist death and not resist, like, you know, lack and not resist, just allowing our lives to be like, you know, if you believe that, you know, our, our life ends and then it doesn’t then just accept that and you’re allowing it. Sorry, let me backtrack. You resisting. It will prevent you from living life fully because there’s nothing you can do about that, right?

Like you’re going to transition whether you believe there’s nothing out there or whether you do believe that the inner world, like we are energy and we will go on,

Hitu: you don’t need to even believe in you that forget about that. You don’t, you just know that you’re going to die. This is a fact. You know, you don’t need to have any, you know, it may [00:29:00] sound a little esoteric.

You don’t even need to finish this. Body’s going to die. And it’s a fact of life you were born and you’re going to die. And in between you have these feelings.

Gissele: So, are you going to choose to live them with joy into the best of your life? Or are you going to drag your heels until the very end? I guess,

Hitu: fear, insecurity and you know, all of those things that, that’s why it’s so important to, to have.

Spiritual knowledge, right. To know what it is. When you start asking yourselves questions about who am I, you know, what is this life about? What is my life about? That’s when you really start to wake up, otherwise you just leave living in slumber and life just goes by and you’re in total slumber.

Gissele: So, I, I, I’m not [00:30:00] familiar with, Sri Sri Shankar, but one of the things that, you know, David and I, who is my husband talk about is, embodied mastery, which is like being the human being. But at the same time being so connected with your spirit, that you, are in your mastery and are in your, your power.

Was that something that maybe he would, they would talk about? Or, I mean, he must’ve been in his mastery. Great. Kind of the art of living.

Hitu: Yeah. Something you going ask him one day. His spiritual master is, is, yeah. He’s, he’s brought loving joy to millions around, you know, it’s like the example of somebody who walks the talk lives by example.

Yeah. And we

Gissele: need more, I think people kind of advocating for greater love and compassion and peace and inner. Yeah, power. Right? I was wondering if you could show us kind of like I’m not the sky breath, but just like an [00:31:00] example of a breathing technique that maybe we could, that our listeners could do. If you, if our listeners, if you are driving, please do not drive. .

Please pull over or listen to the podcast later so that you do not get into an

Hitu: accident. So I’ll show you the bellows breath, which isn’t in an energizing breath. just adjust my camera. So in this one, you breathe in and out through the nose. It’s a vigorous inhalation and a forceful exhalation.. Maybe you can do it as well.

With me, of course, was full exhalation through the nose. And as we breathe in, we raise our hands up the farms, right. Arms open to the sky. And as we breathe out the fists in front of the shoulders again. Okay. So vigorous inhalation, forceful exhalation, maybe some tissue. [00:32:00] I actually blew my nose before this over.

Pretty good. This time next to you. Let’s close our eyes,

the shoulders, relaxed, gentle smile on the face

and take a long, deep breathing.

And breathe out completely. And for bellows breath, breathe in,

in, in, relax your hands.

So, okay. So breathing in and out.

Okay. With the eyes closed. So we’ll do three sets. And in between each set, I’ll ask you to keep your eyes closed and you can just rest your bars on your lap [00:33:00] and just observe the sensations. You may feel some tingling, maybe little lightheadedness. It’s all fine. Okay. All right. So eyes closed and in loose fist in front of the shoulders, elbows are touching the side.

Take a transition breath in

to get a breath in.


And relax your hands. Keep the eyes closed. Body still.

And observe the sensations.

Keeping the eyes closed, we will do second round. So hands in starting position, shoulders relaxed, loose faced in front of the shoulders and the elbows, touching the body.

Take a transition breath in, [00:35:00] then let go.

And it’s begin in together.

And relax in the eyes, closed palms open on the lap. [00:36:00]

Get ready for a final round and in starting position.

If you could transition breath in and let go,

and let’s begin. Yeah.[00:37:00]

And slowly, gradually as you feel ready. You may open the eyes. .

That’s lovely. How was

Gissele: that? It was good. It was, you really have to be in the present moment to be able to figure out the right. So it was intense, but it was really lovely.

Yeah. Why is it called the bellows breath?

no. The bellows that was you in Sanskrit, this Basilica, the actual term , [00:38:00] we use bellows bellows that you flame the

Hitu: flame fires with.

Gissele: Oh, that’s interesting. thank you so much. That was really, really lovely. so tell us a little bit about some of the work that you’re doing right now. Would you want to share with the listeners, where can they find you?

Hitu: Right. So the, yeah, all our workshops I’d like for listeners to know that we’re here and available.

I know people are going through a lot of anxiety and. Depression even right now, burnout also. So we’re here in offering everything. All our workshops are, are online. You can connect with me personally on my Instagram handle@coachhitu and, our, website is the www.Artofliving.org too.

If you want to [00:39:00] check out the workshops that we’re offering, wherever you are globally, you can, you can reach out.

Gissele: Well, thank you very much for your time. It was a lovely conversation about the breath and about kind of spirit. and thank you everyone for listening to another episode of the Love and Compassion podcast.

And we hope you join us very soon.

Hitu: Thank you Gissele. Bye-bye.

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