Health and Wellness continued...

The healing power of a simple breath:
A yoga teacher explains pranayama


by Jennifer Mackenzie, MFA

Dani Marshburn’s yogic practice began in 2010, completely changing the way she would help others. Having a bachelor's in elementary education and a master's degree in counseling, Dani’s journey led her to complete a 220 hour Kunga Yoga Teacher Training with Kristin Cooper at The Wilmington Yoga Center in 2012. Experiencing the power of yoga in her own life, that same year Dani was inspired to create Infinite Yoga & Wellness in Jacksonville, located at 13 Doris Avenue East.

The following interview has been edited for continuity.

You have made a yoga studio work in Jacksonville, which doesn’t seem like the easiest location for yoga?

Dani: (laughing) Yes, I have pulled off a miracle! It took a lot of faith to keep going at first –just to get people to come in and then stay long enough to experience the many benefits of yoga. But now, ah! – we’ve grown and grown in the last few years.

You grew up here? What motivated you to stay?

Dani: Yes, I grew up in Richlands, the next town over, which is even smaller! I knew the effects yoga had in my life, and I had a powerful belief that other people needed this. I didn’t know how much they would initially resist it, but I knew they needed it, and I just wouldn’t quit.

What kind of healing path did yoga personally take you on?

Dani: I had suffered from depression and anxiety and stress my whole life. I had old physical injuries, an accident when I was twelve that had led to my thyroid shutting down, and a whole list of autoimmune diseases. But I didn’t realize the physical issues were all connected; I just thought this is how life is. And then, enters Yoga ...

And ... ?

Dani: The first night I did yoga – it was a pranayama class – yoga breathing. I felt alive for the first time ever, like I had taken my first breath – and I was already in my thirties. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but I started going to yoga class twice a week. I noticed myself feeling lighter and more optimistic – and from then on everything began to change for me. Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to yoke or ‘to unite.’ We practice yoga to unite the body, mind, and spirit – and that’s what began to happen for me.

Why did you try yoga?

Dani: I was in graduate school and I had become acutely aware of how bad I felt and I started seeking out anything that said ‘healing.’ I was at a gym and there was a yoga class offered. The description said it had healing benefits and could reduce stress. I went to it blindly. I was the only person in the class that night, so the teacher just sat and breathed with me.

How do you define pranayama?

Dani: Prana is a Sanskrit word that means ‘life force or life force energy’. And yama means ‘restraint’, so pranayama is being able to control and work with our mental and physical states through the breath. Visualize the breath as the bridge between the body and the mind. It’s much easier to control the breath than it is the mind. The breath is the doorway into calming the mind, and therefore the body.

In Yoga, we use various breathing exercises to access the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems ...

The sympathetic nervous system activates ‘the fight or flight response’ – setting in motion a chain reaction of increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pupil size. It also causes blood vessels to narrow and decreases digestive juices.

The parasympathetic nervous system quiets the mind, producing feelings of relaxation and contentment. Called the ‘rest and digest system’ it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.

Dani: ... So we use the breath to engage the parasympathetic nervous system in a way that can, over time, significantly lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, and many other benefits. Over 5,000 people have come through my doors – I’ve seen people come off of heavy medications, heal from injuries and surgeries, increase bone density, and experience major shifts in their well-being. People have been able to make tough decisions to better their lives with confidence. These yogic practices, such as pranayama and meditation, help us function better on multiple levels – physical, emotional, and spiritual.

For our next segment, will you describe a few simple breathing exercises anyone can do?

Dani: Absolutely!


Every Sunday, Infinite Yoga & Wellness offers two classes free of charge – at 10a.m. and 6p.m. While donations are appreciated, they are not required! Find the class schedule online here: Or for more information, please call 910-353-9642.

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