Life Lessons from Yoga #6
Don’t forget to breathe.
Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.
One of the main components of yoga is the breath. If you show up to a class and can’t do a single pose, you get a lot of the benefits by just breathing as instructed. During yoga we employ an ujjayi breath, which is a deep rhythmic breath that engages the diaphragm. We inhale through the nose with the mouth closed and held almost in a smile and then exhale by constricting the throat and breathing out through the nose. When the throat is constricted, we build energy as we exhale and control the breath and it makes a sound like the ocean.
The reason breathing is so important during yoga is because it brings fresh oxygenated air to every cell in the body. It is essentially a way to nourish and rejuvenate the body and to fuel it for the hard work we’re doing.
The other reason we focus heavily on the breath is because breath is always in our life. If we aren’t breathing, we are dead. It’s something we can always call on during moments of stress or pain and remember the technique of how we turned our attention to our breath in yoga during a difficult pose. The other thing about breath is that it is always NOW. When we show up to yoga class, the purpose is to honor our body and to go in to kind of a meditative state. It’s not to solve problems by thinking about the future or berating ourselves for past mistakes.
The tendency in yoga class is to start with the breath and then, as we move in to harder and harder poses, we might sometimes realize we are holding it or breathing shallowly. This same thing often happens in life. Just when we need the breath to energize us most, we forget to use it. It’s like how we might adhere to our good habits without really thinking about them and then, when a really hard part comes, we start giving up our usual mechanisms for staying alive and thriving.
Have you ever had a panicky call from someone who is stuck in traffic and late? What about someone who is in the middle of the worst part of a divorce or other life-altering event? What about a child who is on the verge of getting a time out? Often times we look at or talk to these people and the first things we do are to hold their arm, look in to their eyes and tell them to take a deep breath.
It’s amazing how we can sometimes go minutes or even years during which we barely remember to maintain a deep constant breath in order to nourish ourselves to get through the difficult part. In fact, these are the times we especially need it.
Take a deep breath. There…