Breath is life. Our means of existence. Our way to take in the world and release into it.
I focus on breath when I teach not only to invigorate the body, but to help us bring our attention inward.
It often happens that tidbits of work we do on the mat give us insight about our life. You may be thinking, what does that even mean?
A poignant movement experience can connect us to something deeper within ourselves. It may be a moment of realization about something that can then be translated into the world.
For me, these little moments are treasures.
This week, I found it in a yoga class. Not an experienced yogi, I took a class with a brilliant instructor who I’ve recently gotten to know. It was a yin class, which consisted of long yoga poses, emphasizing breathing, and deep relaxation and meditation.
Once in a pose that I found particularly uncomfortable, I started to fight.
My body tense, I was squeezing tight, digging my fingers into the floor holding on for dear life. I can DO this, I thought.
Only I couldn’t. Not like that.
I began feeling my legs go numb and naturally started to fight the feeling of discomfort; my body rigid with tension I could not release. Time was trickling slowly for what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes. I got irritated. The natural thing to do was to internally yell at myself. Why doesn’t this feel good? I have to be able to DO this!
The yelling was making it worse, so I realized I had to distract myself by taking another approach. So, I began to look within and wonder, why am I holding on to this discomfort? Why am I fighting the way my body is positioned?
I came to the conclusion that there was only one thing to DO.
Breathe through it.
I took a deep breath, allowing my lungs to fill with air like two soft balloons, I exhaled with ease. Instead of fighting it, I sunk deeper into the pose.
I breathed again. And again.
Then I breathed with intention, focusing on releasing my fingers from the floor, relaxing my neck and shoulders, and surrendering to the mat.
Acknowledging the discomfort, making peace with it and letting it float away, I exhaled.
It took a few minutes to realize that there was an additional layer to this all. I was not only letting go in my body, but I was letting go of my tight hold on all things in life. In my schedule, in attachment to things beyond my control, in feelings of guilt and when I don’t do something someone expects me to do, and in wanting everything to be perfect.
Reflecting on the past few weeks, I have been holding onto so many things. Trying to mold stones, I felt the need to control, like I always do.
And then comes the little treasure! You can always let go and just breathe.
Looking back at the description of the yoga class, it was supposed to be “a balance between effort and surrender”.
That is life.
There is no magical place of “balance” where your schedule finally “sets in”, when all of a sudden your calendar looks like a perfect work of art – with space for work, family and friends, with “you time” sprinkled in at times when you need it most.
A place of balance is within – when we find a way to work and just breathe with equal effort.
I went back to that same place of letting go on my long run this week. Struggling through the last couple of miles, I took out my headphones, lengthened my spine, took a full breath of the crisp morning air, and as I exhaled I let go of my tension. I felt lighter, and before I knew it, I was at my front door.
Have a beautiful and light weekend!