When I teach a yoga class, I use several minutes in the beginning to emphasize the importance of the connection between breath and body, and breath and mind. I encourage the students to focus energy and thought on the movement of air within them, one hand on the belly, one on the chest. Then we move. But I always come back to the breath. I inevitably end up saying “touch back in with your breath” a handful of times in class after doing a vigorous series or movement where they are likely to have lost that deeper connection. “Reconnect with your deep, smooth breath,” I prompt. It is something I say as a teacher and think as a practitioner with regularity now, and I’ve found that – no surprise here ‘cause I love metaphors! – it’s about more than just the breath. Breath is energy on the mat, breath is life off the mat, and breath is vitality everywhere.
On the mat, in the moment, yes, you should regain that awareness of your breath if it’s gone off on its own little happy trail. If we start moving in a way that is disconnected from how we’re breathing, we can feel “off” in a yoga class and not know why. A lot of times when this happens, I say to myself, “Oh ya, when is the last time I’ve emphasized a breath cue” whether engaged in my own movement or noticing something off in the students while instructing. A lot of times it truly is as simple as saying, “Inhale, draw the breath all the way down to the little flame at the base of your spine, let it barely touch, then exhale, let that same breath travel just as smoothly back up the spine and back out again,” to get back in the moment. Moving meditation, whaaaaa?!
Off the mat, while we run to and fro, we don’t think about how we’re breathing – usually. If you do, please leave a comment below the blog and give us tips on how you engage in deep breathing throughout the day. But the general public doesn’t call attention to this life giving force we take for granted. Chest rises, chest falls. Breathe in, breathe out. Walk on. Live life. This is a no brainer. Right?
But overall, breath can be more than just something that keeps our gears turning. Breath can be the oil on those gears, the metaphorical love that keeps the flame burning, our vitality. In life, the “breath” represents what is the most important to us. The breath, literally, is our life force and something we cannot live without. Yet 99% of the time, we breathe mindlessly, effectively living mindlessly.
What is something (perceived as) vital in your life that you may be doing on auto-pilot? Checking email? Can you stop yourself even once or twice from compulsively hitting “refresh” on your email and taking that moment to chill the F out instead? Reprogram your brain for a sec to not feel like it needs that electrical stimulus a million times a day. Or, what about your household chores? Put some pep in your step and dance with the vacuum cleaner! Be a goof, I dunno! But don’t be pissed about it. What’s the point?! Have a pup? Dislike having to walk the dog? Enjoy those sunny days, suck it up on the cold ones, and be glad that the four (or, in my case, three) -legged beast is forcing you outside. Work? J-O-B? Do you drive the same route, park in the same spot, walk to the same cubicle, rinse, repeat, day in and day out? In a way, your job is vital; clearly you need an income to survive. I get that. But what if that job could be more? What if – even if you dislike your job – you made an effort to engage more? Talk to people more, call more, email less. Practice the patience and centeredness in your professional setting, not just your personal one. Or if you like your job, are there tasks you do that you could be more conscious during their accomplishment? Do with more joy or zest? Do more to inspire others?
I am not espousing the “quit your job, follow your dreams” mantra that seems to be everywhere these days. Heck, I’m doing it now and it’s harder than you’d think, by the way! But can you connect with where you are now? Whether through conscious breathing, leadership as a lifestyle, or practicing your faith outside of the walls of your religious institution, can you plug back in no matter where you are?
I remember when I was a new Christian, feeling like I could only practice my faith most effectively within the church or with other Christians. But what I’ve since learned is that although that fellowship, support, and being surrounded by like-spirited people is beneficial, that the real growth takes place outside those boundaries. I found exactly that to be true with what I’ve learned from yoga, as well.
What’s your breath today, this week, this month, this year? For me, today, it’s really hitting home that I need to embrace my core in my business. I keep riding the “I’m new at this wave” and frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m smart, capable, driven, hilarious, energetic, and generous. It’s time to remember that, absorb it, and infuse it into my biz!
So, tell me, what’s your “breath?” How can you, or are you, taking it “off the mat?” Are you fully connected to it? If so, please share with other readers. Or, have you lost a connection to your “breath” and want to share that story? (FYI, A study in the journal Psychological Science revealed that when women who were dissatisfied with their weight completed a one-time writing exercise of scribbling about an important personal issue for 15 minutes, they went on to lose 3.4 pounds over about three months; those who wrote about an unimportant topic gained three pounds.” From Whole Living Magainze. You’re welcome laides!
Now, I don’t have time to edit, so I’m posting this as is and running off to a yoga class!