By Anne Reynolds
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought to myself during my first yoga class. The instructor told the class that she was going to teach us how to breathe. I looked around at the other students half expecting to see one or two clutching an oxygen tank but everyone including myself seemed to be breathing just fine. Yoga, it appeared, was going to be way easier than I thought. Yet, when she explained how to breathe and then guided us into poses it became painfully obvious that the way I was breathing was only keeping me from dropping dead on my mat.
I’ve heard this over and over from different yogis since I discovered yoga one year ago this month. “The only thing you really need to think about is breathing, when you are aware of your breath you truly alive, through mindful breathing your body and mind opens and anything is possible”.
What sounded like a load of horseshit at first has proven to be absolutely true.
Yoga, for all intents and purposes, could be described as a metaphor for life. You are guided into these incredibly uncomfortable positions and told to hold them for what seems like an ungodly amount of time. If you hold your breath or forget to breathe your body will tense and you won’t be able to continue. On the other hand, if you are focused on breathing, your body is filled with energy and power. What never seemed possible, like balancing your knees on your elbows (crow position – one of many awkward, uncomfortable yoga poses) is suddenly achievable.
It’s the same with getting through situations or events in life that are challenging and difficult. Focusing on breathing takes you out of your head (which is usually living in either the past or the future) and forces you to live in the present. Deep and mindful breathing slows our down our heart rate, produces a sense of calmness yet gives us the energy we need .
Unfortunately, focused breathing is not instinctive or easy for me. It’s not the first thing I think of when I get angry or have to do something I dread. It’s usually the last. Just the other day I was so irritable and annoyed I was actually annoying myself. The first thing that popped into my head was… well, on second thought, I probably shouldn’t tell you. Needless to say it wasn’t about sitting with my legs crossed, hands resting gently in my lap, breathing in and out. I know it works because it’s worked for me during a tough time but just like doing headstands and standing splits it takes a lot of practice. So, in the meantime I’ll keep going to yoga. If only to be reminded, “Don’t forget to breathe”.