As I lay this foundation for the Every Body Yoga and Barre website launch, I reflect upon one of the great tools which sets the foundation for our yoga practice and also our life, and that is our BREATH. It is one of the very first things we do when we are born, and one of the last things we will do before we leave our existence on earth (though it’s plain reality, I still find it hard to speak and write of last breath). And all of the in between our very first inhale and final exhale, well, that would be our beautiful LIFE! And our breath, well, it’s the very tool that allows us to really connect with ourselves, our true and authentic being, and live our lives fully.
From Point A to Point B
We’ve all heard the expression “from point A to point B”, right? This is mostly applicable when we are in task mode and achieving goals. Sometimes we may take the time to build a solid foundation and a map for getting from point A to point B, and other times we don’t. In either case, with our without that foundational map, we then often jump into task mode, speed mode, and accomplish and get things done mode. We strive for efficiency and increasing productivity in the shortest amount of time in order to maximize results. And most often, we strive to streamline the ‘in between’ and multi-task, and in doing so, we rarely live fully in the present; we fail to savor and embrace the bends and twists in our life journey. So how does this relate to our breath?
Belly and Chest Breathing
Our breath typically follows the same pattern. As we rush through life, our breath follows suit. Yes, we are still fortunate enough to be alive and breathing, yet the quality of our breath may be suffering. Also, our breath becomes shallower as we grow older. As I understand it, when we are younger, we tend to breathe more into our bellies, and as we age, our breath usually migrates to more of chest breathing. What does this mean? In belly or diaphragmatic breathing, the belly expands and the diaphragm (which is the muscle that is horizontally located between the chest and stomach cavities) lowers, which allows air to expand lower into the lungs (or “deeper”) and rib cage. As we get older, our breathing patterns tend to shift higher into the chest, thus narrowing energy pathways as the breath fills higher (or more “shallow”) in the lungs and rib cage. The expansion and quality of our breath may also reflect the expansion we invite and allow into our lives. While I’m not incredibly studied in the science of breath, my life wellness pursuits and yoga experience have taught me that slowing down (yes, I know it’s so hard to do for us over achievers) and being mindful in our breath and being will draw more expansion, fulfillment, and power into our lives.
The Balancing Act
I realize that productivity and efficiency is a necessity in life, and I myself push so hard to step out of my comfort zone, shoot for the stars, and achieve goals I set for myself. I also fall prey to being pulled in what feels like a million different directions and rush around to keep up with life commitments and demands. Life is a true balancing act, and we all experience this tug of war. However, this is where the beauty of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, fitness, wellness, and making time for ourselves comes into play. And this is why I am so passionate about yoga, barre, fitness, and wellness, and sharing their innumerable benefits with others. When we slow down, even if just for five minutes each day, or make the time to attend a full yoga class each day, we allow ourselves to reconnect in breath, reset in its foundation, let go of everyday stresses, open energy pathways, draw deeper expansion into our lives, and savor the in between.
5 Minute Exercise for Breathing and Being Present
So in closing, I want to invite you to spend just five more minutes of your day, right now, to sit in stillness and bring mindfulness to your breath. While there are many methods for breathing, I will briefly highlight oceanic breath, known as Ujjayi Pranayama in Sanskrit, for this exercise.
Find a comfortable seated position. Rest your hands gently where they naturally fall on your lap. Close your eyes (after reading this final paragraph, of course!). Lengthen your spine. Reach the crown of your head toward the sky. Gently seal your lips. Relax your jaw. Slowly draw in prolonged inhales through your nose until you can breathe in no further, and then slowly release prolonged exhales through your nose until you can exhale no further. Allow the breath to expand in your belly and then rise into your chest as you inhale, and release in the chest and then belly as you exhale. Listen for and feel the gentle vibration (oceanic sound and rhythm) down the back of your nose and throat as the air travels in and out. Observe the sensations in body and mind without attachment or expectation. Just let life and thoughts unfold without the need to control or judge. Just breathe. Savor all of energy expansion and release in between the very beginning of your inhales (point A) and the very end of your exhales (point B).
The in between is your beautiful life, after all!