Yesterday I had a really interesting learning experience with my breath. I got to my restorative mat yoga class still sore from a TRX workout that I hadn’t been to in awhile, plus I had a pinch in my neck from sleeping on my pillow funny. I was really looking forward to class because I wanted to release some of that tightness, but instead I spent most of the hour quite uncomfortable because I could not find any evenness and depth to my breath. I am so used to being able to ground and center myself in my breath, that suddenly feeling disconnected from it really threw me for a loop.
About halfway through the class it hit me that when I tried to deepen my breath, it would make all the tight and sore parts of my body ache even more. I realized I was keeping my breath at bay to lessen the pain. To be clear, we are not talking acute pain here. The worst part was really the crick in my neck that connected into my shoulder. Yet it was enough to affect my breath, and the change in my breath was enough to alter my entire state of being in an uncomfortable way.
The change in my breath didn’t prevent me from doing my asanas—nothing so externally dramatic as that. I am pretty sure of all my yoga instructors only one of them would have picked up on something being off with me. The biggest impact my weirdness of breath had was on the level of presence I could bring to the mat, and secondarily, on the amount of bliss I was able to access during practice.
Notice how in this context, awareness was not enough. I realized what was going on, how I was choosing to deal with it, and even how my response wasn’t serving me at an optimal level. Yet I couldn’t just will my breath to change.
So instead of trying to deepen my breath, I spent the rest of class getting expansive enough to welcome everyone single sore and tight part of my body. I was aware of how each inhale intensified the pain just a hair more, and how each exhale brought a moment of relief. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
I still felt off after savasana, but had a restorative aerial class next, with a teacher who really took his time with his breath. I was able to access smoothe, deep breath and ease.
This morning I woke up still sore (it hurts to laugh), yet so grateful to be reunited with my breath. I remember when my breath did not reach my belly, and when hyper-ventilation was one of my body’s responses to extreme circumstances. As my breath has deepened, so has my capacity to be calm and present for everything in my life. As my breath has deepened, so has my capacity to take in more through all my inner and outer senses. Colors truly do get more vibrant when you can attune to the natural abundance of life. Breath deepens presence; presence deepens breath.
Right here, right now, tune into your Brilliant System. Which is another way to say become present with yourself. Which is another way to say become present with your breath. What is the current quality of your breath? Is it increasing your sense of ease or is it bringing up discomfort? Either way, your breath is serving you, for we continue to learn by contrast. Rather than working to deepen the breath, see if you can bring more presence, more of yourself into your body. Changing your mindset can start the positive feedback loop when beginning with the physical doesn’t help.
Presence deepens breath; breath deepens presence. You are a human being remembering your connection to Divinity. You are learning how to breathe. You are the Divine learning what it is to be embodied in the physical. You are learning how to breathe.