Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week 16 for Juliet: Just Three Breaths

Exercise:  As many times a day as you are able, give the mind a short rest.  For the duration of three breaths ask the inner voices to be silent.  Then open all your senses and just be aware – of color, sound, touch, and smell.

In 2002 I was in my first yoga teacher training program when discovered the power of breathing through a book by Swami Rama called the “Science of Breath”. 

I was mesmerized by the story of this man who could control his breath to such a degree that when tested in a lab, he could stop and start his own heart.  I remember learning how closely the breath is linked to the mind.  When we are afraid, our breathing becomes very quiet and shallow; when we are sad and crying, our breath changes to reflect this.  When we are really angry or stressed we tend to hold our breath.  The breath reveals the state of mind.  Conversely doing something as simple as changing your breath pattern can alter your state of mind.  Who knew? 

I never really thought about breathing much until 2002.  I mean everyone breathes right?  How complicated is that?  There are many other books on the market on breathing techniques and the power of the breath, but this one was the game changer for me.  One reason is that it addressed the science behind practicing breathing techniques.  In yoga, the breath is related to prana, or our energetic life force.  These techniques are called pranayama and are key to a yoga practice.  In reading this blog if you only do one of the mindfulness practices we talk about, taking three deep breaths several times a day is the one to do.  Seriously, I think it is that important.

Without getting into the drama other than to say teenagers know how to press your buttons, and that yes, yoga teachers have tempers too, I have really needed this practice this week.  For me this practice gives me the ability to hit the pause button and come back to the present moment.  It has given me a much needed moment of clarity so that my words are not angry or hurtful but hopefully have the right impact.  So when in doubt, breathe, just breathe.

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