As a newbie yoga-er some 12 years ago it took the whole of my attention and concentration to get through a class.
You want me to what now? With my legs where? And my arms bending how? And ….remember to breathe.
My sister and I left the room most weeks describing a feeling of “walking on sunshine” which we would sing down the corridor.
Maybe it was the blissful feeling of being in yoga for a 90mins. Or maybe it was a lack of oxygen to the brain; every time I really concentrated I forgot to breathe.
Following the teacher, I wanted to get it right. Others in the class were exceptionally bendy and performing head stands, pigeons, crows, turtles and many other positions that appeared out of reach. Literally.
In my down-faced-dog I’d look across to see if I was doing the same. Was my bum as high in the air as theirs? Am I twisting the same way as everyone else?
Most weeks a new position (or asana) would be taught, like ‘dead dog’ or ‘happy baby’, or we’d start chanting some Sanskrit I didn’t understand and couldn’t pronounce. I’d get the giggles; but no one judged that. No one cared.
You wouldn’t worry about what people thought of you if you realised how seldom they do ER
They just carried on doing their thing. They didn’t chant quieter or change the vulnerability of their position because I was uncomfortable with it. They gave me space to breathe, and acceptance to stay. There is no competition in yoga.
I stayed. I breathed.
So much of life is fast paced and ever changing. We breathe fast, not slow. We breathe shallow to the chest, not deep to the belly and diaphragm. It fascinates me how children and young people encounter opportunities to learn first aid as standard. Whether that’s via school, or a sports club, or any other club. It’s common place to teach people the recovery position and what to do in an emergency. As well as dressing a wound and putting a plaster on a graze or cut. So what about mental health? When and how do we educate and empower young people (any aged people) to safeguard and take care of their own mental health. Or how to help another when things get tough emotionally.
When did you learn how to breathe?
It’s not just the chemical dependency upon nicotine but also the breaks outside, accompanied by long slow breathing that make smoking deliciously addictive. If you don’t/didn’t smoke, how often would you do that?
Some years ago a colleague and I committed to taking our lunch breaks (when in the office) down by the river. After a few times of doing this we noticed the stunning kingfishers nesting in the bank and were mesmerised.
I learnt that not everyone values a break from the desk. I also learnt about panic attacks and anxiety. When breathing is so shallow and fast it becomes uncontrollable. Have you ever noticed that if you decide something in your head it becomes so. I decided I was panicking and couldn’t control my breathing, and that’s what happened. In the same job I was weaslling one day, through a newly discovered hole in the boulders, high in the Peak on Higgar Tor, and through sheer ambition of trying to get through a hole, I got stuck. (Permission to laugh, at an adult, stuck in-between a rock and a hard place, literally). I decided I was stuck, and so I was. My chest expanded because my breathing changed at the realisation I’d become stuck. That wasn’t the approach that freed me from the man-eating-wrath of the crag. It was actively choosing to changing to slow, deep breathing that enabled freedom.
I learnt to breathe in yoga.
When did you last stop, and just breathe?
If you’re starting yoga this January – persevere. You will most definitely reap all you sow, as will those around you.