Breath-- a reminder of its value
I am a Yoga teacher, to say that I have a particular interest in breath would be an understatement. I meditate on, practice, teach, talk about, and aim to experience quality breath in my body daily.
As a mother, I have felt my heart nearly explode while watching my son's chest slowly and sweetly rise and fall while snoozing in my arms.
I have felt panic at the sight of his airway being blocked while momentarily choking, and felt the anxiety that comes with the idea of him ever losing his breath forever and his love being gone from my life.
In Yoga, we refer to the breath as "prana" the vital force of life, our constant connection to the universal energy all around us and in us.
To put it another way, the breath is "kind of a big deal."
One of the truly remarkable things about the breathing is that anatomically we have the mechanics that make it an automatic process, and for many, breathing without giving attention to it works just fine. However, there is quite a case for turning your attention to your breath and practicing deeper, more conscious inhalations and exhalations.
Your breath is a reminder and tool for increasing your awareness, for bringing you out of your head and into the present moment-- where life is actually and only happening.
The fact that we can carry about our day and go to sleep without having to think about or constantly focus on drawing air into our lungs--its an absolute gift to be recognized and gracious for.
In this day and age, humans are living in a constant state of "fight or flight." Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have steadily risen for the past few decades, and the majority of chronic health conditions are related to unmanaged stress.
Stress = Inflammation= Disease.
There are proven stress-reducing benefits of breath-work and meditation. Breath could be the calming-pill that surpasses any other "medicine" prescribed, especially being that it is- free, natural, and void side effects.
Improve the quality of your breath--improve the quality of your life.
But perhaps that sounds to wishful and like another one of my yoga teacher hippie notions... so let me take this a bit further.
Consider, the absence of breath, means we are no longer living. To me, there is a strong case in that fact that makes the idea of breathing with intention and reverence for life, compelling and worthy.
I recently lost two persons very dear to me, both having passed because of their inability to breathe. While we all ultimately lose our breath with death, these two beautiful and vibrant souls were suffocating slowly and painfully, and yet they did so with grace and love.
Each of their deaths has brought me lessons and supported me in practicing a deeper connection to my own life force.
Todd, age 39, passed of breathing complications related to living with Cerebral Palsy. Toddy or Todd-o as he was lovingly referred to as, was my neighbor as a child. I grew up playing with him and his many siblings, watching as they included him in all of their shenanigans.
Todd's laughter, smile, and eyes will forever be imprinted on my heart. What's most remarkable is the way that Todd was loved and cared for and the way he connected with everyone he met; which as it was said in his obituary was "more impressive because he did not speak, used a wheelchair, and needed support throughout his day."
I have been riding with a picture of Todd in my car, many days I talk to him. Daily I am reminded to smile and be joyful to connect with myself and others in a meaningful way.
I would say this has been my way of being
for some time, but his passing has taken me to another level of observing myself and others with love and compassion.
I breathe, and I am grateful to have known Todd, and for the memories we shared.
Todd's gift was connection, he needed no words to do so, but he did so deeply and intentionally; and that is what we are here to do--love and be loved.
The second death is fresh, it happened just yesterday, and while I am with sadness, I am also with the profound sense of Joy and Love that this person embodied.
Yesterday, May 18th, 2019, my dearest Uncle "good boy," Kevin left his body at 60 years old. He suffers no more, he is free from a condition that was robbing him of his ability to breathe and deliver oxygen to his heart.
Kevin's mark on my life is directly related to heart, he had a BIG one, he loved his life, and all the people in it were beneficiaries of his wholehearted, adventurous, fun-loving approach to life. Love and laughter were his trademarks. He had a charming grin, a laugh that roared and he was always good for a story or a joke, and man could he host a party.
Although my Uncle became aware of his grave condition some time ago, what I admire the most, is that he chose to continue to live his life joyously and until the end spoke of the quality of life he experienced. He kept the ones he loved the most and their future in mind, he did his best to enjoy them and prepare them for his departure.
Yesterday before I had even learned of his passing, I was at the ocean (a place he was quite fond of), and I found myself very deliberately concentrated on moving my breath slowly and expansively from my belly up into my lungs. I had this feeling of wanting and needing that fresh ocean air in my lungs and thus in my heart. Maybe Uncle Kevin was with me as I performed each inspiration?
I know I will take the legacy of his life with me as I move forward in mine, inspired by him.
Each of these bright and brilliant lights lived and loved big, even with limitations and illness, they shined.
All of us have a Todd and Kevin in our lives, and we play that role for others, we have to be present to the value of these relationships and honor the gifts we share with each other.
It shouldn't take the loss of a loved one to make us more present and grateful to be alive, the ability to enhance our quality of life lies in spending intentional time with ourselves and others.
The trouble is so many people are living in survival mode, either real or perceived, chasing and seeking happiness outside of themselves-- when the love, belonging and peace we seek is innately in all of us.
We are LOVE. We are JOY. We are PEACE.
If you are unhappy, you are suffering from illness or disease, you hate your job, you're seeking more--take a pause to be with your breath. Let it hold you captivated in its power and feel it bringing ease to your body and mind. Let it remind you how lucky you are to be alive and draw yourself closer to the energy of your own divine purpose and gift.
It is said that we have somewhere between 60-70,000 thoughts a day, while we take only 20-22,000 breaths a day. That is interesting to me, in that I believe it is evidence that we spend more time lost in the minds musings, distractions and chaos then we do giving our attention to the actual thing that sustains our life.
The practice that would benefit so many of us is in slowing the constant and repetitive stream of thoughts by making the space to just be with the breath.
Even just 10 slow breaths a day can bring about a higher quality of living.
In making this commitment to yourself you will find what is blocking you from actually living a full and vibrant life, and in the breath, you just might find the peace, joy, and love that we are all meant to experience during our time on this earth.
Breathe, just breathe.