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Immediately following my Intro class the other day someone made the comment,

I was struggling somewhat today.  I was having difficulty breathing due to my cold and blocked nose it made my practice uneasy and tiring.  I never noticed before, how big a part the breath played in my practice.

This, coming from a fairly new practitioner.

Yesterday, Day 3, I attended a late afternoon class heading into the sunset, into the weekend.  Music was playing in the background but the sound system was acting up so about 10 minutes into the class the teacher turned it off for the rest of the session.  Three of us were in the studio, plus the teacher.  Our movements were slow and steady.  Soon I found myself totally immersed in my practice, the sound of my breath front and center throughout.

Today, Day 4.  It was hot.  Really hot, in the studio.  I was close to the back of the room but loving the energy and being with the others, guided by our teacher.  Having just finished teaching a class myself, this was now my time on the mat.

We were towards the end of our Astanga Primary Series led class.  Working on Upavista Konasana B, our teacher had us repeat it a few times, rolling up, trying to balance on our sit bones.

The first one or two went okay and then I guess the heat and fatigue got the best of me.  I totally lost the rhythm of my breath.  Immediately,…..I could do nothing with the pose.   I recognised this as being hopeless so waited the few seconds until the rest of the class finished this particularly series of movements.  You might be able to sneak by in seated postures and many of the standing ones without the continuity of the breath, but there would be no way through this one without it.  That common phrase “it’s all about the breath” was not lost on me in the moment.

Thinking about times in my life when I’ve even noticed my breath, it has usually been in moments of anxiety and stress.  Or, when I decided to take up running at the age of 40.  Well, maybe it also played a part while giving birth to our 3 children.  Or, when I learned to scuba-dive.  Or while pacing myself for a long swim in the pool.

Typically though, unless our breath is stressed or diminished we tend not to notice it at all. Yet during day we take in about 20,000 breaths.  Give or take a few.

How is it something so integral to our life is barely even noticeable?

Through yoga I’ve come to know it, value it, trust it.  Now, it is my constant throughout the day.  My foundation.

  • On waking it is the first thing I give thanks for.  A breath that tells me I’ve woken to a new day.
  • When I step on the mat it is the place where I find quiet, shut out the world and step into my self.
  • When I’m in savasana at the end of my asana practice it helps me to know the time has come to stop noticing – and just be.
  • When I’m looking for courage to try something new, take a risk, or approach someone or something causing me unease, it is my rock, my anchor, my strength.
  • When I’m ready to rest – taking a slow, long, deep inhalation lifts and carries me through to slumber.
  • When I watch my loved ones sleep, it is the rise and fall of their chests that provide me security and a feeling they are at peace.

Our first breath – life.  Our last breath – death

In between all those breaths, from the first to the last, all of life happens. I am grateful for each.

As you go about your practice, take notice of what your breath is telling you in each movement, each posture.  Is it smooth, easy and relaxed or is it shallow, tight and quick?  Don’t judge it as being right or wrong, good or bad.  Just try to be aware of it and what your body might be telling you in each moment.  Not only in your asana practice, but your “life practice” throughout the day.

I’d love to hear how your 40 Days are going.  Anything you’ve noticed along the wayOr anything else you’d like to add?  Your comments are always welcome.

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