Breath. It is what keeps us alive.
Although mostly involuntary, what if we could harness this life-giving energy with intentionality?
In my yoga practice, one of the first things that surprised me was my inability to control my breath…rather, the lack of mindfulness surrounding my breath. Learning HOW to breath gave me more insight into learning about my body- what it needs, where it is strong, how it feels in the present moment. For example, there is an Ancient Yogic Breathing Technique called Ujjayi (pronounced “oo-ja-i”) Breath.
Try it with me. Keep your lips closed. Breath in and out with a slight constriction in the back of your throat creating an oceanic sound, like the waves crashing on a shore. Engage your core as you breathe deeply. Fill up your stomach then fill your chest as you breathe in. Push the air out as you exhale. Try it for 30 seconds.
This friction builds up heat to burn down any barriers that you may have put up that is potentially inhibiting growth. It releases feelings of irritation, tension, and frustration, while also calming the mind and body. It brings you to the present moment. It blocks out any outside noises of life, both physical and emotion, such as stress, worry, chatter, sirens, phone notifications, etc. This increases feelings of presence and self-awareness which has the potential to create space for healing.
This may seem silly. You may be skeptical, but I invite you to give it a good ole try.
There are not many things we can control in this life. We cannot control how other people treat us, we cannot control how the world treats marginalized people groups, we cannot control how slowly or fast the clock turns, we cannot control others’ decisions that may be affecting us. Just typing these out made my heart begin to race with stress and my mind began to wander in a downward spiral of negativity. Rather than focusing on all of the things that we cannot control, what if we used all of that energy to focus on what we can control? Our reaction, what we spend our time doing and thinking about, how we treat others and ourselves, our breath.
I have written about my mother before, and how I lost her almost four years ago (which seems crazy, it feels just like yesterday). But as I live each day without her, I am reminded of her impact in my life and how she has shaped the woman I am today. Specifically, the holiday season is plagued with memories of shame and regret for me surrounding the loss of my mother. The last year she spent on this Earth, I was unable to live with her for the sake of my safety. Her addiction made her abusive and led to unpredictable, irrational behavior. I regret not spending that last Christmas with her to the point where it hurts for me to even speak it out loud to my friends and family. As much as I love Christmas time, I always associate it with the neglect I imposed on my own mother, and that burns deeply into my core.
I could not control my mom or heal her as much as I tried. I could not make her sober. I could not convince her to give up the drugs and alcohol. I could not prove to her that by choosing the alcohol meant not seeing me graduate college, get married, and witness her grandchildren…but I could love her. I could extend forgiveness to her. When I was with her, there was an overwhelming sense of peace and presence despite the chaos that typically joined these abusive episodes. I believe these were gifts from God- opportunities to focus on what I can control. Coming back to who I was and what I was created for- love.
As our journey moves us forward or sideways or maybe backwards or in a circle, let’s come back to our breath. As our mind is bombarded by stimuli which is mostly out of our control, let us come back to the breath and journey inward. Whether this season brings you joy or pain, let us find peace in our ability to connect with what keeps us alive. How can I contribute positively? How can I grow here? What can I learn here? How can I love myself and others?
Breathing is the best “diet” you can choose for your body. It fills your body with nutrients. It also rids your body of waste and toxins. Breath is a form of self care. It will fuel you with life-giving energy and fills you with the knowledge to know what your body needs from you. Breath bridges the gap between mind, body, and spirit.
During this season, this is what breath looks like for me..
Breath in Grace.
Breath out Shame.
Breath in Love.
Breath out Hate.
Breath in Forgiveness.
Breath out Regret.
Breath in Peace.
Breath out Stress.
Breath in Freedom.
Breath out Expectations.