October is a month that culminates in trick or treating but it certainly has its share of tricks and treats along the way. One day we’re blessed with warm weather and the prospect of a return to summer while the next morning we’re met by our own breath, visible right there in front of us. Our first reaction may be to shout “TRICK!” as if Mother Nature were teasing us, but upon further reflection, what a TREAT to be greeted by our breath– to have this nutrient and energy filled force that keeps us alive take on a life of its own.
In our practice on the yoga mat we use ujjayi pranayama, translated as victorious breath, to bring warmth to our bodies, grace to our postures and focus to our minds. In our practice off the mat our breathing can have an equally powerful and profound impact on how we handle the tricks and treats we are met with each day– a few full breaths can be a cure-all for anxiety, stress, anger or a wandering mind.
In our asana practice (yoga postures) there will be times when we flow, aligning our movements with our breath and ultimately, letting the breath move us. At other times we hold postures, using our inhales and our exhales to explore the forms more fully, to keep energy circulating, allow ourselves to open and to more deeply experience each asana. There’s no reason that this can’t translate to our life experiences, whether it’s to go with the flow or to work with or through a particular event, experience or situation with complete attention.
It would be an oversimplification to say that life is filled with tricks and treats – the truth is, life’s tricks often turn out to be treats and the opposite holds just as true. Perhaps that’s where breath plays its most vital role– in a world we have little control over, we hold great sway and control over how we breathe– we have the ability to breathe more fully or to soften our breathing.
As unpredictable as life may be, breath is our constant–we inhale, we exhale, we inhale, we exhale…we keep on breathing…and we keep on living.
“When you were born, your whole body breathed. Every cell quivered with the vitality of breath. Every bone, muscle, and organ moved with every breath. Every nerve was energized by it, every blood cell carried it, and every moment took as its meter the phrasing of your breath. Today, most of us have forgotten what it feels like to breath fully and wholly with the vitality of the newborn infant. We have forgotten this but we have not lost it. In reclaiming the fullness of our breathing we also reclaim many other dimensions of our lives.”
– Donna Farhi, excerpted from The Breathing Book
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet