This morning one of my yoga clients, Rennie, ended our session with a beautiful sentiment. After her savasana, she sat up as we ended our session with a familiar breathing exercise to close, when she looked at me and said "You know in AA they say, 'Are you thinking or are you breathing, cause you're probably not doing both'." My eyes lit up right away. What an interesting notion! Are you thinking or are you breathing, cause you're probably not doing both. I love this. In my practice, learning to breathe was not easy for me. I would attempt my best ujjayi pranayama at the beginning of class and actively tell myself to pay attention to this pattern, use this once you begin to flow. Time after time, I'd find myself 3/4 of the way through a vinyasa class, sweating like mad, a little irritated, self critiquing and CLEARLY not breathing.
Some time went by and I decided to try ashtanga instead of all the flow classes that I'd enjoyed in the past. Let me be honest, I was not happy about adventuring into this new style of yoga. I had tried it once before and declared immediately it wasn't for me. There was no music and there was a set sequence of postures that a.) I didn't excel at and b.) I couldn't even begin to pronounce and c.) I couldn't remember to save my life. However, the teachers I adored and respected all had an intermediate to very advanced ashtanga practice. So, I gave it a year. I like to say that I didn't do anything but show up, which isn't exactly true as it is a very athletic practice, however, the practice of breathing in counts and slowly moving through these postures finally quieted my mind. My breath was there. It was working and showing up for me. My mind was calm and collected, even peaceful. I was seeing progress and more importantly breathing!!!
Today I don't practice ashtanga regularly but I've found the connection to breath that, thankfully, takes me out of my own head and into my body, spiritually and physically. Now it's a skill that I am so grateful for and use on a daily basis, whether on a yoga mat or in traffic. If I had to pick one; thinking or breathing...I know what I'd choose.
AUTHOR: Nicole Sciacca
img source: http://yes-asianstreet.tumblr.com/