I’ve spent a significant portion of the past 24 hours discussing the anatomical details of the breath, reading about the yogic use of the breath, and practicing different breathing techniques during an amazing restorative yoga session. My main takeaway? I never realized how much I still had to learn about something my body did involuntarily.
Our breath is our power of life. It has an incredible ability to calm the mind and body, and the ways we use our minds and bodies have a direct impact on the quality of our breath. Most people don’t breathe fully and deeply throughout their days; some texts actually say they are “barely breathing” the majority of the time. Breathing is a key component of meditation, which we should all probably be attempting since we aren’t so great at this whole quality breathing thing. And just to make it a little more complicated, there are more breathing patterns of inhalation, exhalation, and retention implemented in meditation practices for different benefits than I can count.
Today I tried my hand at a few of them during our restorative session. Some we referred to as breathing techniques, some we referred to as meditation, some we tried while lying down, some we tried while sitting up. My main struggle was that the moment my breath calmed me enough to still my mind, I was so relaxed that I fell asleep! And sadly, that doesn’t count as meditation.
We have to find balance in calm consciousness. We have to focus on the breath to strike this balance and then hold on to this focus. For me, this means not lying down while trying to meditate. That’s just setting me up for a nap at this point in my practice. It also means I’m better off trying methods that require retaining the breath for brief moments since I have to be aware of what I’m doing rather than letting my body operate on autopilot.
My personal dos and don’ts of breathing and meditation practices aside, it’s amazing how dramatically different you can feel after spending an hour on this component of the self. It left me lighter, centered, soothed, and restored. I wish I could have learned to prioritize my breath earlier in my life. There’s no telling how much better I would have coped with stressful situations in the moment and after the fact when the mind begins brewing all the troubling thoughts we wish we never had.