Define your breath

Last week in yoga teacher training, I had a bit of a meltdown.  We were discussing the connection between being mindful of our heart and allowing the heart to lead the mind. Someone mentioned the struggle of being true to herself when our in the real work world she is bombarded by people totally unaware of their actions and lashing out. As I was listening to this woman’s story, my stomache began to knot.  I thought I would throw up as my anxiety boiled to the surface. I had to tell her that she is not alone yet when I tried, I cried. I gasped for air.

In Doug Keller’s “Refining the Breath”, the breath’s response to emotions is simply described. The lightbulb went off! “Fear often comes with quick, shallow and irregular breaths, and the feeling of a tight knot in the belly”. Strangely enough my normal response while at work is anger, which “often comes with shallow inhalations, strong exhalations, and physical tension”. After class I discovered “Grief often comes with a kind of spasmodic, sobbing, superficial breath made up of quick, jerky inhalations and long sighing exhalations, and a feeling of emptiness in the belly”.

Paying attention to your breath is challenging because when you want to pay attention to it, the pace of breathing changes to what you want it to be. The point of Doug Keller’s book is that by training our breathing so we don’t have to think about it, we can in effect, limit certain responses that we might have. It’s like wanting to punch someone but having your arms tied beind your back. At that moment, you’re given a chance to decide your response and in this case, we can tune in to quiet it down and bring it to a more compassionate breath.

It sounds strange but I promise if you practice it, it does actually work!

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