Just a few days ago, a New Year arrived. Settling into the holidays, I began thinking about breathing — not because I’m as naturally conscientious as I’d like to be of the importance of mindful breathing, but because it’s the holidays, and I was surrounded by the assorted, distorted breathing habits of my family members.
Unbeknownst to them, I decided to engage in a social experiment. I made it my priority to notice everyone’s breathing.
First, my brother. My brother is a fantastic man, but he happens to carry a fantastic amount of weight on his fantastically stout frame. I love every inch of it, but his breathing worries me! Every breath is a labored breath. As we were doing some sibling bonding watching the last episode of House Hunters International, I could hear his Falstaffian breath, and couldn’t but wonder whether or not he feels any strain, but I didn’t ask. He’s already heard my concerns, and doesn’t welcome my glance whenever I hear him grunt.
My next subject was my father. My father is a man in superbly fine shape for his 91 years. He has a yet nimble and deliberate step, more so than many younger men. He claims to spend the first half hour each day exercising, and I’ve no reason to doubt it. Impressive as that may be, however, his breathing is shallow and abrupt. Every now and then he takes a big inhale and exhale, as if he’d been holding his breath for minutes, and perhaps he has…
I listened to my husband’s breathing, too. How could I not? This year he took up a new habit of snoring in bed. He is active, in great shape and has a nose and nasal passage that can accommodate more than sufficient air for one person. Still and yet, his breathing is loud and surprisingly short for having such ample space to breathe. Odd.
The breath should be longer than the Universe and subtle as a feather
Of course, I noticed my own breathing, too. As the holidays erupted, and we ended up rehashing old family dynamics, I worked to keep my breath smooth and my attitude steady. Among the things I noticed: being near my brother’s dogs relaxed and calmed my breathing, as did sitting next to one of my children.
But my breathing hasn’t always been easy to adjust. As a matter of fact, just a few months ago, my business partner and I went separate ways. The transition was difficult for me, and during the first six weeks, I was having trouble getting a satisfyingly deep, full breath. I ended up hardly practicing any yoga on my mat. My practice consisted of only breathing, albeit not all that well. I am just now moving from exclusively breathing on my mat back to breathing and moving together.
The average person takes up to 10,000,000 breaths a year.
This year on average, you and I have taken up to 10,000,000 breaths. How many did you pay attention to? How many did you deny, and how many did you explore or appreciate? Breathing is and can be more than staying alive or utilizing generous breathing equipment. A mindful breath yields many benefits: It is a pointer to your state of health — physically, mentally and emotionally. It helps to regulate your overall disposition, and it allows you to feel and sense what is happening in the now so that you can adjust your body/mind connection when necessary.
A Simple New Year’s Resolution: Breathing in 2011.
After teaching yoga for years, I still find myself taking the act of breathing for granted. I must admit that plenty of times, I have taken things for granted when I’m not paying for them. However, I yearn for the kind of life that is full of gratitude, grace, efficiency and steadiness throughout.
Every year around this time, I create New Year’s resolutions. Usually, these are things I need to do to help make me a more organized individual. Things like, finish what I’ve started (I got better, but it’s one that continues to land on my list), spend less and save more (I’m proud to announce that I’ve gotten better at this one), and when I see something and have a thought about it, immediately write it down (OK, this one I am getting really good at. I pumped out so much writing material this year that my hunched shoulders are the perfect stand-in for Larry King LIVE).
For me, breathing in 2011 will be more than a social experiment. It will be a deep investigation of how I’m choosing to be. Won’t you join me?
I invite you to share your breathing stories to firstname.lastname@example.org by simply commenting below. If your inspirational story is chosen you will be eligible to attend, as my guest, any one of the modules in the Leeann Carey Yoga 2011 teacher training schedule.
Namaste and Many Mindful Breaths,