I taught my first in person yoga class since Covid started two years ago this week. It was a restorative class and reminded me how important the breath is in cultivating love for oneself.
We need oxygen to live, so we must continue to breathe every day.
But, how aware are we of how our breath is flowing?
I’ve studied the breath and various kinds of breathwork for decades. I first came to breathwork as a young actor, using the breath to help me project out from the stage. I also used breath to help alter the sound of character voices. A wonderful acting teacher even taught me the Kundalini “Breath of Fire,” a yoga breathing practice that brings a sense of elation when done.
It wasn’t until I started taking in person yoga classes at a studio that I really learned the benefit of breathing to help bring equanimity to my emotions. Previous to taking yoga classes at a studio, I had done yoga on video, and none of the DVDs (yes, old school!) I had linked breath to movement or taught breathing practices (or pranayama in Sanskrit).
“Evenness of breathing leads to healthy nerves and so to evenness of mind and temper.”
-BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga
I soon noticed that I was holding my breath A LOT in my daily life. I wasn’t allowing my breath to flow through my body. It stopped somewhere above my heart and would fill my lungs shallowly before going out again. This occurred especially when I was very focused on something…. ironically, I tended to focus a lot in yoga.
My yoga instructor’s reminders to allow my breath to flow helped me to not only allow my body to deepen into a yoga pose, but also allowed my emotions to even out and reduce the amount of sadness and self-judgment I was feeling at the time. It truly brought out self-love and love for those around me.
In my Restorative Yoga class this week, I focused on moving slow and allowing the breath to flow as my students moved into poses they hadn’t been in for a couple of years. Poses that once seemed familiar, now felt unfamiliar. And so, we all breathed and released self-judgment, allowing in a sense of love for ourselves with each breath.
Try this simple breathing practice to allow love for yourself to flow into your own heart.
- Sit, with your back supported, or lie down.
- Notice your breath flowing in and out for a couple of minutes, just noticing your natural breathing rhythm, if you are holding your breath or if it flows freely.
- Breathe In
- Allow your in breath to flow into your lungs, the area around your heart
- Notice where your breath naturally pauses to exhale
- Breathe out
- Allow your exhale to feel like it is just as long as your inhale
- Notice where your breath naturally pauses to inhale
- Count if it helps – like inhale 1-2-3-4-5 exhale 1-2-3-4-5, don’t count if it doesn’t help
- Repeat this cycle for a couple of minutes
- Then place your hands on your heart feeling your chest rise and fall as you breathe
- Allow yourself to feel love for yourself
- Finally, lie back and rest for 2-5 minutes
- Get up slowly, allowing your head to come up last
- Notice how you feel
Please feel free to reply to this email and let me know how this breathing practice works for you.
May you have peace within,