The breath accepts us unconditionally. It always forgives. Think about it; we ignore our breath, treat it with total disregard, prevent it from entering our body by holding our breath when stressed, we behave casually towards it making little to no commitment. If breath was our lover, based on our regular treatment, it would break up with us!
But our breath lovingly accepts our human imperfection and gives us another chance, and another, and a million more. There is a lesson here: when we breathe, we have another chance to try our best. We are not practicing to be perfect. We are practicing to make real, to realize the beauty of our humanity. Yoga philosophy helps us to see that we are perfectly imperfect. The more you become enamored with your breath, the more it becomes your best teacher. And a shift happens.
The Breath and Self-Acceptance
As the breath accepts you, you start to accept yourself. Then as you practice this advanced yoga of self-acceptance, you become more compassionate and forgiving of others. Even when others make mistakes, you appreciate their imperfections and give them a second, a third, another chance.
"You see, the wider practice of yoga is not about arranging our life so that it is perfect and easy and non-challenging. Rather it is about using the discipline we find in asana practice (and in the other practices of yoga as well) to be able to remain “easy” in the midst of difficulty. That is the true measure of freedom. When we learn this then everything we do and everything we say becomes an “asana”, a position of body, mind and soul which requires the attention that brings us into the present." – Cindy Lee, Om Yoga.
And in that present moment there is perfect presence.
Practice breathing on purpose today. This is known as Pranayama. The beauty of pranayama is that you don’t have to belittle the breath or force it or make it perfect. The translation (below) doesn't say anything about perfection.
Tasmin sati svasa prasvasaho gati-viccheda pranayama
Pranayama is the conscious, deliberate regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath replacing unconscious patterns of breathing. It is possible only after a reasonable mastery of asana practice.- Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.49
Below is an outline of a basic Pranayama I want to share with you that hopefully you will give yourself a chance to try:
This is probably the most common breathing pattern in today's stress-filled society. Also known as paradoxical breathing, it is a natural reflex when we are suddenly startled or frightened. We gasp, pull the abdomen in and breathe high into the chest. The lift of the abdomen and pelvic floor prevents the diaphragm from descending completely as we inhale. Chest breathers restrict breath movement in the abdomen, forcing it higher up into the chest, while shoulders move up and down.
The Effect On Mind And Body
Chest breathers rely on weak upper body muscles, thereby developing chronic tension in thoracic spine, shoulders and neck. Moreover, this tension is resistant to massage or any other relaxation therapy as it recapitulates the moment the person resumes chest breathing, which is an incredible 22,000 times a day! Since we can't breathe in fully, we also can't breathe out fully. So we resort to breathing more quickly to make up for lack of oxygen.
Scarier still is the fact that it sets the stage for an even more serious breathing problem: hyperventilation. Chest breathers normally sit on the edge of their seats and exude anticipation in their entire bearing. They never seem to have enough time to do all the tasks they set out to do and often experience a chronic, free-floating state of anxiety. Scientific evidence now points to the connection between chest breathing, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Observe the movement of both. If both your shoulders and chest are rising, you are probably not a chest breather. A chest breather suppresses breath in the lower abdomen, forcing it to move higher up into the body.
The greater take away in all this how the breath is unconditional. It knows we will forget about it, but it welcomes us back every time. So give yourself time to listen to your breath and really pay attention to it. It may be the key you're looking for to have calm and serenity in your life.
Love yourself, Love your day, Love your life! Silvia