Your Friendly Reminder to Breathe

My definitions of Yoga today: to connect, to yoke, to harness; a homecoming, often unexpectedly granted; an experience of the self revealed in the process of becoming more aware; a deep remembering made conscious.

I lean on, in, and through my practice now more than ever. On blocks, in my car, through the moments I feel heartbreak out of nowhere when I'm walking down the street. Patanjali's first sutra: Now is Yoga. I remember the weight of the world and the conduit I engage to connect myself to its inhabitants and the Earth itself. Whether I like who I encounter or not. Whether I like my job or not. Whether it is my fault or not. Whether I wake up feeling empowered or anxious or like Kevin Malone when he spills his chili. My yoga is a practice of connection, and its purpose is served when I see myself in all things and all things in myself. The lens of compassion cannot be reserved only for whom it is convenient. It is challenging but fuck, it is some good work.

I learned how to drive using my dad's manual 1992 Toyota Camry. It was the nail in the coffin for that car, which is really saying something as the entirety of its interior had been pecked by a parrot belonging to its previous owner. You'd turn on the car and the automatic shoulder belt would make its way along the track, coming to its final protective stop right beneath your neck. You could tell even it was embarrassed. A slight glance down revealed years of the macaw's strikes, a history of avian snackages I can only imagine were the result of long waits in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond parking lot, or a disdain for traffic. I don't like to imagine my dad weighing the need to buy a car versus the aesthetic travesty, but I digress. I killed the clutch after learning how to drive it in San Francisco where driving, like parking, exists only on hills. I remember the feel of the entire car as I learned how to shift the gas and the clutch, to balance the transition, to smooth the starts and stops. I stalled a lot but eventually I learned how to drive. I write this because I was thinking about it last night while breathing.

The poses of Yoga are merely shapes that change your physical experience, but the biggest effects I have seen in my life have come entirely from the invisible, entirely from the way I've learned to breathe. Like pedaling the clutch, I watch my breath empower my practice, help me slow down, and help me shift gears. It's incredible what happens when I lose it because almost immediately everything unravels, and I am jolted awake again. The pose, the flow, and the embodiment vanish when I stop breathing. In the rest of our lives we are often taught to hold it in, suck it in, and keep it to ourselves. Yoga teaches us the opposite - it teaches us to go inward and undo those holding patterns. It teaches us new ways of wiring our minds. It stretches and strengthens and balances our souls, and these effects ripple out into our physical beings. The symbiosis is genius. It teaches me to restart again and again, and it takes me all the places I want to go.

I write this because for the past several days my breathing has been saving me, reminding me that I am still here and that there is work to be done. One of my teachers says that if you spend twenty minutes in meditation and you remember to bring your focus back to your breath only one time, you can consider that a successful sit. I keep catching myself at the top of the inhale or the bottom of the exhale while doing everyday activities, wondering how long I've been waiting there.

This is your friendly reminder to breathe, given lovingly by someone who needs to hear it herself. Now is not the time to be an asshole. To anyone.
Now is the time to be a steward. To everyone.

Take a deep breath in, softening something on the way up.
Allow a full breath out, softening something on the way down.
Keep going.