Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Are you breathing fast or slow? Is your breath shallow or deep? Does your chest feel relaxed or tightened?
Perhaps it is because I am a naturally anxious person, or it may be because I live in a big city with loud noises and constant movement, but more often than not, my breath is short, sharp and on a mission. No longer is breath nourishing, but it becomes something that yields functionality. I trade my breath for energy, which is then spent frivolously, always on the go with the next task on mind.
Now take a moment to close your eyes and really listen to your breath. This is the gift of breath. It teaches you to be present.
When I first came to yoga, I was quite disconnected from my body. After a short stint in the hospital, while I was recovering from an eating disorder, I felt very far removed from my body both mentally and physically. I had a distorted image of what my body looked like and a distorted understanding of what my body could do. I despised the way I looked, I despised the way I felt, I despised the way that nothing I did seemed to make the hate go away.
I had to learn how to be a wreck, both physical and mentally — not in a way that allowed me to continue in a cycle of destructive behavior, but in a way that gave me permission to accept fully and be honest about where I was. As humans, we are vessels for innumerable experiences and emotions throughout our lives. Rather than picking and choosing as a way to hide from all the negativity, the good and bad alike must be accepted and embraced.
Being present and being perfectly content.
Through my practice, I learnt how to link movement, thoughts, struggles and experiences to my breath. With each transition, my breath grew deeper as my body grew stronger. I learnt to dispel that self-doubt (or ‘dirty talk’ in my head) as I learnt to reconnect with my body. Simplicity became beautiful, and I learnt to be content with where my breath could take me.
Remember, practice, practice, practice is key.
If our practice is about being present, or recognizing both the suffering and the beauty in front of us, then it is just as simple as listening for our breath. In our minds, we sometimes imagine it to be more complicated. Our drive to accomplish the perfect pose can limit our learning. It is important to remember that these are just static ideas in our mind, some destination we desire. We will end up shortsighted if all we see is what we desire. But there is opportunity there if we pay close attention to it.
The breath is dynamic, always moving, changing in a flux of intake and outage. Paying attention to our breath reminds us we are always in motion and just taking steps.
So, slow down and breathe. What you seek is seeking you. All you’ve got to do is to surrender, surrender to the simple act of breathing.