Category

Breathing

Grace

By Ayurveda, Breathing, Covid-19, Energy, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Last month, the concept for my blog focused on my observation that we act differently around others while wearing a mask. When we are anonymous, our moral codes are disguised and we are not accountable. It seemed like we were losing kindness, connection, common courtesy, and politeness as we interacted or avoided interaction with each other. Over the past month, I have personally witnessed and heard others relay stories of aggressive, hurtful, and rude behavior in our town. It feels like we have hit an energetic low in this community.

There are so many possible reasons or a combination of reasons for this. Steamboat is super crowded right now. It has become more challenging to get outside and enjoy the feeling of getting away from it all. There are more people on the trails, at the lakes, and in open spaces. There are ongoing economic concerns as well as uncertainty around COVID-19 and its future impact on our lifestyles, businesses, physical and mental health, children, parents, and politics.

One thing to remember is to take a breath and realize that we are in the middle of pitta season. Wait, what? Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, is the traditional medicine system of India. It is based on the idea of creating balance throughout the body’s systems via diet, herbs, yoga, and pranayama. Things that affect the body’s balance include the seasons and the associated temperature, characteristics, and elements.

Pitta, or fire, season runs from late spring to early fall. In this season of fire energy, we can get out of balance from living at a high elevation, being closer to the sun, enjoying outdoor activities in the heat, lack of air conditioning, and even the foods we choose to eat. Too much pitta may manifest as becoming impatient, quick to anger, confrontational, or grumpy. It can also manifest as skin rashes, joint pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms such as reflux or diarrhea. The bottom line is: it’s hot, crowded, and we are losing our cool!

The one word that keeps coming to mind as I begin my asana practice on my mat these days is grace. It is one of my favorite words. I love its simplicity and elegance when spoken aloud. The word has several different definitions and uses. It can mean smoothness of action or beauty of form. It can indicate a pleasing or attractive quality. It can refer to kindness, forgiveness, or reverence.

When I practice grace on my mat, I am meeting myself right where my body is with honesty and kindness. Through the lens of an observer, I honor myself. When I practice grace with others, I accept them where they are in their journey and I extend kindness and compassion. I honor them. Grace is ending class with Namaste, which means the light, spirit, and divine in me bows to the light, spirit, and divine in you. I honor myself and I honor you.

It is easy to practice grace. And it is easy to be full of grace, until you aren’t anymore. I can be full of grace until I walk into the grocery store and spot someone walking down the aisle the wrong way with their mask below their nose. Incredulity, righteousness, and rage flash through my system. And I am instantly reminded that grace is a practice, and I am committed to it. My righteousness recedes, and so does my judgment.

Grace means we acknowledge that we are all shipwrecked in this boundless and unforgiving ocean right now. And we acknowledge, too, that we are all in our own, unique boats. I cannot assume I know and understand the kind of stress someone else is experiencing, just as others cannot truly know and understand mine. Just as it is important to balance pitta by selecting or avoiding certain foods and activities, it is also important to find ways to cultivate grace with yourself and others around you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Every Breath You Take

By Breathing, Health, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

In this transition to fall, I’ve gotten sucked in. To being busy, doing too many things at once, running around, multitasking. I’ve been making mistakes, getting sloppy, becoming frustrated, and feeling lost and disconnected. I’ve been holding my breath.

To get it all done, I pressure myself to respond immediately to texts and emails… and I ignore my children. I feed my chickens in a preoccupied, frenzied state… and I forget to lock their coop. I move through cued poses in yoga class… and get agitated when the flow is too slow. Abiding the sequences, I’m thinking in checklists. Wanting to execute and perform (check), I maneuver through life (check), and (paradoxically) end up exactly where I don’t want to be: not present, not belonging, and not me.

By definition, a checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure. A checklist not only implies judgment (the possibility of failure), but it also legitimizes an external standard. When applied to my daily life, a checklist transforms my passions into tasks. Instead of turning in and tuning in, I turn out and tune out.

Fall is the time of year when I need reminders to return to my breath. We hear it all the time in yoga. Breathe consciously. Breathe deeply. Connect to your breath. One breath, one movement. Breathe and release what no longer serves you. But why is breath so important?

On the most basic level, breath is simply a way of staying alive. Breath brings oxygen into our bodies and excretes toxins that can stagnate in and damage our vital organs. Our autonomic nervous system regulates our breathing. Most of us breathe about 20,000 times a day without even noticing. On average, we use just a third of our total breathing capacity. When our breath becomes short, shallow, quick, or irregular, our minds become anxious and our bodies tense. When our breath is deep, slow, and regular, we’re infused with a sense of calm.

Compared to automatic breathing, conscious breathing cultivates different effects on our physical, mental, and emotional beings. Conscious breathing is the essence of yoga, helping us connect with various, subtle, divergent energies inside us. Conscious breathing is meditation, a method for being present, and it allows us to move from one state of being to another. Breath is a tool, a choice, and a way of living—not just a way of staying alive.

Breathing is living in the present. We inhale the future and exhale the past. Breathing aligns the mind and the body. When we slow down our breath, body, and mind, we can notice, focus, feel, perceive, and understand. We may not always like our observations or sensations, but we’re aware of what’s inside and around us.

Take the hours that are available in your day. Breathe consciously and deeply so that you’re present, connected, mindful, alive, tuned in, turned on, and totally you.

In light and love,

Sandy