Heaviness & Breath

It’s been a while since I last posted, almost two months to be exact. There’s a heaviness in the atmosphere right now. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. We, collectively, are exhausted from pandemic living. We have been bombarded by news of war, the economy, and the very recent repeal of Roe v Wade. Sprinkled in are birthdays, weddings, gatherings and celebrations, as well as personal losses. With all the good and bad, we are tired.

It is in these times of heaviness that we often begin to question the morality of the world and our place within it. We begin to question our life’s path and what we want our future to look like. There may even be a sense of loss of inspiration. It is in these moments that many seek guidance. This may be from a mentor, a trusted elder, or a leader from your spiritual faith.

Over the years my students have come to me for advice and guidance as their teacher, sometimes as a spiritual mentor. I use my training and refer to the philosophic teachings of yoga, as well as the knowledge I have gained from my personal practices, to guide my students in making fully informed choices about their situations. There is so much knowledge stored in our bodies, we just need to learn how to listen for it.

When I feel deep heaviness, such as now, I try to seek stillness. The answers locked within our body can only be accessed when we are still. This is difficult for many because our minds want to stay active and busy. Our busy mind thinks it is protecting us from harmful information; it stays active so we don’t notice. Stillness is not only becoming physically still, but also about quieting the mind. How do we find stillness? We must practice. The tools to find stillness are found in your yoga practice and in your meditation practices. The more we turn to these practices, the greater our skill at finding stillness becomes.

One practice that I recommend, and turn to personally, is breath. Breath is a subtle but powerful element, without which our existence would cease. What follows below is a simple breathing exercise that anyone can do:

  1. Find a comfortable position. This could be seated or laying down.
  2. Close the eyes.
  3. Turn all of your attention to your natural breath, taking a moment to simply observe your breathing.
  4. Deepen the breath. As you inhale feel the belly expand, then the lower ribs expand, sternum rise. As you exhale feel the sternum, lower ribs, and abdomen collapse. Continue for several rounds.
  5. If the mind wanders and you notice your attention on thoughts, simply return attention to the breath. This is natural, and it will happen.
  6. After a few minutes release the deep breathing, allowing breath to flow naturally. Notice the body feels a bit more relaxed. Notice that the mind isn’t quite as chatty.
  7. Repeat this exercise once a day, or whenever you feel the need to slow down.

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