Breath has been a subject that has occupied a special place in my heart for many years. When I was first introduced to breathing as a solution to common anxiety, I almost immediately blew it off. I breathe every minute, what could it possibly have to offer? However when I received my first formally taught breathing class, I felt something so deep within myself awaken that I could not believe I had found this part of me again. It was like a long lost friend. There was a clarity and a recognition that vastly opened my perception on the power of breath. According to yoga teachings, breath and movement are yin and yang, two parts of the whole. To have one and neglect the other you are still missing a huge part of it. Our society seems to greatly favor movement, but breathing practices are commonly overlooked. With proper guidance from a trained professional, however, you would not believe how life-changing this work can be especially if you have ever suffered from anxiety or depression.
In eastern cultures, the breath is regarded as a great teacher and practiced in many forms for many purposes. It is my goal here to share its power in my life experience. When I was a smoker for over 10 years, I was not able to quit for long despite the various medications, nicotine products, acupuncture and hypnosis sessions. When I began breath work as a part of my kundalini yoga classes, I began to realize that the satisfaction of a cigarette came from the long draws of inhales and the ability to pause life. It was almost like I had been subconsciously seeking meditation, but not realizing what it is. When I began yoga, I used to smoke right before class and immediately after. As the time went on and I kept attending at least one class per week, I noticed a slow dispassion growing for the cigarette. There was a part of me that was satisfied by my practice that slowly allowed me to form emotional distance from the habit. One day I walked out of class and lit my cigarette, looked at it and said to myself "what am I doing? I don't need this," tossing it in the trash. That was the final moment and I quit just like that. There was no withdrawal or other symptoms that I had experience during my many previous attempts at quitting. It was just an instant decision to quit and it forever left my life. I continued my practice and received multiple certification in yoga and breath work after that.
The practices remained a part of my life and became a daily self-purification routine for my anxieties and thinking patterns. I had no idea that I would be witnessing the power of the breath on quite that magnitude again, but my mom suddenly fell ill and passed away. It was 40 days from when I took her to the emergency room, to the day I put her body in the ground. There were days of complete devastation and panic, like the day I realized she would be leaving this plane. I was completely distraught and felt myself begin to panic with my heart rate and breathing extremely elevated. I was crying and gasping for air through my tears, my body collapsed on the floor. At that moment I felt my deep breathing kick in all by itself. I was not intentionally guiding it because I was completely overwhelmed and flooded with sadness. It was as if my body kicked in to a state it had memory of and balanced itself out. As I watched the deep breathing continue, I felt the emotions move through my body and leave. I noticed that the tension did not stay. Waves of emotion were coming and leaving with the breath. I immediately began to feel myself calm down and regain my bearings. This occurred several more times through out the difficult process of losing my mother to cancer. It took me a just few months to recover through the grieving process using more of the breathing awareness techniques and reclaiming equilibrium along the way. If you have ever experienced the loss of a loved one, you know how debilitating this can be and how easy it is to get stuck in certain emotions. I honestly could not believe how profound and valuable the breathing training would become in the most difficult time of my life. I hope that you can feel the the depth of what I have shared and try some of the breathing exercises for yourself.