Power of Breath… it’s Courage
There really is nothing like the birth of Spring. The sound of song birds and the sight of fresh sprouts with blooms of yellow and purple and white breaking through the dead leaf mulch of fall and winter.
Spring is the invitation to begin again and the reminder of the Circle that is life! And yet, it’s a season notorious for breathing difficulties! Spring poses the greatest challenge for me to breathe. They say it’s only going to get more difficult with our warming globe. Oh boy! Spring offers yet another reminder that…
Breath is the key to life!
Because breathing is such an every day (hopefully!) occurrence, its easy to forget its importance and its value. Many of us may take breathing for granted, at least until its unavailable.
James Nestor shared his journalistic personal exploration in his book Breath. He reports that 40% of “us” suffer from breathing difficulties and chronic nasal obstruction. AND more than 50% are habitual “mouth breathers”. As unattractive as mouth breathing may sound, it’s fundamentally better than NOT breathing! Like I always say, the only requirement is to breathe… the rest is optional! And yet mouth breathing, rather than nose breathing, is less efficient and less effective for supplying our bodies with this life giving force of breath! Poor breathing is related to numerous chronic diseases and ailments from peridontal disease and bad breath to snoring, sleep apnea, asthma, ADHD and even heart disease, diabetes to hyper tension.
The good news here is that, with practice, we can learn to breathe better and in doing so we can improve our quality of breath and the vitality of our daily lives!
Time for a new strategy!
It takes courage to try new things. It takes courage to do “old” things in new ways.
These kinds of challenges, combined with my desire (aka compulsive need) to do well and please others has facilitated a life-long relationship with Anxiety.
I know I’m not alone.
Anxiety can be described as a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness or intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
Anxiety is a normal emotion.
Anxiety is our brain’s way of reacting to stress and alerting us to potential threat or danger. Everyone feels anxious now and then. Occasional anxiety is ok, even helpful for our growth and learning. However, if anxiety is causing you to avoid life, it’s time to ask for help. Talk to your doctor or get a referral for a therapist. Help is available!
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Nearly 30% of adults will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder and approximately 7% of children (age 3-17) experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before age 21.
Overcoming Anxiety through Yoga
It’s been nearly six years since my last panic attack. That’s the longest I’ve ever been between attacks. I used to get so sick I’d miss school or sometimes I’d push myself so hard, I would crash and essentially check-out of life for days at a time, or worse my fatigue and exhaustion led to accidents and injuries landing me in the hospital.
I take great pride in learning to manage and even befriend my Anxiety. It’s not been easy. It’s not been a straight path. It’s not all been successful. I’ve worked with therapists, doctors, medications and behavioral modifications. I’ve used prayer, and energy medicine, alternative and integrated modalities. For the most part, they’ve all helped in some way, for at least a little while. My greatest, most long lasting and most accessible success came through the Yoga practice.
The practice of Yoga, asana, pranayam and meditation have been demonstrated over and over as effective tools for helping us to improve quality of life and ease suffering. To receive these benefits, Yoga requires practice. To sustain access to these benefits, Yoga requires consistent practice.
For me, the TWO most powerful habits that help me keep anxiety and check and even welcome her as a friend are:
1. Daily Pranayam practice, and
2. Daily Gratitude Journaling.
Pranayam can enhance our quality of breath and increase access to the courage to begin again. Mindful practices like journaling can help us focus on what matters most and the opportunities for love and connection in our lives. It didn’t surprise me to learn that these are two of the ten practices to cultivate happiness and joy in our lives! (I teach you how to build these 10 practices in Yoga Living) In practice we discover our authentic selves and hones the skills to live in alignment. This is Yoga as a path to Inspired Living.
Power of Breath
Breathing is essential to life and a key component of the Yoga practice. We call it pranayam or pranayama. Pranayam can be a practice in it of itself or integrated into asana (posture) or meditation practice. Darren Main, yoga teacher & author, teaches that we need “just enough” suffering to warrant effort required for change. But too much suffering might just prevent us from seeking the help we desperately need. I’ve endured seasonal and environmental allergies my whole life. Suffering with seasonal allergies is exactly what got me to finally seek help… and to continue seeking when no relief was found from “typical” treatments. It’s only been in the last year of working with an acupuncturist that I have found any real relief. And in that relief, a new sense of hope.
If you want to learn more about Yoga Breathing, join me weekly on Mondays for Just Breathe, a 15-minute virtual practice to guide a breath practice or check out my YouTube Channel Life’sWork Yoga Studio for 100s of 15-35 practices to breath, move and rest! For an even deeper dive into the practice of Yoga Breathing, consider a guided apprenticeship!
It takes courage to try new things. Whether its finding the right teacher, trying something new, or simply asking for what you need. This effort is greatly enhanced by a healthy, steady, full breath. Fortunately, within the practice of pranayam, we can enhance our quality of breath and increase access to the courage to begin again. In practice we find courage to live authentically. This is the essence of Yoga practice for me.