by Char Brooks
Screeching into the parking lot, as I walk through the open door I know I’m out of the slammer. I’m about to partake in something — and I have no idea what I’ll discover as I find my way onto my mat.
And that’s the good news. Within minutes of making my way panting through the door, I’ve seen someone familiar and feel at home again.
As a regular student who practices at least 3 times a week, I have learned over time that I’m best off when I drop my story about whatever is wrong, difficult, or dramatic – much like I drop my bag on the floor in the locker room before entering the hot room.
Then I am ready to hear or try something new – potentially something major.
I’m often surprised by the “just perfect” wisdom I hear from our teachers. The other day she said this:
“What if your only two choices were to breathe or laugh?”
Well, that may not be exactly what she said – but it is what I heard. (The difference between what someone says and what I actually hear is a story for another blog!)
Thinking about breathing
After class, I thought a bit more about this.
I asked myself a couple of things:
- While someone else is talking, I am only listening and breathing? The honest answer is no. I don’t actually know what I’m doing when someone else is talking as a general rule. So, I tried this. What I noticed was that my shoulders dropped and for that split moment, I stopped clenching my teeth. Rather than preparing my response, I noticed I had a question. It took me a few seconds to find the words. I was more curious about their experience. This was me being the friend I really want to be!
- While I am talking, am I actually aware of my breath? Well, I must say that I haven’t tried this much. (It sounds like writing with my non-dominant hand. A little time consuming, dontcha think?? Not really, actually.
Even this back-and-forth inside myself is an example of me engaging in thoughtful conversations in a totally new way.
But I have to be honest, my mind reacts when I propose this approach.
“But don’t you know I’m in a hurry?????”
Me: Really???? What’s so important that I don’t have time to notice my breathing?? How much time does that actually take?
I don’t know.
Well then, how about you just try, Char?
Experimenting with breathing
Where is your breath right now as you are reading this? Do you even know? It’s okay either way.
There are no have to’s – there is no right way to breathe for goodness sakes. There’s your way – and you can experiment with this concept. Or not.
Breathing and laughing
If you are laughing, your breath takes care of itself. Sometimes I laugh so hard, I have a hard time catching my breath.
What does that mean??
Something was so funny it actually brought tears to my eyes . . . or took my breath away . . . . or made my stomach hurt from laughing so hard!!! Or the breath took care of itself as I cracked up into oblivion. Either way – I’m relaxed and at ease and enjoying something that hit me just right.
Ease and Enjoyment in the Hot Room
In Bikram, “breathing always normal” is one of our mantras. One time in class, I cracked up in the middle of a posture. I’m not sure what struck me as so funny but whatever it was – I simply couldn’t settle down.
And then she said, “Breathing always normal – focus deeply on the standing leg.”
Guess what? For me to focus on my standing leg requires a lot of attention.
Pay attention to your breath = Breathing always normal.
Bikram is my playground for the real world – I get to practice breathing through my reactions to whatever I like, don’t like or any other random thought going through my head.
My experience has been that though my breathing may be normal – the repeating ticker in my brain is anything but still.
Stillness comes by staying with my breath. Regardless of the “breaking news” that is scrolling by almost constantly on my inner ticker.
And outside the Hot Room
So what if outside of class, you focused on your breath – while listening, talking, eating, driving.
And what if outside of class – when you find yourself cracking up – you remembered that your precious body has just given you that remarkable gift that keeps on giving – the breath!
Come to class and tell us all about it. We’ll listen, breathe and laugh together.
About your guest blogger:
Char Brooks is a 61-year-old Bikram Yoga student who has been practicing this form of yoga at BYCA for 11 months. She has practiced and studied yoga for over 40 years, beginning when she was about 20, and she has practiced meditation daily for approximately 15 years. Char earned a teacher training certification in vinyasa from Jonny Kest’s Center for Yoga and has practiced Iyengar, Kripalu, Restorative and Yin yoga. She continues to meditate twice daily and practices with an online studio regularly at home in addition to attending BYCA approximately 4-5 times a week.