Here's another little ditty I wrote for the "Just Be Well" movement at Round Table Companies — a reflection on completing my Yoga Teacher Training certification with my favorite Jivamukti Yoga teacher — Lisa Asha Rapp earlier this year: Take Care of Your Body, Regulate Your Mind
Last Sunday, I completed one of the most physically, mentally, and spiritually arduous days I have ever had. I was soaked in sweat and shaky — both from nerves and exhaustion. I had spent most of the day alternating between praying and chanting, chanting and praying, and now that I was blowing out the candles as dusk settled, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. I had just completed my yoga teacher training final oral exam and, after months of preparation, had taught my first hatha yoga class. I surveyed the roomful of prone people before me as they meditated in shavasana — corpse pose — and reveled in their relaxation.
This was, I knew, the most important moment of their yoga practice — the ten minutes at the end of class where they do nothing else but breathe, and it was my job to gently guide them here so they could harvest the beautiful fruits they had sown when they arrived on their mats that day.
Breathing is one of life’s few imperatives, but its role in leading a physically healthy, balanced life is often overlooked and even neglected in the literature on truly living well. Yet, when you study Eastern traditions, they show us that breathing is primary in cultivating wellness.
If you look at people who are living well, it seems that they are breathing well too. Thoughtful people will pause for a count before answering an angry email or call — they’ll take a breath and move forward without the irritated reflex that might guide the less reflective. I’ve seen enlightened parents of unruly youngsters close their eyes and take a few deep breaths before facing the most recent disciplinary problem their child has created. These people who pause enjoy less drama, less anger and therefore less stress — and more wellness compared to those who never take a moment to take a breath.
The world’s great meditators and enlightened masters say that their daily practice of focused, calm breathing is what gives them their unshakable equanimity. They seem ageless, and master meditators have been known to control their involuntary responses through a focus on breathing and calming the mind.
In his book, The Relaxation Response, Dr. Herbert Benson describes an experiment where Tibetan monks were wrapped in wet sheets at temperatures near freezing. The monks could raise their body temperatures to such a degree that the sheets were soon steaming and dry in a situation where most of us would be in danger of hypothermia. They explained they were able to do this by simply focusing on their breathing.
Read the rest at the Round Table Companies website here.