I never thought too much about breathing. After all, it’s what we do naturally as human beings to stay alive, beginning at birth. Then, l I took my first yoga class.
When someone taught me to breathe, it was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life! Not only does it feel good to simply “breathe” but you may be surprised to learn that the benefits are extensive. Breathing increases energy, reduces stresses and decreases anxiety, among other things and is something we could also use in our lives, right?
I invite you to take a moment and sit back and notice your breathing. Are you a shallow breather? I was surprised to learn that when I took a breath, my inhalation went down to my mid chest and that was about it. I didn’t realize that this was keeping me from experiencing the many benefits that breathing provided. Now take a deeper breath and see how far your breath reaches into your chest, does it make it all the way down into your belly? Again, for most people, this is uncommon. Now put your hands on your stomach and take another deep inhale and see if you can bring your breath all the way down into your belly, feeling it expand into your hands. If you find this challenging, don’t worry, you’re not alone; however, you may find that practicing this a few times a day will support you in your emotional, mental and physical well-being.
There are many breathing practices from which to choose. I practice a form called Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) Pranayama (Prana is a Sanskrit word that translates as “vital life force”) which essentially uses the sound of the breath to support the practice of mindful breathing. Every morning when I wake up, I practice for 20 minutes, and I follow this with four yoga poses to release the tension in my spine. It’s a wonderful way to start my day, bringing oxygen to my whole body, releasing tension from my muscles, calming my nerves and ensuring that I am present and ready to tackle whatever comes my way.
This lesson was so powerful for me, that I’ve made it my mantra in life, reminding myself and others to “Just Breathe.”
When I offer this mantra to my colleagues and friends, many are surprised to learn that I have over 600+ hours of yoga training and that I once left the corporate world to build a yoga business I sustained for five years. I continue to thank my Mom to this day for introducing me to my first yoga class because if it wasn’t for her persistence, I am not sure I would have ventured into yoga on my own.
Now why was this a critical shift for me in my life? I left EMC Corporation in late 2000 after seven years of employment with the expectation that I would return to the corporate world after enjoying some time off. However, yoga took me on a very different path and I began practicing and studying with a wonderful teacher, diving deeper into what yoga had to offer while teaching others along the way. I met my husband during this time, moved to Cape Cod in Massachusetts and formed a business plan to bring yoga to the golf world, bringing my two passions together.
Now here is the interesting part. When a challenging situation prompted my return to the corporate world, I was concerned about my five-year departure. Thankfully my concern was unfounded. My new colleagues were keenly interested in my experience and complimented me on my courage to leave the corporate world and follow my passion. After all, not everyone has the opportunity, courage or financial stability to do this. I began to feel very grateful for that experience.
The biggest lesson that I learned is the power of presence and how to be in the moment with people and in any situation. When I am present – that is, not thinking about the past (which can often lead to depression or feeling down) or focusing too much on the future or what might happen (which can often lead to anxiety) – I am much calmer and able to manage a difficult or challenging situation with authenticity, dignity and professionalism. And if I notice that I am not present, I turn to my breathing practice for support. This is something I can do anywhere, anytime.
So, if you meet me in the hallway or on the golf course and you appear stressed or anxious or simply not present, you might just hear me remind you to “Just Breathe!” In the meantime, if you’re interested, I recommend these articles: