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October 14, 2010

Your Secret Weapon. ~Julia Winston

This article is shared via Yoganonymous

“Just be where you are, Julia.” This is a line my father, a psychiatrist, often says to me.  It’s his standard response to my frequent bursts of anxiety and hyperactivity. Sometimes he even says it with a shrug or a sigh, like it’s the easiest thing in the world.  He makes it sound so simple.   “Just be where you are…”

Be where I am?!  My body may be where it is but my mind is all over the freaking place.  It’s traveling to distant lands, it’s eating my next meal, it’s reliving treasured moments.  It’s busy, dammit!  “Be where you are.”  Yeah right, Dad.  How?

Well.  One of the loveliest things about yoga is that it enables you to connect your ever-present body with your often-absent mind.  One of the most common English translations for the Sanskrit word “yoga” is “union.”  This union can refer to a variety of things, for example: the union of your mind and your body; yourself and a Higher Power; yourself and the present moment; the Ego Self and the Higher Self.

So that’s all well and good, but how is a person to be where they are during all the distracting moments between yoga classes? Most of the time our minds occupy themselves by reflecting on the past or conjecturing about the future.  But what good does it do to analyze moments that are long gone, to hold on to thoughts and feelings that don’t serve us anymore?  And likewise, jumping headfirst into the future—my mind’s favorite activity—is silly because how can you go somewhere that doesn’t yet exist?  All you can do is speculate about what could be, which leads to fear, anxiety, and the build up of expectations, from which that dreaded emotion, disappointment, often arises.

But I know the secret to Being Present.  You know it too but, like me, you constantly forget you know it.  It lies hidden in the crevices of your preoccupied mind, only revisiting your consciousness when you will it to do so.  But you have the power to know it all the time, and therefore, you have the power to Be Where You Are anytime. The secret is that oh-so-crucial and yet shockingly forgettable necessity: Your Breath.

There is only one thing in this world you can’t go without for more than a few minutes, and that is the faithful flow of your own inhales and exhales.  Your breath can’t be in the past or in the future or in another country.  It is always with you, always happening, no matter where your mind is.  Therefore, when you recognize that your mind is disconnected from what Eckhart Tolle refers to as “the Now,” all you have to do is focus on your breath and, inevitably, you’re back in the moment.  It is a reliable tool, an unassuming weapon against suffering, and here is why.

When we are upset or anxious, our bodies react.  Not unlike prey feeling suddenly threatened by their predators, we humans can become so worked up by our own thoughts that our nervous systems go into fight-or-flight mode, or acute stress response.  Sometimes when we get upset, our breathing patterns go haywire; for instance, we subconsciously forget to breathe for inconsistent stretches of time and sit there holding our breath, or we unknowingly take quick, shallow breaths, both of which cause the heart rate to speed up and the body to go into a state of panic.  I suspect that this disturbance of equilibrium occurs for most of us far more often than necessary.

Smokers, here’s a thought for you.  Maybe when you reach for your trusty cigarette during times of stress and agitation, what you’re really doing is trying to take a deep breath.  The nicotine is addictive, of course, but as a former smoker, I can decidedly say that taking a deep drag off your cigarette is also a desperate ritual for acknowledging the necessity of your own breath.

Smoker or not, I invite you to take a moment to explore your breath.  The sad truth is that most people don’t know how to breathe.  Here are some tips…

For the full article, check out YOGANONYMOUS’ Blog.  (This will link you to the article).

Julia Winston was fresh out of college and stressed about the “real world,” when she decided to try yoga as a way to chill out.  In no time at all, she had fallen hard.  She practiced with Sri Dharma Mittra and other inspirational teachers in New York City until her love for travel and her desire to explore Inner Self and collective consciousness led her on a yogic journey through India, Nepal, Thailand and Israel.  Upon her return to the US of A, she became certified as a yoga teacher and taught in Harlem before moving back to her native Austin, Texas, where she now works as a writer, voice-over artist, yoga teacher and health outreach worker. Julia currently is a regular contributor to upstart yoga lifestyle blog YOGANONYMOUS; the go-to resource for the modern day yoga practitioner. Whether you teach yoga, have a personal practice at home, or just appreciate a good asana kicking once and a while at your favorite local studio, YOGANONYMOUS has got your back.

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