Simple… What’s the simplest thing you have in your life?
Without reading forward yet, pause, take a deep breath, take 27 seconds and think of the simple things in your life.
I believe the breath is the most simple yet rich thing we have in our life. We come into this world traveling through the feminine darkness of the vaginal cave into the light of the world. We take our very first breath. At the end of this life, we take a breath. We leave this world transitioning through the darkness guided into the light of the next world.
The simplicity of the breath is the framework for our life. The breath is reverence for all beings and all of creation. What happens in between the first breath and the last breath? That’s where life gets interesting or shall I say, possibly “complicated” or do I dare use the buzzwords of the moment “crazy busy.”
In between the first breath and the last breath, we are presented opportunities for becoming who we are. These opportunities are choice points where we are presented with a situation and then given the supreme decision of where we shall go from there. Our choice in that moment effects that moment and the next moment, creating our day, our week, our month, our year and so on.
As yogis, we are aware of the breath. This awareness has gifted us life, love, truth, consciousness, wisdom, and possibility.
Do you remember your first yoga class? In my first class in 1997, I wasn’t aware of the breath at all. I was focused on the physical movements and looking like I knew what I was doing, when I had no idea what a downward facing dog was. I was a fitness trainer in a yoga class and it was quite obvious to me.
Not until I was pregnant with my first child in 2001, did the yogic breath begin to make sense and be a part of my practice. Ok, I was a slow learner but at that moment, I felt I had truly been born! The oujaii breath was rich, informative of the intelligence of my body, embracing and channeling. The wisdom breath channeled a new way of being—consciousness. I felt miracles had happened with my baby growing inside of me and I learned to breathe with awareness. An enlightened moment—was this samadhi?
I was aware and if you’re a yogi, you know there is no going back from here. We are guided forward on the path – living consciously breath by breath, moment by moment, choice by choice.
Many choices and breaths later…In 2005, I became a yoga instructor. My teachers from the Ashtanga lineage led me to a deeper investigation of the 8 limbs of yoga. Intrigued by pranayama and meditation, I dove deeper into the corridors of myself and my choices. Was my drinking alcohol harming myself or others? Did my food choices enable me to be my best? Was I engaging in self-abuse after being in abusive relationships? Was I sharing my heart gifts and in service to the world? Wow, and to think that all this was arising because I became aware of my breath!
The simplicity of yogic breathing whispered to my soul why I was here in this world and it was time to step up, simplify and be accountable.
In “The Heart of Yoga” by T.K.V. Desikachar, he says:
“Practice watching the breath until you know everything about it.”
Truly, if we are disciplined in our yoga practice, we marry the breath to all that we do on the mat and off the mat. We know it’s texture, dimensions, sound, richness, shallowness, and intent. It is our vehicle for conscious living. We live in transitional space—everything is changing constantly. Our internal forms of yoga, conscious breathing and drishti (point of gaze), offer us an intuitive knowing of ourselves and how we react and make choices in our lives.
Some days it’s like being on a seesaw again, I’m up and the breath is my friend and I’m on top of the world; on the down side, I’m shown my shadows and asked to make friends with them because it is all me and all Divinely created.
In the Yoga Sutra translation by Chip Hartranft, he comments on Chapter 1 that
“when it is utterly motionless, though, consciousness becomes jewel-like, reflective enough to help awareness overcome this case of mistaken identity and recognize its true nature. This, and not our compulsive quest for gratification from external experience, is the source of the most profound happiness and wisdom.”
When we are connected to our internal yoga, one being the breath, stillness is invoked and and the experience is infinite.
I recently took an intensive with Richard Freeman. His teaching focus on the breath was like a invitation to my heart to come home to yoga and myself. He speaks as though he is the breath. His words poetically describe the breath and it’s presence. His voice sounds like the velvety slicing of soft butter that’s been sitting on the counter at room temperature. When he guides you through drinking the Prana and Apana Vayus, you feel as though your body has absorbed the miracle of life and has been reborn.
I was enchanted by the methodical movements of the Ashtanga practice. Choosing to view every movement as unique, I was surfing with the rhythm of the breath. It could be no other way. There is no “complicated.” There is no “crazy busy.” There is simplicity. And yes, it’s rigorous and at times hard as shit and thoughts swirl in my mind “can I really do this?”
Ok, so I am human and there are those thoughts sometimes! We are excavating, remembering ourselves, and becoming who we are as we breathe through our yoga practice. The breath is our vehicle for this journey in life. I recently took a class with Rodney Yee and he caught my attention with this phrase,
“the breath is the conductor of the practice, the mind is the audience, the heart is the digestive system.”
I really loved that! The mind can take a break and the breath and heart can lead the way. It’s like teamwork on a road trip. They all work together! The more conscious we are of our breath—the pauses in between and every choice—the more our life brings opportunities forward to uncover our true nature and allow our brilliance to shine!
Mr. Iyengar says:
“When you inhale you are taking strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.”
Each choice we make affects our global community. Each breath is reverent. Each choice is reverent.
Is this article meant to point fingers at you? Only if you feel that finger pressing on you from the inside. Are your choices complicated, busy, simple, conscious or full of drama? I point this finger at myself, too, as a reminder of being in the moment. Our yogic journey is to become aware on this path. I’m in this with you, too. I will be accountable if you will.
I shared the loveliest silent hot yoga class today at Yoga Pod led by the owner Nicole Weinholt. The sweetness of Nicole’s heart, the silence in the room and all the yogis held the space so that we all shared our hearts through the sounds of the most melodic and unified oujaii breath. I heard many comments after class that the experience of the class was amazing and transformative. We were truly linked at the creation connection of the spirit of the breath.
Can I go so far to say that yoga is breath and breath is life and breath is death? It’s a full circle of illumination of our spirits linked together in oneness. I am grateful for this community of yogic gatherings that bring us together in the unity of the breath.
So, how many breaths does it take to become an enlightened person?
It was studied that an average person takes 16 breaths per minute; 960 breaths per hour; 23,040 breaths in a day, and 8,409,600 in a year. If you live to be 80 years old, on average you will take 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime (www.answers.com). I don’t know how many breaths it takes to become enlightened, but you can start counting now…
Once we are given breath, life and the gift of creation, it is then our choice to live in the transitional space of breaths and pauses. How beautiful to be a yogi in this lifetime and consciously choose and create our lives and know our service to the world.
Morihei Ueshiba says:
“All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is truth and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.”
So that’s what I think lies in between the breaths…lots of yogic living.
I am in awe of the breath and the creation of life and beauty within each breath. Do I consciously think of the breath each time I take one? No, luckily my body automatically knows how to breathe.
It’s up to me to be conscious of the breath and all that I create with just one breath. A true gift! It’s nice to travel with you, my friends,in this amazing life! Enjoy the journey and surf the waves of the breath! Create beauty in every breath you take! Reverence in this world through breath and into the next world!
Camden lives her yoga on and off the mat with the 8 limbs in her heart and with the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated. We have been given the gift of life and are life scientists on this journey set out to explore, transform, create and give. Her classes ignite curiosity, courage adventure, clarity and possibility! She can be found teaching every week at the Yoga Pod.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger