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The truth about my practice is it has never been about my body or a pose—it’s been about my life.
The idea of sharing this about my yoga practice has given me pause because often, on social media, we share—but we don’t really share. We conceal the bits that make us squirm. So, here I am: squirming and sharing.
I didn’t really start practicing yoga until I was 31 years old, when I tried to commit suicide. My daughter, Laine, was two years old and I felt like a failure as a mother, like a terrible human being, and that nobody loved me. I believed I’d be better off gone. My failure to take my life marked the start of my real yoga journey.
I soon realized yoga wasn’t just about posture, it was about my breath. Without controlling my breathing, my panic attacks and depression were going to take me over and I would never be a good example for my daughter. Through slowing down and connecting with my breath, I realized it was okay not to be perfect. There was no need to be ashamed about the things I was or had been.
In yoga, we come into the present moment by yoking movement with conscious breathing. As we practice yoga, we consciously observe and release feelings and fears about the past and future. Observing isn’t the same as judging—nothing is bad or good; it only becomes that when we choose to label it good or bad. Everything starts as neutral. The focus is on the now, on the air entering and leaving our bodies.
In this way, yoga becomes a moving meditation. With practice, the voice of our inner chatter quiets and is replaced by an inner guru. You start to find your own truths and the wisdoms that serve you, giving you freedom.
I love creating the physical asanas with the breath. My practice reminds me that limits can always be overcome, and that the word “impossible” really stands for “I’m possible.” Breath work soothes my mind, body, and soul.
The thing is, you don’t have to get on a mat to practice this side of yoga. You can begin wherever you are simply by slowing down, by connecting with the breath and the present moment—whether you are in an asana, walking the dog, or doing the washing-up. Simply bring your awareness to your actions. Breathe into them. Breathe into your body.
The art of mindfulness is one of the keys to inner happiness. You don’t have to go on a retreat to practise mindfulness, nor do you have to spend time in an ashram to be a yogi. A yogi is just someone who practices yoga, which, as we’ve seen, can be as simple as the act of breathing.
In fact, when I think about my practice as a movement maker, I often prefer not to define myself as a yogi at all. Instead, I like to think of myself as a soul mover. When we breathe mindfully, we move body, mind, and soul together as one.
Watching the breath:
You can practice conscious breathing anywhere—on the way to work, on a bench in the park, while cooking a meal, at home in your bedroom.
To get started, here are a few simple steps:
>> If you can, find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed for a few minutes. Give yourself permission to dedicate this time to you. Turn off your phone and switch off any screens.
>> Sit comfortably, with both your feet resting on the ground and your hands placed gently on your lap.
>> Relax your gaze so that you are not really focusing on anything. If you prefer and it feels comfortable, close your eyes.
>> Tune into your breathing. Don’t try to change it. Just become aware of the air leaving and entering your body through your parted lips, through your nostrils.
>> Become aware of the rise and fall of your body with each in-breath and with each out-breath. Become aware of what is happening in your whole being.
>> Gradually let your breathing settle until it is relaxed, quiet, and fairly deep.
>> Let thoughts come and go, like butterflies on the breeze.
>> If you find your mind taking an adventure, bring it back to your breath. Silently tell yourself: “Now I am breathing in. Now I am breathing out.”
>> Observe everything as if in slow motion. You take it in. You breathe this rare air. You feel alive. You are yourself. You are truly, finally, always yourself. And that’s enough.
>> When you are ready, steady your gaze and allow yourself to return to everyday life, knowing that this moment of calm is waiting for you, right here and right now, whenever you need it.