Thursday, May 5, 2011

Learning to Breathe

As I should have expected, I overworked myself.  During Easter weekend, I ran a fast-paced 5k (not usual), weight-lifting, yoga, 4 hours of cleaning, 4 hours of driving on Saturday alone, 2 hours of walking, tennis, and more yoga.  When I wasn't wearing my sneakers, I spent the rest of the week and weekend in heels.  Needless to say, by dinner on Sunday my back had gone into a spasm and my left hip was visibly raised above my right.  Spine was totally crooked.  It then stayed like that the rest of the week.  Ouch!
This is obviously not me, as I am clearly a lady.

Why?  Well first off, I refused to believe I had gone too far, done too much.  If anything, I knew I had about 6 hours of day light somewhere in there that was spent inside sitting on the couch, which to me is a failure.  But despite my back injury I did not want to rest physically and I could not rest mentally.  I barely slept, as my mind raced to thoughts on my job and all its frustrations, the wedding, my health, and anything else shiny.   It wasn't until Friday that I realized that my mind and my body both needed a rest.  My body was rebelling against my get-up-and-go attitude.  I could hardly relax.  My muscles were clamped, constricted, and swollen.  My spine was stiff and sore, with little mobility.  What I believe made it worse was that my mind would not let go of my own frustration and struggle.  I harped at the fact that I could barely bend from side-to-side and I resented my ever-present pain.  Breathing alone was provoking.

Our breath is undeniably important, primarily to maintain our existence and secondly to maintain our quality of living while we exist.  (Not to mention if it’s stinky, it can affect our social life as well!)  In yoga I always cue the breath, as bringing attention to our breathing is critical to an effective practice.  Our body actually evolves during our exhales.  Tension leaves the body as we let air go, allowing our muscles and joints to simply sink deeper into our asana (Asana means pose).  Often during an exhale I will get some cracks, maybe some pops, but mostly I can physically feel the release of tension in my body.  To me, there is nothing more therapeutic than a long, deep exhale when I am struggling in my asana.  During an inhale I can find the energy to acknowledge the struggle; exhale I let it go.  The same is true off the mat.  Breathing affects our physical, mental, and emotional beings all equally.  Just notice how you breathe when you are upset or crying verses how you breathe when you are happy, calm, and relaxed. 

So when I hurt my back I need to remember balance once again, the dichotomy of taking a breath in and then letting that breath go.  I could not move or exercise how I normally would, so my mind and body was hoarding energy.  Encouraging the stress, I just kept working even though deep down I knew I needed a rest.  Finally on Friday, as my fianc√© and I took a long and slow walk I said aloud, “I think my body was telling me to slow down, stop thinking so much, and just let all this nonsense go.”  Within hours of me just verbalizing that, I could feel my back loosen.  By Sunday, I was practicing yoga again.  This time I focused on nothing in the room, nothing in the world, except each breath I took in.  And I followed that breath as I willingly let it go.

1 comment:

  1. I love this entry. Keep up the excellent writing my dear!

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