We, as a people, forget to breathe. We forget to inhale deeply and sense the world in a new way. Instead, so many times we are gasping for air as though we have just emerged from being held under water against our will. However, our breath is our life. Each breath we take is a blessing. With a single breath everything can change. Often people watch little babies sleeping peacefully, belly rising and falling deeply with each breath. May we turn that view on ourselves and observe the belly filling with air and releasing once more. Place your hand on the navel and expand. What a sensation! To experience breathing as a living thing, separate from us and yet what’s holding us together all at once. Ah, the very wonder of it.

Breathing has been a challenge of mine for years. Growing up with asthma and allergies kept me gasping longer than most. Since discovering yoga, the amazing quality of a solid deep breath has been astounding. Learning playful breathing techniques to practice with my students (lion, snake, bunny, alternate nostril, deep belly and so many more) has expanded my diaphragm beyond my wildest imagination. Learning to breathe clears the mind, resets the soul and calms the body.

Then there are the breathtaking moments in life. The ones that really make you appreciate the fact that you can breathe. Sometimes these are centered in complete and utter joy, excitement and shock. It’s so wonderful to have those. Often rooted in love, these are the moments we are enjoy… the happiness of a loved one’s news, a special time in our own lives, bonding with a friend. Pure joy, what a pleasure. May it be embraced fully.

At times, these moments are caused by the shock of something so out of the blue that there is nothing to do but stand there. Or fall to the ground, but the breath is gone. A loved one passes away. A surprise announcement changes the course of your life. You see a horror you didn’t know existed. What do we do in these times? After the initial shock wears off, we take a minute, find our breath, and keep going forward. We learn to breathe again, even if it’s different. The show must go on until the final curtain. We sing to strengthen our voice, shout our love to one another, hum to the song of the wind. The sorrow is there, it’s acknowledged, but we forge ahead. For it’s in these times, we see our strength, courage and hope. We keep breathing.

There comes a time when we feel our breath is not just ours alone. Our ability to ┬áinhale is fueled as trees exhale. Our fully inflated belly is like the bubble floating by. We hear the breath of the birds in their songs, see the breath of the wind as the clouds float by. And we realize, the connection is greater than we can understand. It’s all these things and more. Every fiber of our being is yearning to connect, be a part of, to understand more, to feel more. And so, we come back to where we started. Steadily and calmly breathing again. Peace works its way up through the center our being, filling us up all the way to the crown of the head. As we exhale slowly, we are released fully without collapse. Ah. Here we are. Fully present. Aware. Breathing.