There’s a moment from my life that I think about quite a bit even though it was years ago. I was alone in my car, driving south on the thruway towards a destination I don’t recall. What I can remember, however, is how I felt at the time – out of breath. This sensation of breathlessness, though, was not from exertion or even from singing along to a tune on the radio. The gasping and gulping for air I suddenly found myself doing was unlike anything I had ever before experienced.
My sense of oxygen deprivation came from a much different place. It was as if I had forgotten to breathe for some extended period of time, almost like I hadn’t inhaled or exhaled in forever and had instead been holding stale air in my lungs and chest and throat. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt the expansion of my chest as it filled followed by the sweet release of air ending in a sigh.
It had been far too long, apparently.
Since that afternoon drive, I’ve spent a lot of hours practicing yoga. There have been vinyasa flows, Bikrim, Baptiste, restorative and yin classes and each practice has featured a component of breath awareness. Despite breathing being a most fundamental and basic physical act, I’ve learned so much about the importance of this simple act. Truly, breath is life.
The fundamental relationship between breath and movement is the part of yoga to which I’m most attracted, I think. Being able to extend one’s body by expanding one’s breath seems almost magical to me. Directing my breath to the part of my body that needs it most, whether it’s my lower abdomen when I get a stitch when running or my hips while holding half pigeon, has been one of the most valuable lessons of yoga.
I really miss traveling and feel my frustration at being grounded grow stronger with each trip I cancel and reschedule. Like breathing, exploring foreign places and experiencing the previously unknown, is a fundamental and vital part of my life. Having to scrap plan after plan has been difficult for me, admittedly in a very privileged way. Quite honestly it sucks and, as time passes, it’s getting worse.
During the long months of this pandemic, I’ve done a lot of yoga. When I’m on my mat, my breath and movements unite and take me to a place of awareness and respect for my physical self. Until I can pack a bag and jet out of here, I guess I’ll unroll my mat and continue my practice. It may not be the locale I most often finding myself dreaming about (that would be Greece, for the record), but it’s still a destination that I find appealing and inviting enough to return to frequently. For now, it’ll have to do.