Breathe In, Breathe Out

Who thinks about breathing, ever really?  Unless I guess you are choking, in active labor, or spent your whole adult life smoking, I think most people don’t think much about breathing, BUT I’m learning that people who are learning yoga think about breathing, a lot.  I can’t begin to count the number of times a day that I find myself thinking about getting air into my body.  This would be strange to the “old” me, like thinking about swallowing, for example, but the “new” me thinks about breathing many times throughout the day and not just the many hours each week that I am learning how to move my body and use my brain in these new ways.  I’m finding, discovering I suppose is a better word, that since Thanksgiving, when I first signed up for classes, my propensity to lose my cool is fast becoming a thing of the past.  My way of flying off the handle and then assessing the situation has given way to thinking first about the situation, and then thinking about breathing, and then contemplating whether or not flying off the handle would be the right course of action.  Generally it isn’t.  I’m not, by any stretch, implying that I’m no longer ever mad, nor alluding to a better version of me who is always mellow, but the man I love will tell you this if you ask him, “she is on her yoga high” if you were to ask him about my general mood or manner and overall disposition almost every day…

It’s certainly possible that this better, mellower version of R* is simply growing older and wiser, and with that gaining a calm and serenity that she did not have when she was young and perhaps less evolved, but I suspect it’s more than that. I seem to find that so many of the things that always annoyed me seem somehow less annoying…for example, I drive a very big, ridiculously long, heavy truck with a cap, and so for all the years I’ve driven this truck, when fools who don’t understand the most basic rules of physics and speed and weight and braking, pull out in front of me, I used to get so angry.  Lately I find myself braking sooner, meaning as soon as I see their foolishness in action, rather than seconds before it appears I might plow into the rear of their car, and think to myself, “it’s the universe telling me that I need to be here and not there at this second” and then tell myself stories while I take a few deep breaths about how that jerk who turned right on red without stopping, into traffic moving 50 miles per hour, right in front of me driving a 9000 pound truck, is maybe saving my life by making me be 12 or 20 feet farther behind than I would have been had he not cut me off…it’s a silly mind game, so many mind games are, but I play it with myself as I take those necessary calming breaths and it seems to make me a much less angry driver.  It might seem like a poor example, but if you have ever been a passenger with me in any vehicle you would likely say, “oh, how nice that her lead foot is lighter, and she does not scream up behind the tail of those who annoy her anymore!  Oh joy!” 

I’m certain, had I learned about yoga at 18, or even 28, 38, or 48, my life would have been much different.  I have always called myself a silver lining seeker, that hasn’t changed, but I’m a much less upset person it seems about everything, and I like that.  I certainly would have been a better mother while raising my daughter.  I was not a “No More Wire Hangers!!!” kind of mother, but I certainly was not as good as I could have been, or should have been, to a small growing learning little girl.  Had I been better at taking the necessary breaths to assess situations, instead of flying off the handle, I would have had a far less stressful home in which that little girl lived.  It seems she didn’t suffer too badly, she sure turned out fabulous, and she lets me help her raise her girls, so I was not THAT bad, but we live and learn, and like that expression ‘when you know better, you do better’ and so I’m doing better in just about every area of humanness.

I also think about breathing when I walk into a store or building where a person does not know how to measure 25 feet from the door as the allowed space for smoking near an entrance.  And when I walk through the stink I think about my lungs, I think about breathing, and I think “how on earth did I do THAT for so long and what on earth must I have been thinking??!!”  And I say a little prayer to the universe that I quit in enough time to heal that damage and I don’t end up like that disgusting “we can help you quit” commercial, where the man is sitting at his dining room table gasping for breath with lungs that make a sound like pebbles being raked and wearing an oxygen tank…when you know better, you do better

I still get mad about a lot of things, sure, but I seem to be less mad about all of them.  Last night for example we went out for Mexican food and I asked for some more pico and the server instead brought guacamole, and I said, “that’s okay, I’ll have that” and then she charged us $4 for it.  $4 for two tablespoons of guacamole would have made the old me super angry, but the new me just calmly said, “well, we won’t make that mistake again.” I can’t know for sure that learning how to breathe differently and move differently and think differently because I am learning yoga is WHY this is happening, I can only know and observe that it is happening.  Next time somebody pulls out in front of you, blows stinking smoke in your face, or overcharges you for something you didn’t even order, just try to see if some really deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your nose, helps you think about how to react, or even to react at all… I think you’ll be glad you did.  I mean really, we have to breathe to live, it makes each day possible, we might as well try to do it in a way that also makes each day better.



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