Reminding others to remember to breathe or how to breathe has luckily become my life’s profession. There are some days that I utter the phrases, “Take a breath,” or, “Don’t forget to breathe,” at least 100 times. This is not only something that I do while teaching yoga. I remind others to breathe when I teach a voice lesson to get the best sound from the student or when a friend or copywriting client calls and I need them to take a breath in order for me to understand what they need. By the end of the day I feel that every activity or job I do involves getting people to take a proper breath.
Breathing is one of the few bodily functions that can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. We are breathing all day long without having to give it a moment’s thought. Our bodies just take care of it for us. But when we consciously take a breath we are suddenly centered in the given moment. There is no past. There is no future. There is just now.
I first started paying attention to breathing in college. Back then I was majoring in Vocal Performance and thinking I would pursue a career in opera. Each week the voice majors would meet for a master class in which we would perform a piece, or song, we were working on and then get constructive feedback
The first time I performed in a master class I was nervous and for very good reason. My voice professor was incredibly accomplished in the world of opera and I didn’t want to disappoint her or myself. Also, there were students attending who were extremely talented upperclassmen including my then boyfriend, now husband. This would be the first time he would hear me sing.
I faced the audience, nodded to my accompanist and started the song. I don’t really remember the song anymore – I think it had something to do with clouds and was more than likely a British art song. When I finished the piece everyone had a chance to give me feedback. My husband raised his hand right away.
“I thought she did great, but she didn’t breathe at all.” Breathe? What was he talking about? If I didn’t breathe I would have passed out – of course I was breathing. Don’t you just do that naturally?
My professor added to the feedback and said it was remarkable I could have the sound I did without taking a truly grounded diaphragmatic breath. As I continued on with my training I learned how incredibly important it was to be an efficient breather in the world of singing. And as I started out professionally in the musical theatre arena, I noticed when on stage or at an audition how that first breath would truly ground me in the moment. If I stopped paying attention to my breathing, a performance wouldn’t be quite as strong, my mind distracted into thinking about something other than the task at hand.
But this is why it is so wonderful that the Bikram Series starts and ends with a breathing exercise. Pranayama Breathing grounds you in the given moment. It’s almost as if Bikram is saying its time to start paying attention. For me it is usually the first time I start noticing how my body feels on a given day. As each posture slips by you start to pay attention to the sound of the breath and what it feels like. Is it slow or fast? Controlled or out of control? When final breathing, or Blowing in Firm Pose, rolls around its time to notice where you are once again, taking pride in the work you’ve done and thanking yourself for coming to the hot room to take care of you.
The more you become conditioned to noticing your breath, the more present you will feel in your everyday life and in your yoga practice. And that is what I wish for myself, my students and every other person out there – more present moments. For it is in these present moments we learn who we truly are and the limitless potential of our life’s journey.
Remember to breathe friends – it’s important.