I make my living talking about breath.
Both of my jobs revolve around it.
I’m not being dramatic here.
In my day job, I sell a medical device that assists people with a heart problem that renders them unable to breathe.
All day, I visit cardiologists and pulmonary doctors and ask the question ‘How far can your patients walk before they run out of breath?’
My ‘other’ job, and my passion is teaching yoga. Specifically, Vinyasa yoga which is the connection of breath and movement. But, oftentimes as a teacher and as a student-we become so focused on the asana poses of the practice, we lose sight of the breath.
Some facts about the breath:
-Breathing is the ONLY autonomous system of the body that we can also CONTROL. Iyengar said ‘Breath is the King of the Mind’
-It is normal to take 12 cycles of breath per minute. People who hyperventilate or asthmatics take DOUBLE that amount
-If you laid out the lungs flat-they would COVER the size of a tennis court (70 square meters)
-When we resort to breathing through our mouths vs our nose, it’s an indicator of stress. ‘The nose is for breathing-the mouth is for eating’ is a yogi proverb
-Ancient yogis believe we only have so many breaths for life
Amazingly enough, I didn’t realize how important the breath was until it SAVED MY LIFE.
May 1st I was in a very bad car accident. This was easily the most terrifying moment of my life.
While my day job requires me to spend my time in intense situations (operating rooms, ERs, ICU units, etc)- nothing prepared me for the trauma of being flipped and rolled and landing upside down.
Nothing but the breath.
When the dust settled, I found myself freaking out, scared for myself and even more terrified for my friend. And, as I started to hyperventilate I realized I could not undo my seatbelt and GET OUT which was very important for me to do. The very real thought went through my head ‘This is where I die.
That’s when I remembered the breath.
The breath that I studied in my profession- the pranayama I studied in yoga.
The ability to slow down my breath stopped me from hyperventilating and to find a sense of calm in the storm. Controlling it prevented me from passing out and gave me the strength to escape and even to treat my own wounds as we waited for paramedics to come.
Now that my yoga asana practice is so limited in physical movements, now that my body is broken (but healing!!)– I am even more conscious of the power of the breath.
Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for every breath that I am gifted to get.
And while my asana poses might not be so fabulous, my breath is pretty bad-ass!