Lessons learned on the mat

Breathing is indeed a transformative experience. Simple and standard as that.

At the behest of my friend and yogi mentor, Beth, I awaken early every morning and, at the very least, accomplish fifteen minutes of khabalabhati breathing before taking on the rest of my morning activities.

Every day is different. In subtle ways. Because of how I’ve slept (or not), what I do before I start the exercise, and what happens as I practice. What impresses me, however, is that I can notice changes, not over a period of time (although, that also), but right at the moment of going through the breathing exercises. I most certainly notice the energizing effect after the session, but during the practice I also notice how my focus changes, how the breath becomes more controlled, how much stronger I become and how this carries into my morning and day. I notice how between the strong stomach breaths, when I hold my breath I can hold it gradually longer, I can make small alterations in the position of parts of my body (head, neck, hands, back), and feel each part individually.

This is just the beginning. In order to carry out this practice, I have to awaken earlier than I used to. I’m not Leo Babuta of Zen habits, so 4:30 am is just a bit of a (ehem) stretch–but somewhere between 6 and 6:30 am is just about right. If I can regularly awaken at 6, I know I can even add on almost an hour of yoga practice. More often, right now, the practice comes a bit later in the morning.

So what lesson is learned? How to breathe. How to take in the morning and take on the day. How to feel each part of each action, how to feel each part of oneself and how to pay attention. By noticing the subtle shifts, I’ve connected with myself, with my day, and with the actions I want to take going forward–into the day, into the life I am leading. Kind of amazing and easy, if you think about it. But it does take thinking about it–there is the necessary discipline of taking the time and giving the attention. From there, what other shifts (however subtle) are not possible?