Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”– Maya Angelou
It is winter and with the longer nights, the shorter days and the constant encouragement to stay inside I’ve been feeling the serious need to withdraw my outward energies and restore inward.
When this mood strikes, I recall the breath instruction which my voice teacher, Ric Ryder, has shared with me over the years.
Being an educator makes me appreciate the value of good and supportive instruction and Ric has had so many beautiful insights.
I sit on my yoga mat in Virasana which literally means the “seat of the hero”.
It is the posture of someone sitting on their heels with legs folded underneath. It is one of the few classic yoga poses where pranayama, breath work, is originally taught.
It is a simple posture; one of humility and grace.
And as I sit on my mat, I begin to recognize that which I’m thankful for…
I think of frontline workers, of my fearless city, New York, and of family and friends tucked away, sheltering in love for each other.
I recognize and honor each group for they are all brave and heroic in their own ways.
And then I wonder, what does it mean to be a hero?
I know that this year so many of us have become so familiar with uncertainty and turmoil, that comfort, ease and abundance feel like they only exist in some alternate reality.
Many times this year I have been breathless, struggling to find words, searching for answers.
But during this moment of gratitude and becoming quiet, I drop into the place where answers are revealed.
And then I breathe again. And again.
Despite having breathed my entire life, it’s still something I’m learning/unlearning.
And so I practice breathing.
Yogis believe that breath is the process of life (prana) moving through us instead of clenching for protection and control. It’s something that actually takes a lot of willpower and strength to master.
So I breathe.
And then I breathe again. And again…
…the deep diaphragmatic breaths I’ve learned in my voice lessons.
As I continue, I feel like I’m returning to a new place that also feels like home and so I recommit my life to helping others find this place for themselves.
This breathing, this being feels like something brave that I can do right now when so much feels insurmountable in our world. But for a moment, a peaceful breath feels manageable and profound.
And that’s what I want to share…
That sometimes, breathing is the most heroic thing we can do.