being human,  breath,  learning

Connected by Breath

I think most of you know that I am a yoga teacher, but what you may not know is that I stopped teaching–almost entirely–as my mom took her final breath just over three and a half years ago. In some ways I stopped breathing too; I couldn’t inhabit my body in my grief. Teaching yoga is a giving profession and I literally had nothing to give; continuing to teach would have been unfair to my students and to myself, even though saying goodbye presented another loss. For a full two years I grieved my mom, a daughter who came of age and a life I knew and loved. It was a dark night of the soul I’d never wish on anyone, but it was necessary. I devoted time to healing. I relearned how to fully inhabit my body and how to breathe again.

Lots of things changed in 2020, all for the better, yes even in the midst of a pandemic. I birthed new ways of being in the world. I made myself a priority again, and I developed a new spiritual practice that supported me in every area of life. I began to breathe deeper. I even dipped my toes back into the teaching waters prior to the pandemic; I started seeing private clients and small groups, but have since devoted my attention, practice and teaching solely to breath. Currently, I spend the majority of my time in research and writing — about the healing power of breath. I have clear ideas about where this work will take me, but I am also staying open to possibility. Breath by breath, letting the work unfold organically. I am overjoyed to be back in my element; I’m an academic by nature. Reading, researching, writing and creating are all deep-seated aspects of my being.

So here I sit, breathing life into being, into this new here and now, and as I do, my mind rests on the past and the divine souls who helped shape it. I think of my mom, a beautiful, loving, selfless woman who supported me to the end; and my grandmother, a strong, independent, determined soul who taught me to be unapologetically myself. I cannot fight reality but I grieve the fact that they both took their final breaths far too soon, at 69 and 66. I also wonder if that is why I’m drawn to breath, the life-giver.

Breath connects us to ourselves and to the natural world; it connects us to life itself. Breath is energy. The energy consumed in the process of breathing is chemical energy, and since energy cannot be created or destroyed doesn’t our very breath connect us to everything that not only exists now but everything that (and everyone who) has ever existed? I don’t know if that is a philosophical or a scientific question, and quite frankly I don’t want to research the answer. Instead, I choose to believe what my body and breath tell me, that the beautiful women who came before me breathed life into me and that I will honor them in the work and with each and every breath I am blessed to receive in this precious life.

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash