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One Breath at a Time

By Jayne Robertson, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500
In a state of uncertainty, simply breathing can de-escalate anxiety.

Overwhelmed. Anxious. Freaked out. Scared. Desperate. 

These are some of the words that seem to be describing our current global mood.  Places have shut down everywhere, people are being told not to travel, to stay at home, to head back to their home countries, to work from home, to stay six feet away from one another, to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and, for goodness sake, sneeze into your elbow! The world and all its economies have come to a life-altering, screeching halt. It’s no wonder the above words are all so appropriate.

As I was contemplating closing the physical space of my yoga studio, this decision weighed on me as the stress was beginning to show up in my own life. It tore at me because so many students had been expressing how supportive their yoga practice is for them and coming into community is an integral part of maintaining vitality. If I closed the doors…then what? So, opening a virtual yoga studio seemed like the best option and, in under 48 hours, I moved my entire business online.

As I was puzzling out how to make the switch from in-person to online, I found my mind tick, tick, ticking along. And when I noticed it began to impact my ability to fall asleep, I turned to something I knew would support me…my practice. 

One of the strongest reasons we come to the mat on a regular basis is to build resiliency for when life throws us the unexpected. Having a yoga practice allows us to build a foundation of finding our breath, our center, to calm us, to notice our physical and emotional experience and awaken our consciousness to what serves us in that particular moment.

Yes, the learning curve was steep, but it’s worked, and I’m now connecting to more people around the country (and world!) than I had previously. People are beyond grateful for the opportunity to say “G’day” to each other at the beginning of practice and to see familiar faces online in a most unfamiliar way.

A practice we’ve been undertaking is to focus on one breath at a time. In a state of not-knowing, conflict or confusion, we tend to spiral upward into a state of greater anxiety. Coming back to the simplicity of one breath at a time can de-escalate the spiral. 

Try this out. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position. As you begin to follow your breath, notice what thought is present at the top of the inhale when your lungs are full. On the exhale breath, visualize pushing that thought along, as though it’s on a conveyor belt and you’re choosing not to pick it up. Repeat. You may notice each inhale has a different thought. Push whatever thought it may be, desirable or undesirable, along with the exhale breath.

So, when you notice being overwhelmed, anxious, freaked out, scared or desperate…come back to this breathing exercise. One breath at a time.

Jayne Robertson is owner and instructor at Desert Yoga Therapy. For more information, visit www.desertyogatherapy.com, call (760) 456.5160 or email
jayne@desertyogatherapy.com. 

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