We call ourselves “human beings,” but instead, we live in a world filled with “human doings.”
As a society, we tend to put “doing” and “action” on a pedestal, while just “being” and “breathing” are never applauded in any way.
When we “achieve,” “accomplish,” or even just “participate,” we are praised for the action and the effort. This could include participating in a marathon, starting a new business, getting a promotion, or completing any kind of project.
Action is considered positive—and inaction, not so much.
The breath is a magical tool at our disposal 24/7. We can use it to transform anything and everything in life. We can use it to bring ease to the deepest physical and mental struggles. Eventually, it doesn’t feel like a struggle anymore, because our focus has shifted.
Focusing on breath and “being” doesn’t just happen naturally, however. These behaviors have to be cultivated, and Yin Yoga and meditation are powerful tools that can help a person embody these behaviors. When we are mindful of our breath, our body and mind automatically start following in the same direction.
We may have to face situations in our lives where the only thing we can do is breathe—moments of illness, of sadness, times we feel paralyzed.
When I suffered from a nerve injury as a result of a complicated wisdom tooth extraction, I was in immense pain, and I was bedridden—but my breath was still with me. When I was hospitalized for asthma, I had an extremely difficult time with my breath, but still, it was there with me. When I had a back fracture, I had to focus on both sitting and lying down while breathing the first couple of weeks. When I was in the worst phase of grief after the death of my parents, I was devoid of creative energy for a few weeks—and as an artist, this felt like death itself.
The only thing that failed to give up was my breath.
“May I be peaceful, no matter what I am given,” This is one of my favorite Buddhist mantras, and one of the prayers I say nearly every single day of my life.
And indeed, being peaceful when sh*t falls down the roof is easier said than done.
There are times in life when nothing feels right, nothing makes sense to us, and nothing seems to go right. No matter how much effort we put in, things don’t seem to work in our favor.
It is a fact that we are not in control of the universe, but we do have the ability to control our breath. We have the ability to control our minds.
I had been practicing Vinyasa/Hatha Yoga for approximately 10 years before I discovered Yin Yoga. A fiery pitta person (an Ayurvedic dosha or body type), I have been strong, determined, reactive, and emotional all my life.
But there has always been a soft, sweet, calm Yin side to me as well. And it was immersing myself in Yin Yoga that helped me realize and internalize the quiet, calm, composed, patient side of me. And this is the side that helps me be peaceful, even during times of no peace.
There will be moments when peace (and focusing on the breath) is next to impossible. But peace also includes simply being aware that there is no peace—and that is okay. There is no need to struggle in order to become peaceful. This is where yoga, and Yin Yoga in particular, can transform us. After all, yoga is the art of controlling the mind. Similarly, to be peaceful even when there is no peace is the art of controlling the mind.
Of course it is entirely possible to cultivate this behavior via other means.
Yoga can be anything that allows you to achieve personal balance of mind, body, and soul. It could be running, hiking, singing, painting, or cooking. Any activity that focuses on the sensation of the breath helps to control the mind and find balance. In my case, I engaged in a variety of these activities, but it was Yin Yoga and meditation that truly transformed me.
Being able to respond instead of react, knowing and giving unconditional love, and being able to embody the phrase “it just is” has now become natural to me.
Yin Yoga focuses on the sensation of the breath while stretching the connective tissues in your body in long, slow, deep, four to seven minute holds. Pranayama (breathing exercises) or the movement of prana (life force energy) is also practiced in some Yin Yoga classes. The magic of Yin Yoga has truly brought out the Yin side of me like never before.
Coming back to that which keeps us alive, let us recognize the value of just “being” and “breathing.” Let us give as much importance to that as we give to “doing.” Let us find ease in the midst of our struggle with our breath. Watch the worry and anxiety fade away as we focus on breath. Let us celebrate the breath in every way possible.
May we all live long, healthy, peaceful lives, no matter what we are given.