It’s kind of easy to explain how to practice yoga breath-work to other people.
It’s feasible to relay the benefits of “open” hips and limber leg muscles.
It’s possible, too, for anyone to learn how to flow through yoga asanas with modifications, the right tools and proper teaching.
But this morning when I talked with a friend, I realized what I couldn’t tell her—how yoga actually changed my life.
I called her right before my morning practice.
We spoke about her upcoming childbirth and she had questions for me since I had recently gone through my own second positive birthing experience.
She wanted to know about yoga breath and if that helped my labor. While I told her that surely it did impact it, the real benefits I couldn’t tell her about.
And then we hung up and I went into my little yoga room; where the spaceheater had been dutifully warming my space; where my body was about to move and flow and breathe—and as I held myself in my first postpartum bound side-angle pose, I realized exactly why my practice had helped me give birth naturally, and it was the same reason that my practice has completely revamped my life and myself.
And the reason, though simple, is huge when I think about it’s overall impact. Because life, for me at least, throws curve balls. I find myself in situations that I hadn’t planned for and I feel stressed and overwhelmed and, occasionally, depressed.
And then I get on my yoga mat.
I inhale and lift my arms—and my heart—skyward, I exhale and bow humbly towards the earth that always manages to hold me up, and I learn over and over again the lesson that has truly changed my life—that I can breathe through anything.
I can make it through one more labor contraction. I can breathe through one more challenging moment as a parent. I can inhale and exhale into, essentially, my life—I can breathe along with my life rather than through it.
My life has profoundly changed because yoga taught me to stay present and live moment by moment. More, it’s taught me that life is both more joyful and more manageable when I live this way.
So, as I spoke with my friend for a few minutes on the phone, listening to her concerns and sharing my own experiences in return, I was struck, later, as I stood tall in tree pose that this—the methodical breathing and the postures—are merely tools for what my practice actually is: a life-changing process of self-liberation.
Because I’m free of my past and I’m free of my future when I inhale into my present—yoga taught me this. My yoga practice has also taught me that I am capable of anything, one breath at a time.
This article was first published by elephant journal.