Sunday, April 3, 2011

Parable of the ruby slippers: come home to your breath

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Right before Christmas I was at Dick’s Sport looking for water shoes for a New Years trip to Costa Rica. I got the shoes and then saw that swimming suits were also significantly marked down, it being winter. When I got to the counter to make my purchase, we noticed that the swimming suit didn’t have a price tag.

While the sales clerk went to check the price, I set it down on the counter to wait. Immediately after he left, there began this horrible beeping sound like when you leave the store with that big white thing still attached to clothes you bought. And it just wouldn’t stop. I kept thinking, “Somebody, make it stop.” Several long and painful minutes later, the sales clerk at the other register finally said, “It’s your bathing suit.” I looked at him confused, and he said again, “It’s your bathing suit.” Turns out I had started the awful noise when I placed it on an electronic device that was flush with the counter.

I walked out of the store awakened, again, to the wisdom of Dorothy and her ruby slippers. I am usually the one creating the “horrible noise” or conversely, something lovely. I’m also the one who can “make it stop.” I have the power all along. To go home, or whatever it is I want to do. Unfortunately, like Dorothy, this realization usually doesn’t occur until the end of the journey.

On my own yellow-brick-road, I’m learning that recognizing and manifesting this power can be almost as easy as clicking my heels. One way it’s done is by harnessing the breath. How can the breath be empowering?

First, it’s what brings the mind in concert with the body. We live most of our lives like the proverbial “chicken with its head cut off,” the mind and body quite literally disconnected (and we know how THAT ends). We’re pretty much in our heads all day staring at screens or the car in front of us, while the body, and the breath, is put on automatic pilot.

Second, being in attendance with our breath, even for a few minutes, allows us to tap in to our personal energy or life force (prana in yoga terms). The unique spirit and essence of our being. This same energy animates the big wide world and unites us with the universe, providing a gateway to align with that greater power and potential. Like having the wind at your sails.

Finally, to be present with our breath bring us back to our self, and to our animating power. The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means to yoke or unite. It often refers to the process of uniting the individual soul with the Divine (capital D). So using the breath to get back to this source wakes us up to who we are. It’s this recognition that can rouse and animate us to manifest our desires.

So, spend a few minutes with your breath and come home to your divine self. It’s a powerful elixir. Want to give it a try?

Start with a yoga pose called crocodile (Makarasana in Sanskrit). According to Mastering the Basics (a book I highly recommend for yoga students of all levels), and from personal experience, this pose quickly establishes deep relaxed breathing as the belly must push into the floor with each inhale. It’s also an antidote to anxiety, and creates immediate breath awareness. Watch how it’s done and then enjoy:

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