While visiting our son Jacob this week, his 16-month-old daughter, overtired as we walked around a local park, started to fidget and cry in her stroller. Jacob picked her up and asked her if she wanted to “breathe out the upsetness.” Intrigued and amused as we often are by our kids’ parenting, we asked what he meant.
He’d taught his three-year-old son a deep breathing technique as a way to deal with the anger and frustration that plagues any busy toddler when they can’t understand rules; like why they have to hold your hand when crossing the street, or why they need to take a nap, or why they have to share their toys with a sibling.
Meira’s a bit too young to understand breathing as a way to calm herself down. Her brother seems to get it; though his mother said whether or not it works depends on how much he’s upset.
I thought about how breathing is essential in yoga.
In one of my classes this week, the instructor, Dana talked about how yoga is not a 5K run, or a half marathon, or a marathon. It’s not a race but a practice that is refined and refined and refined. Forever. There’s no “did it and you’re done,” but a lifetime of fine-tuning the nuances of a posture, the tiny, subtle movements of a pose to maintain balance and improve strength.
I can focus in yoga. I don’t need music or conversation. I’m not competing against others, even though there are many who can do things I can’t. There are poses I used to do and can no longer do. I accept this. I leave class clear-headed, energized, and hopefully have strengthened my core to keep me centered on my bicycle for years to come. I breathe and let go.
Yoga classes have pervaded all exercise programs and gyms. There’s yoga for the office and airplane, yoga in schools and yoga in prison. Breathing exercises, a companion of yoga practice, makes a lot of sense to calm irritable behaviors.
As Congress debates gun law legislation perhaps they should consider adding more yoga and breathing exercises to the mix. Perhaps if those incarcerated had had yoga as children, they wouldn’t be in prison now. Perhaps more people could grab a sticky mat and hang out in downward facing dog a bit every day, practicing “breathing out the upsetness.”