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The Misunderstood Practices of Breathing and Yoga

Notice for a moment your own breath, then that you never pay it any attention, yet you’re still alive! How consciously are you living and breathing?


When you’re sleeping, you don’t have to “try” to breathe – your sympathetic nervous system, in charge of involuntary body actions like sweating and heartbeats and pupil dilation, keeps you alive. It’s the part of your body that takes over in “fight or flight” situations, whether you are in real danger (a mountain lion jumps out at you) or a perceived threat (you run into your ex in the produce section). The interesting part is where “you” come in: with control of the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system, you can regulate yourself back to calmness with more ease and grace than you might imagine.


According to brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor, the bodily effects of emotions are short lived. She explains: “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.” Imagine something that gets you worked up – whether it’s a family member pushing your buttons or giving a speech in public. Now consider your power to witness, feel and get curious about your rising emotion, then breathe deeply through it. As we say in the horse world, with practice, we can peacefully go “back to grazing.”


So… what’s yoga got to do with it? Yogic tradition views breath as a bridge between the mind and the body. The practice of yoga is not to make you a superhuman Gumby, but rather to support your ongoing return to the breath through connecting it to body movement. Yoga postures are tools to connect you to your natural serenity, both on and off the mat!

Come practice breath-based yoga, then hang out with the horses; you may be transformed from the 91st second.


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