Have you taken a conscious breath today?
You’ve been breathing the whole time, sure. But have you taken a moment to consider the length of your breath, the depth of its reach, your chest rising or your shoulders dropping. Chances are you haven’t. And why would you? You’ve been breathing since you were born, there’s nothing to it, right? … wrong.
Just because something ticks over nicely in the background, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in on how it’s doing.
For over a year now, as a team, we’ve been taking yoga classes. But don’t roll your eyes, this isn’t a list of its benefits – a gazillion people have already covered those. This is a reflection on one of its most imperative lessons – awareness. Awareness of the simplest things, in the simplest form, that can make a huge difference overall.
Awareness of our inhalation and exhalation has been a prominent feature in all of our classes. Taking conscious, considered breaths that reach into various parts of the body. Being aware of this breath opens up a whole new world of awareness – the tightness of certain muscles, the niggles of other areas, the calming effect on the nerves, the clearing effect on the mind. I know I’m teetering on hippie territory here but my point – that awareness isn’t always in the shape of an alarm bell, sometimes it helps to go looking for it.
People who look after themselves physically, exercising and watching their diet, will be more aware of their physical condition. Even so, it’s easy to get accustomed to the way things work, even more so if you spend the majority of your days sat rigidly at a desk. When I first started yoga, my dancer’s legs proved strong. But with poses more reliant on upper body strength, I fell down, literally. For me, this highlighted that my lifestyle doesn’t lend itself too kindly to the health of my shoulders and arms. Something I’d never given a thought to before, but something that I’m now aware of, and can work to better for my future self.
That’s the beauty of awareness. It can uncover things that are okay right now, but that could turn out to be bugbears in the future. The more aware you’re of them, the better equipped you are to make sure they’re in the best shape they can be.
Yoga is far from just a physical practise. It’s an exercise of mental and spiritual proportions. Boston-based yoga instructor Vyda Bielkus describes the zen-fuelled activity as allowing us to
‘tap into the space between our thoughts.’
That space is something, like breathing, that you assume is taking care of itself. And it is. But how well do you know what’s going on in there?
In our busy personal lives and in our professional endeavours, we can be quick to assume that we’re well-oiled machines. That the way we do things requires no routine maintenance, and that if they need looking at then a big flashing arrow will point it out. Well if bettering yourself is an ever-evolving aim, it’s not always going to be that obvious.
At the most, give yoga a go.
At the least, breathe deeply.
But in the mean time, be more aware.