“Breathe like you love yourself.”
I have been hearing my yoga teacher, Adriene, say this for more than a year now.
And because I do Yoga with Adriene nearly every day, this means I’ve been hearing her say it nearly daily for over a year now.
I will confess, at first when she would say this, I didn’t even really hear her. It felt like one of those non-statements – sayings that sound like they are wise but actually don’t say anything.
It’s not like I really have a Plan B if the whole breathing thing doesn’t work out.
Then, as the yoga days passed and I segued from one course to another and then another, slowly I started to notice that I don’t actually always breathe. Sometimes I hold my breath. Sometimes, especially if the yoga pose is really hard or scary (for me at least if not for everyone), I just stop breathing for a moment or two.
Then my body notices the breathing has stopped, nudges me, and we resume.
So I started paying more attention to the times when Adriene would prompt me to make sure I was breathing. Often, sure enough, I wasn’t breathing and needed to get back at it again.
But still, when she would say “breathe like you love yourself,” there was a disconnect. It was like everything after the word “breathe” just dropped into a little dark hole somewhere – like I became temporarily deaf just until she finished saying that part.
Then one day a friend and I were talking about some of the many blessings Adriene’s yoga classes have brought into our lives. And she mentioned how, in the class she had just finished, Adriene had added a few more helpful instructions.
Specifically, after saying “breathe like you love yourself,” Adriene had added, “even if you don’t feel like you love yourself.”
Somehow, that did it. It clicked. I stopped being temporarily deaf and actually heard what Adriene had been saying like it was the first time.
In that moment, I realized there are lots of different kinds of breaths and lots of different ways of breathing.
We already know there is “holding your breath.” I am really good at that kind.
There is “shallow breathing.” I’m good at that one too.
“Erratic breathing” – like the kind I do when an easy yoga pose is followed by a hard pose and then an easy pose again – is also a staple in my personal repertoire.
“Slow deep breathing” is the kind of breathing I usually only do when a) I am actively attempting to calm down FAST, b) it is time to meditate, c) I am asleep, d) Adriene specifically asks us to do it AND guides us through it.
And then there is “hyperventilating” – I’ve definitely become familiar with that one in moments of extreme stress or trauma.
But “breathe like you love yourself?” No comprende. I have no idea how to do that kind of breathing.
Or I didn’t have any idea. Since realizing this, I have started trying to teach myself how to do it.
I’ve started by reminding myself that breathing is inherently self-loving since it indicates a very basic desire for my life to continue. So I must have some hope, some faith, some dreams, some motivation that keeps stringing those in-breaths and out-breaths together.
I have also noticed that breathing shallowly is like making myself sip coffee through a really thin straw when I have a caffeine headache. It is not nice! My body gets so irked and so does my oxygen-deprived brain.
So taking more reasonable quantities of oxygen in and out at more regular intervals feels a lot more self-loving than the other kinds of breathing. It doesn’t have to be slooowwww deeeppppp breathssssss….especially if I am behind the wheel. But breathing in and breathing out shouldn’t feel like holding my breath underwater.
And I have also discovered that when I do take the time and pay attention to my breathing and adjust things as needed to make sure each of my little oxygen-addicted cells (all 7.2 trillion of them) are getting all the oxygen they could ever want or need, I get a little love back from each of them in return.
With each in-breath, each little cell spontaneously smiles at the fresh hit. With each out-breath, they send back a little thank-you note all dotted with cute little hand-drawn hearts.
It is adorable.
So finally, at last, I am beginning to grasp why Adriene keeps saying “breathe like you love yourself.” There is a difference. Truly, there is.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever spent some time just noticing how you breathe? Are there ways you breathe that feel more self-loving or caring than other ways? When you hear “breathe like you love yourself,” what comes up for you?