Remember when I talked about ahimsa, my first and favorite yoga lesson, and how I’ve chosen it for my mantra this year?

Well, this week I’d like to tell you about my second yoga lesson — which, coincidentally, was my mantra last year and continues to be something I remind myself of time and time again:

“Don’t sacrifice the breath for the pose.”

For many folks — especially those who’ve never practiced yoga — yoga is about a ton of awkward, nearly (or entirely) impossible poses that — if you ever manage to halfway master — give you a nice little yoga butt.

Yoga is not about getting a nice ass.

Sure, to practice yoga you must practice yoga poses (and yes, there are some physical benefits to practicing those poses), but breathing plays an even bigger role in yoga — bigger than any downward dog could ever play.

Breathing plays such a huge role in yoga, it has its own name: pranayama.

Basically, pranayama is breath regulation using certain exercises or techniques and it’s one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Ann Pizer,’s Yoga Guide, describes pranayama as such:

Although breathing is one of our involuntary bodily functions (it happens whether you think about it or not, if you are alive) we can also control the breath to some extent. Exercises in breath control, such as breath retention and deliberate methods inhalation and exhalation for specific mental and physical benefits are called pranayama.

The problem is, sometimes we’re so focused on achieving a pose — especially particularly difficult poses — we forget to breathe or we intentionally hold our breath.

We sacrifice the breath and all its benefits just to achieve positions we think we’re supposed to achieve — and exactly as we think we’re supposed to achieve them.

Stop Sacrificing the Breath for the Pose

So, how can you stop sacrificing the breath for the pose?

Obviously, this will vary from person to person, but there are two main ideas:

  1. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. So what if your younger sister got married before you? Who cares if you don’t make as much money as your best friend? Does it really matter if your parents think they should have grandchildren by now? (If you need a reminder on how to stop comparing yourself to others, refer back to Hey! Keep Your Eyes On Your OWN Yoga Mat!)
  2. ENJOY WHERE YOU ARE NOW. Are you healthy? Do you have healthy relationships with your family and friends? Do you make time for fun activities you enjoy?

The overall theme is: Don’t spend so much time working to achieve a goal (or pose) that you forget to breathe (enjoy your life).

The breath is more important than achieving the pose.

Pranayama Resources

For more information about pranayama breathing exercises, take a look at these yoga resources:

Now, how can YOU stop sacrificing the breath for the pose?