Remembering To Breathe

I've been trying to get to a yoga class for weeks now, and today I finally set up a session. I wanted to get the full experience, learning all the little details about breath and basic poses, so I signed up for a quick tutorial. If I had known how crazy my week would be when I set it up, I would have postponed it...so I suppose that it's for the best that I didn't know at the time. I dragged myself out of bed this morning, cursing myself for deciding to do this. I was so exhausted that I was tempted to cancel, but alas, I am not the type to stand people up, even when it's in my own best interest. So I tossed my tangled hair into a quick pony, threw on a T-shirt and yoga pants, and headed out the door.

As I drove toward the studio, all I could think about was getting out in time to make my 10:00 am appointment with my first client of the day. The more I thought about it, the more agitated I became. I knew that I wouldn't make a good impression on the instructor if the first words out of my mouth were about leaving. So, I held my tongue at first and tried to focus on what I was being taught.

As I got into the pattern of breathing that the instructor was explaining, I started to feel strange. Not dizzy, exactly...just a little out of it. It's difficult to explain, but I could feel something shifting inside of me, and it was disconcerting. I continued to breathe, trying to ignore this sensation, and suddenly my eyes start to prickle as the overwhelming urge to cry just came bubbling up. I am not a crier...even at funerals, I struggle to hold it in. I can't remember the last time I've cried, period...and crying in front of a stranger? Never! I couldn't understand what the hell was going on, and I swallowed grimly and fought back the tears.

After the session was over, I told the instructor that I felt strange, omitting the part about wanting to start bawling like a sad little kid. He explained that yoga shifts people into totally different modes, and that often we feel strong sensations of release when we shift from our sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system.

In my practice, I see this all the time-people crying for no apparent reason once the needles are in. I think nothing of it, keeping a box of tissues nearby just for this purpose. I explain to my patients, as my yoga instructor explained to me, that this feeling of release is normal and natural. Until today, though, I never really got it.

I preach the necessity of balance in life to my patients, every day. And yet, somehow I have lost this in my own life. After I took a moment to simply slow down and breathe, it became glaringly obvious to me just how high-strung and stressed-out I've become since my practice has taken off. I didn't realize what a high gear I am operating in all the time, from the moment I wake until I go to sleep. It only took a few minutes of allowing myself to slip back into a state of homeostasis to make this apparent.

I spend my life balancing out others, and even I, someone who should know better, have allowed myself to fall victim to this cycle of running, running, running, all day long...never taking a moment to breathe...never allowing myself the option of saying "no" to give myself a rest. This week, my focus is going to be on balancing things out in my own life. I'm going to slow down, to breathe, to give as much time, respect, and courtesy to myself as I give to others. And I invite all of you who are reading this to do the same. Remember this: it's impossible to pour from an empty vessel.