A Pause for P!
There are SO many words beginning with “P” that I love: Perfection, Paradox, Positivity, Persistence, Perseverance, Pursuit, Promise, Pardon, Premier, Please, and Possibility, to name a few right off the top of my head. My preoccupation with “P” words is probably phenomenal in its proprietary, problematic, pseudo-psychological pondering, but it works for me whenever I pause to pick to be present with parades of pregnant perusal. I ponder foods, drinks, and names beginning with P. Countries, categories, measurements, and chemicals…The list for P words is vast and scattered everywhere (unlike Q, X, and Z) which follow P’s prevalent position in the alphabet.
Perhaps, my Pause this week is for PARIS! As you read this essay, I am doing my best imitation of Mary Tyler Moore joyfully spinning around Minneapolis in her sitcom, except, I get to do my happy dancing in the awesome City of Lights. (More about Paris, after I’ve lived it!) Probably, as I purvey the political landscape I could passionately choose to prime the pump for pontification and parody; however, it is prudently pervasive in my awareness that today’s pause , the precursor to posthumous production, the ever-permeable prick of poignancy, the P word that pervades every possibility from birth to death, as I live fully into present awareness, the primary pinnacle of yoga: PRANAYAMA, my most beloved “P” word, is the subject of this week’s pause.
Pranayama is simply defined as the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. In Sanskrit, prana means life force or the breath that sustains life, and ayama means to draw out or extend and (paradoxically) restrain. Pranayama as prana+ayama= breath extension/control, awareness of the breath as a powerful agent of transformation. In the yogic tradition, the breath is believed to carry a person’s life force. The study of pranayama provides me a methodology for tapping into my life force, to grow awareness of who I am, and to discover what possibilities I can create for my life: what a “big picture” life is, and how I can bring my centered vision of wholeness to a primary oneness with congruence, a type of healing unity inclusive of all positively created experience. For me, the practice of pranayama is the most important piece of my physical yoga practice. Some yogis I respect support my vote for the priority of this limb in/of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Learning to control my breath to coordinate with intentional thought and movement supports opportunity to open portals for physical healing, emotional release, and spiritual accessibility. Bringing me present into the here and now, pranayama empowers the clearing of my mind’s clutter, preparing me to be available for the gifts of purely being. Pranayama blesses my yoga, my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual encounters with all of life’s flow.
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light”. As a student of good, love, and possibility (a.k.a. GOD) and as a lover of yoga, my reinterpretation of this scripture is “My yoga is easy, and it will ease the burdens you carry when you choose to follow my example.” Breath. Intention. Vision. Conscious practice. Choosing to be responsible, contributing to/for the greater good, committing to bring the best I am for the highest expression of/for good, love, and possibility, authentically proffering the blessings I am gifted for the positive transformation of experience and for the experiences I share with others. Breath provides the fuel for life. Inhale. Exhale. The Pause between the inhale and exhale. Subtle, practical power and purpose. A way to proclaim gratitude for the grace, blessing, and wonder of life’s mysteries, beauty, and synchronicity. Breath is a prerequisite for movement, for walking our walks and talking our talks; singing our songs and running our races; being present in our physical bodies and maneuvering our mental machinations, emotion’s mountains and valleys; a constant for growth and opportunity; a way to be one with spirit whenever we feel called.
My beloved yoga studio in Indiana (Blooming Life Yoga) has a wonderful pranayama class led by one of my favorite yogis, a great teacher and person. Mike Marcus leads our yoga practice with presence, resonance, heart, and humility. His primary focus is breath, and when he teaches a pranayama practice or any flow class, I learn so much, feeling so grateful for every moment I breathe—on my mat and in my world. Thank you, Mike.
Pranayama is a forever learning experience. It is a challenge to fully embrace ins, outs, and in-betweens of intentional breathing. Sometimes breath is easy, and sometimes it is forced and labored. Learning how to breathe on and off the mat is a commitment to choose conscious opportunity to support union in the body as a way to congruently live my yoga on and off the mat. Pranayama is a lifelong learning, blessing me with the tools for loving the absolute wonder, mystery, and miraculous possibility of life in a body in the here and now.