Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Easier Said Than Done

I have not posted in weeks. It has been years since I have gone this long without posting. But really, I did not know what to say. Back surgery recovery is going much slower than expected, and this is a blog about how yoga can help in life. But some days, that is easier said than done.

Breathing has been hard these past few weeks. Taking a deep breath actually hurts at times, and the fear that it will hurt stops me at other times. And yet breathing is exactly what calms the nerves, the very things causing the pain in the first place. And sometimes the fear just takes over, and the breath falls away.  

But there are moments when it comes back. There are moments when I talk to others I know in the legal community. In fact, over the past week, I have run into two people I know through yoga, and just their “coincidental” presence in my life has been soothing.

Healing takes time. While in some ways I am a very patient person, these past few months have shown anything but my patient side. Even when driving, or perhaps especially when driving, I find myself getting upset at the other drivers on the road and even yelling out loud at them. The daily stresses of life take over, and the calm, centered awareness of breath falls away.

Sometimes, it is simply easier said than done.

But the doing is absolutely vital. Taking that breath, and tuning in to what is underlying the stress and the anxiety is the most vital thing we can do to heal and move beyond our daily stress. It is very easy for people to say, “Just breathe.” I have been known to say it myself on occasion. But that simple statement presumes that taking a breath is going to be easy. It presumes that our stress does not feel stronger than the ability to breathe.

But sometimes the pain and the stress feel more powerful. Sometimes they take us to points we had no idea we could go. That does not mean that a breath is a bad idea. It just may mean it is the scariest thing we can do at the moment.

These past few weeks especially I have noticed how tight my belly muscles are, and not in the six-pack sort of way. Instead it is in the “I cannot take a deep belly breath” sort of way. Breathing too deeply into the lower belly, where every yoga teacher I have ever had says to focus the breath, is exactly across from the incision in my back. That is a very physical manifestation of the fear that sometimes arises when taking a deep breath. Going into the places our breath can take us can be scary. And that is why it is sometimes easier said than done to take our deepest breaths.

So what do we do in those moments? I do not know anyone that has never had them. I think the lesson I have had to learn the most is that it is actually okay to be in that space. It is okay to be afraid to take a breath sometimes.

My yoga practice both made that awareness difficult and possible. As a yoga teacher, I have this vision of myself that I should always be able to take a deep breath and relax. And as a yoga teacher, I know that it is important to accept ourselves exactly as we are in the moment. Only one of those is “right” in the sense that it comports with the truth of the universe. It is, of course, the latter of the two statements. But there is always the nagging former statement – the one where we try to live up to expectations that simply do not comport with reality.

As I sit here writing this I am actually breathing better than I have on my own in weeks. There is still hesitation as the breath moves into the back body. I would be lying if I said I am totally okay with it, but it is true that I am aware of it and learning to accept it. I am also learning to understand it.

Sometimes taking a breath is the most difficult thing we can do. But then you realize that accepting that fact is even more difficult. It is with the acceptance, however, that the breath becomes possible once again.

What do you do when the breath does not come? What arises for you when you struggle with the breath?


© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.