Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yoga and Work... The importance of Clean Breath

I am sadly blogging from work today-GASP. I know, I feel this weird twinge of excitement for being sort of a rebel! Ok, not really since I'm presenting a language workshop tonight for a group of parents, so a supper break is in order :)

As a rule I try to keep my work and personal life VERY separate, refusing to bring work home with me and NEVER looking at my agenda pre-office time (which has resulted in a few mishaps, but the clear delineation is worth it!). Also, there's this issue with privacy and blogging... but then if you really wanted to stalk me I'm sure you could figure it out.

One area that my work has moments of 'weaseling' into is yoga. As a paediatric Speech-Language Pathologist I spend most of my waking hours thinking about how we communicate as human beings. A huge portion of my education was on the respiratory system and how that affects communication. I also had the priviledge of working with children with special needs. Children who have difficulty self-regulating their energy levels and who can quickly spiral up up up when I let my voice and excitement get to be a little too much and while keeping a calm, even and soft tone of voice helps calm them. These children are always wonderful reminders of how our voice and the way we communicate can have huge implications for those listening.

Pranayama (or the importance of our breath) is an integral part of yoga, despite often being left to the wayside. As a new student I easily missed the point of breathing, obviously the most important part of yoga are the asanas (postures). Of course I will breathe. It wasn't until I began to practice Ujjayi breath in earnest that my asanas deepened. My control and focus lengthened. My ability to quiet my mind improved. It wasn't until a few years later that I was reminded of what my practice could be like if my breath work was neglected or blocked. While practicing during a hot yoga class my mindful Ujjayi breath was prevented by the intense heat of the room. For the first time in years my practice felt awkward and disjointed. I was breathing, but I was being forced to breathe, instead of practicing a mindful pranayama that helped quiet my mind. So although yes, the heat encouraged basic breathing, it was too hot to practice an internally heating type of breath like Ujjayi.

Everything Yoga's post about breath along with Grounding thru the sit bones' post about the effectiveness of practice reminded me of the fundamentals of how we interact and influence one another.

Research shows that conversations do not consist of two separate entities putting forth thoughts and ideas. What we say and how we say it not only psychologically affects the other, but physiologically affects our conversation partner. It has been shown that two people having a conversation will match their breathing rate to each other. What this means is that if one person changes their breathing rate, the others' rate will change to match. Have you ever noticed that while talking to a 'fast' talker, someone out of breath or someone who stutters that you might also feel out of breath, tense or anxious? It's your body's respiratory system responding and not 'feeling' comfortable.

This communicative physiological influence truly brings home the importance of mindful interactions. We can extend this reasoning to practicing 'loving kindness' towards another, to sending positive light, love and thoughts to others. To recognize that on an unconscious level our bodies and minds are responding to visual, auditory and physiological input from those around us. Taking a pause to consider how you can use this to encourage calm, positive interactions with those around you.

Breathing is our body's most fundamental reflex. We are made to breathe, from having airways that are scrupulously protected against choking or foreign substances, to incredibly complex respiratory systems to failsafes like fainting so our body can take over and renew our breath.

This of course, underlines the importance of having clean air to breathe. (smog in Montreal- where I used to live. I actually thought it was 'fog' the first few times I saw it... THAT got a few laughs)

Rereading this post I can see that I'm in 'work' mode, my writing is so much more official!! lol. No worries though Eco-warriors, I will be back to my normal silly self for the next post :)



  1. Nice post!

    Interestingly, I learned this simple equation at a work training session, but I've also heard it phrased differently in dharma talks:


    The Event plus our Reaction will equal the outcome. If we allow our breath/emotions to get away from us, then the outcome is usually not so good. But if we control our breath/emotions, then we can control our outcome.

    Just facinating!

  2. Very interesting post. In the heat of things, work, parenting, I sometimes lose my ability to reflect upon how the subtle nuances of real and conscious breath can influence others and the situation as a whole.

  3. Kristin:
    That is a wonderful and accurate equation! So true :)

    Jenny: Oh so true! I have no idea how parents do it really. I only handle these situations per child for about 45 minutes.... so easier said that done for sure :)

  4. I am so happy that I get to pass some fun your way!!! I have left you a little something at

    Peace, Love and Blessings!


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