Off the Mat Yoga

How to Use Your Yoga Breathing Off the Mat

“Breathe …. breathe ….. use your yoga breath ….. yoga breath ….. yoga breath ….. just breathe. This will get better. I promise.”

As I found myself lying face down in the middle of the ski slope unable to breathe, unable to move, a searing pain radiating through my left side, my eyes blinded by goggles full of snow, I am amazed at what my mind told me to do in the moment.

Yes, this is where my mind went after what my friends called, “the most awesome wipeout” they had seen in years. It took a very long time for the physical breath to return to normal, but as my lungs recovered, I was able to think and focus on my yoga breath. I don’t know how I would have dealt with this situation years ago. Before my yoga teachers taught me how to breathe. Before I knew I could use yoga breathing “off the mat”. Before I would use it as a reflex to pain and fear and stress.

Getting the “wind knocked out of me” on the ski slopes happened only two weeks ago. Since then, I have been regulated to  “observer status” of my preferred winter recreation. I’d much rather be out on the slopes, but this recovery period has allowed me to think about “breathing off the mat” and how often I find myself doing it. I’ve thought of it before, but I didn’t realize that it had become part of me. It is now what I do. Thank you to my yoga teachers.

While I contemplated my use of yoga breathing, I wondered what times I really do use it “off the mat”. So, for two weeks I have been observing my daily use of “the breath”. I found I use
it for:

• Relief of physical pain – found this on the mountain side
• Reduction of stress – observed this at work, while driving, in all of daily life
• Distraction of the current moment – used a breathing mantra while in the dentist’s chair
• Cure for hiccups – expansion of the diaphragm resolves the spasms
• To ease into sleep – it quieted a very busy brain
• Writing this essay – no better way to clear writer’s block

I am sure there are times I used yoga breathing that went unnoticed. But it was interesting to follow this path of self-awareness, even if it was only for a couple of weeks. Have you ever thought about all the times you use the breath? You should. It’s a fun experiment.

I just realized that, in an earlier paragraph, I made it seem like I injured myself to the point of hospitalization. This was not the case. A probable cracked rib or two, and a thumb that still doesn’t look or function quite right were the results of “the most awesome wipeout”. But, in your late 50’s that enough to slow you down and force one to rest a bit. It’s also enough to make a simple sneeze a very painful experience! And when that happens you just think “Breathe …. breathe ….. use your yoga breath ….. yoga breath ….. yoga breath ….. just breathe. This will get better. I promise”


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  1. Pála Margrét Gunnarsdóttir

    Pála Margrét Gunnarsdóttir

    March 24, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Thank you, needed to read this right now 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Ankit Khandelwal

    May 9, 2018 at 4:04 am

    Definitely very helpful. I enjoyed reading it.

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