A Yoga Teacher’s Job
By Damien Pham

static1.squarespaceA yoga teacher’s style, philosophy, and class can vary as much as the cereal isle at the grocery store. It can be difficult for students to find a teacher or class that resonates with them. Sometimes, students leave class thinking: “What was all of that?”

Despite how long you’ve been practicing yoga, how often you go to class, or what kind of class you go to, I hope you remember that:

We are here to remind you to breathe.

The Importance of Breathing

For obvious and practical reasons, breathing delivers oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. It is an essential tool that your body uses to maintain itself, heal itself, and sustain life. The average adult takes about 12-20 breaths per minute; that’s about 30,000 breaths in a day! The beautiful thing is that we don’t have to do anything: our body breathes for us, on its own, and the only thing we have to do is enjoy it, experience it, and engage it.

Breathing also has healing powers that we take for granted. For example, slow, rhythmic breathing can reduce fear, anxiety, pain, and depression. There’s a reason why we tell our family and loved ones to “take a deep breath” when they’re experiencing stress, it works!

Breathing buys time. What do I mean by that? In moments of anxiety or during panic attacks, taking deep breaths can help us stall our mind. Deep breathing allows us to slow our mind down, preventing it, and our thoughts, from spiraling out of control. Sometimes, a full breath cycle (taking a deep breath in and out) can be the remedy that literally saves us.

What does it mean to “Find Your Breath”?

When yoga teachers say, “Find your breath,” they essentially mean:

  • Can you hear and feel your inhales and exhales? What do they feel like?

  • Do you understand what your breathing pattern is trying to tell you? (For example: Your breathing becomes short and shallow when you’re stressed, long and full when you’re relaxed.)

  • Do you notice anything in your body, in your mind, as you focus on your inhalations and exhalations?

When teachers ask you to find your breath, they’re essentially asking you to bring your attention to your breathing. They want you to see if you can notice:

  • Is your current situation, circumstance, etc., affecting how you breathe? How can you tell?

  • Is your current emotions/mood affecting how you breathe? How can you tell?

  • What do you feel when you breathe? How can you tell?

Every inhale is different than the one before it. Every exhale is different than the one before that. Only you will be able to tell. Only you will be able to notice the difference.

Are you paying attention?

From the Yoga Mat to Life

Because our bodies do the breathing for us, it can be easy to disregard our breathing. Yoga class is an opportunity for us to bring our undivided attention.

When we do so, we understand ourselves better. We understand our circumstance, our situation, and our struggle better.

When we do so, we help our bodies maintain and sustain itself. We help our bodies heal itself.

You have the power to change your life. And it starts with an inhale and an exhale.
See you on the mat!