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  • Writer's picturekristen lessig schenerlein

A Collective EXHALE

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

~ Thich Nhat Hang, Stepping into Freedom

I recently resumed taking yoga classes in the studio. I realized I had not stepped into a studio since I started teaching and decided that this summer was a good time for me to step back and become a student again, to challenge myself with some new postures, to reset, and refresh and fill up MY cup again.

My first class back was emotional. Not only due to my hiatus from teaching but because after nearly 17 months of wearing masks, quarantining, wiping down my groceries in the garage ( yes, remember that, OMG!), hand sanitizer craziness, COVID tests, cautious social gatherings, ZOOM meetings, and simply avoiding spaces like a yoga studios which housed "strangers", I felt like I had returned home.

The teacher led us through Savasana to close out our class. This pose is a practice of gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time. She led us through deep breathing to help soften our bodies and to relax our parasympathetic nervous system after our powerful SWEAT class. She described the process of breathing in deeply through the nose, imagining that you are sipping through a straw and inhaling all the way up to the top, where you can feel your lungs and chest expand. This is where you hold it for just a moment, like taking that last sip of a delicious milkshake...and then RELEASE in SLOWLY like you are blowing out birthday cake candles....A LOT of candles...releasing all the air out as your chest and belly collapse, like there is no air left inside you.

The energy in the room was pulsating, it was if I could read everyone's minds as she, like I often do when leading a class, reminded us to LET GO of anything else that was not servicing us anymore. All that came to my mind was how much we ALL likely needed to let go of and that what we were doing there in that studio that day was one COLLECTIVE EXHALE. An exhale that we all so desperately have needed through this pandemic. It was as if we were all holding our breathes for 17 months. We were connected. We had all experienced this together. Though our lives have been impacted in different ways, it was a great reminder of how interconnected we all are and how our struggles mirror those of our neighbor on the mat next to us.

It is for this reason that reason that I encourage us all to BREATHE. It is the one conscious thing that we can do every day to help slow us all down and elicits an automatic PAUSE before we respond or take action to whatever challenge is being presented to us ( even if it is a second wave of positive COVID cases). This allows us to show up more in the present moment, perhaps even affords us the opportunity to consider what others are experiencing. What is their perspective? Where are they challenges? THIS IS the human experience and we are all in this together... Let's remember that!

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