Some of us are born into this embodied world with very specific physical challenges to work with in this lifetime. I have spent my life living and managing severe asthma. Most of my childhood I was angry and sad about being a prisoner of lungs that dont work the way I want them to and often fail me when I wish they would not. In my adult life, I have chosen to heal my relationship with my lungs, slowly, with many tears, compassion and a willing heart and mind. As a spiritual path I have choosen my lungs and body mind connection as the teacher both physically, emotionally and spiritually. When you are brought to your knees by lack of breath, there is nowhere else to be other than in that moment, nothing else matters if you cannot draw breath.
As an asthmatic, we can choose panic or calm in a crisis, even at the height of the tension and the incredibly painful and shallow draw of the inhale, we can choose to stay with the single focus of the draw of breath and the next and the next .
As a Yogi, I have learned through my practice how to get still enough to follow my breath and to pause and recognize when breath controls me.
I choose to believe that I am not a victim of asthma or that it defines who I am, but truthfully, over these years I have needed to be friend the asthma patterns, to observe when I put my self at risk with my environment and stress levels and when I let my self care slip. To follow my breath as the teacher is to learn a sense of mastery within the relam of breath control as preparation for when the waves of asthma crisis roll in.
This way of living fully in our bodies can inform both an awreness and compassion for what is, without judgement, aswell as inspire a path for creating a life that supports well being and non attatchment. Living with chronic illness allows us to create a life path full of inquiry, finding the ways in which our bodies and breath support us. By acknowledging our limitations and edges we honoring what is in the moment, BUT, here is the real gem, to not be bound or tied up by our limitations. We can still find ways to expand our potential even in the height of pain and crisis.
How I have used my yoga practice and it’s ancient prinicipals as a coping method for times of crisis.
Firstly, I get quiet enough to assess the “satya” the truth of the situation, I have had many asthma attacks while attending social events, and most of the time my ego really wants to stay while my lungs are giving me the red flag that I am being triggered by something and I should remove myself . I am learning, as it is a process to trust the “satya” the truth of my personal situation.
As my breathing increases in difficulty I have learned to draw my focus inward which is the practice of “pratyahara” retracting my awarness and energy away from outward things and towards the cultivation of smooth and equal breathing.
Learning how to cultivate “pratyahara” the act and art of directing our focus inward rather than out tunes out sensory noise and stimualtions, which allows me to gather more energy for the act of breathing. ( This has proven to be difficult in social situations and is a continual practice for me.)
The practice of” Dharana” invites us to choose a focus in which to direct our energy, when in crisis I can choose to direct my energy and awareness to the focal point of calm , quiet, stillness, I choose to envision and create a single stream of long deep breath…. Stillness and quiet is essential for asthmatics.
As I am able to regain the control of my breath and the tight grip of the asthma squeeze loosens, my physical body begins to relax a little more and I am able to shift into the practice of “pranayama” the regulation of prana, which is essentially our breath, our life force. When I am able to actually expand into breath instead of just needing it, I can create patterns of breathing that help to stabilize and encourage depth and control.
After the crisis of an asthma attack, for me, there is a alot of residual “stuff” pain, fatique, self doubt, dissappointment and often sadness. I have been working on a method to manage these residual effects.
Firstly. I tell myself . “I love you” exactly as you are. which often opens me up for a good cry and the release of stored grief in my lungs. I also begin to search for my lack of awareness within the situation the asthma attack occurred. “Avidya”( lack of awreness) did I put myself in a siutation that is volitile for asthma? dogs, cats, personal triggers? It is important to know that this is to be done without shame or blame, this is bringing the light of awarness to the dark. through compassion.
Which opens us in to “Duhkha” suffering as oppurtunity. Suffering offers insight into deeply held patterns and conditioning. If I learn from the mistakes I make then I can avoid future suffering. By recocnizing the “avidya” the lack of awarness ( in the form of personal asthma triggers) I can strive to make better conscious choices with a discering heart-mind.
The art of change. “Parinama”
Through my personal and intimate process of excavating my asthma crisis I am open to create the “parinama” change required for growth. Real, lasting change begins with discomfort and ends with joy and respect for oneself. I can replace obstructions to my progress with energy that supports and encourages a postive direction.
I open to” Santosa”contentment and gratitude for the gift of yoga and for all the ways my lungs support my existence.
“Asana” This is the part of my practice that allows me to fully process my experiences through my body. I allow myself to land on the yoga mat and listen for the ways in which my body wants to move. I let my heart and lungs open to the freedom of consistent and easy breath. Quite often I weep…. out of relief and gratitude for my practice of yoga, and for the chance to create a new way of being.
This for me is living yoga.
I am reminded that there are many aspects of our life that do not change, the oppurtunity for us, is to change the way we respond, to dedicate a practice of simply finding a way to be kind and strong in the discomfort. To search for all things that do work and bring us joy, and to never give up on our own process.
Draw in Sacred breath…. exhale fully.
With love to you. May you always have the courage to speak your hearts truth.