Breath is Key

After two days of propping up my sorry self in bed in order to sleep, it never fails to amaze me how much we take our breath for granted until, well, we can’t breathe.

Ok, here’s another cool etymology lesson!

In Latin, the word anima has several meanings.  It can mean air or breeze.  It means breath.  It also means soul, spirit, life. From anima, we have in English the word “animate”, which means to breath life into, to encourage, to give vigor.  In Spanish,  the verb “animar” means to enliven, to cheer up, to brighten up, to encourage, and my favorite, to inspire.

I looked up the word inspire and here’s what the online Miriam-Webster dictionary said: 

1 a : to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration b : to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on inspired by the Romanticists> c : to spur on : impel, motivate d : affect inspired him with nostalgia>
2 a archaic : to breathe or blow into or upon b archaic : to infuse (as life) by breathing
3 a : to communicate to an agent supernaturally b : to draw forth or bring out inspired by a visit to the cathedral>
4 : inhale 1
5 a : bring about, occasion inspired by his travels in the Far East> b : incite
6 : to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of anotherintransitive verb : inhale

Isn’t it amazing that so many of the modern languages ties the breath to life to our soul to the divine in one word?  The ancients understood this connection and when language developed, one word was used to define what today may seem like disparate things.  Sure, we all accept that if we stop breathing, we die.  But do we all accept that our breath is our connection to the truest part of ourselves and to that which surrounds all of us, the divine?  Not necessarily.

I was amazed once when I stumbled upon a story of a few yoginis take 8 classes in one day.  They took it Global Yoga studio in San Francisco, owned by senior bikram instructor Mary Jarvis.  I was struck by her passionate opinion about the importance of breath (and the equal importance of not drinking water during class).  She writes:

They do not drink water ever in class. It is a demonstration of the fact that in yoga…the most important thing you need in our yoga is our BODY,our MIND,and our infinite stream of SOUL. And the BRIDGE to this is the BREATH…

Apparently, she learned this from Bikram himself.

I’ve noticed in this first winter of practicing, I have decreased my intake of water.  I still can’t help myself from taking a sip at party time.  My throat gets so dry or sometimes, I get the worst bile-taste in my mouth after eagle, that I desperately want a sip.  I think at some point during this challenge, I would love to take one class without every having to drink.  I’m just curious how that would feel like.

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4 responses to “Breath is Key

  1. If you want to do a no water class, I'd suggest breaking the class up into sections (I'm sure you know them by now). Delimit by the natural water breaks that bikram normally offers up, party time, end of standing, end of cobra series. Try not to have a drink at party time and wait until the end of standing. Maybe try that for a couple of classes. Then you can start thinking about all the hard cardio work as done already, do you really need a sip now, how about waiting until fixed firm. And you've guessed it at fixed firm you're on the home straight just a couple of stretching postures left no big muscle work, just leave it. 🙂

  2. Johan…very interesting your suggestion about waiting until the end of standing and then doing away with it all together. I shall definitely give it a try and let you know how it goes!

  3. Try this in a few weeks, when you're NOT still getting over being sick!!If you just leave your water bottle outside, it's really not hard at all. 🙂 Especially if it's a nice humid room. At Mary's studio, I didn't miss having water at all, because it was nice and warm and "juicy." When I practice in a room that's really hot and dry, THEN I want my water just cause my mouth gets so fricking dry, and I don't see the point in putting up with that.But "weaning" yourself off is a good way, too. Start by getting rid of party time!

  4. Thanks J! Believe me, I wasn't even thinking about trying this until after I kick this cold to the curb. I will definitely try to wean myself off at party time. And yes, totally agree with you that if it's a dry class then it has a tendency to make the throat dry and vice versa.

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