Waiting to Exhale
Just breathe, or the things that make you go “ah”
“Don’t touch the monks,” cautions Jerry, the name our Thai tour guide prefers to be called. He’s tugging at my sleeve, pulling me flush against the walls of Wat Phra Kaeo, the ornate temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand. As the monks, dressed in saffron and crimson robes, file past in pairs, Jerry’s gentle tug turns tougher. He’s reining me in, sensing my overwhelming temptation to reach out and touch, which in Thailand, is a serious transgression, second only to speaking ill of the Thai royal family.
Inside the temple, the monks kneel on a raised platform, legs tucked beneath them, the soles of their bare feet pointing away from the altar. As I fold my legs under me and to the side, I’m suddenly and acutely aware of just how sore I am from too many kickboxing classes. (Must ease up on kickboxing and take up something new…) The afternoon chanting begins. At first, my hyperactive brain won’t settle down — the sights and sounds are too stimulating — but as the temple fills with devotees, the chanting swells until the sounds, rhythmic and relaxing, engulf me. My breathing slows, my mind stops rattling. Have I actually entered that elusive state known as inner peace?
When the monks rise, I glance at my watch. Thirty minutes minus brain cacophony. Bliss. Or, more appropriate for the location, nirvana.
That was a few years back. I’m still working on the breathing thing. Notice the present participle form of the verb. Working on, as in, you have to keep trying. Which is how I got to Pilates — actually, it was a birthday gift certificate from a very good friend, who’s now an even better friend, that got me hooked on the Reformer and reformed my breathing style. Despite my initial eye rolling, my Pilates teacher Annette Fletcher sweetly persisted cajoling me into connecting body and breathing. She taught me how to breathe into my spine and stomach and pelvis. (Go ahead, roll your eyes. It works.) Try the baby breathing steps below. And check out Annette here:
Don’t wait to exhale: the art of breathing
Lie on your back in a quiet room. Place your hands on your abdomen, and slowly and deliberately breathe in through your nostrils. If your hands are rising and your abdomen is expanding, then you’re breathing correctly. If your hands do not rise but your chest is rising, you are breathing incorrectly. Inhale for a count of five, pause for three seconds and exhale for a count of five. Start with 10 repetitions and increase to 25 daily.