Waiting to Inhale

I love my yoga. The local Unity church has yoga sessions a couple of times a week. I especially like the evening one because I come home ready to curl up in bed and so that’s basically what happens. I say I love it but if anyone even told me they’d pay me to stretch, bend, twist, fold and otherwise origami my body, I’d have to pass. But I do leave the mat feeling like a million bucks and you can’t just do that anywhere.

I don’t know much about yoga really, but I have caught on that breathing is a key thing. We begin with breath awareness. I don’t know about you but I don’t actually often think about breathing, preferring to let it do its own thing unless I’m blowing up a balloon or blowing birthday candles, at which time you really start to notice the inverse relationship of the scope of that job compared your aging respiratory capacity. In yoga, though, we are taught to be aware on a critical level about this thing we mindlessly do going on 20,000 times or more each and every day. Exhale doing this, inhale doing this other. Match the rhythm.

Breathing is a fairly complex set of operations, not all of which are completely understood. The chest muscles contract and release in a symphony of air exchange. The diaphragm pulls down and reduces the pressure in the lungs which lets air tumble down the bronchial passage, into the lungs, and expanding out into the tiny alveoli where, as luck would have it, equally tiny capillaries come coursing by with loads of methanol, ethanol, acetone, water and other stuff which depart the vein train and vaporize into the lungs for the final leg of the their trip out of the body. Muscles then contract, essentially wringing the lungs of air. Repeat as necessary.

Last night, Debra, the yoga leader, had us pay special attention to that pause when the exhalation is complete and the whole system goes to all-reverse to inhalation. In that pause when all that bad stuff has left the building, the pressure inside is too high for air to return. The passing blood goes by without so much as a wave, no passengers can be discharged, no oxygen to be loaded for the trip back around the body. There is only the pause and faith that the next inhale will occur. Here there is nothing to do.

I’m sort of at that pause in my life right now. I’ve gone along hardly thinking about how it goes, but right now I can see I’m at that moment.  Some people, situations, and lots of things have been whisked away like a tornado picking up houses and cows in Kansas, as increasing pressure of circumstances and events squeezes them out. I’ll miss those folks and things who are now gone from my life, but I have to guess they were only good for me until they weren’t.  Now it is only their absence that makes the next filling possible. If those things hadn’t whooshed away, it’s an absolute fact there could be no more good air. I’m sure it’s been that way all along. I simply hadn’t often noticed.

Now I’m at that apogee between exhale and the hoped-for inhale. Empty. Expectant. Waiting to inhale.

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