During my first years of practicing yoga seriously, I struggled to sit through pranayama and meditation class. Once I told my body to sit still, suddenly everything itched and ached and I had to move. In pranayama (controlling the breath or vital energy of the body), when I tried to sync with everyone holding a half-exhale, I felt as though I could die right then from suffocation. Of course, during the class one is free to move at any time or drop out of the pranayama practice and return to a normal, involuntary rhythm of breath. Despite my teacher's clear instructions to be gentle, however, I believed pushing harder was the way to move forward.
Slowly, though, I found the opposite to be true: as I made the mindful movement or took the extra breath, and did so without judgment, the practices came to me. I didn't need to chase them. The combination of pranayama and meditation helped me enjoy breathing deeply and sitting still. They've also helped me to be patient in other parts of my life – waiting out a struggle – and taught me to drop out of a situation that isn't working and isn't worth the fight. Paying attention to breathing helped me quiet my mind and let me listen to my body.
No matter whether you're paying attention to it, breathing is important if you want to live. Turns out sighing also plays an important role in keeping you alive. Read more from the Washington Post.