Here's what happened. Despite my almost 20 years of studying yoga, despite my almost 20 years of being taught that breath matters, I apparently never believed it. Yes, yes, it matters to life and to health, to endurance and digestion, but those are physical things. And I'm comfortable with physical things.
But the emotional life--the weird, squidgy, vibratory, out-of-control, weather-like flux of ups and downs, anxiety and calm, seemingly without reason, without trigger, and without relief--that falls outside my comfort zone.
But then I listened to a talk on anxiety by a favorite teacher, and he said it's the exhale that facilitated ease, quenched anxiety. Maybe I knew that, but it was the way he presented it. And then he led us through a deliberate series of breathing, all diaphragm, all exhale. Something clicked. Something shifted, and this is now my practice. Brain on fire? Exhale. Brain too tired to sleep? Exhale. Not ready to start the day? Exhale. New anxiety-provoking situation? Exhale.
Yesterday I awoke with such hope, such expectation, such presence, and absolutely no reason for it.
Nothing changed but the breath.