We do it without thinking. We do it through our nose, through our mouth, and even through our skin. We do it about 17,280 times a day, give or take, and if we didn’t do it at all, we’d be in big trouble. Breathing: it’s all that.
Yogis focus a lot on the breath. We practice breathing, teach people how to breathe (yes, you can be taught how to breathe correctly,), celebrate breathing, study breathing, we sometimes spend hours just breathing, and teachers continually ask, “Are you still breathing?” It’s more than just staying alive. It’s more than just moving oxygen in and out. Breathing is what keeps us connected to each other and to the world around us.
Think of one of your first biology lessons: why do plants and animals need each other? Humans (animals) breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. In a way, what we draw into our lungs has just been expelled from a plant. We are taking what the plant has had inside them and, for a bit, making it a part of ourselves! When we breathe, air goes into the lungs and then that same air passes into the blood which then goes into every organ in the body. It becomes part of our make up. When we breathe out, we are putting part of ourselves out into the world. Microscopic parts of us float out on the molecules of air and, guess what, the plants breathe us right into themselves and then we become the plants!
Wild, eh? It gets even better! We are connected to each other in exactly the same way. If you put 30 people in a room and get them all moving, say in a yoga class, pretty soon the room will become moist with heat and breath. Each person in that room is putting a little bit of themselves into the air each time they exhale. Each person is also drawing a little bit of each and everyone else in the room into themselves on every inhale. You cannot gather a sample of air from that room and tell who breathed it because everyone did. One person breathes in the person next to her and then she breathes out herself and the guy next to her breathes into him and then he breathes out and … you get the idea.
You can even expand this idea outside of the little room. If all of this is true (which it is,) then imagine who all has contributed to the growth of old, ancient trees, deep oceans, rain forests, mountains, and plains! We are connected to nature by our breath and nature, in turn, connects us to each other. Have you ever visited the favorite place of a deceased loved one? You feel them there with you, don’t you? It’s because they are there in the air, in the land, in the trees, in the water. Go to a forest and sit amongst the trees. Draw in a deep breath and hold it. Feel the native people enter you on your breath. They breathed amongst those trees that are breathing out upon you. Swim in sacred waters – feel the connection to all who have come before you. Visit historical places and notice how you feel a part of something that happened long ago. You are there, or maybe there is you. Great big small world, eh?
We are connected. We are one. I am you. You are me. We are we – and all we have to do is breathe.