One of my favorite things Frani says when she teaches is, "Breathe well." My interpretation of those two words is to breathe. Simple, remember to breathe-- through the easy postures, through the hard ones, through the stillness, through life. It's such good advice. We grow up hearing, "Eat well", "Sleep well", but "Breathe well" is one that we rarely hear. Breathing well in yoga can make or break your practice. Good breathing promotes a state of calm, as well as an efficient, energized practice.
I recently bought a new car. It's a hybrid, my first one. On my dashboard is a little monitor that tells me how many miles to the gallon I am getting as well as what my average mileage per gallon is. Having a hybrid has made me keenly aware of how I am driving. Pre-hybrid, I was a spaz. I paid zero attention to my speed or how my driving patterns affected my frequency at the gas pump. Now I "drive well." When I'm going an even 63 miles per hour on the freeway, getting 42 miles to the gallon, I think to myself, "why couldn't I do this when I had my non-hybrid car?" I knew then that going at a more regulated speed would offer better fuel economy, but I wasn't alerted visually the impact, so I just ignored it.
In yoga, when Frani says, "breathe well", it's usually a reminder for me, not a direction that changes what I'm doing already. I've been practicing long enough to have a habit of breathing well, but her gentle prompt helps me tap into the importance of good breathing. When I'm driving in my responsible new hybrid car, having big brother remind me how my heavy foot affects my mileage bottom line, I drive better.
Habits can be good and bad. Good habits are harder to form. Why?! I think because they are less fun, less indulgent. It's more fun to speed and whip in and out of the lanes to get to your destination quickly. It's more fun to eat bacon on your salad than just have salad. And once we start on these bad habits, they stick. Breaking the bad habits to create good ones in their place takes commitment and discipline. Having support-- gentle, loving reminders, makes changing these habits from bad to good more palatable.
When my little hybrid monitor shows 99.9 miles to the gallon as I cruise down the hill to my house, I feel like I'm getting an A+ in driving. And I want to have a 4.0 average. I really really do, so I am going to keep driving like that. Eventually it will be my good habit just like breathing well in yoga.