It is the first thing you do when you are born. It is the last thing you do when you die. It’s a good thing to get to know, as there is enormous information and wisdom for you, about you, in your own breath. We move through much of our day distracted, out of focus, pulled all over by the whirlings of our minds.
” notice me, pay attention to me, attend to me”… Our thoughts are constantly calling for our attention. This can cause a great deal of confusion, it can even impede our ability to be happy. By learning to control the breath, the yogi gains tools to help control the whirling fluctuations of the mind, and to attain inner steadiness and peace.
In yoga practice sometimes controlling the breath can be easier said than done. How many times have we caught ourselves thinking about ex-boyfriends, schedules, unanswered emails, what we ate for lunch, etc… during yoga class?
The teacher reminds us to breathe, and we catch ourselves, way off our minds. That moment of catching ourselves when we’ve wandered off, is important and powerful. We have opportunity to return our focus to the witnessing of the breath. A fundamental teaching in yoga is this: if you can witness something, you are not that thing…
… and so, if during the practice you can witness your breath, your body, and your thoughts, then you can gain the sense that: you are not, in your true essence any of these things. In this way, the practice helps us understand our True Nature as something beyond the body and the mind.
What is Yoga?
In the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali answers the question by stating:
Yogash chitta-vritti-nirodhah. (YS I:2)
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations, or whirlings of the mind.
When you stop identifying with your thoughts, the fluctuations of mind, then there is Yoga,which is identification with the true Self; samadhi, happiness, bliss and ecstasy.
In Vinyasa practice, the teacher counts and cues the breath for the student. I was once taking a yoga class and I overheard a student in a dressing room ask another student, why Vinyasa teachers do this. She sighed, ” Geez, I know how to count.” We are confident that you all can count. The cueing of the breath is far more significant and important than that. There is importance in the evenness of the inhale, and the exhale, of the amount of time a breath is held, and the duration of breaths that a posture is held in a sequence. It will take some time and patience to learn to breath correctly in yoga practice. However, with the proper teacher and technique, you will find that steadiness of your breath will eventually but inevitably bring you to the steadiness and ease of your mind.
Lesley Desaulniers is known for her energizing, soulful and inspiring classes. She has been studying yoga and meditation since 1996, taking her practice to New York, Russia, India and back. In her early twenties, Lesley was a resident at Ananda Ashram in upstate New York, where she intensively studied Sanskrit, meditation, philosophy, yoga, and chanting. She was later certified by master teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life and went on to teach at the Jivamukti Yoga Center in downtown Manhattan.
Most recently, Lesley was featured in Origin magazine’s “Leaders Who Inspire” series. She serves on the faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, teaches ‘Transformational Vinyasa Yoga’ workshops and retreats at premier yoga destinations throughout the year, and is a Lululemon Brooklyn Ambassador. Lesley has also been featured in GOOD magazine, New York Magazine (Best of NY, 2006), Origin, The NY Observer, Fit Yoga Magazine, YogaCity NYC, L magazine, among others.
Lesley continues to study, practice, and teach daily. Her classes are imbued with a rare blend of sweaty Vinyasa, scholarly study, spiritual awareness, and good humor. Lesley feels thankful for the many wonderful teachers she has encountered along the path. View her full schedule at Yoga Tree Corte Madera & Potrero here.