Conscious Breathing

Your breath reflects the way you feel. Take a moment here. Close your eyes and just notice your breath. Is it quick and shallow? Is it forceful? Is it characterized by long inhalations and exhalations? Don’t try to change anything, simply notice. “Self-Observation Without Judgement”, as Swami Kripalu teaches.

In the practice of yoga, we focus our attention on our breath as we move through the various postures. As we hold more difficult postures, we put even more emphasis on the breath to help us keep the postures longer. Breathing consciously can be calming and relaxing. Bringing full awareness to the breath, is also a form of meditation.

Your breath can tell you much about yourself and how you are feeling. For example, I know that when I am going through a set of strenuous moves while rock climbing, I get out of breath. The result being that as I come out of a crux (the most difficult portion of a climb) I have difficulty breathing. This is because I simply don’t breathe when I make those moves!

How is this relevant to anything? Well, for climbing or any other strenuous activity, it is very important. The body’s priority is to provide oxygen to the brain first. This means that if the body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs because you are retaining your breath, it automatically starts channeling what it has left to feed the brain leaving the muscles and the rest of the body without oxygen, making it more strenuous to move and eventually leading to hyperventilate or to faint.

And so, in daily life situations, when we get angry or nervous, if our breath becomes fast and out of control or if we restrict its flow, we quickly become physically ill. This being said, becoming more conscious of our breathing can affect positive changes in our lives. So take a deep breath, notice your posture, your heartbeat, relax and let go.

Namaste.

Climbing and Buddhism?!

Recently, while on a climbing trip to the Shawangunk’s Ridge region, near New Paltz, NY (USA), I purchased yet another guide-book entitled: “Bouldering in the Shawangunks” by Ivan A. Greene and Marc E. Russo. I am bringing this up because I’ve had many conversations with other rock climbers about why it is they climb. For most people, climbing is more than a sport, it’s a way of life some would say. In fact, it is as much a way to release and regain energy, as it is about being in communion with nature. Better yet, I have not met a climber unhappy to be climbing ;)

For my part, climbing has always been a sort of active meditation. Whether I am listening to music while endurance climbing on our wall at home or whether I am climbing outside, the only thing I am doing at that moment is climbing. All my attention, all my focus has to go into what I am doing at this present moment or else… well, or else it just doesn’t work! Climbing for me is as much a way to enjoy the scenery as it is to relax and forget about whatever went on that day.

In a conversation with my partner, he read me an excerpt from Greene and Russo’s guide, which he found, describes very well how he feels about climbing:

“To fail on a route feels the same for everyone. […] Everyone has a threshold that, when reached, stops them. The discipline of climbing is about finding that threshold, and moving through it to a new, unknown level. […] Pushing through your normal failure boils down to a willingness to preserve through pain, fatigue, panic, indecision, frustration, and fear of the unknown.

One of the illustrious Buddha’s Four Noble Truths says, ‘All suffering originates in our desires.’ […] The desire to climb harder is not about bigger numbers, it is about exploring your personal limitations, understanding them, and moving past them. […] In pushing up to and beyond your own threshold, you begin too see who you are: your strengths, your instincts, your creativity, and your willingness to persevere.

Desire may lead to suffering, but it is in suffering that one can learn the most about oneself. And when you actually do your project, you may just notice that the key to success was, in fact, to be in the moment, free of desire.” (written by Mike Call)

Climbers find bits of happiness in climbing. However, anyone seeking to find who they really are will also come to face their own strengths and weaknesses and only through one’s willingness to persevere will they lead a happier life. So don’t give up, move past the hard part (crux) and continue trying and striving towards your goals because you may find that you’ll meet some really nice people along the way.

Patience

Patience is something I wish to explore and further integrate into my life. The fact is, I’ve never been a very patient person. In sports, I expect to perform quickly, at work I like to get things done, and in life I sometimes have a hard time hearing people out and taking the time to really understand them.

Earlier today, I was listening to a video by rock climbing legend Lynn Hill about patience. As a rock climber I could relate to a lot of the frustration and anxiousness she was depicting. At the same time, I think there are a lot of similarities with what she was describing and with life in general.

We make a lot of mistakes because we do not take the time to acknowledge where we are physically but also mentally. We sometimes hold on to life the wrong way, forcing ourselves to move through a certain set of obstacles instead of taking a step back and figuring out what the best way to approach them will be. Some will say that we are eager and this is great if eager means enthusiastic but not if it means impatient.

Scoping out the next move, shifting your weight, balancing your body and finding your inner stability applies as much to rock climbing as it does to life. Impatience is a form of control and it can be very deceiving when it is combined with expectations.

Practicing yoga continues to help me find this balance in rock climbing and in life. I use Pranayamas (breathing techniques), which I have learned through yoga, when I climb but also in life whenever I need to regain focus. Lynn Hill talks about tunnel vision and I think she’s right; we get to a point in our lives where we become so focused on our problems that they end up taking the whole space. This applies as much to stressing out in the hard part of a climb (crux) as it does to the challenges we are faced with in our daily lives. Take a step back. Breathe.

In order to move towards a happier life we need to practice patience over and over again, as difficult and sometimes as impossible as it may seem at the moment. And so, when we stop reacting to life and start responding to it with a patient and loving approach instead, we shift our perspective from an arduous task to a simple step part of something much greater. Achieving patience and letting go of control is not easy, but it makes me a lot happier  ;)  Good Night.

Link to Lynn Hill’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxRpeFQmyQ4

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