I have been practicing yoga for about 15 years now. I was first introduced to yoga 20 years ago by my then sister-in-law. I remember feeling annoyed at the repetitive instruction of breathing, thinking “How redundant…just tell me how to do a pose. I know how to breathe.” I went on to other instructors who also kept telling me to breathe and my agitation continued.
It wasn’t until years into my practice that I understood the magic of breath. This was helped along by beginning a meditation practice where I once again was told to focus on my breath. “Again with the breathing.” I thought. Even though I had been teaching breath techniques to my voice clients for years under the lens of physiology, it was my own work with breath that led me to understand its gift.
You see we breathe in the absence of thought. Some say “we are breathed.” Breath just happens. When I am focusing on my breath there is no need for thought because breathing does not require thinking. I was resisting this for many years because my thinking mind did not know what to do if it was not, well… thinking. It suffered a mini demise every time I observed my breath. And so my mind argued and complained to keep its puffed-up feeling of importance and in doing so it kept me from discovering my true nature …that of profound peace.
For years my clients had reported to me how working with their breath was helping them in all areas of their life, not just improving the sound of their voice. It was through my own practices that I discovered how mindful breathing improved my focus, endurance, and reduced anxiety. But the ultimate gift is the quieting of my mind out of which a distinctly different inner voice arises. An inspired voice that brings forth a wisdom that can only be born out of silence. My true voice.
Ironically, it is when I am in this state I often have little or no desire to speak but if speech arises it is very different from my daily small talk. It is compassionate yet direct and spoken with an assurance that is absent the anxiousness that comes from thought. It is the result of me reconnecting to my true self and it starts with my breath.
I have moved several times during the last decade and in each new location I set out to find a new yoga home. Now I know If I try a class whose instructor does not emphasize breathing it’s not for me. Yes, IT IS as simple as observing your breath and that simplicity spells doom for your habitual thinking mind. And gives birth to your inner peace and joy that allows you to hear and honor your authentic voice.
Kristina Kelly is a speech therapist in Asheville, NC who specializes in voice therapy and voice coaching