I waited for the cry. I had just given birth and I knew that my daughter needed to fill her lungs. A sign of health, that first, triumphant breath was a hard-earned victory. I waited nervously until I heard it. With a little intervention, she began to wail.
As I felt her flesh, perfect and new on my chest, I felt the beginning reverberations of a love so ferocious. It would undo me at times. There was a part of me that wanted so desperately to be her first and last friend. But even though she came from my womb and gazed into my eyes first, she had a friend who came before me, who will remain with her her whole life: the breath.
As I began to prepare for my yoga teacher training, I encountered this notion of our breath as a friend. I was hesitant. It seemed like an abstraction. But as I lean in, I'm starting to understand what a gift it is to breathe. The breath is our friend because it is with us first, and truly with us until we pass away. Through all of life's sobering losses and electric highs, our breath is with us. Intimate and raw. It never misses a moment.
The breath is both voluntary and automatic, meaning we can control it but it also happens without our constant attention. In yoga, the breath in conjunction with movement is a catalyst for dramatic changes in the body and overall wellness. Some people practice meditation or yoga to become more aware of their breath, and others are more comfortable practicing focused breathing. However you get to know your breath, the experience of tuning in will change you in ways beyond what you might expect.
I always thought that breathing is something we just do — a function of being alive. And this is true. But it's more. It's about space. As people, we have the space in our bodies for breath — a space that is meant to be filled. The atmosphere actually pushes itself into us as we breathe. To put it another way, we create the space and the universe fills it.
I wildly love this girl, the one who came from me and emulates both my stubbornness and empathy. As much as it saddens me to know I cannot be her first and last friend, the breath, the one that stays with her, will serve her well. As long as she pays attention to what it has to tell her.