Breathing for Someone Else

This morning during yoga, in the midst of a pose that in all honesty was causing me great pain, my instructor reminded me to breathe. She said to the class, “Breathe as though you are breathing for the person next to you.” I took a deep breath and then an even deeper breath. I imagined that the person next to me needed my breathing in order to thrive, in order to survive, and my breathing grew deeper and deeper. The pose got less painful and the class a lot more enjoyable.

As I thought about this after class, I realized that this is something I have long practiced with my son. From the moment our babies are born, whenever they cry, we pick them up and hold them in an attempt to soothe them and make them feel safe. I can remember holding my son close to me during these moments and imagining that I was embracing him not only with my arms, but also with my entire being. I would close my eyes and imagine my entire heart and soul were enveloping him by opening my heart wide and allowing all of the love I feel to shower over him. It was as if there was no separation between us, as if I were breathing him in. Breathing for him.

My son has grown older and I have begun to incorporate this idea even further. As many moms do when their children get upset, I always guide my son to stop and take a deep breath. I not only encourage him, I do this with him. I make contact with him, whether physical or simply looking into his eyes, and I breathe with him. I breathe as though his calming down depends on the very breath that I am taking. I breathe as though he can feel me, as though the deeper I breathe, the deeper he will breathe. In his moments of frustration, these are gifts to my son.

Not only can I use this beautiful cue with my son, I can also use it in my everyday life as I encounter others. I encourage you to try it with me. Next time you hug a friend, instead of simply putting your arms around them, hug them with your soul. Embrace them with your heart and let your energy flow. The next time you are standing next to a stranger that is obviously feeling stress, take a conscious moment to breathe for them. Breathe in a way as if their letting go of stress depends on your breath. The next time you comfort your child or embrace your partner, express your unconditional love for them through opening your heart wide open and letting your love shower over them.

In breathing as though we are breathing for the person next to us, we are not only helping ourselves, we are helping others. There are so many ways we can impact the beings that surround us. So many ways we can help them, without ever having to say a word. Breathe.