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November 20, 2012: Yoga and Breathing

I’ve been going to morning yoga two times-a-week for about two months now. I’ve taken afternoon yoga classes on-and-off for six years, but this is radically different. It’s easy to get going in the afternoons because my inner engine is already warmed up. It’s difficult getting going in the mornings because inner engine is cold. It’s dark out at 5:45 a.m. when the alarm goes off. What I most want to do is roll over and go back to sleep. But I’ve developed a coping mechanism that better enables me to face the day. I sit up and don’t lay back down. Still, I’m one grumpy student at the onset of class. What I will someday tell my instructor is that the most difficult

people to work with are those who most need to be taking a morning yoga class.

The biggest motivator is my progress. What was previously difficult is getting easier. Some of these things are moving in accordance with my breath, focusing on what the instructor is saying, and not pushing myself too hard when in a particular pose. I’ve come to realize that in Dori’s classes, that there’s a logical progression of activities which culminate in a series of sun salutations. I used to dread doing them, now I look forward to doing them. This is in part because I’m now more limber. Down dogs are the absolute best.

The above are some self-benefits. But as of today I’m sensing that there will be more benefits. If what I’m thinking is so, yoga is a very powerful (for lack of a better word) tool.

My latest—today, after tending to the horses, goats, and chickens, I got Tinni out. I planned to ride him bareback on the area trails, and to bring Rainbow along. I brushed him, put his warmed-up bit in his mouth, and using the mounting block, got up on his back. We started out on the road leading to the trailhead. We were about three-quarters of the way to the trailhead when he stumbled and jerked his head up into the air. I stopped for a minute. He was okay, so we continued.

We arrived at the trailhead and I got off Tinni and removed Rainbow’s lead. I then turned around, and noted that Tinni had lowered himself to the ground. He was curling his lip, which is his way of indicating he’s in pain. Icelandic horses are very stoic, so small indicators are big trouble. For Tinni, this was a big indicator. I got him up onto his feet, did some ear slides, belly zigzags, and leg lifts. I then changed my original plan. Rather than do a ride on the longer trail, I instead took him for a walk on the shorter trail. He came along willingly, but moved slowly and kept curling his lip.

Tinni continued to lip curl and move slow until we got home. I tied him up at the hitching post, and offered him warm water and hay. He was disinterested. This was bad—you know an Icelandic horse is sick if it refuses food. I checked his gums—they were gray-pink—but his capillary refill was fine. I next listened for gut sounds—there was a lot of rumbling going on in his intestinal tract. I then looked into his eyes—they were glazed over. I glanced at the other horses. Hrimmi was standing close by, at the fence corner, and the others were up at the gate. All were watching, and all looked concerned. I decided to take Tinni for another walk, this one around the loop. Off we went, very, very, very slowly, a measured step at a time.

Loss and love are the yin and yang of life. You don’t have one without the other, and in equal measure. My very random thoughts soon turned to the loss part of this equation. How, I wondered, would I deal if Tinni did die? This past summer I put up a brave front, but I missed him something awful when he was at Vicki’s place. It was like something important in my life was missing. But I quelled this empty feeling by repeatedly reminding myself that he’d be home at the summer’s end.

We had ¼ of a mile to go when I did something that at that moment was very arbitrary. I focused on my breathing, doing what’s called the three-part breath, taking oxygen (respectively) into my belly, midsection, and upper torso. Then I paused before exhaling. What happened next seemed to correspond with this. Tinni picked up his pace a smidgeon and grew a tad bit more animated. By the ride’s end, he was again more with it.

We arrived home, and I resumed doing body work. And Tinni resumed eating. I then knew he was okay. It could be that his turnaround and my focusing on my breathing were related. Maybe the rhythm of my breath further relaxed him. Or maybe he decided that it was for now, worth sticking around. Or maybe it served to convince him that the situation was not as dire as I was making it out to be. Then again, maybe his turnaround and my focusing on my breathing were unrelated. Maybe I’m creating a causal effect, which some would rightly say is a causal fallacy. I won’t deny that this might be so.

However, my take on what happened, be it real or imagined, is significant because it attests to the importance of paying attention to your breath. Yes, focusing on one’s breathing puts you in the moment. If you’re not in the moment, you’re missing something. As I inhaled and exhaled I was one with Tinni. When I was not breathing, I was elsewhere. And elsewhere was inconsequential. Once again, it occurred to me that I love being in Tinni’s presence. He’s a wonderful horse with an incredible spirit. I don’t have the words to describe his spirit. It’s just there, bigger than life.

I let Tinni eat for a bit, and then put him back in with the others. I then took Raudi for a trail ride, me riding bareback. It was a good ride, and I felt as connected with her as I did with Tinni. When I got home, I noticed that both Hrimmi and Tinni were in the middle of the pen, standing next to one another. What I suspect was that he was explaining to her, in horse language, about the ins and outs of colic attacks.

It was a big horse day. The next life challenge is going to be to use the breath in attempting to better connect with people. I may have to do this at tonight’s borough assembly meeting, for once again, the subject of motorized and nonmotorized trail use is going to be at the forefront of the discussion. This is going be a tall order for such a short person.

Next: 346. 11/22/12: Thankful. . .