Breathe In, Breathe Out

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I found myself in a unique juxtaposition this past year shifting between severe work stress and studying the practice of integrating the body, mind and spirit into one. The company I worked at for 13 years announced its merger with one of its largest competitors around the same time I had applied for the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) certification.

My role as a recruiting leader holds a high degree of responsibility and I thrive on the multi-tasking busy nature of the role. Post-merger announcement, that multi-tasking busyness was amplified to the nth degree. We took inventory of all things recruiting for both companies and pushed towards a unified way of doing things in the future. I started off hopeful, that as a leader in HR we were building a new and improved merged company in the entrepreneurial spirit I was accustomed to. Often the competitive politics took over and I felt like I was in the Hunger Games cast fighting for the best processes and systems, campaigning for my team’s needs and persevering for the future of my role. We became a new company with a “to-be-defined” culture and a new HR team that was still feeling each other out under multiple leadership changes. Many teams had resource needs which my team and I were responsible for recruiting, but my team did not grow for 14 months. Add in the heightened emotions, uncertainty, and decline in the morale and culture I had once loved. I hit the ground sprinting daily Monday through Friday and paused briefly at night when I fell asleep.

The YTT certification I participated in was held Friday through Sunday, once a month for 10 months. I have taken yoga classes for the past 10 years, with regular practice for the past 5. This was an exciting opportunity for me and 13 other students to have the personalized attention of experienced teachers, grow in our yoga practice and learn how to teach. We learned the lineage and language of yoga (Sanskrit if you’re not familiar), asana, meditation, pranayama, Ayurveda, different types of yoga, the business of yoga, and anatomy (we visited a cadaver lab!). The first few months focused on meditation and pranayama – centered around breathing, mindfulness, and awareness, with the goal of achieving a mentally clear, emotionally calm and stable state. We practiced various breathing and meditation techniques all weekend long and then had assignments throughout the month to continue the practice.

Meditation and pranayama were by far the hardest for my YTT journey. Deep diaphragmatic breathing and a calm state of mind were counter to my then daily life. I didn’t have time to breathe (I was beginning to feel I had developed my own version of fish gills) much less breathe all the way down into my diaphragm. My “quiet mind” raced with unfinished checklists. How was I to adopt these skills and teach others? I practiced meditation and pranayama often, through guided apps, sunrise classes and practice teaching. My yoga teacher asked “If the breath is our teacher, what is your breath telling you?”

My YTT learning experience helped me grow in ways I had not anticipated. It helped me realize how important breath and a calm mind are to health. As I graduated last June, I made up my mind that it was time for me to move on to a new employer. Stress and busyness will always be part of life, but sometimes your breath (or lack thereof) is telling you a deeper message.

It was a fun coincidence that the 9-day break I had before starting my new job included a long-planned concert with my brother and sister-in-law to see the bands Live and Bush. When Gavin Rossdale sang out “Breathe In, Breathe Out…” I felt he was singing my new battle cry directly to me.

Questions to ponder:

  • When did you last take time to pause and reflect?
  • What does your breath quality tell you?
  • Could a 5-minute breathing break add energy to your day?