“If we don’t breathe, we die,” she said. “So we want to keep that breathing going.”
I'm all for breathing. Breathing is swell. But what I find in these situations - whether it's Saturday morning Pilates, or “mindfulness” training at work - is that concentrating on the workings of my respiratory system or musculature does not relax me; it makes me nauseous. Even thinking too acutely about my toes makes them curl. I think the idea of all this is to be in the moment, to exclude the abstract, to return to something primal, as though breathing were the elementary mode of being. To me this is like trying to squeeze the consciousness of a higher being into the mere sentience of a lower being, and it freaks me out.
I'd rather think of breath as spirit, and spirit as the very thing that allows me not to be 'in' my body at every moment. As Leon Wieseltier says, “the pure present is for infants.” Bobby McFerrin says for him breath is not enough. Breath joined to spirit and made into song - ahh, that's another matter.
So instead of watching my breath while lying on my mat, maybe I'll lift my voice in a joyous morning hymn. I wonder if my fellow Pilatists would mind?