Learning How to Exhale in Yoga & Beyond

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Once upon a time, I was a gung-ho practitioner of hot power yoga. In the cold New York winters, the highlight of my day would be stripping down to my sports bra in a body-positive environment, laying down my mat, and zeroing in on micromovements, fractions of breaths, the beading of the sweat on the tip of my nose.

This sweat — it made me feel clean inside, even as it seeped irreversibly into the threads of my clothes. Every droplet was earned, and each emerging rivulet was a new, albeit temporary, badge of honor for my hard work during every vinyasa.

As I worked to lock in increasingly challenging poses, I’d focus on the beat of the music, the sound of the mantras, the entrancingly alien words of the songs that played in the dim light of the studio.

To this day, I still listen to the music that brings me back to that shala when I need to find focus, peace, and determination. In fact, it’s playing right now as I write this, grounding me and funneling my ability to feel into one clear channel.

"Every droplet of sweat was earned, a badge of honor for my hard work during every vinyasa."

Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve made a sweat angel in that studio, or brought an earworm home from it. A torn rotator cuff on top of hypermobile joints have made practice risky, especially when paired with a strong drive for self-competition and compulsion to push through pain.

Exhaling & Letting Go

However, the flexibility and strength I gained in my years of hot yoga are not the only things I took from my practice. My love of New Age Indian music isn’t either.

I look back on my days of hot yoga not with sadness that I can’t do it anymore, but with gratitude for the time that I could. Because of that time, I am not ashamed to sweat, as I was made to feel when I was younger. I am grateful for my body, and the previously unacknowledged little muscles I got to know in it. And I am thankful for the mental strength it gave me to power through both physical and emotional discomfort with deep and steady breaths.

Inhale. Exhale. And when you feel you simply can’t go on ... just do it again.

Tags: Fitness

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Written By

Su-Jit Lin

Su-Jit Lin is a food, travel, wellness, shopping, and lifestyle writer who is passionate about writing stories that help. See Full Bio

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