This past year, a friend recruited me to be a part of an online meditation group led by a friend of hers who teaches yoga in Costa Rica. I’m not an expert yogi, but I do attend yoga classes from time to time and I always experience a sense of calm when I do yoga. Something about the stillness and the stretching wrings out my tension and gives me a sense of peace.

Recently Ashley, the instructor from Costa Rica, was in the US. She has ties to my hometown and stopped in to teach a few classes on breathwork at a local studio. I had never taken a class focused solely on breathwork, but I like to try new things so I attended one of the sessions. Before the class, Ashley asked me if I had an intention, something on which I wanted to focus during the class. I shrugged.

“There are a few uncertain changes going on at work,” I said.

“Well, that is something you can think about,” she answered.

When the class started, I didn’t focus on anything, at first, except for breathing. The idea of breathwork, as I understand it, is to breathe fully in a circular motion, from the diaphragm, through your chest and out of your mouth then back. We breathed in the air through our mouths and we exhaled out of our mouths. Ashley asked us to breath throughout our entire body. I imagined the air moving from my feet through my legs into my belly and my chest, then up into my head and out of my mouth. At times, I was distracted by the sounds of other people breathing around me, but I focused on the breath. I started to imagine the breath as a circle, traveling the length of my body then looping to go back around. Somewhere along the way, I started to think about other things, but not about work, and my thoughts took me to the heart of something. I started thinking about how most people play it safe with other people. We share enough of ourselves to be seen as friendly, but little enough to protect ourselves from being hurt. I know I do. This prompted me to start thinking about forgiveness and letting things go.

After the class, Ashley paired us with a partner and we talked about our experience. I was paired with a woman on a mat behind me. We sat cross-legged on our mats and looked at one another. She was older than me and a little weathered. Her silver hair was cut in a very hip style and she had two of the most alert, smiling, clear blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I told her about my thoughts.

“Wow,” she said, “that’s very similar to what I was working on.” And she shared some things about herself with me.

Before we left, Ashley suggested that it might be a good day to spend some time in nature since we were already in reflective moods. That worked well for me as I was already going for a walk.

I went to a local park, Hugh McRae Park, and walked for about 45 minutes. Hugh McRae is filled with established pine trees, but as I walked, I noticed that the park has planted new pines, as well. Several baby pines were nestled among the older pines. The scene of pines filled me with pleasure and I stopped for a while to look at them. Now, that I look back on it, I know why they made me happy. Not only were the pines a bright, happy green and quite pretty, but they were new little lives releasing oxygen back into the air. Breathing their own cycle like me. There was a sort of synchronicity to finding them right after my breathwork. Pretty cool.

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