How did yesterday go for you while observing your breath?
Noticing: was there anything surprising? Like me, were you surprised when or how often you were unconsciously breathing thru your mouth? If some surprising news came across your screen, did your breath shorten?
Reacting: were you able to stay with the plan of not *immediately* correcting your breath? How did it feel to just observe and not judge or label the change in your breath?
That moment of non-reacting was a bit of a dabble in equanimity.
First, I’ll be honest: I cannot say this word. It comes out in a jumble. Five or six years ago it was my *word of the year,* something I planned to focus on and experience more in my life. I practiced saying it a LOT and still: jambalaya pronunciation!
And yet, practice is exactly what is needed to gain equanimity. So, I persist.
What is it exactly? Those smart folks over at Merriam-Webster have this to say:
- Evenness of mind, especially under stress
- Right disposition : Balance
Once you wander in Eastern philosophy definitions, it becomes more detailed and intriguing. In an article by the wonderful Sharon Salzburg in Tricycle, the Buddhist Review, equanimity “is actually the secret ingredient to mindfulness.”
Secret ingredient? Well, let’s get this secret out in the open, shall we?
I love this version from YogiTimes:
“The power of observation. Being able to ‘look over’ without getting caught up in the nitty-gritty creates a sense of peace and harmony. A form of gentle and calm composure, no matter what is happening in the outer world.”
Since you know me well, you can now clearly see why I chose this word years ago and continue to dabble in its practice (even if saying it well still eludes me).
Yesterday’s experience in *simply noticing* started us on the path to equanimity. Today’s breathwork continues the journey.
Let’s try this:
Sama-Vritti Pranayama for equal breathing to calm the mind and encourage the practice of equanimity.
Sama-Vritti Pranayma is a Sanskrit phrase, loosely translated to *equal breathing.* Similar to box breathing, Sama-Vritti guides us to equal breaths of inhalation and exhalation. Unlike the box breath tho, we don’t hold our breath in for the full measure; we simply observe the feeling of having inhaled for the specific count (and the same after the exhale). So we begin with an inhale of a 4-count, hold and observe; then exhale for a 4-count with a slight hold and observe before moving on to the inhale of 6-count. The breath keeps rolling in and out for the specific counts and we have time to observe (reminder: we are simply observing the feeling of rhythmic, focused breathing. Our internal Judge Judy has this time off to go reapply her makeup. We are simply breathing).
- Obviously this is perfect for sitting calmly with eyes closed, candle lit, soothing music playing.
- However, I actually prefer to do this while walking (eyes open!) around LA … because you NEED equanimity in this city like it’s oxygen, ha!
- Seriously tho: Breathwork while walking solo can be divine and can allow you to experience this wild world in a hyper-calm yet very aware state.
- Warm up to it (like any exercise). Try a few rounds of 4-count to 6-count breaths then go back to breathing *normally.* When you’re ready, give the cycles another go.
- 4-counts to start with the slight pause & observe at the top of the inhale and the end of the exhale … and work your way to 8-counts for stretches of time, then cycle back through 6-count to 4-count. Might you dare a 10-count inhale & exhale?
- Try to keep your mouth closed and use nostril breathing only for the counted inhales/exhales. If you practice Ujjayi breathing, now’s the time to flex that. (If you are not familiar with Ujjayi Pranayama, please let me know).
PS: You might come across definitions that Sama-Vritti and box breathing are the same. That wasn’t my experience when learning breathing techniques over the years with yoga and breathwork classes. And, I enjoy that we have two options for rhythmic breathing cycles. If you prefer box breathing, do it! Many roads lead to the same result, in this case: the practice of equanimity. The entire point of the practice is to simply *get on the road* … we are all in this journey together.