“Exhale completely, release all the air from your body. Now, notice the pause at the end of the exhale.”
My yoga teacher’s words invited me into a new place, a place of connection and understanding beyond the rational mind and into the mystery of the body. As I gently allowed the air to leave my lungs, I felt a deepening. My body became weighted, and I felt at peace. I thought to myself, this must be what it’s like. A tiny death. A movement away from the severing that had occurred over a lifetime into a wholeness that would, eventually, bring me to my last breath. A moment of fearless surrender.
Try this. Inhale deeply, then exhale completely. Let ALL the air leave your body, no forcing. Let the air release slowly like air seeping from a tire. Pause. Observe the emptiness. Trust that the inhale will happen on its own. Inhale again. Exhale. Release, release, release. Pause. Wait. Observe. This breath practice of pausing at the end of an exhale is called Suspension.
Another name for it might be Midlife.
Oh, midlife! People make fun of the “crisis,” but folks, it’s no joke. When my own transition began, something inside me started to crack. I realized my son would be graduating high school, launching into his own life, and wouldn’t need me anymore. My husband and I hardly knew each other after spending years only focusing on the day-to-day. My parents’ aging bodies revealed to me my declining future. My job was not satisfying my creative needs anymore. I felt trapped. What is the point in going on? I thought. Yes, it was high-drama time, akin to the teenage years without the firm skin.
My midlife yoga practice saved me. It taught me what suspension felt like, so that I could endure The Waiting. That’s the only way I can describe it. Some call it a cocoon, but even cocoons have edges. I was formless yet frantic, floating above deep, dark waters, surrounded by the fog of the unknown, suspended between the here and the mysterious there. The uncertainty was nearly unbearable. Like so many others, I had never made plans for this time in my life. I did not recognize the not old/ not young person who now inhabited my body.
So, I decided I needed to learn to inhabit her.
It started with a supplication, a kneeling plea, forehead on floor. I cried in Child’s Pose. But just as quickly . . .
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Holly Holt is a writer/ storyteller with a deep devotion to practices that heal the body and wake up the mind. For most of the early 2000s, she was a performing singer/songwriter who recorded a well received CD of original music. Currently, she is working on a novel, teaches yoga, blogs, and leads Word Gathering Writing Circles in Sacramento, CA.