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Yoga Off the Mat

Deep Breathing Saves a Life

One of our own, a mild-mannered 500 hr-certified Kripalu Yoga Teachers, is also a Police Crisis Negotiator, for real. I’ll refer to her as Sandy. She and her partner spent 36 straight hours (8 on/8 off) on the phone with a veteran of military combat who was barricaded in his house with a rifle, threatening to end his life.

He had seen too much war. Yet he called in asking for help. And when he started to get worked up Sandy took a risk and suggested that he takes some deep breaths. The combat veteran responded well to this. He took some deep breaths, calmed down, and then confided that he had done this before in some class or presentation somewhere. Sandy did dirgha pranayama with him for hours. Later, he walked out of his house ready and willing to receive help and was taken to the hospital. He wanted to meet Sandy and then wouldn’t let her leave until she led him in more deep breathing together.

A life was saved that Friday.

It’s a dramatic illustration of this yogic truth: “Change how you breathe and you can change how you feel and think.” Talk about lightening a heavy load! Deepen your breath and be the change you seek.

Part of the message here is the tremendous value of practicing and teaching relaxation techniques, as we do in yoga. Even if it doesn’t begin a regular yoga practice, even if the student never shows up in class again, the experience may serve them profoundly in some hour of need when fear is clouding trust and hope.

Try this experiment: next time you get inextricably wigged out over something, notice the effect of letting your breath fully settle.