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Breath as Balance

Mary Singleton

It's a balance between will and surrender.

It's a balance between will and surrender. I read a cue from the Integral Yoga School that described the exhale as the muscular effort of will. I love that! It gives me somewhere to direct my emotion, my physical tension, my mental chatter. If for just that exhale, I can focus on releasing, I've created space for the possibility of receiving. What am I receiving? Simply, I'm receiving the inhale. If I press through my effort on the exhale, I can relax and soften into the inhale. We soften so much as to surrender. In that softening, we are able to receive more. We receive more breath. So where the exhale is the muscular effort of will, the inhale is the softening into surrender.


Yoga sums this up with the words isvara pranidhana. What can we actually control that we spend our energy trying to control? Isvara pranidhana is the practice of letting go so we can receive. When I let go of trying to control the outcome of things, I give myself a little more space to breathe and a little more time to decide how to react. But the act of letting go, surrendering the outcome to the bigger picture, seems too daunting at times.


Pranayama, the practice of adaptive breathing techniques, is a tool for just these moments. What's great about sitting still and focusing is learning about your unique breathing patterns, working with the stream of inner dialogue, noticing areas of held tension and ease. When we understand how our body, breath, and mind react to each other we have more choices available to us in how we respond to life around us. Because we practice, we can use what we have learned even when we are not practicing. We can choose a different way to think, to breathe. We can sit still with what we feel. We can do it again when we get triggered. We can do it when we have been overwhelmed with joy. We can do it during times of deep sadness. We can access the fruits of our practice at exactly the moments we need it. There only one thing we have to do... practice.



Mary Singleton

Svadhyaya: “Know yourself so well that you will grow into your wholeness and greatness.” - C.L.


   Running on empty does not make me a pleasant person to live with. Neither does blaming others for my feeling so run down. I was run down because I was working so hard to keep other people happy (or so I told myself). I was run down because I wanted to make sure others knew, and implicated, the best next step for them to take. Ha!!! Like I was an expert on how someone else should live their own life. By a bucket dump of wisdom from others and the gift of grace, I’ve seen how my attempts to “help” have resulted in the gradual whittling away of their autonomy. At the time, it was easier than looking at my own autonomy, my own path, my own stuff. 
   While I had no problem telling my husband what HE needed to do to make me happy, it was quite unpleasant, to say the least, to realize I couldn’t answer that question for myself. If I take sole responsibility for creating my own happiness, what the heck does that look like? Am I even allowed to give myself space for my own happiness? Don’t I have too much to do to worry about that? 

   I talked with people I trust and I read…A LOT. Taking complete responsibility for my own happiness requires a major shift in perspective. I began collecting my energy and owning the parts of me I was ignoring. Accepting the task of compiling a daily list of desires, I saw my first adversary was myself. It showed up in that critical voice telling me why this “desire was wrong, that one won’t work, I was crazy for even thinking of that one.” However, how can I be happy if I don’t own what that means for me? 

   When I own the rights to my own happiness it doesn’t have to mean that every moment is exalted in joy. It does mean that every moment is precious and I have more time to be in the moment. When I treat myself with loving kindness, I suddenly have an abundance of loving kindness to share. 

   So now when I hear myself say, “if only he/she would…then I would be…,” a big red flag starts flying high. I’m learning to replace it with a new practice. Honor the higher self—in myself and others—and trust that we each have our own ways of meeting this world. I’ve got my own job of taking care of myself. That’s the only way I can really be of help to others. 

   What can you do today to take care of yourself? Anything from enjoying a hot cup of coffee to a walk with a friend, from a good book to a nap…and of course, gotta make the yoga class plug. There is nothing at all wrong with saying what makes you happy. Own it by saying it.

As my husband quoted, “never apologize for the space youtake up in this world.”

Why I love Mary Singleton

Mary Singleton

"One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries..." —Brene Brown


When do we decide to hold ourselves accountable?


Mary and I have had some very honest conversations about our challenges and triumphs in the boundless world of boundary issues. She is someone who has held me accountable. She has reminded me to honor my heart, believe in my talent, and focus on my dream. She has been a teacher to me in many ways.


Mary Singleton, first and foremost, is my friend. She's also been a student, teacher, co-worker, and colleague. She has invited me into her life and let me see what brings her joy and what breaks her heart. She has been a trusted friend who has let me share the same. I've watched her follow her heart and find her path through her undeniable talent and persevering work ethic. She is an amazing artist, excellent web designer, an innovative business thinker, and a solid friend.


In honoring her own heart and energy, she has decided to take a hiatus from teaching at Yoga Path. I say hiatus because the door is always open for her to come back. She's good, good people.


Boundary struggles don't isolate themselves to one particular area of our life...that's the very nature of a boundary issue. And guess where setting healthy boundaries begins...


Thank you, Mary, for keeping it real around here. You are very loved.