Choosing Breath Instead of Overreacting

One of the teens in today’s yoga class told me about something that happened at school that morning, and how it pissed her off. I was surprised at how the story ended as I saw no big deal on it… But, hey! It all depends on one’s perspective, right? Well… After lots of breathing in class and a long savasana, she came to me and commented, “Now I can see how breathing helped clear my mind to see that I completely overreacted to what happened this morning…”

I wish everyone in the world could learn this. I hold this vision for our future. May we learn to stop before choosing angry reactions that will just make the problem bigger instead of opening up the path to a solution. Imagine how many conflicts would be avoided if we learned this? Yes, it involves mindfulness, paying attention to what is going on inside you and around you, done without judgment. Not easy. But it’d be wonderful to learn to step back while facing some challenging situation, take a deep breath, clear the mind and be capable of making the best decision in the situation you find yourself in. I believe we all can achieve this. And so I encouraged my students in that class to try to take a deep breath before respond to anything another person said to them in a discussion of some sorts.

Another teenager said, “I wish my parents would know this as they yell at me during an argument!” That was a teaching moment since the other students were paying attention when she made this comment out loud. I said, “How about the next time this happens you invite them to stop and take a breath together? Notice I said the word ‘together’, that’s how you get your parents to try your suggestions with you.” She then looked into the distance as if she were imagining the situation in her head. Well, the seed has been planted and I hope she remembers next time some conflict comes up. Just one breath, a deep one taken deliberately; that’s all it takes to remind us to stop and maybe shift our perspective, maybe choose softer words, maybe realize it is no big deal given the bigger picture of our lives. Just one conscious breath to start with.

I have tried this in my own life and it has made a big difference. Let me know if you try it and how that goes for you. I would love to hear your stories too, so feel free to share in the comments section below.

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Solving Conflicts in a Peaceful Way

One of the 10 living principles of Yoga is ahimsa, which means non-violence, non-harming, and even compassion towards ourselves and others.

Teaching this subject to adults is relatively easy because you just talk about it and give a chance for the words to sink in with them; maybe they will grasp the idea during class, after class, or maybe they won’t. So you keep trying and one day they may get it. Now, when teaching yoga to kids, the language and approach have to be different. I like to observe and ask the children how they react to conflicts, so we can work on communication and collaboration into better ways of solving problems. Some children come with no knowledge about conflict-solving strategies other than physically attacking others to defend themselves. I figured that discussing this subject some time during a kids yoga class is a great way to bring new ideas while the kids are not in a defensive mode from getting in trouble trying to solve conflicts in some inappropriate way. I truly believe there is a peaceful way to solve issues, and learning that from a young age will sure come in hand many times during our lives.

Here is a great example on how a situation can be handled differently as pictured by this short film from Disney: