Work the Breath

How to Destress Without a Yoga Mat

I have several clients with demanding jobs. They come into sessions more like a tightly wound guitar string, ready to snap sharing the song of that day. This sharing becomes a part of the session. I watch shoulders let go of ears with each unfolding sentence. Mental tightness unravels as they verbally unload the day. We move, stretch, breathe and focus on specific “stress zones”. The hips, hamstrings, heck – some people hold tension in their feet.


I massage necks while they half slumber in savasana. They relax, melting into the floor. Rolling slowly to one side, peeling themselves off the mat, the once wound up guitar string is playing a softer tune. Sleepy eyed and serene they drift into the evening transformed by the practice. The world’s problems may not have been solved, but their perception and physical state have been altered for the better. …Sometimes, this is all we need.


I jokingly say to students, “My day job is basically reminding adults to breathe.” A comical, yet undeniable truth. There’s another undeniable truth I’ve learned these past years of teaching:


“Never underestimate the power of a deep breath.”


The more I practice and teach yoga, the more I realize it’s about the breath. I worked in corporate, nonprofit, and the restaurant industry. Jobs that made me a big ball of human anxiety. The workload was real. The suggestions on how to deal irritated me. I wanted to punch people telling me to breathe deeply. “Really Susan?? I’m planning 4 private dinners with 6 vegetarians, 4 gluten-free, 2 kosher guests and 400 reservations to confirm and you’re telling me to breathe!?!”


However, it really does work. The trick? Truly pay attention while breathing.


If work is insanity, we can do a million yoga classes and overdose on meditation apps. If we’re not honestly present, we miss the therapeutic, life changing effects.


Try this: Take one, simple, deliberate breath. Inhale – feel the chest expand. Exhale – notice shoulders surrendering to gravity. Focus on the breath, and only the breath. Report back to yourself. What did you experience?


We search far and wide for things to remedy work stress. Everything we need resides in the body. The ability to breathe, move, stretch, and talk it out are things we control. Yoga classes offer this. So does literally any moment of any day if we so choose. The next time you’re frazzled, take a note from Susan. Breathe deeply, be present, let go. I’m not saying it will fix the problem you’re facing, but it may help fix your mindset and physiology – things we can control.  


Not everyone can make it to yoga class. We can all take a deep breath. So breathe deeply. Rewire your brain. Get your guitar singing a gentler tune. Hum that tune as you head into work and watch yourself slowly transform.


Jelayna is a well certified, passionate yoga teacher. Her background in Psychology and College Athletics infuses her classes with a strong understanding of how mind and body function. Whether leading a large outdoor event, a classroom of yogis, or in the home of a client her philosophy for teaching is simple; teach with love, empathy, patience and humility.

Categories: Yoga For Your Health