Guest Post: Practice Gratitude with Pranayama (breath work)

Monday, February 27, 2012

On this site, I want people to feel comfortable and safe sharing their struggles and achievements. Please note Kirbay's story is very personal. I thank her for allowing her story to be told here.

I am a yoga student and teacher in Lansing, Michigan, USA. My practice began the moment my mom delivered me and granted me to the opportunity to share in my first breath on this planet. Yoga is a holistic practice that encompasses 8 limbs. The 8 limbs provide a structural framework for practice. Many of us are familiar with the limb entitled, asana, or translated to “physical postures.” The postures are made possible through the synchronicity of breath alongside movement. We learn that through slowing down the many thoughts that keep us distracted from the present moment, we can focus on the breath and move with ease. The body and breath are no longer separate; they create a uniformity and ease to move from posture to posture with grace. The limb of “Pranayama” translates to breath work. Through focus on the breath, we can calm the mind and in turn calm the emotional and physical body.

Rewind to why I began my practice. I was 15 and struggling with depression and anxiety. Asked to go on meds and seek help from therapists, I became more anxious and more depressed. As I went to work with my parents one day, we drove past a business that was opening called "Hilltop Yoga-Power Yoga.” I had no idea what yoga was at the time. I decided to go in and check out a class with my friend Emily. The studio was lit with candles, the instructor greeted us with a calm and soothing voice and the ambience immediately calmed my frazzled mind and anxious spirit. Our first class was a sweat-pouring venture that transformed my yoga mat into a slip and slide!

I now understand that the deeply core-focused practice was literally “ringing” out my emotional anxiety and depression. I was asked to set an intention and if my mind drifted from my intention, I would come back to my breath and find focus and clarity. It takes time to develop a physical practice as demanding as the first class I attended. Always look into the level of class, before going. I did not, and I still remember it to this day! I continued practicing at Hilltop Yoga and what I found most transformational, and still find most transformational is the deep focusing power of the breath. It clears and focuses the mind and brings us into ourselves when the outside world seems so chaotic. We look for safety inside of ourselves, because we trust that we can create a safe space inside of ourselves. Fast forward to 2012, I now teach at that studio that literally rang sweat out of my body back in 2004.

On Sunday March 4th, I will be speaking at a workshop entitled “Strength and Grace through Struggle.” Taking place at Hilltop Yoga (Old Town Studio. $30 in advance/$40 the day of. Pre-registration required), I will discuss how the power of the pranayama, the breath, has helped me focus on the present moment and has helped keep me safe in my own body, mind and spirit through internal awareness. I will discuss my experience with having been raped at the age of 4 and abused for 3 years and how yoga literally saved my life. The breath is an extremely powerful tool to draw us into the present moment and find clarity in the midst of mental, emotional and physical chaos. Whether running a marathon and looking to the breath as a guide to help you with proper form to practicing yoga safely to bring your mind to ease, the breath should never be taken for granted. Take a moment, pause, feel your heart beat, come into your breath, be grateful :) I know I am.


Kirbay Preuss has a 500 RYT from Hilltop Yoga in Lansing, Michigan, USA. She also completed a Maya Yoga Certification in October of 2009 on the island of Maui, Hawaii, USA. When she is not doing yoga, Kirbay is working at her family's business or attending class. Kirbay is also completing her Bachelors in Community Services-Family Systems.

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