Pause. Take a breath.
In January, I introduced a new activity in my classes. Together, we compiled a list of intentions for 2024, guided by the questions “What do I want less of in my life?” and “What do I want more of?” This exercise sparked insightful conversations, revealing desires for less rushing and more mindfulness, reduced stress and increased play, and a shift from resentment to contentment. The words on the list weren’t surprising, but a lingering question persisted: “HOW?” How do we break detrimental habits and nurture greater wellness to turn intentions into reality?
Enter the practice of non-reaction, the subtle art of not giving a damn. Perhaps the most significant lesson from my yoga mat is learning to temper reactions, a crucial step toward inner peace. Why? Because the moment you feel something—be it anger, annoyance, or physical pain—that’s precisely when your reaction is most potent, most fiery. Taking even ONE breath allows that initial reaction to settle. When you do respond, it becomes less emotionally charged, providing your higher self with an opportunity to weigh in. Often, my higher self advises, “Getting angry at that person who cut me off in traffic is NOT going to do anything other than make ME feel mad.” Better to let the elevated self prevail, saying, “That doesn’t bother me; I’m above that.”
Practicing non-reaction offers a moment to CHOOSE. There’s immense power in that one breath. When faced with a situation or intense emotion—whether it’s an encounter with an obnoxious person, a discourteous email, or an extended hold in lizard pose by your yoga teacher—pausing for just ONE breath empowers you to select your reaction. If you desire less anger and more gratitude, seize the opportunity! Opt for gratitude in that lizard pose, compassion for the obnoxious individual, and humor in response to the rude email. You are in control. You get to choose.
With time and consistent practice, you’ll start to notice moments when you observe a reaction passing through you without an outward response. You become a witness to your reaction rather than reacting. This witnessing stance liberates you to choose your response. You’re in charge of you.
These moments are glimpses of samadhi. They feel so fitting and healthy that experiencing one or two is enough to inspire ongoing practice, significantly enhancing the way you navigate the moments of your life.
You can start this practice right now, both on and off your yoga mat. When you feel something big, just simple pause, take a breath and ask yourself “how do I want to react?”
Written by Prestonne Sehn