If you’re not breathing, it’s a circus trick. – Sonya

This first time I heard Sonya say that in yoga, I unlocked my jaw, stopped biting my lip, gulped for air, then burst out laughing. Obviously, it struck a chord with me. About the 12th time I heard it, I realized it was a topic for a blog post. Here it is.

Every time our yogi, Sonya, says it in class, I marvel at its aptness. It’s hard to be comfortable and natural when we’re holding our breath. We can’t maintain it.

But, how many times a day do we find ourselves doing exactly that – holding our breath as we bear down to get something done – particularly something new or unfamiliar? For example.

Whisk slowly and breathe

When I taught myself how to make a vinaigrette by hand – meaning I put the vinegar, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard in a bowl then whisk in the olive oil myself instead of using my trusty (ancient) food processor – I would hold my breath.

People, it takes, like, 5 minutes to slowly whisk in ¾ cup of olive oil so that the ingredients create a lovely emulsion instead of ending up as stripes of vinegar and olive oil in a jar. And I would hold my breath basically the whole time. Then my shoulder would lock up and my elbow would hurt and I’d pour the olive oil in too fast and I’d curse like the Marine who raised me.

It was as if I thought the act of holding my breath would somehow make the task easier and less intimidating.

Wrong. When I remembered to breathe – and kept breathing – it was magic – and a lot less painful. I could control both my hands and the speed of the olive oil and I ended up creating a delicious vinaigrette.


Then there’s yoga. You know those balance poses where you’re supposed to look like a great heron standing on one leg – except instead of looking as graceful as heron, you’re teetering like you’re on a tightrope? Yep. Funny how expelling that stale breath and gulping in some fresh air steadies me.

Here’s the thing. When we hold our breath, we make ourselves small. We’re squeezed tight, holding onto that breath like it’s the last one we’ll ever take. But it’s that next breath, the fresh breath that helps us find our balance.

So this week, when you approach that job interview or writing a new résumé or even make that first stab at looking for a job, breathe in and breathe out. Breathe out the fear of what’s next and breathe in the belief that it’s going to work out better than you can imagine.

When we breathe, we expand. Our balance improves. We find that we can do the hard things.