Counting by Breaths

by Britt Chemla Jones


Here’s a yoga teacher secret for you... When I’m teaching asanas, I time each pose by counting my breaths. For example: we’ll hold this pose for five breaths, or I’ll count three breaths on one side and three breaths on the other side. Having an Iyengar background, there are times I like my students to hold poses (usually restorative) for a couple of minutes, and then I use a timer. But most of the time, I just count my breaths. Or to be more precise, I count my exhalations.
I heard somewhere that the inhale represents self-assertion, and the exhale represents surrender. Yoga and teaching yoga are certainly about surrender... letting go of expectations and releasing the ego... so I count my exhalations.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I keep count from the moment I enter the studio, until I walk out the door. I might be describing a pose, or demonstrating, or walking around the class, or talking to a student, but under the surface I am continuously counting my exhalations. And at any moment, I can choose to bring the counting up to consciousness.
I like this a lot. I like that my mind has started counting my breaths without any conscious prompting from me. It reminds me that the yoga studio is also always a meditation space... where life proceeds at a calm, steady rhythm... where we are encouraged to surrender the insecurities of the ego... where we can just breathe and be our own unique, beautiful, brilliant selves.