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“Just Breathe”

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice New Professionals and Graduate Students
June 9, 2020 Brooke Wilson

“Just breathe” is something I say on a regular basis- to myself, as someone who struggles with anxiety, and to my students as a yoga teacher. The theme of my most recent class was focused on breath, which is typically a foundational, essential expectation in any yoga class. Without breath, there is no yoga. Yoga as meditation in motion- linking breath with movement.

I wanted to specifically focus on breath in my last yoga class, as I have been thinking about endless metaphors, connections, and experiences of deep inhales and forced exhales in my own life. I’ve been reflecting on the breath as a sacred way of communicating with something greater- a microphone, translating our feelings and fears. Amplifying our needs without even needing to put a single word or label to our emotions, concerns, or anxieties. An outward expression of what is happening inside our hearts and minds. I cannot think of another tool or conduit more powerful, available, and innate- until George Floyd. Until another BIPOC was denied the right to life- to breath. Suffocated by White Supremacy. 

“Come back to breath.” Another famous one liner in the yoga world. Breathing is a biological response and typically requires little effort or thought. Ever since my anatomy and physiology class in undergrad, I have been enthralled by the mechanics of the respiratory system. The complexities and inner workings of what makes up humanity and every living thing in our world. The breath- a system I thought could not fail us, but here we are in a global pandemic that attacks the breath (and Black communities at higher rates than white communities) and continued killings of BIPOC where this fundamental, biological right has been eternally seized. 

Without breath, we have no voice. No action. Those of us who are privileged enough to breathe without fear of life being taken from us have a responsibility. A duty to use our breath, our voices, our talents, and our finances to help our communities rise- just like that of a deep inhale.

What we breathe in is important. Our inhales impact our exhales. The deeper and more consciously we breathe in, the more powerful and intentional the output. Some of us have gotten too good at holding our breath, and our tongues along with it. Silence is deafening. Neutrality is complacency. Inaction is counter to anti-racism- what all white people must commit ourselves to. I hope my words do not shame you into virtue signaling and white guilt. My hope is you find a way to authentically and humbly learn from, respond to, and discuss what is happening all around you. My hope is we all use this gift- our breath- to wake up, speak up, and stand up. 

Author: Brooke Wilson (she/her/hers) works as the Director of Student Activities at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. She has been on the NPGS leadership team since 2016 and currently serves as one of the Co-Chairs for the KC. She is also a 200-hr RYT and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Brooke can be found on Instagram @brookewilson_bw.