Just Breathe…Everything Else is Optional

I’ve become a fairly avid practitioner of Bikram yoga.  If you’re not familiar, Bikram is a type of yoga consisting of 26 distinct postures practiced over the course of 90 minutes in a hot room.  Make that a very hot room…105 degrees with approximately 40% humidity.  It can be a tough, but worthwhile investment of an hour and a half.

Besides the intense heat, another aspect that makes Bikram unique compared to other types of yoga is that it is the same class every time.  The same 26 postures, in the same order, performed twice each, with basically the same dialogue from the instructor guiding you through the sequence.  The nice thing about this approach is that it really allows you to appreciate your progress from class to class.  It also makes it very apparent when you’re having an off day.

But we have a saying that the instructors at my studio use for such days:

“Just breathe….everything else is optional.”

In fact, this saying actually extends beyond just when you’re having a bad day.  As difficult and intimidating as Bikram can sound if you’ve never tried it, it’s also an incredibly supportive practice, and you’re always told that the only thing you have to do is show up and breathe.  Nothing else is required.  If you can’t do both sets of a particular posture, that’s okay, just do the first.  If can’t do a particular posture at all, just do the set up and breathe. If you can’t even do that, just breathe and be.  Just by showing up, you’ve done enough for that day.

Now don’t misunderstand; that’s not an excuse to let you off the hook.  The purpose of this practice is to continue to improve and heal your body.  You are encouraged to always push yourself as far as you can, without pushing yourself past your own limit.  But sometimes you’re just off.  Sometimes you’ve hit your limit.

Sometimes you have to just breathe.

Sometimes you have to find the balance between determination and acceptance, between intensity and calm.  You have to find a way to accept that as much as you might want to push yourself, certain days you have to accept that what you’re doing is enough right now, in that moment in time.

And I think this concept can apply beyond the hot room at a Bikram studio.


In our personal lives

We all get overwhelmed from time to time.  We have obligations and responsibilities.  We have friends and families.  Sometimes it feels like there are a million things all vying for our attention, and on some days, we are just too tired, too worn out to attend to them all.  So we have to just breathe.  There’s always tomorrow.


In our professional lives

I’m incredibly blessed not just to know, but also to be friends with a lot of very successful people.  People who have pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones to achieve great things; whether that meant leaving behind the comforts of a corporate job and steady salary to pursue passions that led to their own businesses, or those who within the confines of Corporate America have consistently strived to do more, learn more, and challenge themselves.  When I’m around these folks, I often find myself feeling that I don’t quite measure up; that I haven’t done enough to challenge myself.  And I get frustrated, or start to feel inferior.  So sometimes I have to step back, appreciate how much I have grown over the years.  I have to realize that in those moments it’s okay to just breathe, to appreciate the journey I’m on and where I am at that moment in time.  There will be time for more another day.


In our workplaces 

Many of us try so hard to achieve our goals and objectives, to have an impact on our companies through the work we do.  We have dreams of achieving great things, of not just having an impact, but a lasting impact, a legacy to leave behind.  But the minutiae of the day to day can wear us down.  And the basics needs attended to as well.  In those moments, we need to ensure that we are still breathing, as individual contributors, team leaders, and as a department as a whole, before pushing on to bigger and grander things.


You see, it is important to not lose sight of the big picture in our personal lives, professional lives, and workplaces.  But it’s equally important to make sure we’re allowing ourselves to also just be, one breath at a time.

About the Author

Jennifer Payne

Jennifer Payne is a 20+ year human resources leader with a focus on researching, developing, and implementing talent management programs. She is a believer in lifelong learning and self-development who strives to stay current in HR trends, technology, best practices, and the future of work by sharing knowledge with and learning from HR colleagues and thought leaders across the country and throughout the world through writing, speaking, and involvement in various industry conferences and events.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter...

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *