If I read one more article instructing me to take deep, calming breaths or recounting the wondrous benefits of meditation and yoga, I just might lose it. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for all of that indisputably healthy and zen practice. But is it realistic, or more importantly helpful, on a daily basis for the average, crazed parent? Not. Even. A. Little.
For one, whenever I read an article about deep breathing, I'm typically speed-scanning it, while juggling a work email, a load of laundry on one hip and at least one child on the other. I see the headline and I immediately panic because I can't remember the last time I took any breath, let alone a deep, cleansing one. But because the writer reminds me of the vital importance of air, I take one long, deliberate breath in, and before I'm even able to fully exhale, the phone rings, or the baby screams or some other everyday calamity draws my attention from the air around me right back down to earth... and by earth I mean the dirt my baby is eating.
Why not the early morning or late evening hours, these articles implore? Well, as it is, I only get an average of five hours sleep a night. My eyes are propped open the other 19 hours only by the good grace of Folgers. (Proof positive: As I initially wrote those hour ranges, my day allegedly contained 28 hours. I suppose when the sleepless nights bleed into one another it's an accurate calculation, but I digress.) Early morning yoga would put me in a melted buttery state rendering it impossible to get every member of my house out the door (let alone clothed) on time. In those few instances when I've attempted yoga after the kids' bedtimes, I'm the girl whose downward facing dog ungracefully disintegrates into face-plant-snoring mom. I firmly believe that any post 7 p.m. yoga class that is held at any location other than my bedroom should come with a warning akin to those found on prescription med bottles: After intake, no lifting of heavy machinery, no driving, in fact, don't even bother thinking of anything other than a good nap!
And here's the real irony: These articles are targeted directly at me and my peers -- the overworked, over-committed, over-caffeinated parents who need some way (any way) to combat the war that commences with the first kid's visit at 5:30 a.m. (when we're lucky).
We, who are on the losing side of the battle over what constitutes weather-appropriate attire.
We, whose children line up like a firing squad, pelting us with food requests... only to be left with plates untouched.
We, whose strongholds are set ablaze, day in and day out, by fiery, toddler tantrums and hot-headed but boneless babes.
I don't need to look back at the history books to tell you that no squadron ever came away victorious by retaliating against such stalwart opponents with .. deep breathing. Tough times call for tough measures, and so when I'm feeling bloodied and bruised, I want to uppercut the world back with equal force, Batman-style. Pow! Wham! Ka-Bang!
And so, I hit the road...
With my feet. I pound it, one foot after another, reminding the ground who's boss. The wind bends around me, making way for the important job I have -- which is to push forward, with intensity. You want deep breathing? Push faster. Suck the air into your lungs hungrily, use it all up and give it right back. A beautiful, intense exchange with the world that will make you feel more alive than at any other moment of your dutifully organized day.
And I drive -- all by myself -- and I sing at the top of my lungs, notes soaring, for no one but me to hear.
I sing low and loud, pulling the deep sound from my tight and tension-filled belly. And as those notes climb, they rise and escape, carrying with them the stresses and the tightness, leaving behind warmed and marshmallowy muscles. The breathless panting that follows a round of broadway or hair-band belting -- the steady and rhythmic rise and fall of your chest -- is an intensely satisfying and self-indulgent deep breathing for which there is simply no match.
The suffocating list of daily chores, which bookend my day in the office, they deflate me. By 7:30, I'm a wrinkly, lifeless balloon floating adrift in the corner of the room. And there is nothing about the dishes, or breakfasts, or lunches, or laundries, or sweeping that pumps me back up. The last thing I need is something that lulls me even further into a reticent, dreamlike state. I want my very being to reverberate with life. I want my blood to pump with an intensity it couldn't even contemplate during every.other.chore. Screw serenity now. I want euphoria now.
If you get that through your deep yoga breathing, and I mean this, more power to you. But if you're like me, and at least on occasion, need something with a bit more pep to reach that place of peace, go for a run while singing. Your neighbors might not thank you, but your body -- and breath -- most assuredly will.