Breath

I’ve expressed my gratitude for breath before: “Oxygen is the real drug; breathing, the ultimate high.” Quoting myself! I’ve thought about breath a lot over the past decades, more since I began meditating, which curiously coincided with the end of a couple year asthma phase. My precious teacher told me at the time that sometimes people with breathing difficulties do better meditating with a different anchor than the breath. Did I take that as a challenge, or was I simply drawn to the breath because I had been all along? Either way, I’m grateful for how the past twelve years of meditation have increased familiarity with my breath.

I had a grade school understanding of how our lungs work, but until today I didn’t really comprehend how blood gets oxygenated. I’m grateful my NP sent me for pulmonary functions tests today, and grateful for the kind and focused attention of the respiratory therapist Melissa who gave me a quick lesson on lung anatomy, asthma, oxygen saturation, and why altitude matters. Yes, I suffered second-hand smoke from in utero until I left for college at 18; yes, my alveoli are functioning ever so slightly below normal; yes, I have what could be described as mild bronchial obstruction (asthma) that did not improve with an inhaler; but, unfortunately, her tests didn’t seem to reveal the reason behind my chronically low oxygen saturation. We’ll know more after the pulmonologist reviews the results, but in the meantime she concurs with NP that the next step is to get me onto night oxygen. She doesn’t think I should move to the coast of Maine, as the pressure gradient in humid sea level climes often exacerbates breathing difficulty, so there goes that fantasy.

There are complications to be worked out with the night oxygen, primary being that living on solar power I simply don’t have the electricity to run an oxygen concentrator. Period. I’m researching options. More will be revealed. Meanwhile, this whole exploration reminds me how grateful I am for each breath, and for the impaired but nevertheless miraculous lungs that diffuse oxygen into my blood and pull carbon dioxide out.

And in that perfect timing sort of way, a new avenue of respiratory therapy has opened up synchronistically. My dear teacher at the Hotchkiss Yoga Tree now offers a Pranayama class that can be taken via Zoom. I joined for the first time yesterday, and am excited and grateful to add this Tuesday class to my calendar, and incorporate the magic of Pranayama into my daily practice. Wishing you all Happy Breathing!