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Deep breaths

In the last month, thanks to the prodding of my boss (and the discount coupons she sent me), I've started doing Bikram Yoga. In a nutshell: 26 poses. An hour and a half. 40-degree Celsius room. Yep, that's pretty much all there is to it.

Except it's not.

Because in the last month, so many things have happened - things left unwritten, or unsaid, or unacknowledged. And for the most part, those ninety-minute sessions (and the heavenly shower that comes after) have been used for a lot of thinking. And also for a lot of breathing, literally and metaphorically. I'm very grateful.

Allow me to illustrate.


A few weeks ago, a blockmate of ours passed away. It was one of those really unfortunate accidents: on his way home, he suddenly felt dizzy and fell down the flight of stairs in the MRT. He hit his head pretty badly and suffered severe hemorrhaging in his brain. He was in a coma for about a week before finally passing away, as a result also of his heart condition. To say that it was shocking would be an understatement. He was actually one of the brightest people in class. We weren't very close, but to have someone you always see everyday suddenly die so young - it's so, so shocking. The rest of his life was still ahead of him. He was 24; he was so loved by his family, friends, and girlfriend (of eight years). How can it happen to someone our age? It's truly heartbreaking.

I'm no stranger to such tragedies. My family has gone through similar circumstances with different family members. Just a year ago, my maternal grandmother, Wowa, fell down inside a restroom cubicle in Trinoma. She also hit her head, which resulted in blood clots inside her brain. And about two decades ago (before I was born), my father's brother, Tito Bobbie, had an accident with his gun, which he mistakenly fired. The bullet hit him in the head, and he ended up in coma for a while. Both of them are fine, alive, and perfectly normal. (Granted, half of my uncle's body is paralyzed, but he can walk and even travels more than I do.) But that doesn't disregard the complete devastation both of these incidents caused our families. The idea of possibly losing your loved one because of one quick, fatal hit or blow - how completely and utterly senseless. It's a thought that still scares me, really. One moment you're just talking to the person, and the next, she's lying in bed, unconscious and on the brink of death. It's scary.

All these accidents somehow point to a same set of facts: at some point, the brain lacked the oxygen it needed to function. The heart was too weak to bring it there; the body, too fragile to continue on its own.


Bikram requires a certain discipline: focus that holds together the form, form that extricates the breathing. The inhaling and exhaling is both the relief and the affliction - the heat and the exhaustion makes you want to breathe quickly, but too much dampens your composure. Short, quick breaths that allow for recovery does not allow your body to acclimate well to the stress.

It's always a tug-of-war between the mind and the body: where the mind dictates what the body should do, it is the body that decides what it is capable of. The breathing tethers both.

In all those times I had to stare at the ceiling, or the floor, or in the mirror in front of me, I am forced to feel and hear my heart raring to break out of its cage. The body is tired, it says, and the mind is clouded. Time to rest.

But there is no stopping. When the mind sees the others, the body follows. And even when the heart says it can't, it will. The breathing will bring it to the next pose. Hands on the sky, feet on the ground, all muscles engaged. It's incredible, what the body can do when stressed and what the mind can bring it to. It is when I am most fatigued that I am most determined; when I am gasping for air that I feel most alive.


There is no room for regrets, or hesitation. So much about this summer was about catching my breath, and taking the time to give my heart and body the chance to recover - spending time with my family, having the best conversations with my friends, experiencing new things with my boyfriend, appreciating the law, reigniting the flame with literature. Rekindling my faith. Realizing how much there is to be thankful for, about life and love.

No reason to not welcome everything with anticipation; no reason to not be grateful. How beautiful to be reminded of this with each deep breath.


It is almost the end of July. This summer (and Bikram) winds down to this: Everything is illuminated with each breath, let each gasp be that of wonder.

To be alive, to be able to take breaths deep and slow to feel each tremor inside my chest.