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A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary Moscarello.

What is unwavering calm? 

Unwavering means still.

Calm means…still. 

How difficult it seems to find stillness when all around us seems to be moving at an ever-quickening pace. Yet there is more in the idea of unwavering calm to understand. The definition of the word “calm” also means, not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions.

Finding an unwavering calm sounds so unattainable. 

Yet we have the power to do this. One way lies in pranayama – breath practice. The word itself can be defined by looking at its two parts – “prana”, meaning energy or life force and “yama”, meaning discipline or regulating behavior. 

Our breath, our life force, has the power to move the body even through the stillness of sleep. It happens throughout most of the moments of our lives without our even being aware of it. Yet we always have the power to channel our breath, control it and regulate it – thereby regulating our own energy and mood. Through pranayama, we can visit a feeling of unwavering calm. Maybe not fully still, because of the constant motion of our breath – but definitely calm.

I cannot drive a motorcycle, but I’m not opposed to being a passenger with a trusted and experienced and SAFE person in charge of the handlebars and everything else. Huz and I have been storing a dear friend’s Harley in our garage and have this summer spent more time on two wheels together than we have our entire marriage. 

The first time I sat on the back of that bike and we went riding, I will admit to being more than a little anxious. My breathing felt shallow and rapid as Huz took us on a short ride over to Eagle Rock Reservation way back in whatever month it was (because I have lost all track of timelines in relation to 2020… everything that’s happened feels either as if it occurred yesterday or a year ago).

Each time I’ve ridden as Huz drove the bike I’ve gotten more comfortable. Ask him how I handle turns, though and you’re in for a laugh. The ease with which I sit and enjoy the ride came with the help of pranayama, I kid you not. 

Praying “Hail Mary” over and over the first time we got on a highway is of course one way to soothe as well.  

All kidding aside, focusing on the breath sure helped in this case. How did I do it? I started by lengthening my exhales and making sure I released as much air as I thought I was holding. You’d be surprised how much air gets held inside by not releasing everything. Using the physical action of drawing my navel to my spine gives my exhales that extra loving nudge to clear all the stale air out. Of course sitting upright while exhaling, as one does on the back of a bike, is important.  

You don’t need to be on the back of a motorcycle, on a meditation cushion or in a yoga studio to take advantage of the power of pranayama and its ability to bring you to that unwavering calm. It is always with us, there in the background, keeping us in motion. Should you become upset, feel anxious or unsteady, returning to the gentle rhythm of the breath that is wholly yours is possible. First notice the breath. Observe the location of it. In the upper chest? Further down? 

Next, lengthen the exhale. Give it that loving nudge by pulling your navel in toward your spine. Get every last bit of the previous breath out, so your next fresh inhale can be as large as possible.

When you are ready for the inhale, allow it to enter as it will. Then give yourself a full and deep exhale. Slowly slowly as your exhales deepen, you can observe any inequality between the exhale and inhale and work to even them out to one another. Find comfort in doing this first. If any anxiety bubbles back up, exhale deeper – keeping your focus there. 

Inhales can be anxiety-inducing – as can retention of the breath on an inhale. I would never advise retaining an inhale in order to calm an anxious mind or nervous heart. Always exhale first, fully and with the purpose of making room for an inhale that serves you.    

So the unwavering calm we seek can be found through the action of pranayama. Even as we find it, we continue to act and move, through the breath. 

Read more of Mary’s blog posts here.