Photo by Monica Felix @

Water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first

Photo by Monica Felix @

Photo by Monica Felix @

When you’re practicing yoga in a hundred degree room with forty percent humidity for ninety minutes straight, the natural inclination is to medicate your suffering with water. Because it’s cold and refreshing and hydrating and satisfying.

But as my teacher loves to remind his students, water is your second lifeline, breathing is your first.

Think about it. When a person experiences a health emergency, the first thing the paramedics provide is oxygen. Nobody inserts a water tube up your nose. People need air. Breath is life. It’s the source of all things.

And nothing against water. It’s a close second on the scoreboard of human survival. But you can survive for three days without water. Oxygen is only three minutes.

And so, in yoga class, when the dizziness and the leg cramps and the dark thoughts come crashing in, the smartest response is to breathe, not drink. No matter how much money you spent on that shiny new vacuum insulated double stainless steel water bottle that keeps contents icy cold for up to eighteen hours, the smartest response is to breathe.

Oxygen first, water second.

It’s a perfect metaphor for life outside the yoga studio, too. Because when our suffering becomes intolerable, we’re given that same choice. We can reach for a crutch to soothe our pain, or we can regulate and refresh and rebuild ourselves with lifelines that are healthier.

And don’t make us have to pee every twenty minutes.

What’s your preferred method of medicating?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Bikram yogi Ruchika Muchhala

Ruchika Muchhala

My sister had been practicing Bikram Yoga for awhile and she convinced me that it would really help me detox. It was only until the winter break after a busy first semester in graduate school, that I agreed to join her for a class in 2012 and immediately bought the unlimited monthly plan as a christmas present to myself!

As a graduate student and then a freelancer who has strange “working hours” and can work remotely, Bikram Yoga is the time in which I get to put the gadgets away and disconnect, literally! However, unlike working out at the gym or going for a long meditative swim, I feel that my practice challenges me to not only have the chance to keep trying and trying, pushing and pushing until I come to “perfect” my poses, but to just value the process of it.

With my work, making documentary films and non-fiction content, oftentimes it is only the final edited outcome that one sees and as an artist, we feel rewarded when others are affected by our work and acknowledge it. However, we fail to acknowledge our own process of making it. The film I am screening on March 8, 2015 is deeply personal, as I am the one who navigates through the arranged marriage system and my parents are pressuring me to get married. The process of making the film emotionally as well as logistically, was difficult and sometimes painful and oftentimes, like with Bikram Yoga, you just want to run to a window or to the door and escape!

I am happy to finally have the chance to share the film and have the chance to engage audiences with a relevant discussion with some of the amazing artists and activists who I admire on the panel discussion after the screening. We are screening the film at 7 p.m.the Tank Theater (151 West 46th Street, 8th Floor).

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Bikram combines stillness and moving meditation into one relaxing package

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Photo by Monica Felix @

Yoga brings up a common argument over stillness meditation versus moving meditation.

The first approach uses being, i.e., stillness and concentration and contemplation, as the path to relaxation and enlightenment. Practices might include guided imagery, hypnosis, creative visualization, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness breathing. The challenge is, for people who have racing brains and hyperactive imaginations and racing brains, that approach becomes frustrating and impractical. They’d prefer to move their bodies to relax their minds.

The second approach, moving meditation, uses doing, i.e., activity and flow and momentum, as the path to relaxation and enlightenment. Practices might include yoga, walking or any other form of rhythmic, repetitive action. And it’s ideal for people who need physical movement helps to anchor themselves against the tumultuous waves of thought.

Fortunately, yoga can combine both. Stillness plus movement.

What’s your preferred method of meditation?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.