Space to Breathe

with Marion Thornley


Marian Thornley


My husband and I have just moved back into our house after a summer spent under canvas. We were unsure how we would enjoy the experience, having become very used to power showers, dishwashers and the like, but the most striking effect of our six week sojourn has turned out to be quite surprising. After our last house guests had left, we eagerly took possession of our largest bedroom. But, 5 minutes after going to bed, I felt as if I could not breathe, and had to open doors and windows to let fresh air into the room.

Sitting outside our canvas home, our lives had taken on a different perspective. The house that we have renovated with love and care over the last four years, decorated and furnished, now seems much less important than it did before. Being unencumbered with “stuff” that has to be cleaned, polished, put away tidily was, for that brief six week period, a freedom. Breathing the pure mountain air, hearing the cries of owls, foxes and other night creatures, and witnessing the early morning light filtering through the canvas, became a joy that far surpassed our material possessions. 

Yoga also teaches us to lead a simple life, but even if we listen, how much note do we take, as we constantly fill our lives with gadgets and other consumables? And as we buy objects, we fill our houses so that there is no space to breathe.

I was lucky enough to have a small space outside our canvas home to put a yoga mat, and this is where I did my practice each day. Being protected by trees I felt this space was somewhere the outside world could not intrude,  I could dedicate an hour each day to myself and my practice. If I did not feel like a physical practice, this was a wonderful place to sit quietly and meditate, breathing in the beautiful air.

So often, our lives too become so cluttered so that we feel we do not have the time or space to simply be quiet and alone with ourselves. This leads to a buildup of stress and fragmented thought patterns, as the brain simply does not have the opportunity to file things away and become calm. Coming to a yoga class is often the first step that  can lead to mental as well as physical decluttering. If you do not wish to practice yoga but would like to benefit from a mental decluttering of your life, try creating a space where you can go daily for peace and quiet. It could be a spare room, a place in the garden or somewhere you know locally where you can sit and be undisturbed.

Try to ensure your place is peaceful and free of electrical gadgets, especially phones!  Open a window, unless you live in a very polluted area, to allow fresh air into the room. A cushion to sit on, and maybe a blanket to put around your shoulders, are also good ideas. A wax candle or a bowl of flowers also helps to create a soothing atmosphere. Last, but not least, try to fix a time of day that you will regularly use your space.

Marian teaches yoga and chant in the UK and Ceret (proceeds are donated to charity), as well as free consultations for yoga therapy. Email for more information:

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