A few years ago I had a counselor critique me. He said, “you don’t breathe.” I looked at him with curiosity and then realized I was in fact holding my breath. Maybe you do it too?
His recommendation? To breathe, and practice breathing deeply when I feel stress. And for at least 8 years now, I have been practicing this. Reminding myself to breathe, reminding my children and my best friend, “just breathe” I say. Try it, right now, nice and deep. Doesn’t it feel good? A cleansing breath.There’s this new adventure in my life right now called yoga. I’ve been a bit close minded about it in the past I’m afraid to admit, and now since trying it I’ve come to understand the benefits. I was close minded because it seemed so zen and associated with religions other than my own. But, I’ve come to realize…
1. We can be friends with Jesus and Yoga without compromise. My pastor said that sometimes as Christians we can be so afraid of Eastern religions and the traditions that we have completely dismissed meditation in Christianity. Abraham meditates in Genesis 24. In the book of Joshua, the LORD tells Joshua to meditate on the law day and night. And all throughout the Psalms we are instructed to meditate on God’s wonders, His promises, His statutes, and His works. This is an absolute Biblical habit. We should not be afraid of compromising our relationship with Jesus by meditation. In fact, it can strengthen it.
2. Yoga trains the mind and body to be still before the LORD. Now, there are definitely challenging poses that require effort, but what I’ve experienced is a stillness of mind while doing yoga. I’m not going through my to do list. I’m not paying attention to my mobile device. I’m in my body, giving my full attention to my muscles and my breathing. I’ve learned to hold a pose, and still my mind and ignore the thoughts of “I can’t do this.” If I am intentional about prayer while practicing yoga, I can walk away feeling like I’ve actually spent time with Jesus during a session.
3. Yoga trains me to breathe. So, let’s just state the obvious. If you hold your breathe while exercising in general, you will pass out. During a stretching pose that is particularly difficult, if I breathe, I can maintain a deeper stretch than if I don’t. If I breathe, I can stretch further and longer than if I don’t. If I breathe, I can hold a pose longer because I’m focusing on the breath instead of the pain. This is what I often tell my doula clients during labor contractions. Focus on the breath instead of the pain.
During a yoga session I wear Bergamot and Ylang Ylang essential oils to help with the mind/body connection. They don’t drug you into submission, they just encourage the natural processes that are happening in the body while exercising. You will often hear instructors remind the class to breathe. It’s training and it’s good for you. For stressful times, for pain filled times, just breathe.