In a yoga class, body movements are closely linked to specific and rhythmic breathing. As we sweep hands overhead and reach high, there’s a deep, full inhale. As we press arms down to the side, there’s a controlled exhale taking us to the very end of the breath. And the cycle continues throughout the practice which is truly one of the most beautiful and effective aspects of a yoga practice. The poses are important, sure. But the greatest thing that can take place on a yoga mat is the connection to the breath, the awareness of the air that calms the brain and travels in and out of the body.
But why? What is this supposed to do for us in real life?
There are incredible neurophysical answers here about oxygen and grandiates that move air in and out of the lungs. There are alsoopportunities to learn more about this through Holy Yoga training. But I believe the best response to breathing can actually be found in Psalm 139:14: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!”
The truth is that the mechanics of breathwork are breathtaking. Breathing sends incredible signals to our brain that create calmness by providing more oxygen. The body then responds with messages of safety, clarity, peace and often perspective–even if only for a few moments. Intentional breathing is a withdrawal from stress, a step back, a circumstantial removal where Christians have the opportunity to focus not just on the act of breathing but the miracle of breath itself.
A pastor once reflected on the story of Moses where he had the audacity to ask a holy God, “What is your name?” God’s gracious response to Moses: “My name is YHWH” (which is “Yaweh” in Hebrew). When spoken out loud, “Yah-weh” sounds like taking a breath. Many scholars say the best interpretation of Yahweh is, “I will be with you.”
We have a God whose very name means that He exists with us. Therefore, each time we have the gift of taking a single breath, it’s a conversation with God where He reminds us that He is with us, He dwells within us, and He will never leave.
Incredible, isn’t it?
The techniques of yogic breathing are one way to participate in the centering knowledge of ourselves as complex creatures who are intimate with our creator every time we say his name. God breathed life into Adam and Eve, and our bodies are alive until our very last breath.
What does this mean for everyday life?
It’s no surprise that saying the name of God brings calm, centering peace. Every breath gives us the opportunity to draw close to God because we’re reminded that our next breath isn’t guaranteed, therefore we can fall back into His hands and give over every circumstance–regardless of the intensity and our responsibilities within. God is still in control, and our breath is proof.
The next time you feel stressed, focus on the simplicity and availability of God’s greatest message: “I will be with you.” Draw in deeper, rhythmic breath to give the entire body what it needs the most: a Father who is present and will never, ever leave you.
You can learn more about breathing techniques in our upcoming workshop, Breathe Easy: Simple Techniques to Ease Stress and Anxiety in Daily Life. This workshop is Saturday, July 25th at 11:00AM Central. Register here!