Follow Your Breath

I do yoga sometimes. I love it. Sometime late last fall, I decided yoga needed to be a part of my self care regimen, especially with the impending winter. I’m not really strong enough to do anything impressive in the yoga studio, but I do love it, so I go.

A younger, more rigid version of myself might have rejected yoga as new-agey and spiritually questionable. Because, well, I knew everything back then. The older I get, the less I seem to know, in some weird reversal of how the world should work. I will admit that it’s also more peaceful this way.

Anyway, I was processing my spiritual experience of yoga the other day, and I landed on a concept that I just loved. One thing the instructor says throughout the practice is that your breathing should always lead your movement, and not the other way around. “Follow your breath,” she says. As we stretch up in full salute or bend at the waist in full fold, our deep, steady breaths should be the driving force.  It is a mindful and intentional movement, slow and purposeful. When I really bring my whole self to my yoga mat and take the time to follow my breath, it is beautiful. It’s certainly different than the harried woman I find in myself during lots of my daily activities.

I think the rest of my life needs to be more like this kind of slow, purposeful, mindful, breath-inspired yoga movement. I need to take more time to slow down, be more aware, be more awake, and let my actions flow from somewhere within me. Too often my days are ruled by the tyranny of the urgent. There’s seemingly no time to be led by my breath or to ensure that my actions are coming from an authentic place within me. This mindless busy-ness seems like a haphazard way of doing life.

Lately I’ve been a good deal more introspective than usual. I’ve been reading a fabulous book by Brene Brown and doing some good, healthy soul-searching. My extroverted self is not so prone to this type of quiet and somewhat difficult growth, and somehow I feel so grown up in the midst of it all. And I like it.

More specifically, as a Christian, I think this breath concept from yoga is giving me a really wonderful picture of what it means that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14) I have to admit that sometimes the role of the Holy Spirit in my daily life feels a little elusive. He’s sort of mysterious, I’ll admit.

Being led by the spirit is, I think, like being led by our breath in yoga. When we slow down and let our breath do the leading in yoga, it brings purpose and mindfulness to our movements. When we slow down and let the Spirit do the leading in our daily lives, we have more potential for moving through our day with purpose and grace. Instead of rushing from one task to another, I can breathe deeply and consider what God might have for me in that moment. Sometimes I might even feel drawn by Him to something specific- to call a friend, to ask for forgiveness, to notice His creation, or to simply slow down and enjoy something.

Today I’m taking longer, deeper breaths. I’m listening. I’m slowing down. And I’m letting my movement follow my breath, the Spirit, instead of haphazardly running from one activity to the next. And even though I might *know* a bit less as I age, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that strangely I’m learning more and more all the time.

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