As I laid on the living room floor in the comfort of a yoga child's pose the voice on the video calmly instructed me on the proper breathing pattern. In through the nose, out through the mouth. With my forehead to my mat and my "energies" completely uncentered, I rolled my eyes. "I know how to breathe," I thought to myself. Her exhale sounded like a rush of wind. I let mine out with a big, exasperated sigh as I said to myself, "How's that for breathing, silly yogi?"
For days I've been steering clear of vigorous exercise. My body hasn't been strong enough and mentally I'd come to accept my physical limitations. Instead, I've turned to less heart-racing exercise practices such as Christ-centered yoga. But today something deep inside of me wanted to hit the pavement at a quick clip. Determined to heed the internal call I laced up my sneakers and tuned in to my inner resolve. "I will run a mile," I told myself. A mighty feat for these weakened legs.
An hour later I was standing on the sidewalk with my earbuds in place and the sun on my face. Without wasting a moment I broke out into a run. Okay, maybe not a run. Let's call it a "comfortable jog." It didn't take long for that comfortable jog to become very uncomfortable. There was barely a breeze in the air but I felt as if I was running straight into a headwind. There wasn't even an inch of elevation but my movement was as labored as a runner ascending straight up a mountain.
In an instant my inner resolve and determined spirit were met with doubt and defeat. "I'm barely moving...Why aren't my legs working?...Why is this slow jog so challenging? That's it, I'm going to give up!" The thoughts flashed through my mind with rapid succession. "You look pathetic!"
And then it hit me like a gale force wind. "You aren't breathing."
During my short thirty seconds of jogging I hadn't taken a single breath. The words of my online yoga instructor hadn't penetrated. I had forgotten to "just breathe."
I took a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, with as much force as a gust of wind. And then it happened, my legs started to move faster. The sidewalk didn't look endlessly long. With every deep breath in and out the mile ahead didn't feel quite as daunting.
I must have breathed like that for ten minutes without giving a single thought to my little spindly legs because before I knew it I was one mile in and hadn't turned back to the car. Without a concern in the world I looped back around, added another mile to my run, and ended feeling stronger and less winded then when I began.
And all I had to do was breathe.
When my heart rate slowed and the pinks in my cheeks faded a lightness enveloped my heart. Just breathe - it is so simple yet so easy to forget. To make it through this life, to take even another slow step forward, I need to be taking in the air of the Almighty. My lungs need to be filled up with the air of the Holy Spirit that has the power to give me strength and stamina to face the mile - or two - ahead.
How many times have I set out on my day without thinking about the steady rise and fall of my spiritual lungs? How often do I try to keep my heart filled with hope and my soul satisfied without calling on the name of Jesus to deeply fill me with His spirit?
"Just breathe." It is so simple. It is the most basic of practices. From the yoga mat to the race track to the quiet place of my praying heart, just breathe. Just start there. If I can breathe just one deep inhalation at a time I can make it miles further than I imagined. Not because of my air, but because I will be filled with the perfect spiritual breath of Christ.