It’s hard these days to find something we all can agree on, right? But since the dawn of time, there’s at least one thing we can all say for sure. Every human has done it. It’s with us every second of every day. We can hold it, but not for long. We do it in our sleep. It’s the first thing that enters our mouths when we’re born and it’s the last thing that leaves our mouths when we die. That thing is your breath.
We breathe around 30,000 times per day and yet, we tend to ignore the connection between our breath and our prayer life. Some Christians even get a little jumpy (c'mon, y'all!) when they hear about incorporating deep breathing into their prayers, some going so far as believing it’s summoning dark forces. Anyways, these same people seem to forget that God introduces us to the transformative power of the breath all the way back in the Garden of Eden when he first fashioned us from mud. If you think about it, we weren’t a whole lot to look at until we got some life breathed into us. In fact, the breath of life is what makes us truly come alive.
Then God formed man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. [Genesis 2:7]
Our breath is everything. Consider this. Even in the pits of his tragic circumstances, Job remarks that he has the breath of God to give him life. Guys. This is someone who has literally lost everything that matters to him. His family, his friends, his home and his place in society. And yet, he still finds reason to rejoice because he has his breath.
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. [Job 33:4]
From then on, the breath is referenced 96 more times in the Old and New Testaments. The Israelites even created a name for God that reflected the literal sound our breath makes, yahweh. Pause for a few seconds and try to speak this word (without your tongue or lips) as you take deep breaths in through your mouth (yah) and out through your mouth (weh). It was the only word in the Hebrew language that required neither the tongue nor the lips to speak. God is beyond language and so they chose a word that reflected that. You see, only the breath could truly express the mysterious, supernatural, power of God. It’s invisible and yet, it’s everywhere and everything.
Think of it this way. Each of our 30,000 daily breaths is a unique opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Our breath resides in the present, neither in the past nor in the future. When we pause to acknowledge our breath, we remember the brevity of life and the blessing of this moment. And this one. And this one. And this one. In fact, you’ve probably taken 100 breaths since you started reading this post.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord! [Psalms 150:6]
My fascination with the breath started in June 2019 while in teacher training at my local yoga studio in Santa Monica, California. I didn’t want to teach the popularized fitness-forward yoga, so I signed up to learn how to teach a lesser known style called “yin and restorative” that reduces stress, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes deep relaxation. This is all enabled by breathing mindfully and moving slowly. During one of our first training sessions, we learned that the word yoga means to “to yoke” and as lay there on my mat, I was instantly transported to Christ’s transformative invitation to yoke our lives with his.
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [Matthew 11:29]
Who among us doesn’t need rest? The remainder of my teacher training became grounded in this scripture and I was eager to find a class that yoked my love of deep stretching with meaningful prayer. I wanted to find a Christian yoga class and if I couldn’t find one, I knew I had to create one. The seed was planted and I started to water it.
I decided to call my class Stretching with Scripture, because each class incorporates gentle yogic movements with sacred teachings from the Old and News Testaments. We surrender on bended knees. We lay on the ground in silence. We pray with clasped hands. We bow our heads in reverence. We clutch our hearts. We stretch our arms to the sky with hopeful expectation.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. [Romans 12:1]
And the next time you slow down to take a few deep breaths, perhaps you’ll be reminded that it is Yahweh's breath of life deep within you.