There’s a reason that holding your breath kills you.
Out in the garden over the weekend, I filled up boxes with compost-y soil. It was hard work, but that was just what I needed–I’d been too static (stagnant) the last few days and needed some inner stirring up and re-settling.
Having learned in yoga practice to breath through the difficult parts, I noticed how my body hadn’t quite learned to carry that practice to yard work yet. When I heaved a shovel full of soil into the wheel barrow, I held my breath. My breath was shallow and short. As I lifted my shovel and moved the wheel barrow, I constantly reminded myself to take long, deep breaths.
It’s the breath that stirs things up and helps the body re-settle anyway. “Exercise is all about the breath,” I was told once–we don’t get the same benefit from a work out or a yoga session or yard work if we aren’t letting the breath in and out like bellows, stoking our inner fire, burning off the grumpiness that comes from stagnation.
When we hold our breath to get through a difficult moment, we’re refusing the healing and energizing power of the breath. When we put our heads down, give up our regular prayer lives, slack on our exercise regimen, stop responding to our friends’ calls,–just to get through a week or a season of busy difficulty–we’re holding our “breath,” refusing the healing and energizing power that God offers us through the Holy Spirit in prayer, in each other, in our own bodies, and in worship.
Whatever happens–especially in difficult, put-your-head-down, hauling soil kind of times, keep breathing.