Recently I calculated that I have practiced over 1000 yoga classes. I started because I thought it promised it would give me a lean strong body, and help cure my stress-induced backaches. I’ve never been talented at athletics, but yoga was something I could easily do and I found it was fun. It produced all that I hoped, except for the lean part. That would mean I would have to give up sugar, which is never going to happen. To my surprise, it also provided a moment to connect with the Light.
My classes start with resting still in one position, often a not so comfortable chest opener, symbolizing a willingness to receive, with focused attention on movement of the breath. My teacher will often ask us to, “Start with stopping,” letting go of whatever is holding us back so that we can be filled with only the breath.
While I lie there on my mat, the words of the old hymn, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” have often come to mind. Those quiet moments of meditation in that darkly lit room have been an opportunity to surrender to God my challenges and pain, my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, my husband’s decision to change careers, and another family member’s difficult diagnosis. Many times tears have trickled over my cheeks onto my mat as I lie there slowly taking in the Breath of God while releasing my struggles.
This last month it was my own new diagnosis of melanoma that I had to bring to the mat. Breathe in and breathe out. It’s localized so I’ll be fine. Breathe in breathe out. Yes, it was a close call, so it’s ok to feel scared. Breathe in breath out. God fills me and I am at peace.
“Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love the way you love,
And do what you would do.”
Psalter Hymnal, 1989
The week before my melanoma surgery we sang this song in worship service. I believe this is how the Light works. The music leaders had no idea these were the words that were carrying me through this difficult time, yet I received this blessing.
—Mari Kay Evans-Smith