At the time, I had just had enough yoga that I had caught on to Sun Salutation A. Stand, bend, plank, lower, curl up, push back, jump forward, stand. The standing felt like bookends to the poses in the middle. I understood the rhythm of the poses.
So the instructor let us go. “Flow through these poses with your breath at your own pace,” she said. And I did. Standing, bending, planking, lowering, curling, shifting, jumping, standing: I breathed and moved.
“Keep going,” she urged with her quiet, breathy voice. “Let the Universe breathe you, as if you’re dancing on the breath of the Universe.”
Do what? The Tiny Evangelical Girl inside me asked. Let the Universe breathe me? The Universe couldn’t breathe. I understood the instructor’s words to be an expression of pantheism, of seeing God as all things. The Universe was God. The tree outside the window was God. I didn’t believe these things.
I continued to breathe and move, suspending my disbelief of her words like I suspend disbelief in a movie where something shouldn’t be able to happen but does. I felt awkward, like I shouldn’t be in this class. If the instructor didn’t hold the same beliefs as I did, should I allow her to influence me? After today, should I return to her class?
My questions about the Universe were indicative of a larger question: could I, as a Christian, practice yoga?
Inhale, stand. Exhale, bend. Inhale, plank.
Even though my theology doubted the words, my writing self found them poetic. I fancied wind flowing back and forth and moving with it up and down and over and under. Together with the other yoga students in the room, we moved with the wind, moving in step with the universe. Maybe there was something to the imagery.
Exhale, lower. Inhale, curl. Exhale, shift.
If I substituted “God” for “Universe,” the statement made sense. God, who sustains the universe with the Holy Spirit, breathes ruach life-giving breath into the world. By pulling air into my body, I was also pulling God’s breath into my body–the breath God breathed into Adam. If I believe the Bible, I do not breathe of my own accord, but God gives me the grace to breathe and to be alive. Thus, in a way, God was breathing me, and I was moving with God’s breath.
Inhale, jump. Exhale, fold. Inhale, stand.
I was dancing with the breath of God.