Beads of sweat roll down my face, dripping into a pool beneath me. I hold my body aloft from my forearms, belly tight, feet flexed toward the back of the room, palms gripping my mat and upper arms starting to shake.
“Now, raise your hips high in the air and begin to walk your feet towards your elbows for Dolphin pose.” I oblige and hold; my shoulders begin to radiate fire as they bear the weight of my body, my legs tremor as I fight the urge to cave in at my knees. The sweat continues to drip, till a stream rolls off course and slips into my eye. It burns.
“We’re nearly there,” I remind myself as I push my breath out through my mouth, audibly hissing in concert with the room.
“Take child’s pose.”
I collapse in gratitude. The harsh lights click off and the twinkle lights signal it’s time to restore the bodies we’ve pushed these last 40 minutes.
“Take downward facing dog.”
“Lift your right leg up to the sky, now pull it through for half pigeon…
…with your right leg horizontal to the front of your mat and your left leg stretched out long behind you, come forward and allow your head to rest on your mat and your elbows to fall out wide…
…Then square up your hips and let your breath help you sink deeper into the stretch.”
I sigh. The pose is never comfortable, but tense in all of the ways that reveal to me where I hold my deepest tension.
This is more than the workday stressors that knot and roll in my shoulders. It’s more than I can ever unlock.
I wonder if I’ve carried this trapped aching around my hip sockets since birth, since the first time my body squeezed itself tight, afraid of what was happening, aware it would never be the same on the other side.
I inhale. And it’s tight. I lean. And it pinches.
Inhale still tight, air pooling in my chest, body still reaching forward.
And then inhale, deeper, deeper—pause—my diaphragm engages, drawing air down deeper still, past the tightness at my ribs.
The abundance of oxygen sends my head tingling. The inhale lasts forever and the exhale sends out a prayer—thank you, God.
These days, the chance to inhabit my own depths feels like a miracle. Scratch that, is a miracle.
I tend to reside in my ever-thinking head, trusting my chest to pump and breathe enough to keep my mind active, rarely venturing down into the deeper breaths and swirling feelings of my gut.
But here, in a sticky hot room where I’ve stretched, stacked, trembled and balanced my body, here I practice incarnation. Here I practice kind acceptance rather than constrictive comparison. I practice rhythmic being over striving. I practice the dance of stillness and movement. I practice trying, failing, and trying again. I practice breathing deeply.
Here my body practices believing that God might still delight in me regardless of how little we’re talking, meeting, and sitting together these days. Because I don’t know what to say to him. Because I’m carrying hurt from so many people who claim Him as theirs. Because I am hoping this church thing we’ve all been doing together for longer than we can remember isn’t really it…it can’t be, can it?
Here, I practice accepting where I am today and gratitude for the wonder that God made our bodies to be—forces resilient and lasting, evolving and unfolding, tender and strong. Expressions of growth and grace.
“Now take your time, doing whatever your body needs to switch sides. With your left leg horizontal to the front of your mat and your right leg stretched out long behind you, come forward and allow your head to rest. Take a deep, deep breathe, and lean forward.”
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 30 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.