Frustrated, I left the pulmonary specialist’s office feeling deflated and in limbo, suspended between known questions and unknown answers. After stress tests, an electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray, and so many failed trial treatments, the specialist confirmed that there was a problem:
“Your oxygen levels decrease as you walk,” he said.
But he had no explanation for why this was happening, let alone solutions for fixing it. He only offered the option for further testing.
Why am I experiencing shortness of breath during my workout? Why am I experiencing chest pains long after my cardio-intense workouts have ended?
And as he scheduled more tests for weeks and months into the future, the answers to all my urgent questions were elusive.
“Until we figure this out,” the specialist told me, “you must avoid cardio workouts. You can do yoga or something like that.”
Talk about adding insult to injury! First, I didn’t have answers to why I couldn’t breathe, and now, I was being told not to move the way I want to!
I am a fan of yoga, and a few years ago, I used to practice three to four times a week. But shifts in life had taken me to more cardio-intense options for working out. I love the fast-paced movement of the cardio-strength fitness classes. The loud thumping music vibrates so strongly that it alone seems to pump my heart. Jumping, squatting, lifting, planking in the company of more physically fit women, I like to pretend that I am as athletic as they are, though I am not. But raptured by the music and fast-paced movement, I can escape the tension I feel in my muscles screaming for me to notice them. And when I feel like I can’t muster the energy to move one more inch, the music seems to move my body for me. I spur myself on with this thought: “I can’t run one more lap, but I can dance!” The movement stirs so much joy in me, and I believe my body is meant for this type of movement.
But I had to give it up. With my head bowed in shame, I told the cardio-strength teacher I could not return to class — at least not until I understood what was going on in my chest. Disappointed, I scanned the YMCA fitness class schedule for yoga classes. The only yoga class that fit my schedule was gentle yoga. I was devastated! Or should I say, my ego was bruised. I identified gentle yoga with “movement for restricted people” (yes, I am choosing and typing my words carefully so as not to offend anyone). I felt like I was being sentenced to immobility and aging. I know that was horrible thinking on my part, but those were my honest thoughts at that time.
When I got to the studio, I reluctantly dragged my yoga mat to a corner, and before the instructor began, I scanned the room looking for the athletic body type I could pretend to be like. I did not find her. Instead, I seemed to be the youngest person in the room — another blow to my ego.
The instructor began the session by bringing us to stillness. Her music was light, airy, and instrumental — no words for me to shout along with. Her voice intertwined with the music — the two floated above our foreheads and twirled around our bodies — so quietly that I could hear my own heart beat. She guided us to stillness, to focus inward and on our own life sustaining breath — each inhale and every exhale, valuable and meaningful.
As we honored our breath, she read a beautiful, life encouraging truth to us. Each time, the beauty and truth of what she had chosen to read disrupted my noisy thoughts and brought me to rest. The words were a generous outpouring, a reflection of God’s love for us. Each time, I was captivated by this gift I did not know I needed in order to truly breathe. What a paradox! Because I couldn’t breathe, I was advised not to move fast. I was “banished” to gentle yoga, where in stillness, I found my breath and was restored by words written, chosen, and spoken to me so that I may abundantly experience life.
In stillness and slow, gentle movement, I noticed all the movement within, stoking my inner fire, warming me from the inside out. I learned to become attentive to the breath spreading life throughout my body to each limb, finger, and toe. The instructor reminded us that instead of doing a workout, we were doing a work-in.
I thought of the king and former shepherd, David, in Psalm 23 where he likened himself to a sheep being cared for by the Eternal Shepherd. Knowing what was best for David, the loving and generous Shepherd made him lie down in rich, green pastures near quiet waters and refreshed his soul.
This is what I am learning: inconvenience and loss can offer me gifts I did not know I needed, giving me sight where I did not know I had blind spots. What seemed like a setback from reaching fitness goals has been a redirect toward meeting spiritual and emotional needs. I still don’t have answers to my health questions, but in the space between questions and answers, I am experiencing an overflow of provision through stillness, gentleness, and quiet.
When you invite stillness into your life, you become more present to God moving within you. When you slow down into quietness, you more fully inhabit the world designed for your existence, living in the peace God intended for your life.
We can experience an overflow of provision through stillness, gentleness, and quiet instead of striving. -Lucretia Berry (@brownicity): Click To Tweet