lion’s breath.

This past week I found myself regularly needing to do a good old lion’s breath:

Lion’s breath is the breathing technique, or pranayama, which goes with simhasana, or lion poseIt is a powerful breathing method that includes a forceful exhalation. The name refers to the fierce lion-like expression of the yogi’s face and the roaring sound of the breath made when performing this pranayama.

This breathing technique and the associated pose are well-known for their ability to reduce stress and anger through the active release of tension with the exhale. — Yogapedia

Even if you don’t practice yoga, I encourage you to try breathing exercises for when those paralyzing waves of anxiety come. Prayer is, of course, essential, too, but I often find that I can’t really focus on communicating with God when I feel like I’m about to pass out. I need to first calm and center myself, so I can think clearly.

It started on Monday when I got my period, totally out of the blue. And oh, it arrived with the vengeance of a thousand missed periods. A tiny part of me was “Yay, I’m normal!” and then the larger part of me immediately started body shaming myself. I felt gross, bloated, ugly. And that was only the start of the week: a week full of important meetings, commitments, and deadlines, and I felt totally off my game. Each morning I woke up and spent the better part of the morning trying to come with logical excuses to get out of everything and just crawl under the covers. Fortunately, I felt more shame about hiding. And I couldn’t handle any more of that. I needed strength. I needed courage. I needed to channel my inner-lion so to speak.

And so after I wasted hours thinking of how to give into my cowardice, I began practicing my lion’s breath. And with that came clarity, and with that came a renewed energy and ability to speak to God from a place of vulnerability and trust rather than fear and anger.

Some weeks are just tough. And there’s no way to prepare for them. But, having some tools in your pocket (like a solid lion’s breath and Bible verses of affirmation) can be game changers.

These are a few Bible verses that comforted me this past week:

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! – Ezekiel 37:5

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. – Psalm 62:1

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? – Matthew 6:26

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything,but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. – Psalm 29:11

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Let everything that has breath praise the LordPraise the Lord. – Psalm 150:6

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14

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If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.

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