How do you enter into your Inner Room of Prayer-Beyond-Words?
Years ago, I began taking yoga classes. One of my adult daughters encouraged me. It turned out to be another piece to my embodiment and healing journey. Later, I trained to become a certified Hatha Yoga instructor.
Yoga is not simply about fitness or flexibility, though it is often sold as such here in the United States. It does benefit our physical body, yet at the heart of yoga is an embodied spiritual practice with great depth, nuance, and Mystery. As with Centering Prayer, I discovered yoga brought me into my body’s Inner Room…
…that sacred place of Prayer-Beyond-Words.
As a beginning yoga student, I found myself crying during practices, not from pain or frustration but rather from grief. My yoga instructor normalized this, so I didn’t feel embarrassed. She explained how we might encounter emotions and/or trauma that may be frozen in our bodies.
“Let the tears flow and release,” she gently coaxed.
Listening to her cues as I attuned to my body, I found parts of myself I had not known. Pieces I had ignored and even abandoned. In that tender place, I also discovered Infinite Compassion.
Allowing the tears to flow, I centered my heart on the Divine as I sank into a bowing pose (asana), like Child’s Pose. In Fish Pose, I lifted and opened my heart towards the heavens, the Holy. Prayer Hands (Anjula Mudra) felt honoring. I loved the reverence I felt toward Spirit as I moved from asana to asana. More and more, I discovered that reverence inside myself too.
Back then, the most challenging pose was Savasana, typically done at the end of class. This asana asks us to lie on our backs on our mat, allowing all we just did to integrate into our bodies. Here we settle and let go as best as we are able.
It took me a long time to be able to let go and rest in Savasana. My mind would race, and my body didn’t want to relax. Over time, as I cultivated compassion and patience for myself and practiced breathwork and calming poses, my nervous system eventually began to trust. It let go bit by bit, and I was able to rest more and more.
Yoga became my rhythm of healing and devotion.
One of my spiritual teachers, Dr. James Finely, often talked about going about our day in a “contemplative stance.” Without knowing it, this was what I had entered into with yoga. When we enter into our bodies, our Inner Rooms, we encounter the Divine within us. Moving through our day this way, as much as we are able, is a gift.
Bit by bit, healing happens as our default system is rewired. We may make meaning out of what’s happening, and over time, those stories shift and evolve. Sometimes they reframe completely. Sometimes we may not be able to articulate it. Soon we learn to let that go, too, simply trusting.
Like Centering Prayer, meditation, chanting, and other contemplative practices, we begin with humility, knowing we are small yet important and compassionately loved by Source. We let our egos go, knowing it is not about the perfect pose. It’s not about doing the contemplative practice the ‘right way.’ Instead, we remind ourselves we are meeting Divine Presence again and again.
It’s a rhythm of rest and healing.
Spiritual Director Caroline Oakes wrote about this rhythm in Jesus Christ’s ministry. She said: “When we notice Jesus’ times of spiritual renewal interspersed as they are throughout the arc of his ministry […] we begin to notice the definitive pattern in Jesus’ practice as a kind of flowing back-and-forth rhythm. There is a continual pausing to let go (what scholars call kenosis, or emptying) of egoic attachments, fear, judgment, or expectations and then a returning to the Divine Presence again and again.”
In our letting go, we return to the Divine. In our returning, we receive. This rhythm is a practice of deepening our soul’s awareness of and attunement with our body and our innermost essence, and the Divine within.
Beloved, we are invited into this rhythm within our bodies, our Inner Room of Prayer-Beyond-Words.
Maybe we access it in a yoga class, maybe through Centering Prayer. Perhaps it’s while standing at the kitchen sink or kneeling in the fresh spring dirt. Maybe we find this rhythm in all these places.
We are invited to let go, return, and receive like the rhythm of Christ, like the rhythm of our breath.
In my next offering, we will explore body poses that help us understand what our ‘Holy Yes’, ‘Holy No,’ and ‘Holy Maybe’ feels like in our bodies. Join me for Embodied Spirituality: Connecting To Our Body on May 31st, from 10am to 12:30pm PT.
April Brenneman is a Somatic Spiritual Companion, a Hatha Yoga teacher (200-hour RYT), and an Embodied Spirituality Teacher. She was sent from the two-year Living School program for Action and Contemplation in 2020, where she studied Christian Mystics, some Buddhism, and the prophetic call to social justice. Her somatic certificates are through The Embody Lab, with ongoing training through the Somatic Experiencing ® (SE™) Trauma Institute. Her passion is helping others connect with their bodies and discover the Divine within themselves through embodiment practices and somatic meditations. Her own spirituality can be described as Creation Spirituality and Embodied Christic Contemplation. She spent the majority of her adult life raising and nurturing her five children, two of which had major medical complications. She enjoys walking, reading, hiking, the natural world, and long dynamic, life-filled conversations with close friends.
Engage with April on IG @thecontemplativespace or by email [email protected].