God created you.
Genesis teaches that God filled humans with life through breath, the gift of God’s Spirit.
Pause and take a deep breath as you soak in the reminder that the Spirit of God is as close as your breath. That may sound silly. And yet, that deep breath will invite your whole self into this invitation of embodiment and connection with your Creator. Because you are a whole person, created by God and filled with God’s Spirit.
United Methodist Deaconess and Spiritual Director Whitney Simpson encourages us to find ways to connect with our physical selves. Photo courtesy of Whitney Simpson.
Connecting with my body
Over 15 years ago, my body went through a health crisis (a stroke and brain surgery on my 31st birthday). At this time, I did not always feel like a whole person; I often felt disconnected and broken. While my body was in chronic pain, my spirit was also discouraged.
In that time of frustration, a physician prescribed yoga. I am unsure if it was the last resort on their part, but I was hurting and willing to try exercise and mindfulness. What did I have to lose? I did not know that yoga would be an invitation for embodiment and an opportunity for healing in my whole self—body and spirit.
Now, more than 15 years later, I not only practice living embodied, I am passionate about inviting others into caring for their bodies and spirits through embodied practices. If you are not interested in down dogs, I understand, but please know that yoga is not the only way to become more connected and present with yourself (although you may also be surprised).
Embodiment practices like yoga, contemplative prayer, breath-work and mindful eating help us grow in self-knowledge. They allow us a chance to slow down and simply practice being in our bodies.
Practicing embodiment means using the body’s sensations to become more aware, remain present, feel whole, love ourselves better, and even get to know our Creator better. Embodiment practices can help you more fully discover the person God created and become more connected to the one who created you!
As Christians, this matters because the more connected we are to ourselves, the more we can express our God given longings, needs, gifts, and desires. The body of Christ needs each of us to live into our best selves!
Try it yourself
Becoming embodied is a practice. If we are mindful and aware, there are plenty of opportunities to be present within our bodies. Additionally, there are many scientifically studied benefits of breath-work, meditation, and mindfulness. These practices have been found to reduce stress and help balance the nervous system, decrease experiences of anxiety and stress, and provide a sense of overall well-being.
Here are some practices to explore (talk with your doctor if you have medical concerns about beginning a breath-work or yoga practice):
- Breath-work: Your breath is always accessible and yet often underused. Even a few full slow deep diaphragmatic breaths can allow you to feel more present and grounded at any moment.
- Contemplative Prayer/Christian Meditation: Explore silence for your brain and body through a regular practice of silent prayer or meditation. You may discover better sleep or an improved memory with a sustained practice. Consider using an app or podcast to companion you if this type of silent prayer is new or feels intimidating.
- Ground in Nature: Get outside and place your feet in the grass as you ground in nature and feel refreshed. Or, take a slow prayer walk to surround yourself in God’s creation and be reminded you’re part of that creation. Use your senses to notice what you hear, see, smell, etc.
- Mindful Eating: Discover mindful eating to not only grow your appreciation for and enjoyment of your meal but also to improve digestion. Consider where your food comes from when offering a blessing. Give thanks to those who helped bring it to your table.
- Yoga: A regular practice (even a few minutes daily) can increase flexibility, help build strength, improve chronic pain, and invite you to love better the body God created. Online and in person resources for Christ-centered yoga are growing. Search for local classes or ask a teacher to offer one at your church. You’ll not only connect with yourself, but you’ll also connect with others.
You are more than a body. You are a whole person, created by God and filled with God’s Spirit. How will you embrace your body and grow your connection with yourself, your Creator, and the body of Christ?
Deaconess Whitney R. Simpson is passionate about helping others reach their fullest human potential as they explore the gift of God’s peace. She is a trained spiritual director and E-RYT 200 yoga and meditation teacher. Whitney is the author of "Holy Listening With Breath, Body, and the Spirit." You can practice yoga with her online or find her free guided prayer and meditation podcast at ExploringPeace.com. Connect with Whitney directly at WhitneyRSimpson.com. UMC.org contact is Joe Iovino.
This story was posted April 19, 2021.