Jean-Marie Déchanet, author of Christian Yoga writes;
Before beginning exercises in the morning, I wash, I brush my teeth and drink several mouthfuls of water and then stand facing the open window. Relaxed, smiling slightly and looking straight ahead without focusing on anything, I begin to breathe in, silently pronouncing this verse of Psalm 118:
Rises ever a sigh from my lips, and even, if my breathing rhythm is already slow enough: Rises ever a sigh from my lips, as I long after my covenant.
And as I see this breath from God that I am eager for, I feel it fill me and quicken my whole being. Not only is my blood purified in this wonderful exchange, of which even the tiniest cells of my lungs bear witness the innermost depths of my whole life as man and Christian are plumbed by it my strength swells and my heart expands. Merely from paying attention to a phenomenon as everyday as this inhalation, I have been able to endow it suddenly with the hidden meaning. It is not only my body but my soul and spirit also that the breath of the Almighty comes to awaken and seize.
For a few moments I keep my lungs full, poised somehow in the wonder that is taking place in me. Then I gently exhale this “corrupted” air, saying silently (from Psalm 50):
My God bring a clean heart to birth within me; breathe new life, true life, into my being.
The breath prayer is not only the simplest way to ease stress and anxiety, it can also be the easiest way to connect to Christ. It can be done anywhere at any time and costs nothing. It’s simple, yet profound. It can help us focus when attempting meditation and cannot be separated from the practice of yoga.
There are many definitions of the word yoga. All meanings have an element of together-ness or unity within them. From the original Sanskrit word, the literal definition of the word yoga is yoke. From a Christian perspective yoga can be defined as a means of uniting, or yoking our individual breath, body and spirit with the Breath, Body and Spirit of God. This is the essence of why yoga is set apart from any other physical activity-it includes a holistic approach of mind-body-spirit, regardless of religion or lack of. The Christian yoga practitioner unites their posture, breath, meditation, spirit and often their voice or song with Christ. Essentially, we use our entire being to worship and love Him with our ‘whole self.’
DECAHNET’S HERMITAGE IS HIDDEN ABOVE VILLAGE OF VALJOUFFREY, FRANCE
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you. Psalm 63:1
What does it look like to the love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind? What does it mean to seek and thirst for the Lord with your whole being? Read again what the Psalmist writes; “My whole being longs for you.” Ponder how you would define this?
These passages and several other ancient scriptures are the very cornerstone of a Christian yogi’s practice. Therefore, a person should never judge how another person interprets scripture, connects to God, or how one prays, meditates or worships the Lord. The Christian yogi firmly believes they are to be worshiping the Lord with their whole self.
Déchanet writes, “It is not only my body but my soul and spirit also that the breath of the Almighty comes to awaken and seize.” The breath of the Almighty comes to awaken and seize. Wow! Like Déchanet, I am fascinated not only at the gift and miracle of the breath, but how this typically thoughtless action of an inhalation and exhalation, can connect us to the heart of God if we allow it. Déchanet describes holding onto the inhalation with wonder, not only the physical body awakening, but also his soul and spirit.
Psalm 57:8 says: Awake, O my soul, with the music of His splendor-song! Arise, my soul, and sing His praises!
Decades ago, Déchanet discovered the most precious gift-second to salvation-His soul was awakened! And not only awakened to Christ but awakened to His magnificent glory in all the earth! (Hallelujah!) Has your soul ever been so alive, so awakened and unified to Christ’s glory?
The Psalmist goes on in verses 10 and 11 to say; Your love is so extravagant it reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness so astonishing it stretches to the sky! Lord God be exalted as you soar throughout the heavens. May your shining glory be shown in the skies! Let it be seen high above all the earth!
Perched high above in the French Alps at Déchanet’s hermitage, I was moving and breathing in the exact spot he practiced this intimate and sacred worship to our Lord and Creator. I was blessed to experience God’s magnificent splendor and glory! I understood fully what practicing for an audience of One meant. You do not have to travel to France to experience whole worship as scripture or Déchanet defines it, you need only to get alone with your Maker. Perhaps sitting, perhaps moving, the posture doesn’t matter, your surrendered heart and willingness to commune with your Heavenly Father is the only important thing. We know through scripture that there is no right or wrong way to pray, only that we never stop praying (see Thessalonians 5:17).
DÉCHANET’S HERMITAGE THEN AND NOW