Lessons from Yoga: Savasana and Letting Go

Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is a yoga pose in which you lay down on your back with your arms resting comfortably at your side. You lie on the floor and allow all of the muscles in your body to relax. It is usually practiced at the end of a yoga session as a time to allow your body and mind to settle after practicing yoga. It is a restorative and rejuvenating pose. To me it is also a pose of surrender.

I have a difficult time surrendering. I struggle with letting go. I have a hard time relaxing. Savasana is difficult for me. To lay on the floor, open and vulnerable to God, to relax and allow my mind to quiet and my body to rest in God’s presence is not easy for me.

Lately I feel like God has been calling me to live more open handedly. To not cling to my own imagined control but to let go and allow Him to work. I have especially been challenged with this in my prayer life.

Sue Monk Kidd writes in When the Heart Waits about how there are two levels of letting go.

“First, there is the active work we do with the conscious, surface attachments in our life – those patterns we recognize and can campaign against… to let go of these ‘you pray and suffer and hang on and give things up and hope and sweat.’ … The second level deals with deeper, more unconscious patterns – what Merton called our ‘secret attachments.’ To uproot these he cautioned that ‘we need to leave the initiative in the hands of God working in our souls either directly in the night of aridity and suffering, or through events and other men.’… We let go our letting go. We stop struggling, stop saying, ‘I will let go, I will, I will.’ Instead, having done all we can, we allow God to work directly on the more secret and deeply ingrained attachments we have to self. We allow god to release us through the experiences, encounters, and events that come to us.”

I’ve been thinking about that lately, the deep letting go that comes by letting go of letting go – The rest that comes from allowing God to work change in us instead of just striving to change ourselves. I want to be able to rest in God and allow him to do his work within me, but it’s difficult for me. I want to control even the process of letting go of control. I want to hold on to my old self, my old life, my old ways, my hidden sins, and bad habits. I want to come to God and with open hands allow him to do his work within me, but I also want to run away from the transforming work He is doing in me. I want to let go but I am scared.

“It seems that at the moment of our greatest possibility, a desperate clinging rises up in us. We make a valiant attempt to ‘save’ our old life. In the words of Daniel Day Williams: ‘We fear it is all we have. Even its sufferings are familiar and we clutch them because their very familiarity is comforting… Yet so long as we aim at the maintenance of this present self, as we now conceive it, we cannot enter the larger selfhood which is pressing for life’.”

Then yesterday I started to again read With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. The first chapter is entitled With Clenched Fists and it talks about how prayer begins by opening our clenched fists to God.

“Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow the other to enter into the very center of your person, allow him to speak there, allow him to touch the sensitive core of your being, and allow him to see so much that you would rather leave in darkness… to let him into that place where your life gets its form, that is dangerous and calls for defense… The man invited to pray is asked to open his tightly clenched fists… But who wants to do that?… you don’t want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren’t proud of it. When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands? Certainly not by violence. Nor by a compulsive decision. Perhaps you can find a way to prayer in the words of the angel to the frightened shepherds, the same words the risen Lord spoke to his disciples: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Don’t be afraid of him who wants to enter the space where you live, or to let him see what you are clinging to so anxiously… Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, disappointment to him who reveals himself as love.”

Today as I finished my yoga practice and lay in savasana (corpse pose) I heard the gentle whisper, “don’t be afraid, let go, just let go and be with me.” And as I lay in that open posture, spread out before God with nowhere to hide, I felt my heart and my body surrender and relax and if only for a moment I let go of my grasping for control. I think that God had been trying to take me to this place for a while now but it wasn’t until I took my body to a place of open relaxation that my heart and soul could follow.

Lord, I need that. Lord Jesus, I know I need moments when I fight to become the person you want me to be and when I fervently and actively pray for the things you have placed on my heart, but I also need moments when I just rest in you. When I let go of trying to become and let go of the hidden places in my life I try to keep hidden, and let go of the desires and control I try to seek after in my life. I need times when I am just with you, Jesus. When I open myself to you and surrender completely to you. Lord, I am yours. And I have no life apart from you.

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Housing, Hannah, and a Talk with God

Just yesterday God and I had a long talk, through the process of the conversation I came to realize that I had been approaching my current situation with closed hands, grasping hands, and that he wanted me to open my hands.
I had thought that I was approaching the situation really calmly – I had only had one real freak out moment and it was short lived. I knew that I could see God’s hand in our situation so I was really trying to trust. I think when it all first happened my hands were open, but over the last week and a half they have slowly closed until yesterday when I realized that they were not just closed, they were clenched.
I realized yesterday that even though I have really been saying and praying that God would be in control and that I would trust him and follow where ever he led us, I realized yesterday that wasn’t really true. I have a path in mind that I want him to lead us down – I realized last night how truly deep that desire and longing was. I wasn’t open handed, I had already decided that there were certain things it was ok for God to take away and certain paths it was ok for God to lead us down and other things and paths that were not ok.

We have a mortgage that is far outside our reach… basically when we moved here we bought a beautiful new home that was within our abilities to pay but on the high end of what we could afford. Then the dollar started crashing and without having any change in our actual pay we took a 30% pay cut over the course of the last year. Since we are hourly we just worked more hours to make up the difference – literally working 80-100 hours a week each. It was insane and I believe that God is removing us from that job partly to stop that insanity. But, now as we look at the average pay here in Prague and look for new jobs we are beginning to realize that we can’t afford our house. Even if we get jobs on the high end of what we are qualified for we will still not be able to afford this place. I realized all this yesterday as I prayed and I could feel my hands clenching…This was something God couldn’t take away…

Me: “God weren’t you the one that brought us to this place. We felt so certain that it was from you, Lord. We felt so certain that you wanted us to use it here in Prague as a place of refuge for people and a safe place for your kingdom to flourish. We even had a dedication service for it and had people pray over it when we moved in…”

God: “That’s right, Bethany, you said then that it was MY place not yours and that you wanted me to use it for my glory and my redemptive work in the world… Did you really mean that? Do you still mean that?”

Me: “Yes, I meant it, and yes I still mean it… But, God I didn’t think that it would mean that you would take it away… we’ve only lived here for a year – a year to the month in fact…”

God: (cutting me off just now as I wrote this)… “But, remember Hannah…”

I heard the words, I wrote the words, but then I really stopped to think about what I wrote and I was struck with horror…. No, Lord, no…

You see right before we moved into this place we heard this sermon all in Czech – I couldn’t understand anything of it except the verses. It was the story of Hannah. It was after our move in date had been pushed back by 5 months, we had been living with friends for 5 months, I was really in anguish waiting… it was incredibly difficult to be living in a foreign country where nothing is really familiar and we are still settling in and making friends and not have a place to call home, a place that is your own. I was depressed and struggling with God over the whole housing matter. Then I read this story and I felt God speaking to me – very clearly – I felt him saying that this house was his not mine and saying that we needed to dedicate it to him. So, Bryan and I talked and interestingly he had been feeling God telling him similar things and so we prayed one night for a long time and just gave the whole thing over to God once again and told him that if everything did ever work out for us to own this place we would give it to him and dedicate it to his service. So, that’s what we did, we had a little dedication service after we moved in and since then we have tried to make decisions regarding our house in terms of how we can use it to serve the kingdom of God here in Prague.

But, as I wrote this God reminded me that there was more to the story of Hannah… She doesn’t just dedicate Samuel to God and get to keep him; she has to give him up. And when does she give him up? After Samuel had been weaned… probably when he was between 1-2 years old… Rereading the story again I felt chills… No, Lord, no…

Then God spoke…

“Bethany, are you willing to let go. Open your hands and give up this place that’s not really yours anyway? You don’t know where I’m going to lead, and I’m not telling you that you have to put this place up for sale tomorrow, but I am saying are you willing… I might lead there… Will you follow through with your vows if it comes to that? Will you trust that I love you and know what’s best for you? Will you trust that if I call you to give up this place it’s because it could better serve me without you and you could better serve me without it? Will you trust me?”

And then I heard the gentle whisper … “You know, Bethany, opening up your hands doesn’t just enable me to take things from you, it also enables me to give things to you. I am love. And I love you. Will you trust that I love you?”

…Yes, Lord, yes… Here I am, do with me as you will.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” – 1 Samuel 2:6-7

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

Photograph by Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.