Thanks to my husband’s generous employer, I participate in a weekly yoga practice (some sessions twice a week!) downtown. I absolutely adore the teacher and have benefited on several tiers in terms of personal health. I’ve practiced yoga on my own over the years, or with others who had some knowledge of postures, but this is my first experience with a trained professional (and it makes a difference, I must add).
Over the years I’ve discovered that a sector of the Christian population tends to shy away from the idea, scared it might let the devil in or something. I suppose I understand the reasoning – that its roots lie in another religious practice, namely Hinduism – and articles from both the Hindi and the Christian side can argue against a crossover (google “yoga and religion” and sit back with buggy eyes).
I’m a huge advocate that spirituality and faith is not simply a heart or mind condition; it’s something that involves one’s entire being. Following Jesus isn’t just about what I think or feel, but it contains also what I eat
and how I treat my body, among other things. So I’m not convinced that I can just “turn off” my faith for an hour or so while I twist into a pretzel. But, (much to this writer’s
chagrin), I also won’t leave donning a Bindi.
Instead, I choose to take the wisdom and understanding from the practice and see how it can strengthen my own framework, which is (largely, I hope) built around Jesus. Though Jesus himself had access to all truth, I’m not convinced his followers have had a corner on that market, so perhaps an open mind might help us connect our own dots. Which is exactly what happened on Thursday.
Our practice contained a large amount of twisting and turning, stirring up the insides and opening up the chest. At its conclusion, as always, we ended in shavasana (pronounced in our class “shibasa” but when I googled “corpse pose” this is the spelling wiki provided. And wiki is always
right, right?). Corpse pose says it all: laying flat on the ground, eyes closed, releasing tension throughout the body, quieting the mind. I remembered that I’d learned before that this pose is where “the true work of yoga is done” (I think this came from my yogoamazing podcasts
. Free, but a warning: he is a tad fruity.)
I began to chew on the fact that the act of ending work with a period of rest in order to make the work fully effective is a shared idea across the two beliefs. In the pose the body switches to a anabolic state of being, when organ and muscle repair happen, as opposed to our normal catabolic state (thank you wiki
!). All of the work we did for 50 minutes may amount to nothing if we don’t give the body a chance to absorb it, to wallow in the change that is happening within.
And so it goes with the end of our week. We work, toil, sweat and labor (even if by sitting at a desk) all week. We might even see progress. We might meet the end (or perhaps just the middle) of our to-do list. So rarely do I hear about people getting ahead, but many find victory in simply keeping up the pace.
But the truth of the matter is that none of it will last if we don’t take a Sabbath break. If we don’t rest and allow the change to work itself through us. It’s a basic principle of nature: rest is required. Runners are fully aware – they mandate regular rest throughout marathon training. Even bears at the zoo operate with a similar law of nature (a fantastic teaching
by Ruth Haley Barton includes this tidbit).
At its base, in both the practice of yoga and in a life following Jesus, this fundamental truth will save us. We cannot do it all. Change cannot be mandated, only invited. “Like fruit in a vineyard, these gifts appear…
” It is in the stopping, the resting, the simmering, that the best work is done in
us. Grace doesn’t force herself upon helpless victims; she awaits an open door. And her presence transforms us.
I’m hoping that tomorrow she arrives early and stays all day.