Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Here On My Mat

Part 1 of a series about what it means to practice yoga in a way that honors God.

It is the end of my first yoga class.  I have spent the last hour stretching and strengthening my muscles with two others.  Perhaps it is the soft music in the background, maybe it is the quiet way we move almost like a dance through the many poses, or just maybe it is the deep breathing, in and out, through each movement that created this peaceful exhaustion.  Just as I think we are coming to the end our instructor invites us to lay flat on our backs, in savasana, and just “let ourselves go” to just “empty our minds.” 

Suddenly I’m a bit on edge.  I no longer feel the deep sense of peace as my spirit pushes back. 

“What do you mean empty the mind?” 

I’m surprised that in a gym the spiritual aspect of yoga is being addressed.  Yet, here I am.  And here is the instructor inviting me to empty my mind.  I lay on my back and instead of emptying my mind; my mind begins to race as I ponder what this is all about.

I think of the many silent retreats I have participated in through leadership training and just by gathering with others who were hungry for time away with God.  Sometimes I have just come to learn, others I have led or co-led.  Through these I have learned the difference between the meditation of Eastern religions and the meditation of Christian practice. 

In Eastern religions the goal of meditation is to empty the mind to reach a spiritual state of fulfillment of one sort or another. 

In Christian practice, the goal is to fill the mind and meditate on something, usually a nugget of God’s Word.   The Bible talks a lot about meditation in the Old Testament.

“Blessed is the one […]
whose delight is in the law of the LORD
who meditates on his law day and night
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”  Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

Yet, in this moment, I’m aware that these two are not the same.  In this moment, I’m wondering what to do to keep myself present here and now.  To be here, but to not participate.

As I’m driving the quick three minutes from the gym to our fifth wheel home, I wonder if I should go again.  Is it possible to take what is good from this practice and to do it in a way that honors God? 

I spend a week thinking and praying about it all and decide that this is possible.  It is possible to practice yoga differently.  It is possible to practice yoga in a way that honors God. 

In the next class,  I come prepared.  We go through different movements and different balance positions.  It is once again, through stretching, strengthening and balance, a challenging workout.  Yet, it is peaceful too.  The hour is nearly up.  After we stretch our hip flexors in pigeon, we are invited to lay on our backs in savasana.  We are invited to empty our minds. 

But instead of following her directions.  I make a change of my own. 

I fill my mind. 

I fill it with the Scripture that I was thinking about this morning in Luke:  “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop.” 
I meditate on it. 

I let the words sink deep. 

I think about what it means to have a noble and good heart. 

I ask the Lord to make my heart the good soil.

In spending time meditating on God’s Word, I practice yoga in a way that honors Him.

Today, the peace of the practice remains.  It remains, because I’m resting in God’s Word. 

I’m worshipping Him, here on my mat.

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to meditate on God’s Word, as we allow it to sink deep, as we ask Him to change us more into the likeness of His Son. 

Jessica :)

P.S.  A special thanks to my dear husband for taking the photo for me.

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