Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yoga as Worship

I started this blog to have a way to see my progress, both with looking for balance, and yoga.  Mostly for yoga though.  I wanted to have a way to look back and see how far I'd come, and how it had helped.  I know it will help, simply because of how wonderful and refreshed I feel after a class.  Not so much during class, because it kicks my out-of-shape butt, but at the end, and after.... I feel A-maz-ing.  Just incredible.  The feeling usually lasts all day.

Now, notice I say I started out with those intentions.  But, clearly, this has become equally, if not more, about my search for balance and my relationship with God.  Because here, I can write the things I'm too afraid to say out loud to people, as wrong as that may be.  And I'm realizing how much I need this outlet for that side of me!

However, I don't actually see the two things, God and yoga, as separate, or opposing, or whatever the rest of the world may think.  I have always been a person who doesn't feel very connected to God in church.  I know, I know.  How can I say that?  Well, hang on and let me explain before you decide to stone me.  Church is okay.  I learn from it.  I'm uplifted by it.  But it's not where I feel closest to God.  I have always felt closest to God when I am out in nature.  Out in His Creation, I see the miracles of all He created, all around me.  I see his touch in the leaves on the trees, hear it in the wind, smell it in the flowers, admire it in the sunset.  That is where I feel connected to Him.

When my oldest was around two, we were out in LA with my parents, visiting my brother.  Mom and Dad went out to dinner with some friends, and I decided to hang back at the condo with my little one.  We ended up walking down to sit on the beach and watch the sunset.  It was a wonderful evening.  Quiet and peaceful. As we walked down to the beach, I remember thinking how I wished that there were shells to collect on the beaches, like there are in Galveston.  It's one of my favorite things to do...look for pretty shells on the beach.  But there just aren't any on the California beaches usually.

At this time in my life, I was just starting to come back to my faith after a long, long, LONG period of doubt.  I mean, a really long time.  As my little one and I found our way onto the beach, we saw that it was just covered with dozens and dozens of shiny, smooth, black stones.  I'd never seen anything like them on any beach.   They were beautiful.  So we sat together on the sand, and watched the waves and the sunset, and collected these really cool rocks.  And as I watched my son dig in the sand with the sun setting behind him, I felt so connected to God.  So in tune with Him.  So believing in Him!  It was a somewhat surprising but oh-so-joyful feeling.   And I was so grateful for every moment.  It's one of those times that I can recall with such clarity, that the joy comes right back along with the memory.  We took home a small pocketful of those rocks to remember the evening.

The next day, we went back down to the beach again, hoping to walk and collect a few more rocks.  There was not a single one on the beach, anywhere.  They were completely gone.  If I hadn't saved a few the night before, I might have thought I'd imagined them.  And I can't help but feel that God put those rocks there just for me.  Call me crazy if you want, but He totally used that evening to get through to me again.  And I finally listened!

So this is why I say I don't feel closest to him in church.  Church is good.  But nature is better.  His creation is better.  And now, I've realized that yoga is another way for me to feel closer to Him, and thankful, and aware.  There is no one else in between us. No pastor. ( I love Pastor Mike!)  No choir ( I love our choir!) No having to greet and say hello to dozens of people (who are all very nice, but did I mention I'm an introvert, and I mean INTRO-vert, and that really just drains me?).    In nature, and during yoga, it's just me and God.   Period.  Me being thankful to Him.  Him filling me with peace, love, strength, hope, or whatever I need most that day.

When I started to write this post, I thought it would be about how yoga doesn't have to be new age, or Hindu, doesn't have to be anti-christian.  And I did a little research on the web, and yikes!   There are some preachy and judgemental people out there!  Wow!  You "christians" are the ones who drove me into that long, long, long period of doubt.  Because it was a long time before I learned that God and religion are NOT the same thing.  Religion is what man brings to it, however he might choose to twist it to fit his own....whatever.  I'm not going there.  I hate religion.  I love God.  And if it comes down to a choice, I'm going to ask myself everytime what would God & Jesus say or do over what do humans and religions say to do.

Jesus was always freaking people out.  Doing things that "weren't allowed".   Hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes.  Maybe in 2010 he'd be hanging out at the yoga studio, who knows?  I do know that he wouldn't be worried about what people were saying he should or shouldn't do.   He'd be worried about what was in my heart.   He wouldn't see yoga as me in worship of myself (because trust me, when I see myself in the mirror I'm not going to worship that image!)  but instead he would see in my heart that I am in awe and worship and awareness of Him.  He would know that I am acknowledging that I can't do it all on my own, and I need Him.  He would know that I am thankful for every cell of my body that is able to practice these crazy poses, thankful for getting a tiny bit better each time, thankful for the good health I have, thankful for the chance to be still. 

"Be still, and know that I am God."  
Psalm 46:10.  
That has got to be my favorite verse in the bible.  So powerful.  So difficult to do.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart
1 Samuel 16:7

So, yes, for me, yoga IS worship. And I know He knows what's in my heart, so I'm okay with saying that. It is my chance to spend 90 minutes taking care of the body God has blessed me with, and also being still and loving Him.    

In the words of Jesus:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
Matthew 5:8

Do you know what? There are a few times, when I've had a really, really good practice, really focused the whole time on being still, and being aware of Him, when at the end, I felt as connected to him as I did that night on the beach.   I can feel His peace and love.  It's incredible. It's joyful.  It's priceless.

Joyful Thanksgiving.   Is there any other workout that can leave you filled with that feeling?  That's a workout I can keep doing.  That I actually look forward to doing.

May you be blessed by the stillness and quiet, 
so that you might have a chance to practice 'knowing God'.

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