Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taking Yoga to the mat

My husband gave me a new Yoga mat for Valentine's Day. Yes, I was surprised … and thrilled. It's a really great mat, a Jade Yoga mat to replace a basic entry level mat I got at Target.

Hey, in the seventh week of an 8-week beginner's class of Yoga, I will graduate next week. I said to my husband, "I guess this means you want me to keep going."

What has Yoga done for me? Well, for the first time in my life I can sleep on my stomach, if I want to. I don't. But it is nice to be able to lie on my stomach for more than 30-seconds. I learned in Yoga that lying flat on the stomach is considered a back-bend, and just that much of a bend compensates for all the time most of us spend butt-in-chair.

And I attest to increased mobility in a shoulder injured during our move to Lubbock 2 years ago this June. I can actually clasp my hands behind my back, place them at the sacrum, straighten my arms and then bend forward, lifting my arms. How far? Well, not as far as some people I know, but this is something I could not do before I started taking these classes.

Is Yoga a religion?
A lot of people worry about Yoga as a religion. It is. The language of Yoga is Hindu Sanskrit. But not everyone who practices Yoga holds Buddhist beliefs or subscribes to Hindu philosophy.

Meditation is optional, and personal, and who knows what goes on in someone's head and heart anyway? Even in church.

People who teach Yoga, I can tell you, use the same words Bible-believing Christians use. Words like compassion, perseverance and acceptance.

"That's because everyone wants to be spiritual," a friend said. But the problem is not with words but with the meaning a person invests in those words, and what sort of ideas a person formulates based on words. Nature abhors a vacuum.

A wise teacher shared this principle: "All people are worshipers and will choose someone or something to worship."

Yoga falls far short of leading me to worship my body. Instead Yoga heightens awareness that "… I am fearfully and wonderfully made …" (Psalm 139:14). Even imperfect me, I marvel at what my body can still do.

Personal Testimony
My daughter, who can bend like Gumbi, says when she goes to Yoga, she gets there feeling like hardened wax from the accumulated stresses in her busy life, and by the end of her practice she feels as if she has melted.

For me, Yoga practice provides a time and a concrete way to honor my body. Since I began Yoga, this awakening of how I have neglected my body has come into sharp focus.

I leave each practice session filled with gratitude for this amazing creation that carries me around, wandering thoughts and all, thankful and knowing whom to thank.

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