back when i was training to be a missionary, a speaker asked a roomful of us to share different ways we relieve stress in the US, and which methods we thought would prove useful abroad. i was quick to suggest yoga, to which i received a very reserved and calculated response, “er, yes. some would say yoga relieves tension. others may find it conflicts with their christian faith.” WHAT? do i worship yoga instead of God? no. do i take off my christian hat when i step on the yoga mat? of course not. what was this nonsense?
well, it turns out, quite a few people have issues with yoga. and maybe i should just let that be. others have decided to embrace “christian yoga,” creating (i think) an us-verses-them mentality in what ought to be a very unifying expression of exercise and meditation. perhaps my experience is unique. i started going to a yoga studio 6 months before moving to benin, looking for some form of exercise i could eventually perform in the privacy of my own home. i even signed up for the “hot yoga” classes, where you practice in a ridiculously hot room, sweating puddles, enabling you to get deeper into your stretches. i figured it would help me to acclimate to the african heat, and it did. at the beginning of each session, the instructor asked us to “name our intention” for that practice. we didn’t actually name intentions aloud. it was just something to focus on and work toward in a personal way. i never found this to challenge my faith. the best practice i ever did was one where my intention was forgiveness. perhaps it’s because i’m a kinesthetic (hands on) learner, but i felt i had a better understanding of loving my enemies as i walked out of that sweltering room… something about asking God to teach me forgiveness, approaching him with my mind, body and soul… the understanding i left with was more complete.
hot yoga has been good to me here too. i finally dusted off my yoga mat last week, lit a candle and struck many a pose (and the heat is automatic in benin!). every time i come before God with my whole self and ask Him to aid me in whatever intention He lays on my heart. this week it’s been listening.
this isn’t christian yoga. this is me approaching yoga as a christian. the same as when a runner approaches his run as a christian, or a teacher stands before her classroom as a christian or a man sips on his cup of coffee as a christian. i’m a christian when i eat ice cream, when i ride squished between two big mamas on a bush taxi, when i share a cup of tea with my girlfriends, when i blog, when i eat, sleep and breath… and even when do tree pose. especially and intentionally then. to God be the glory in all things. namasté, amen.