As the sister of an Iyengar yoga instructor, I was introduced to yoga many years ago, and I have practiced it off-and-on since then. However, this year I have been cultivating a regular yoga practice at a lovely studio in my community. Several times a week I gather with women and men ranging in age from 20 to 70, and we spend an hour practicing the postures of yoga. Sometimes the class is a “flow” class; sometimes it is a “healing” class. It is always restorative.
Students gather in the dim space, and we spread out our mats, gather our props (blocks, bolsters, and blankets usually), and begin to stretch as we wait for our instructor to begin. In the quiet, I look around at the others: some reach for the sky, others practice a downward dog, an ambitious few lift into a backbend, and several sit cross-legged with eyes closed and palms upturned. It’s beautiful. Collectively, they look like a dance troupe warming up for the performance.
This is the first season that I’ve been disciplined in my yoga practice. Many mornings I rise, enjoy my coffee, and then head to a class. What a wonderful way to enter the day! If the morning passes without a class, I try to find one later that day to attend. This discipline is paying off: I am learning to be present, to breathe, to listen to my body, to trust my strength, and to be kind to myself.
As a Christian, I sometimes converse with other believing friends who are wary of yoga. I understand their concern; however, I believe that “religious practitioners have been able to claim yoga, as well as lay practitioners….[Y]oga is ultimately a practice or group of practices that can be suited to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each individual practitioner” (Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper).
In my yoga practice I am mindful of my body, fearfully and wonderfully made, and I invite God to bring His healing touch to parts of my body that are injured, stiff, sore, or weak. As I move from posture to posture, I offer thanks for the restoration He has brought and seek forgiveness for the ways I have neglected or mistreated my body. In my practice I experience His grace filling me, strengthening me, and comforting me.
As I conclude each class in the final pose (savasena), I settle into the quiet and stillness. Sometimes it takes a while for my mind and body to comply, but once my fidgets are spent, I focus on my breath. As writer Morgan Snyder beautifully explains, I discover that “[s]omehow, the hour of integrating my body with my mind and spirit, the hard physical work, the awkward but consistent attempts to breathe deeply, and then the final surrendering ushered in the deep waters of the Kingdom” (“It’s Only Weird If It Doesn’t Work”).
In my practice I experience His grace filling me, strengthening me, and comforting me.
Cultivating a regular practice of yoga has been important for my physical health. However, along with that, the practice of yoga has been deeply important for my heart. Long ago I was a dancer, strong and graceful. As I look around the studio and watch the others, I acknowledge the beauty of their movements, their bodies, their courage, and I realize that I am one of them. As I move from one posture to the next, I feel the dancer in me being restored in the strength and grace I long believed lost. I welcome her return: Namaste.
You’ll also like Namastay Calm and Carry On—Accepting God’s Love for Me, The Discipline of Rest, Building Faith, and How to Read Your Bible: For Beginners,