This topic has come up time & time again and although I've written on it before I thought I'd touch on it again. I wrote an article about this (almost 2 years ago now!) for Hope Magazine for Women... the overall response was mixed, but my conviction has never wavered.
I've begun to think about offering Christ-centered yoga at my church because let's face it, there's a lot of stressed out peeps there! My heart is to offer a class at a discounted price as a service to those who work so incredibly hard in ministry. I often times think people don't really understand how immensely taxing ministry work can be. Those who work in ministry (whether paid or volunteer, part-time or full-time) daily empty themselves for the sake of others, for the sake of God's Kingdom. And often times this emptying comes at a great cost to themselves and without much recognition. So many of my friends in ministry struggle with balancing work & self-care, and I can absolutely relate.
This struggle with balance & the lack of self-care was how my own yoga journey began...
Many years ago I was finishing college, immersed in 2 jobs, and on the verge of pulling my hair out... this was when Yoga became an incredibly significant part of my life. Following graduation, I decided to take a yoga teacher training, not with the intention of teaching per se, but with the intention of reconnecting with myself. I had no idea what a challenge this teacher training would be physically & spiritually, but it was. Oh, it was.
Never, had I been so stretched (pun intended) or so spiritually torn.
At the sake of saving you the time it will take to read about my crazy journey through yoga teacher training (you can read all about it here), I'll just say that it was quite intense. I had moments of complete enlightenment where I felt so incredibly connected to God and myself. But I also had moments of fear and of doubt... moments where I nearly walked away. These fearful & doubtful moments were mostly rooted in the Hindu beliefs that yoga is founded upon.
In all honesty, they scared me. A lot. And sometimes they still do.
But, the many positives that I received, far outweighed that slight fear of Hinduism. I knew my faith was strong and my own spirit was clearly sensitive... this became evident as I burst into tears during our "Chanting/Mantra" module. I wasn't comfortable chanting "Hare Rama" or "Hare Krishna" because I don't lift my voice in praise to anyone other than Jesus Christ.
The love and understanding I received from my instructors allowed me to continue moving forward in my journey and I am so glad that I did. They taught me to take what serves me, what honors God & to leave the rest behind.
So here's how MY yoga honors God & myself and how MY yoga aligns with the teachings of Christ:
Through Ahimsa which means "Non-Violence"... not only in action, but in thought and speech. And not only to others but also to yourself. Hello?! Ring a bell? "Love your neighbor as yourself." Throughout the course of His teaching, Jesus repeatedly emphasized the need to forgive, to turn the other cheek and to refrain from anger. He exhorted people to love their enemies and to do good to everyone who hated them. This principle of non-violence was the beginning of my understanding of grace, especially when it came to negative self-talk.
In Satya or "Truth." Again in action, word, & thought... and to yourself as well as others. “You shall not bear false witness.” The little white lies are the ones that can always be justified, right? Not according to Christ. Being truthful in all things is of paramount importance to living a life in alignment with God's will. I dove deeper into this as I learned how to be true to myself instead of being co-dependent in nature... being able to say "No" as a way to honor my boundaries and my time was a huge step forward.
In Asteya or "Not Stealing" - I have everything I need right here, right now. God will provide all that I need.
I do not “own” anything…not even my body and every possession is a gift from God held in trust. Everything belongs to and comes from God. Stealing can also apply to thoughts. Waste in all its form – energy, water, excessive material consumption – is also theft at the expense of the rest of the world’s inhabitants. This also goes hand in hand with “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.” This is a lesson I'm still learning... relying on Him to provide all that I NEED, not all that I want. Preach.
Through Brahmacharya or "Moderation" specifically when it comes to sexuality. Honoring and respecting oneself and to see the body & sex as sacred. This principle is about expressing love from the heart, honoring the gift of sex as God created it to be, and cherishing it. If you're a frequent reader of my blog, then you know my story & my struggle with sex... this one rings true above all.
In Aparigraha or "Non-Attachment"... letting go and accepting that change is constant and that everything is temporary. I am a temporary inhabitant of earth and when I go to Heaven I cannot take anything with me. A culture that rewards profit at all cost and accords status based on the accumulation of material things without need is a culture based on hoarding. Aparigraha encourages voluntary simplicity and a modest lifestyle. Yep, still working on this one!
So you see... yogic teaching and Christianity are quite compatible. It's all about perspective. And my perspective is that Christ changed my life, but so did yoga. I believe that Christ used my yoga teacher training as a way to extend compassion towards myself & my body, as a way to quiet my spirit and see the world around me, and as a way to open my heart to the beauty that comes with unity of mind, body, and spirit. Not to mention, it introduced me to my career!
There's so much more to my experience that I will share soon, but I'd love to hear from you...
What are your thoughts on Yoga & Christianity?
Have you ever had any conflicts?
Do you see compatibility between yoga & Christianity? Or do you still struggle?