Don’t give me the side-eye. I know yoga has it’s origins in eastern spirituality, but the majority of Americans who practice, do it for the health benefits. If you only know me from the blogosphere, or we haven’t seen each other’s faces in several years, you may not know that I teach yoga for a couple of different gyms in my area. I am a reformed hard-core gym rat who once thought yoga wasn’t real exercise. But after a torturous back injury, I tried it and fell in love.
It occurs to me that even though I “do” yoga for physical fitness and not the “spiritual enlightenment” some claim they can attain, that my yoga classes correlate to my life as a disciple of Jesus in many ways.
- It helps to be flexible. Not every pose is about muscular elasticity, but when you are doing this: or even this: it certainly helps. In a similar way, following Jesus requires a willingness to be stretched beyond our comfort zones. Proverbs 16:9 NASB tells us that, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” As Christians we must often put aside our own desires to glorify our Maker. And when we do it helps us reach (think stretch) to new levels of intimacy with Him.
- A social discipline of yoga is the tenet of non-violence, which encompasses non-competition (considered violence against oneself). In a class, it is emotionally and physically unhealthy to compare yourself or your poses to someone else’s. Trying to match another’s stamina, flexibility or fitness level can manifest in injury, frustration and self-hatred. This is one of the reasons we refer to yoga as a “practice”. Few are considered masters. In God’s kingdom, if we take our focus from Jesus and look around too much at each other, jealousies easily arise. If you have been reading this blog for even a few weeks you know that I fight against envy in my life, coveting what someone else has or even the talents God entrusts to them. The Bible compares the global church to a body in 1 Corinthians 12 and addresses this type of jealousy. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” v. 17-18 NASB
- Yoga invites you into child’s pose any time you need it. As one of the most common and popular resting asanas, child’s pose brings rest and rejuvenation when another pose or series causes discomfort or fatigue. And bringing yourself face down helps block out distractions, increasing focus. When life events generate discomfort or fatigue, as they often do, going face down before the Lord in prayer and/or worship invites Him to heal the hurt as we call on His mercy and power. “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Psalms 95:6 NASB
- Warrior poses (there are five primary and many variations) strengthen and stabilize the body. I often feel unmovable and steadfast holding a solid Warrior pose. Outside the classroom, my human nature falls short of this kind of reliability and sturdiness. But my Heavenly Father provides what I lack. He describes the tools, or armor, He gives to me in Ephesians 6:13-17 NASB “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
- We benefit from quiet and stillness. The majority of yoga sessions end with Savasana – a time of relaxation and meditation. Most instructors teach students to use corpse pose (don’t focus on that name) for this time, although a number of other poses substitute nicely for it. After the exertions of practice, savasana allows for a rejuvenation of the mind and spirit as the body regroups and resets. I once regularly skipped out on this time during sessions, not fully understanding the value of it. I now fully look forward to these precious moments of the day. After, or even better BEFORE, the exertions of life in general, spending time in quiet solitude, meditation of scripture, and rest (and not just when you are asleep) is one of the only ways we can pay attention to the heart whispers God sends to us. “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.'” Psalm 46:10 NIV
Everything I have ever learned from yoga fits into Christianity quite well. I didn’t know you are a yoga instructor. That is so cool! I love the little tidbits of wisdom my yoga teacher regularly throws out there.
As you might guess, I am very inflexible due to all the running I do. My favorite pose is pigeon, because it helps open my very tight hips.
Pigeon is so great for everyone, but I imagine yoga helps you continue to do what you love!
Sue Donaldson says
I will share! And maybe take yoga – this was terrific, Lauren. I have many believer friends who love yoga. I”ve done it once and it was hard! sue
If you did it a few more times you would probably fall in love too! Thanks for sharing, Sue.
Sarah Geringer says
Great insights, Lauren. I am starting weight training next week, and your encouragement overlaps into those areas too! Sharing on Pinterest and Twitter, friend.
Thank you, Sarah. And good luck with your new program!
This a wonderful list and insights. I haven’t done yoga as much as I would like but the few times I have done them, I can see how it is beneficial and not just for the health benefits. I didn’t know you are a yoga instructor. I also learned something new about you today! I hope you are having a great day so far!
Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com
Thank you, Maureen.
Another thought – I have a few routines that I flow through as I pray. Yoga helps concentration, too!
I love, love, love your perspective on this and how you related it back to Jesus. I’ve been trying to do some at home yoga during my pregnancy because I feel so much better when I do it and I hope it’s something can continue with after. Sierra Beautifully Candid
Great idea to do it at home when it’s convenient for you. And with youtube and apps there are tons of great options out there. I am praying for a beautiful remainder of your pregnancy and a happy, easy birth!
~ linda says
Lauren, thank you for sharing this. I was encouraged to try Restorative Yoga as I have had 3 back surgeries, a knee and hip replacement. So I needed to be careful. Some of the poses you show here I would not even attempt with the metal that is in my back, but it may be a good way to strengthen and make flexible areas in my body.
True not every pose is for every body. And modifications are key to longevity of practice. I too found yoga after an injury – my back as well. And fell in love with it. Thanks for chiming in.
This might be a post worth reading: https://christiannews.net/2018/08/22/concerns-raised-after-serita-jakes-posts-photos-of-yoga-session-at-the-potters-house-church/
Well, I hate that the preacher’s wife experienced such criticism for something that can be so beneficial. I myself have done yoga at the Potter’s House – though years ago. Yoga at the mega chain gym I work for is exercise and nothing else. I do, however, close my class with a different greeting than is traditional to point others to Jesus and they often ask me about it which gives me the opportunity to witness. Thanks for weighing in!