Thursday, 6 October 2011

yoga as worship

I remember the first time I did yoga, about 16 years ago. I loved it. But I remember hearing some people say that it wasn't a Christian kind of thing to do, and that if I open myself to yoga, who knows what might creep into my spirit. I could be opening the door to the occult, encouraging demons to reside inside of me, and worshiping false gods, just to name a few.

Well, here I am: 16 years later, and I've taken yoga classes off and on over the years. And still loved it. Except for one teacher who I couldn't really quite believe was real. She told us, "Everyone has India inside of themselves." (She wasn't Indian, and had never been there.) I asked her after class, "What about Switzerland? Does everyone have Switzerland inside of themselves too?"And she just smiled and told me that India is a state of mind, and you can have it or not have it. She had it.

She was more than a bit distracting during some of the poses in class. When I'd just want to breathe and calm my mind, she'd be encouraging us, "That's it! Just reach up, up, up, like a great big flower. Can you feel it? Ahhhh! That's it! Stretch up to the sun! Feel its warmth! Feel its heat pulsing and its rays warming your skin. Drink it in! Stretch, little flowers!" A bit too much for me.

So that was not such a worshipful feeling, to be mocking her in my head while trying to get something out of the yoga class. But I've had other teachers who have made me think and believe and dig deeper inside myself and have pointed the way. And the beauty of it was that they weren't pointing to their way, but helped me point deeper into my way. Am I making any sense, or am I sounding like India-flower-yoga-teacher?

Anyway, I was reminded again this evening of how worshipful yoga can be. With my body stretching, hand raised up, my gaze following it, I can feel like I'm doing the best thing I can be with this temple-body I've been given. Tree pose is a favourite too - with hands together above my head in prayer position, my foot rooted into the ground, my vision focused on a single point in front of me. It can feel like genuine worship.

"The whole person, with all his senses, with both mind and body, 
needs to be involved in genuine worship. " 
- Jerry Kerns


  1. Rebecca,
    I am so appreciative of this post! I have been told too, that my love for yoga is in many ways not "christian." I have dreams of pursuing a career teaching yoga someday very soon, and it's nice to hear encouraging words such as yours :)
    I hope all is well!
    -Ellen Reesor

  2. Ellen: So good to hear from you! Well, now you know what I think about those comments that you've heard. Silly. I love that you have a dream of being a yoga teacher. My cousin is - she went to India to learn - and she has taught at the moksha studio in Stouffville. I like to think of yoga as a way of being, and that way can include the Christian way too. Take care.

  3. This is something that has always angered me. Who are they to tell you what is Christian and what is not? This feeling of "not being Christian enough" by others' standards is what, sadly, kept me from joining in fellowship for many years. I now realize how much I missed out on by worrying about other people's judgements instead of focusing on my own relationship with God. That's what I love about your blog Rebecca, how open and curious you are about faith - your own path of discovery and other peoples too. We all have so much learn :-)

  4. Mara: I'm so honoured by your words here. Yes, I'm a curious one. :) A life-long learner, I guess!