Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Lately I've hit a really cool ease and peace in my yoga practice. It took me lots of regular practicing, but the strength in weird, stretching, body bending poses that I heard was possible seems sort of tangible now. When you are twisted like a pretzel and your instructor says 'breath into it' you might want to kill them, but that ease of breath in difficult positions is the whole point.

I have a lot of conversations with people about being a Christian doing yoga. Because some Christians think yoga is not Christian. I actually find a lot of symbolism for how Jesus teaches us how to live in the practice of yoga. 

Now I'm finding this tricky to express, but I had a realization this morning that was really profound for me. 

There is this passage in Luke 9 where Jesus tells his best friends that if they want to be true followers of his way of life they will have to "take up a cross and follow him". Since the "cross" was a symbol of death in those days, that literally meant that they had to be willing to die to live out what Jesus teaches.

But here is the thing. Taking up our cross usually brings images of a splintery, heavy, giant piece of wood breaking our backs as we heave onto our shoulders. That is not what Jesus was about. He was about bringing ease of breath into every difficult position of life. (See the yoga symbolism here? If not, it's coming.) In another place Jesus said: 

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. 

I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. 

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

MATTHEW 11:28-30 The Message

Sometimes I get off course and the religion I turn to - the thing I believe in and guides my life - is to make something of myself: a career, a family, a good reputation, my own happiness. It is an exhausting way to live. That is a religion - a way of life - that leads to total burn out.

Another translation of this passage says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Doesn't this sound like Jesus saying 'breath into it, I'm holding you up' to someone who is under the heaviness of life's pressures?

Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. You will find rest for your souls. I love this imagery. 

Most yoga classes end in savasana. A fancy sanskrit word that just means laying on the ground. Savasana is usually 5-10 minutes of stillness to reflect, meditate, maybe sleep. As a praying person, I try to take that time to talk to God and this passage is something I talk to God about a lot in savasana.

Savasana is also called "Corpse Pose". Literally to be dead. Yoga practice is essentially an hour or so of learning to breath into difficult poses ending with rest/death. The connection between 'finding real rest' and 'taking up my cross' or literally 'death' was an epiphany for me today.

When Jesus talks about 'taking up our cross', which basically means dying, don't we normally think about carrying a splintery, heavy wooden cross to our death? But that is not what He is talking about. He is talking about literally laying down yourself, giving everything over to him, and letting him restore our life. The picture of savasana.

Savasana in Copley Sq, March 2012
Yoga symbolizes the journey of letting the ease of Jesus' way of life become my way of life. Some see Christianity as a set of hard and fast rules against the world. Really it is a way of living in complete freedom in the world. Being able to truly love in times that it is difficult to love, because you are completely free to love.

If we hang on tightly to our life, if we push through difficult poses, we just make it more difficult and probably get hurt. The goal is to breath freely and lightly in the tight spots. Then we find we are living in the unforced rhythms of Jesus' grace for us.

It takes practice. Life is hard. When we die to ourselves - lay down all our religions and worldly pressures we take on - the abundant life Jesus promised is waiting for us. 

Savanasa is a symbol of dying, of real rest, of entering the unforced rhythms of his grace.