I Cried in Yoga Class
For years, I avoided doing yoga because I didn’t want to be a bad Christian. I’d heard and read countless teachings about how it was basically “dabbling”–a gateway or portal into Eastern mysticism, and ultimately, the demonic. One of my biggest fears has been accidentally straying off the path and away from the God I love so much, but the truth is, my faith has been tested extensively throughout my life, and I’ve only grown to love Him more.
I’ve also come to realize how much fear is alive and active in the evangelical church, and how much it has been utilized in instruction and discipleship–as well as in evangelism itself. I unknowingly internalized the message that I should be afraid, as if the saving bond between me and Jesus hung by a delicate thread, ready to unravel at the slightest stretching on my part.
But stretching was exactly what I needed, quite literally. It’s shocking how quickly you get all stiff and creaky when you hit middle age, and I knew if I didn’t work at becoming more flexible, it would only get worse.
Enter, yoga class.
So there I was, a total newbie, trying hard not to look like one. My thoughts darted back and forth as I worried about mantras and chakras and auras…and the possibility of dislocating something. I sat cross-legged on my mat, trying to dial down and focus on my breathing, when I noticed the background music shift from the pan flute to piano, and recognized the soothing voice of Julie True, singing the name of Jesus. I closed my eyes, sighed, and felt safe.
As the class got going, I did my best to follow along with the instructor, sneaking glances at the lady to my left, hoping my poses looked remotely like hers. But, in looking around the room, I didn’t notice anyone else’s knees violently twitching while they were trying to balance, and nobody else tipped over and fell during Warrior 3. I started to slip into shame, embarrassment, and negative self-talk. “Oh God, please help me,” I thought.
And suddenly, something else drew my attention.
The soft, gentle voice of our teacher. Every instruction she gave was an invitation to participate at the level we could. She encouraged us to leave our comfort zones and try what might be a challenge, but she also gave permission to stay exactly where we were if we didn’t feel ready. She talked about creating safe places for ourselves and each other.
Every word was an extension of grace. I felt no judgement.
I thought about how, when we sing worship songs in church, the repetition of certain phrases gives us time and space to receive the truth in them; how those words, repeated over and over again, break through our barriers and land in our hearts. Surprisingly, I found this happening to me in yoga class.
All those truths our teacher voiced about grace and peace and safety and invitation began to drop like little seeds into my fearful heart. And before long, the familiar feeling of God’s presence arose within me. I could feel my chest tighten and a lump forming in my throat.
It was at that point that we were instructed to lie down on our mats and begin to tune in to whatever was happening inside us. I sensed His Spirit and my body felt heavy. The teacher was still speaking softly when I heard a voice say,
Whether it was hers or God’s I do not know. But the corners of my eyes began to sting as they dammed a reservoir of emotion I didn’t even know was in there.
The teacher came behind me and gently placed her hands on my head, and hot tears streamed down my face. I hoped she didn’t notice, but they were impossible to hold back any longer. God was near.
And I understood, all in a moment’s time, Romans 8:38–39:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That is the truth.
Nothing will keep Him from running after you, from trying to reach you and love you wherever you are. And even if you wander away and can’t find your way back home, He will leave the rest of the flock to go get you. This is Scripture, friends!
In yoga, you often hear about finding your edge — that boundary of your physical and mental comfort zone — and allowing yourself to stretch past it and create a new balance. And that’s wise advice–we need to stay flexible or we will become stiff and rigid and cease to grow as individuals. (fellow believers, are you listening?) But here’s the thing, we can do that because God has no edges, no barriers, no zones.
He is not bound by anything at any time, and nothing can separate you from Him. He will find you where you’re at, especially when you love him and are seeking Him. Our Savior promises this.
Surprisingly, this little foray into an area I previously feared actually facilitated the most incredible love-encounter I have had in a long time. I knew this was no spirit-guide or small-g “god” masquerading as The Way during yoga. It was YHWH, Jehovah, Jesus, the one and only God I have loved and served all my life. He met me in an unfamiliar environment in the most beautiful and familiar way.
I learned firsthand through this encounter that I am safe with Him and that He gives me grace to explore the boundaries I’ve feared to cross.
That He invites me to grow and gives me permission to stay where I am, either until I’m ready, or He’s ready to lead me somewhere new.
And that I need not fear.
None of us who love Him does. I’m not suggesting we go out and seek Him through other religions and practices, but I am saying that we need not live in fear for our salvation when we leave our Christian bubbles. Or when we notice and contemplate how He speaks through the secular or the unfamiliar or even through the things we have been warned to avoid.
He is the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills; all truth and beauty not only flow through Him–they originate in Him. And perhaps, when our hearts are open and not operating out of fear, we can recognize His fingerprints, His truth, and His voice shining through people and customs outside our Judeo-Christian circles.
It’s actually part of His plan. If we are to share (and receive!) the love of Jesus in the myriad of ways available to us, we must learn to use and recognize that which unites us.
We have a lot to learn; edges to explore and grow past. Let us not go out into the world in fear we will be drawn away from the God we love. If we have any hope of drawing others into His glorious light and life, we must go in confidence of where we ourselves stand.