In my first Christ-Centered Yoga class, I expected a little Jesus and a lot of yoga. Or at least that’s all I wanted since I felt like my life was falling apart (read more here). I had lost sight of God and in the chaos had let go of hope and picked up anger. My body and soul were exhausted.
I saw a flyer for a Christian Yoga retreat called Legacy of Love. It caught my attention because I had been practicing yoga for years and thought,
“Hmm, yoga is good for my mind and body. I could use the time to get away and find some peace.”
That’s how I first grew to love yoga because it always brought me a sense of peace.
I began practicing yoga 15 years ago when I took my first yoga class as a requirement for my high school dance team. Our coach saw the value in the combination of strength and stretching but more-so, she knew high school girls could use the practice of calming and centering our minds. (It’s a battleground in adolescent brains!) And that’s what hooked me. The rhythmic breathing and moving centered my mind in a way I had never experienced.
Over the next 15 years yoga became a necessary staple in my life. It was a friend I took with me through every life stage. I would attend weekly yoga classes through college and during my first job in the nonprofit world. I even took early morning classes in my first years of teaching Spanish in the classroom and continued taking classes into motherhood. Yes, 5:30 am is early, but no one else is up yet which guarantees I do at least one thing for myself before my monkeys, I mean children, get out of bed. Talk about #momwin
So when I saw the flier I thought ok, I can handle a little Jesus and a lot of Yoga. Church felt hard at this point but yoga didn’t.
I was expecting a regular yoga class with some Scripture and worship songs inserted here and there.
Yes…from the observer’s perspective this is what you see. An opening prayer, scripture reading, yoga flow and some worship music.
However, from the yogi’s perspective, it is a much more involved internal experience.
I encountered God in a way that I never had before. Christ-centered yoga is experiential worship that integrates heart, soul, mind and body. Your life force, or breath, fuels each posture, and slowly you begin to integrate your insides with your outsides and connect with the One who created you.
With each posture, your body reflects externally what it’s doing internally. For example, prayer. As we pray, I rest in child’s pose, bowed forward, forehead pressed to the mat and palms open wide. My body surrenders, and so does my soul. It was in this posture, that I was open to hear God’s voice, in a way I hadn’t been in quite a long time.
It was in child’s pose where I heard our teacher ask, “What do you need to surrender to Jesus?” Now I had been asked this question before, but never in a moment where the posture of my soul matched the posture of my body. My integrated-self heard this question, as my ears heard the lyrics…..
“ I need you, Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense my righteousness, Oh God How I need you.”
The tears began to stream down my face. I had just lost my father-in-law to cancer. My family was falling apart. I was afraid I’d lose my husband to sorrow. I needed God in a big way because there was nothing I could do in my own power to fix any of it. I desperately needed to surrender it all to Jesus, because I just couldnt’ control any of it.
As I whispered, “I need to trust you,” I felt a deep sense of peace wash over me. It was as if my tears were an outpour of my surrender and I was met with a deep knowing that I was loved and held.
By slowing down, I found that God was waiting for me in the chaos because He had never moved.
I might have run away from Him in my hurt and pain, but He was there standing, and with arms wide-open, waiting for me to turn around, reach out and grab hold.
In reaching back, I was able to surrender control and take hold of His peace. For His peace is not of this world, and makes no logical sense, but it’s large enough for all my broken pieces to find a home.
The combination of experiential worship and meditation prepared my heart to draw close to His and opened my heart to receive His gifts.
Today’s culture drives home the importance of “doing” to earn worth, and the practice of yoga is about the becoming instead of the arriving.
Yoga calms the mind through movement and breath and in turn opens the heart.
And it is with an open heart that I am able to receive from God.
I had been closed off. Anger had hardened my heart. And I believed the lie that the hard shell I had so carefully built, was protecting me from any more hurt. But, in reality, this self-forged wall was was suffocating the life force right out of me. The practice of Soul Yoga integrated my senses, softened my heart and brought me into the present moment where I found His love and grace waiting for me.
My expectations melted away and I was met with His reality.
I now approach Soul Yoga like other spiritual disciplines. It is a practice that brings me into the present moment where I find Him alive, moving and deeply loving.
That’s why you’ll find me practicing or leading from my mat on a weekly basis.
I’d love for you to come and join or connect with me about ways to try from home! May He meet you and continue to transform you from the inside out, one breath at a time.