Friday, January 28, 2011
The word ‘apology’ has more than one meaning. Most people interpret it to be the phrase used to admit that they were in the wrong, but the Greek root for the word can also mean ‘to give a defense.’ In the last year I’ve found myself apologizing (in the first sense) in a lot of Christian circles whenever I mention that I practice yoga – their words and glances are usually along the lines of, “Have fun being a pagan…” or “I hope you know that you are damaging the state of your soul.” Maybe it’s time that I gave a different sort of apology...
When I was a little ragamuffin running around with wild hair, I used to be fascinated with the thermostat in our house. I would drag a dining room chair over to the wall, clamber up, and then begin to adjust the heat toward a more tropical setting. However, my dad usually intercepted me before I could complete the operation, and we would always have the same exchange each time as he set me back on the ground: I would pout, “But I’m cold!” and he would smile, “Then put on a sweatshirt.” I didn’t want a sweatshirt – I wanted instant heat, “Why do I have to?” and he would respond, “Because it builds character.” My little foot stomp of rebellion was usually the last word, but it waited until just after he had left the room.
For me, practicing yoga is like putting on a sweatshirt – stepping onto the mat brings both external and internal benefits. True, it finds its roots in Eastern religion, but everyone’s practice is unique. Just because one teacher elevates the self and the time when we lived as turtles doesn’t mean that every studio has that foundation as well. Yoga is an opportunity to stretch and strengthen your body, as well as develop relaxation, gratitude, and focus. Far from hindering my spiritual state, it complements the other areas in my life that cultivate my faith of Christianity. The first pose that we learned here was Mountain Pose: weight in the feet, standing straight, shoulders down, and arms outstretched overhead. Simple, yet this pose is a foundation for all of the rest of the positions that we have learned, and I also see it as a metaphor for where I am in life right now. I feel my feet firmly grounded in belief, but my arms are stretched up high with palms open to receive new grace, new possibilities each day that I haven’t even thought of yet.