"Lose the breath you have diligently used in your practice today..." this is what I love about Yoga, a few simple words that sum up what it is all about for me--focus, breath, presence, then release. This weekend marks the first year of yoga practice for me and I look forward to another one.
I think I have said here before that I could get positively evangelistic about yoga, it has changed my life, or perhaps I should say, I have used it to change my life. I set out a year ago to change my relationship with my own physical body and to face some internal things that I felt had been haunting me for way too long.
It was a big step for me to walk into the yoga studio, I was riddled with all kinds of presuppositions and reservations, but I had seen a flyer advertising "yoga for the stiff guy" and figured that had to mean me! Twenty minutes into the first class I had some kind of epiphanal moment--I saw my body in a way I had never seen it before--I realized not only limitations but also possibilities, and that was huge for me. I have been going three or four times a week ever since, the longest uninterrupted period of physical activity of my entire adult life. It is not just about physical stuff, although I would say that the physical benefits have been huge for me, there is internal stuff as well, the simple action of closing out the rest of life for an hour or more on a regular basis and breathing into the present moments, that has been transformational for me. I view my yoga mat as a sacred space, a space for transformation, internal and external. I love the fact that it is non-competitive, about knowing your limits and not straining and yet being pushed in ways you never dreamed possible.
The most interesting dynamic, although it is a peripheral thing, is how yoga has affected my view of some scriptural stuff. I really disagree with Paul's call to willful subjugation of the body. Now, I realize that "putting my body under" can be achieved in a number of ways, but principally in the worlds of faith I have moved in, that idea has generally been presented as repression and mind control ultimately, very Western and linked to "muscular Christianity". Yoga teaches the opposite, it is about release, about letting things go, not gritting ones teeth and coming to terms with exactly who you are right now, accepting it and working from there. Perhaps I am being too hard on Paul or misinterpreting what he intended, but I think the Western relationship to the body has some serious flaws and I have found great liberation in taking a different path with my own flesh. That probably doesn't really get at the heart of what I am trying to say, but I'll leave it for now and perhaps come back to the thought later when it is more fully realized in my thinking.
If you have never tried it I would recommend giving yoga a go. Like most things it will probably not be what you expect, and it might just change your life.