Confessions of a (Yoga) Hypocrite

"I don't have the time."

"I don't have the space."

"I don't know what to do."

When I talk with people about practicing yoga at home, I usually get variations of these three responses. I don't argue with them because these excuses were once mine, too. Even after I started teaching yoga, I rarely rolled out the mat at home. I'd go to the church's yoga room to plan classes, but time on the mat belonged to instructing others--not instructing myself.

I moved to the delta, set up a space in my home specifically for yoga, entered Yahweh Yoga teacher training, and focused on being a student for a year, Only then did I realize how I'd slipped into hypocrisy. I had "preached" how beneficial it was to practice modified Warrior III pose at the kitchen counter. I encouraged everyone to stop & breathe when anxiety knocked on their mind's door during the work day. Yet I would resort to staying on both feet and shallow breathing away from the yoga class. I was still able to teach, and by God's grace, to teach well sometimes.

When I started practicing yoga outside of the yoga class, I became a better teacher. 

I no longer depended solely on a few 50-minute classes to carry me through the week.

I was able to move into more difficult poses in class because I'd practiced simpler poses at home.

I was forced to listen to my body, mind, and the Spirit of God.

The more I practiced yoga at home, the more I saw a parallel to our lives as children of God. The same fears that keep us off the mat are those that keep us from spiritual disciplines: lack of time, lack of space, and fear that we'll do say or do something "wrong." As a result,  the only time that some of us open our Bibles is the Sunday morning worship hour. The only times we pray are a desperate plea for a parking place in the office parking lot and reciting the Lord's prayer in Sunday school. These practices are good; but are they enough?

We run on the spiritual fumes of one weekly meal when God wants to feed us daily through the nourishment of his Word and presence.

Why are the practices that we know are so good for us also so difficult to do? The question has loomed for years, and there are multiple answers. I don't claim to have answers, but I do offer some suggestions to help us better integrate spiritual disciplines, which may include yoga, into our lives. 

1. "I don't have the time" :  I used to think that unless I practiced yoga for a solid hour that it didn't "count." Then I started doing what I could, when I could. While the coffee brewed, I took some long, deep breaths. I did a couple of forward folds in the kitchen. I wound my arms into eagle pose. Not only did I feel better afterwards, but a cup of coffee was there to reward me. These "in-between" times do count, especially when we use them to spend time with God. What if you and your spouse used the coffee brewing time to pray God's protection over your children? Set aside the lofty goals of hour-long commitments, and focus on making 10 or 15 minutes richer by time spent on your "yoga mat" with God.

2. "I don't have the space" : From furniture to electronics to people, our houses are full. So are our lives. Finding space for a yoga mat between the paperwork and laundry can seem daunting. Yet when we follow through with clearing that small rectangular space and move our bodies on the mat, we feel so much better. When I placed my yoga mat in a location where I had to walk around it to get to the refrigerator, I was forced to think about how much better I would feel if I stopped for five minutes on it. What if you placed your Bible next to the silverware on the dinner table? Or in the refrigerator next to the milk? Small, visual reminders that take up small, visual space remind us of our deep hunger for God's presence. 

Aversion is easier than courage

3. "I don't know what to do." : Fear of doing something "wrong" on the yoga mat kept me off of it at home. What if I hurt myself? What if I don't remember everything the teacher said about pigeon pose? Aversion is easier than courage. Many of us avoid praying out loud because we're afraid we'll say something wrong. The thoughts of reading the Bible in all its complexity scares us. We wonder if it will do any good. Only with time and effort did I begin to see the benefits of practicing yoga at home. It's hard to show up. It's even harder to show up again. It's hardest to show up over and over again. We may not see results of our spiritual disciplines right away, either, but we continue to show up in faith that God is with us.

In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, "Happy are people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full." The longer I teach yoga, and the longer I serve as a pastor, the more clearly I see a parallel between our physical and spiritual lives. We are starving for God's presence, and God wants to feed us. Our choices determine how healthfully we satiate the hunger and quench the thirst. We don't have to enter monasteries or move into the church with the prophet, Samuel, to become more like Jesus. We can drink of the Spirit of Life right where we are. What we most need is the courage to say, "God, I need only what you can give. And I know I will only receive if I set aside the time and to do so."

Dearly beloved friends, let us choose wisely and well how we spend our time. God prepares a feast for us each day. Will we stop to partake in gratitude? We may not succeed every time, but just for today, let us try. Let us ask. Let us receive.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian