In the ninth grade, I remember the first time I moved into a yoga pose. Pretending to be meditating, I closed my eyes, crossed my legs and brought my thumbs and middle fingers to touch. I was in the school cafeteria. I had no concept of yoga except this—and I was quickly reprimanded by my concerned Christian friend—that Christians can’t meditate. It is against God to do such a thing … And for many years, when I heard the words mediate and/or yoga, that was the experience that came to mind.
I’ve lived many seasons since 9th grade. I’ve made selfish and unselfish choices. I have had kids, finished school, at times I have chosen my own desires over my faith. I have lived a surrendered life, and un-surrendered… I’ve had kids—made it the toddler years and grade school years; been a crunchy and un-crunchy mom and both a home school mom and a public school mom. And I’m still making my way through seasons of life of not knowing all the answers. However, I no longer believe that meditating is an unchristian thing to do. It has been practiced by Christians and Hindus, atheists and Buddhists, and the practice doesn’t make you a good or bad anything.
There is a famous proverb* that says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” The quote doesn’t say to follow your heart, nor does it say to deny your heart—it says to guard your heart. Just like most good things in life, meditation can be used to transform you for the greater good, or for your own good.
Before I go any further, let’s take some time to demystify what mediation is.
First: Meditation is life-changing, not life-saving.
Long before I began practicing meditation, I have been living a life rooted in my faith. My spiritual life was already a part of my life. That has not changed. What has changed is my ability to begin to understand what it means to die to self (specifically my own busy, over-active thought life) so that I can to get out of my own head and be open to listening for God to speak His truth into my life—without His truths being adjusted by my own perspective and past.
Second: Human beings are more than flesh and bones…we are also spirit.
I believe when God breathed life into us (beginning with Adam, in Genesis 2:7), that is when we are shown we are more then just the dust of the earth. We are each breathed into life for a purpose, and the spirit part of us can not be ignored. It is part of who we are, even though it is a bit beyond our comprehension. Meditation and Asana (the physical postures of yoga) serve as a tool to help bring the spirit into unison with our minds and bodies. I’m not trying to make this into gobbledygook here, so as simple as possible: Emotions: passions, fear, grief, desire, joy, anger and shame modify the rhythm of breathing, which in turn, affect your nervous system and the rest of the body. Emotions are not the physical body, therefore, they would be a manifestation of the spirit. While our breath is involuntary, we do have the ability to change the rhythm of the breath by our will. Next time you are in a stressful situation, take a moment and take note of your breathing pattern. Then, for the next few moments, bring your attention to slowing down your breath. You will find that your impossible situation doesn’t hold the same power over you that it just did. Spirit, mind and body beginning to work together…
Third: Learning to fix your eyes on one idea is meditation.
Mindfulness in the making—aiming to discipline the mind so that the Spirit has room to be heard. Our minds have been described as “the monkey that leaps continually from branch to branch”. Today, in our culture, I would say many of our lives reflect the monkeys leaping from one branch to another…not able to slow down enough to see what branch is really worth jumping to…we do not have to live this way. If we are willing to step away from the “normal” and adjust our gaze, we have the power to be “the shepherd grazing his ewes without allowing them out of his sight”.
Fourth: Meditation and yoga do not have to be practiced together, but they work together.
Asana has the potential to be much more then just physical exercise. If you want your yoga to stay focused on lengthening your hamstrings and strengthening your core–awesome! You are going to benefit from your time on your yoga mat. However, if you are interested in creating a more awesome life with your Asana as a tool-then you will get both sets of benefits–awesome times two. The breath, which we practice controlling in meditation, is also practiced in guiding the movements of your yoga practice. A sort of moving meditation.
So, where do you start?
On a yoga mat moving through postures, or in a seated position, focused on breath control? If you aren’t sure, maybe give both a try. I encourage you to start shorter in length, but commit to coming back to it for a certain number of days. Try committing to two full weeks. On our website, we offer videos that are short in length and would allow you to begin a practice from a safe space-in the comfort of your own home.
Note: this blog post was originally posted at One + One Yoga. (oneplusoneyoga.com)