In a couple weeks I will be leading Family Camp at the awesome Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, in Colorado. I am SO excited!! But, I imagine there are plenty of people who see that YOGA is the theme for family camp and think, “why yoga, for the love of God?!”.
I’m only saying this once, so listen up.
Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is not Hinduism. Yoga does not require you be a Hindu.
That being said, Hindus do practice yoga. As do Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists, Christians, and surely many other faiths.
If you are interested in battling with me about this, know that I am not interested in battling back. It is totally fine with me if you don’t agree.
The origin of yoga was a practice to prepare yourself for prayer & meditation. So, while I like to say that yoga is a spiritual practice – it’s the practice BEFORE the spiritual practice. Yoga was created as a way to quiet the busy, judgmental, negative, and trivial mind so that a person could actually pray. Yoga comes from the word “yoke”; to bind, connect, bring together. So, yoga is connecting mind, body, and spirit. I describe it this way — we go through the body, to quiet the mind, and rest in the spirit.
I started really practicing yoga while I was a hard working and frazzled pastor, starving to find a way beyond worship and Bible study to be fed, spiritually. In the midst of a yoga practice I would be reminded of the miraculous stories from the Bible where Jesus heals people from a physical ailment and this transforms their whole life, in mind, body, and spirit. Feeling those stories in my body opened up a whole new way to grow in my faith that simply wasn’t happening in worship or Bible study when I was just using my head.
And just to clarify, these aforementioned yoga classes happened in a sweaty, s t i n k y, gym, lead by a guy named Donnie who had a great mullet, and never spoke the words; Jesus, God, or Amen. In fact, I would venture to guess that yoga classes are so very popular because they are generally on the quiet side and no one is telling you what or how to believe, say, or act; other than to soften your shoulders, release your clenched jaw, and just rest.
I am pretty passionate about communities of faith needing an embodied practice of faith. Almost all of the prayers requested are for someone struggling with physical illness, injury, and disease. The Bible is FULL of people asking Jesus for physical healing. So, why not have a spiritual practice where we actually move and feel some health and wholeness in our bodies instead of just think about it.
How my body feels and how I feel about my body has enormous effect and power on my spiritual life. And judging from the stories in the Bible, our physical health seems to matter to God.
I am embarrassed to admit how very little I know about Hinduism. But, I will say that yoga has helped me, without a doubt, understand my Christian faith in new and expansive ways.
So, there you have a small nugget of my thoughts on yoga, as one of several tools in your toolbox of spirituality and faith. I also really treasure a great potluck and hymn sing.
If you are coming to Sky Ranch Family Camp this summer – I can’t wait to practice yoga with you! And I might just make a t-shirt that reads; Oh, for the Love of God, do yoga! Want one?
Peace on your head,