Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

At last night’s yoga class one of our members exclaimed, “I can touch my toes!” It was a triumph. Last week, she couldn’t.

Due to the slow, almost contemplative, nature of yoga, practitioners are encouraged to pay attention to baby steps of progress. “This time, stretch a little farther…hold that pose a little longer…see how much more your body is able to do now?”

It’s a great perspective. Every day, right under our noses, there are little things to celebrate: The sight of daffodils pushing their way through the dirt, a chocolate-peanut butter ice cream cone, an open parking space. Each one is a gift. I like to think God scatters serendipities in our path as love notes, little reminders that he cares.

Sure, the big things in life are worthy of celebration—but so are little things. How many little things can you find to celebrate today?

Read Full Post »

I am not a competitive person, especially when it comes to sports. I’m athletically challenged, for one thing. It’s not that I don’t want my team to whup yours, but if it’s a game that I’m personally playing, I figure I’m more likely to lose than not. Can’t we all just be happy and get along?

Which is why yoga is so good for me.

Yoga is something you do for yourself and to a great extent, within yourself. You’re not supposed to look around at the other people in the class and wonder “How come I can’t scratch the back of my head with my big toe like they can?” You’re supposed to pay attention to your body and work with it, not against it. We are all created differently—our progress won’t look just like anyone else’s.

Walking with God is like that, too. It’s so tempting to look at some spiritual superstar and think, “How come I don’t have that kind of peace” or “Why can’t I pray like that?” Part of it—as with yoga—is  practice. Part of it may be that God created us to be different from them.

We need to pay attention to our own relationship with God and how it’s progressing, not comparing ourselves to others. If you master that, please let me know how you did it because I’m still working that out. That, and trying to scratch the back of my head with my toe.

Read Full Post »

It seems to me the world is divided into two basic camps: those who ease into the pool one toe at a time and those who jump in. If you’re a cannonball-er, this lesson may not apply to you so much, but if you’re a “proceed with caution” type, this could be a a challenge.

Here’s the gist of today’s lesson: Start where you are.

We could probably distill that even further: Start.

We just began an after-work yoga class at the WoFfice. Gathered in our big conference room for our first class were people who had been practicing yoga for years, some who’d had a little experience, and some newbies. We could all work out together, because yoga doesn’t have a prerequisite. You don’t have to work up to a beginning level. You can just start.

Beginning a relationship with God is like that, too. You don’t have to work up to a certain level of goodness first. In fact, that’s a waste of time and effort. There’s no way to make ourselves acceptable to God. There’s just not.

That’s why he came to do that for us. Jesus came to rescue us because we couldn’t save ourselves. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you are, how noble, how . . . whatever. It’s not enough. So why wear yourself out trying to do the impossible?

Especially when you could be enjoying the company of the one who did the impossible for you, because he didn’t want to go through eternity without you.

How do you begin that relationship?

Talk to God: He’s waiting to hear from you. (And he never puts you on hold or makes you “press one for…” )No fancy words required; just tell him how you feel.

Tell him you want to know him better. If that makes you a little nervous, tell him that, too. If you want, you can spill out all the ugly details of your life (we all have them) and it won’t shock him a bit. He already knows all your secrets and he loves you anyway.

Then, if you’re ready, ask him to forgive all that mess and give you a fresh start. Invite him to be the one in charge of your life. (He’s much better at that than we are. I can attest to that from personal experience.) Then start living a new life as a new person.

Just start.

For more details on beginning a relationship with God, click here or here.

Read Full Post »

At the end of Lesson 1 we were busy being still. Now it’s time to arise smoothly from our reclining positions—or in my case, lumber up with the grace of an arthritic elephant—and move to task number two.


As my yoga teacher said, “Decide what you’re going to focus on.”

Let’s just pause here a moment and let that sink in.

Does it ever occur to you that you need to decide what you’re going to focus on? In other words, do you think about what you’re thinking about? I find that if I don’t determine a focus, my unruly mind finds one for me—and it’s never anything useful or helpful. Quite the opposite, as a rule. Then I need, to quote one of my favorite Nicole C. Mullen songs, a “B.R.A.I.N. double wash.”

Focus isn’t easy, but it is necessary. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (Sounds kind of violent, doesn’t it?)

So here’s what I learned about focus from my yoga class:

  • Focus is a decision.
  • You must not only decide to focus, you have to decide what to focus on.
  • You will lose focus at some point. It happens to everyone. Just refocus and keep going.
  • Focus is like a TV remote: it’s easy to lose but without it, nothing changes.


Read Full Post »

Yoga and Life: Lesson 1

I recently completed a month’s worth of yoga sessions. (I had a Groupon.) I figured it would be good for me, help with some of my flexibility issues, and improve the strength of the knee I injured last year.

And I was right.

What I didn’t expect was that I would learn some valuable principles that could be applied to my spiritual life.

I know some Christians are leery of yoga and the values espoused therein. I understand that. However, my yoga classes were of the secular variety and the principles . . . well, you’ll see.

Lesson One: Be still.

The studio was dark and hot. We were told to go in early, place our mat on the floor, lie down, and get still. Much of yoga is a study in concentration, and when there are too many distractions that’s impossible.

Getting still is an actual commandment. Maybe it didn’t make the top 10, but Psalm 46:10 is pretty clear: “Be still and know that I am God.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t hurry up and be still—it takes time. It takes effort.

When I got to class I would lay on my little mat in that dark, humid room thinking about Psalm 131: “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself . . .”

Calm. Quiet. How long has it been since you experienced those? (Especially at the same time.)

It’s not easy to achieve “still.” But once you get there, it’s wonderful.

Try it today. I think you’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel.

Read Full Post »

Yoga with Cats

“Now take your strap in your right hand and hold it behind your back…”

Easy for you to say, Allie. Your strap is not currently being held captive by a marmalade Manx mix.

Henry working out with the strap

Henry working with the strap

Allie is the perky yoga instructor on my “Yoga Basics for Beginners” DVD. The Manx is Henry, the younger of my two cats. Both Charlie (Henry’s brother) and Henry thoroughly enjoy our yoga sessions together. The trouble is, “How to Work Out With Cats” is not one of the topics Allie covers.

It all started when I went to a life insurance seminar at work and won the door prize, a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Ah. Yes. I’m afraid I am not, shall we say, the most athletic of women. But it was the week of my birthday and I decided to treat it as a gift. Like, you know, one of those presents your well-meaning great-aunt gave you that you really didn’t want but didn’t want to hurt her feelings so you said the right things and then tried to find a way to deal with it. Yeah, that kind of gift.

Fortunately, there’s a shiny new Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the soon-to-be-wonderful new shopping center on my way home from work. So I stopped in, roamed the store looking for something I might actually use, indulged in some brief fantasies in the kayak display (she slides silently across the water through the morning mist, her paddle effortlessly slicing through the surface…), and went home with this yoga kit for beginners.

Having actually experienced a yoga class once before, I thought it would be rather less embarrassing to wobble about in the comfort and privacy of my own home rather than a mirror-lined room full of people. What I didn’t count on was the level of participation from my cats.

Virtually any time I stand still Charlie feels the need to flop down on my foot. The yoga mat just gave him a softer place to flop. Henry particularly likes the strap; not only do I have to yank it out from under him every time I use it, he has a tendency to interrupt my concentration by batting at and tugging on said strap when it’s actually in use. As I’m balancing on one hand and one knee, with the opposite hand and knee stretched out parallel to the floor, Charlie invariable rubs against my outstretched hand to be petted. After all, I’m clearly not using it, right? And it is just about at his head height. My lotus position signals the cats that it’s time to get on either side of my leg and smack at each other under my knee.

Now, this is not a one-time thing. Before injuring my shoulder (not—I think not—from yoga) the three of us went through this routine some 14 days in a row. Since my shoulder no longer moves (much) I’ve put the yoga on hold, and the cats are very disappointed. I started the DVD player today and both of them came running, hoping to get their session in. Sorry boys. Honestly, I miss it, too. Even if it did make me sore in places I didn’t know I had.

Charlie resting after a grueling session

Charlie resting after a grueling session

You never know what unexpected obstacles—furry ones or otherwise—will arise when you begin a new endeavor. You just can’t control these things. What you can control is your attitude. I could lock the cats in the other room while I do my little workout, but what fun would that be? Yes, the positions would be easier to achieve and maintain, but I’d miss out on a relationship-building opportunity with my furry family.

Besides, I may be on to something here. Yoga with Cats. It could be the next big thing in exercise!

Read Full Post »