Apparently the peace I feel in the 105 degree room I practice yoga in every week is a demonic practice that will lead me to Hell and away from the God I love dearly. Funny, I thought I was connecting with God in those quiet moments, not turning from Him.
A Southern Baptist Theologian and a local Mars Hill Pastor have made recent news headlines with their fear based accusations. A couple of friends and my mother-in- law informed me about the articles and that I am going to Hell with all my yoga ways. Thank God they read the news, otherwise I would have been totally surprised when it was time for me to leave this earth. And to think, I thought I was going to a beautiful place in the next life.
These news stories make me think of Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character on SNL some years back. I’ve had a chuckle over the articles, listened to their opinions and now it is my turn to speak before I head off to the yoga studio. If I’m going to Hell like some of these ministers believe, I might as well be at a place of peace, fully de-toxed, united in body, mind and spirit and grounded in God’s Divine love before I go, huh?
I am a practicing Catholic, Bikram yoga practicioner, lover of peanut butter, online chess addict, wife, mother, Visa Card Holder, blah, blah, blah – labels. Labels destroy us, separate us, define us, yet tell us nothing about what matters most, only getting in the way and giving people something to bitch about.
The pope might have a heart attack knowing I recite a psalm and the Lord’s prayer quietly to myself after my ninety minute yoga class. Combining the two practices works for me and brings me in deeper relationship with God. And it is my practice. Not yours, not hers, not the Southern Baptist Theologian’s. For that is how it should work. God is too big to fit into a small box. And if some people find God in yoga class then how cool is that? For if they aren’t finding him in a stuffy church or crowded meeting hall at least they find God in community with others committed to creating peace both within themselves and on this planet. They are not calling yoga God. They are opening their hearts, closing their mouths and breathing in the beauty of God that can often only be found in the silence. The space where egos don’t exist and love shines brightly.
I go to yoga for my health and well-being. It feeds me in many ways; spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. It doesn’t replace my other experiences of God I find around the dinner table, in the pew, on a mountain, in community, sitting in silence. Nor do these experiences replace my yoga practice.
I have to totally disagree with R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky when he says, “Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God.” What if Christians and the rest of the world who want to know God don’t find God in the Word? What if they find God on a mountain or reaching out to another human being? It is often in the emptying of the mind of stress and busy thought that we can be aware of God’s presence. And if yoga brings them to a place where they can hear God then who are they to judge? For it is in the quiet stillness where I find we can discover and know God. God is always there but when we cloud it with other voices and expectations we can’t hear God’s Divine wisdom or feel God’s Divine Love.
Religion is often mistaken for being God. Religion is one way, just one way to express your faith and beliefs in God. It is not the only road – thank the Good Lord by the way for all the many different ways and opportunities we have to experience God and (side note as I am writing this: my daughter is teaching her little brother how to do jumping jacks and I am delighted as I know God is in watching this exchange of love and laughter) be in relationship with the Divine. See God can be found in jumping jacks too. God is where love is and if people can love one another more deeply and go deeper into relationship with God through a little exercise, I say rock on.
If yoga opens up my heart to live more compassionately, de-stress me so I don’t have to take anti-depressants any more, ground me into being a nicer mother and bring me to a deeper awareness of my relationship with God and all that is going to bring me to Hell then I say, I’ll at least be ready. I’ll be open to love, aware of God’s presence and able to crush Lucifer with my yoga-toned thighs.
Oh, people – life is meant to be lived not feared.
Pointing fingers, running from possibility and hiding behind labels is a much bigger Hell than the one these Reverends speak of in their rants against yoga.
I give thanks for all the different ways we can experience God, discover God, and live as Jesus wants us to, full of love and possibility. Not narrowness and fear.
Plus in all the dipictions and portrayals of Jesus he had killer abs, toned arms, clearly a yoga man, as there were no gym memberships back in his day.
by J.G. McGlothern