Yoga and the Cross

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Hatha Yoga

yoga for christians

This morning during my Vinyasa Flow yoga class, once again the chain to the cross I wear on my neck got caught on my chin as I went into downward dog, an inverted pose. As I progressed through the rest of vinyasa, I realized I was distracted and I lost focus on my practice. My mind was instead fixated on why I continue to wear an adornment that always gets in the way during yoga. I wondered if it had something to do with wearing a symbol of my chosen faith while engaged in a spiritual practice of another.

As a progressive Christian, I find no contradiction in practicing yoga and honoring its ancient spiritual traditions. Chanting in Sanskrit and giving myself fully to meditation does not deter me from my Christian faith. Indeed, what I appreciate about yoga is that it is a physical spiritual practice. To me, yoga is a form of worship, even if I am a Christian rather than Hindu or Buddhist. My friend Alex Souto, a yogi and founder of Yogactivism, as well as a United Methodist minister, describes yoga as “full body prayer.”

So, if I am not conflicted, why wouldn’t I simply remove my cross before yoga class, especially since it continues to hinder me? Certainly, I would never wear heavy, bulky earrings that would threaten to fall off or catch on my clothing. Nor would I wear rings that would compromise a posture or my safety. Could “forgetting” to remove my cross before yoga be an unconscious act of resistance? Was I really worried that in leaving my cross at home I would be leaving my faith as well?

I don’t feel taking off my cross would make me disloyal to Christ. In reality, removing my cross for yoga would be practical. Yet, I almost always wear my cross. During a “procedure” some years ago I had to take it off and I remember thinking, “If ever I needed reassurance close to my heart…” I sleep and swim wearing my cross and I even wear it with other necklaces. At one point, I would only wear gold earrings to match the gold chain and cross. (I’ve since become more relaxed, in a large part due to yoga.)

The cross I wear is a symbol of my faith and it does bring me comfort. Yet, cross or not, I am a Christian. Not wearing my cross during yoga would allow me to practice without distraction (as well as prevent me from someday snapping the chain). Still, more importantly, when I put my cross back on after class, I have an opportunity to reaffirm my faith.

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