Founded in 1979, the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups, alternative movements, and other environments. ICSA is tax-exempt, supports civil liberties, and is not affiliated with any religious or commercial organizations.
ICSA is unique in how it brings together former group members, families, helping professionals and researchers.
We highly recommend ICSA. See our sister site, CultExperts.org, for details.
Recovery Workshop for Former Group Members (July 31 - August 2, 2015) - Colorado Springs, Colorado
Organized by Carol Giambalvo, a thought reform consultant, these workshops are for former group members only, not family or friends (ICSA has other events for these persons. ICSA also has a special workshop for former group members who were born or raised in high-demand groups.)
→ ICSA Recovery Workshops: The Colorado Model
High-Control Groups: Helping Former Members and Families (November 6-8, 2015) - Santa Fe, New Mexico
This conference will focus on the needs of former group members and families and will include a training track for mental health professionals.
Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Second-Generation Former Members (April 15-17, 2016) - Chester, CT
As increasing numbers of people born or raised in cultic movements have reached adulthood, the International Cultic Studies Association has developed a program that addresses their special needs. Two articles describe this program: (1) Lessons Learned from SGAs About Resiliency and Recovery (Leona Furnari and Rosanne Henry) and (2) My Perspective of Rosanne Henry and Leona Furnari’s Presentation to the Annual SGA Workshop (Patrick Rardin) describe this program. There is also a video on ICSA's YouTube channel: "Born or Raised in Cultic Groups" with Lorna Goldberg and Leona Furnari.
Meeting annually since 2006, this workshop addresses the needs of SGAs (Second Generation Adults) through presentations by specialists and former members, including discussions in which attendees may participate according to their comfort levels. Special attention is paid to the need of SGAs for privacy, reflection, and working at their own pace.
The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2016 Annual International Conference jointly with Info-Secte/Info-Cult of Montreal in Dallas, Texas. The conference will take place from June 30 through July 2, 2016 (preconference workshops on Wednesday June 29). The conference will address the needs and interests of ICSA’s four main constituencies: former group members, families, helping professionals, and researchers.
The bakery refused to bake a wedding cake cake for lesbian couple Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013.
In April this year, a judge ruled that the bakery had discriminated against the couple and suggested damages of $135,000. Now, the Bureau of Labor and Industries has affirmed that amount, ordering Sweet Cakes to pay it.
Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein said their refusal to bake for the lesbian couple was prompted by their religious beliefs regarding marriage.
The case has been cited in the national debate over religious freedom and discrimination against gays.
The couple intends to appeal the decision.
Last April crowdfunding site GoFundMe shut down the couple's campaign because it involved formal charges.
The Kleins will still receive the $109,000 donated to the fund before it was shut down.
Meanwhile, Samaritan’s Purse has established a fund to help people who face financial distress and are punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs, convictions, and conscience.
July 3, 2015 by Religion News Blog
Filed under FLDS, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Hatha Yoga, RNB's Religion News Blog
The insular Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) is building a "fortress-type" wall around its meeting house in Colorado City, Arizona.
— D.J. Bolerjack (@DJBolerjack) July 2, 2015
Private investigator Sam Brower, who has observed the cult for many years, says he has no doubt that the wall is being erected on the express orders of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs, whom followers believe to be a prophet who speaks for God, is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in a Texas prison after he was found guilty of taking underage girls as his wives in what were claimed to be 'spiritual marriages.'
While his brother, Lyle, and other leaders in the cult take care of day to day business, Warren Jeffs continues to rule his followers with an iron fist.
Theologically, the FLDS is considered to be a cult of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, commonly known as the Mormon Church) -- which itself is, also theologically, a cult of Christianity.
Interestingly, for the most part, the doctrines and practices of Mormon Fundamentalists are closer to those of the original Mormon Church than are the doctrines and practices of today's Mormon Church.
Sociologically the FLDS is also consider a cult. The movement has been in the news for ousting young boys, for reassigning the wives and children of excommunicated men to men who are for the time being still in good standing, for forcing girls into underage marriages, for other forms of child abuse, and a range of other issues.
Some people think Christian yoga makes about as much sense as Jewish chemistry… or Islamic mathematics. It’s a fundamental category error. Yoga, at least as practiced in the west, is a system of physical and mental exercises that has nothing to do with Christianity, these critics say. Go to church. And go to yoga class if you must. But certainly don’t mix the two up.
But I disagree. Christians who practice yoga – or the other Eastern spiritual body-mind disciplines of mindfulness, meditation, Tai Chi, and so on – bring with them the unique philosophical outlook and habits of mind that come with Christianity. While they explore what the Eastern practices have to offer them, they do so on their own terms, with their own perspectives. If, in the process of practicing these Eastern disciplines, they make modifications to accommodate their spiritual beliefs, so what? Isn’t that their right?
Now, I admit that I prefer to get my Eastern stuff straight. If I take a Tai Chi, Aikido or a yoga class, I’d rather take it from someone steeped in the traditions of these disciplines. I’d rather use the terminology of the traditional discipline, study what the discipline offers on its own terms. Later, I may decide which parts of what I learned don’t really harmonize very well with what I truly believe from my western (Christian) perspective, but I’m a big boy and can make those judgments myself.
That’s why I’m not really a fan of the Praise Moves or the “Wholly Fit” style of Christian Yoga – although I’m sure it helps very many people and I know its practitioners are sincere — in which all of the yoga postures are renamed from their “pagan” roots. Ditto meditation. If I go on a Zen meditation retreat, I want my Zen straight. Teach me what Zen has to offer… on its own terms and in its own way… and then I’ll decide for myself it I can harmonize Zen meditation with my Christian faith. I find little in minimalist Zen meditation to which any regular Christian could object… while at the same time I am careful not to say that Eastern meditation is the same as Christian contemplative prayer.
Now, that said, I will admit that Christians who have been practicing these Eastern disciplines for a long time do make their own adjustments – and that’s fine. There is a Christian Zen sitting group near me that has been around for ages (decades). These folks have developed their own synthesis. They are faithful Christians who think that traditional Zen meditation helps them, grounds them, perhaps prepares them for a more mature prayer life. But it’s pretty traditional Zen, all in all.
After a while, I think long-term practitioners do feel the need to evolve something new that explicitly integrates what they learn from Eastern practices with the unique spiritual outlook that is Christianity. And that’s why I think there is a real Christian Yoga vocation (yoga being used in a broad sense).
The unique Christian understanding of incarnation actually brings a depth and a pathos to yoga practice that enriches it.
Unlike traditional yoga and Indian philosophy generally, Christians don’t believe that human beings “cast off” their bodies like so many worn-out clothes at death – only to take on new ones in a reincarnated existence.
Rather, Christians have this strange, rather radical, certainly unusual belief that we are our bodies – and that God will miraculously preserve and render them immortal and luminescent in a resurrected state. Thus, the yoga emphasis on bodily care, awareness and health is thus completely harmonious with the Christian understanding of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. This is what the founder of Christian yoga – Père J.-M. Déchanet – was getting at when he tried to adapt the spiritual psychology of William of Saint-Thierry to a fairly traditional hatha yoga practice.
According to rabbinic tradition, the first commandment God gives Adam and Eve in the Garden is to have sex: Pru vehravu, “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s little wonder then that Christian theology has pondered for centuries the place that human sexuality and bodily existence have in God’s plan for the universe. On the one hand, anyone familiar with the Jewish testament knows that sexual attraction (and sexual sin) permeate virtually every book. What’s more, two centuries of crusading secularism has exaggerated Christian pruddery in the early centuries of Christianity and in the Middle Ages.
On the other hand, it’s also true that the monastic movement that led to so many cultural and educational achievements in the West did tend to emphasize the negative aspects of human sexuality and bodily existence — if only because vowed celibate monks and nuns inevitably saw sexual feelings as temptations to be avoided at all costs.
Into this tangled history stepped the late pope John Paul II. Raised by his widowed father in Poland during the nightmare of World War II, Karol Wotylwa was a working man, athlete and actor before he became a Catholic priest and a philosopher. His experience with young married couples during his early years as a pastor — combined with his in-depth study of early 20th century phenomenologists — allowed the young priest to see the sexual embrace and life in the body in an entirely new way: as quite literally a way to God.
When he was elected pope, John Paul delivered a remarkable series of 129 lectures during his Wednesday audiences on what has become known as the Theology of the Body (TOTB) — a very traditional, very radical teaching on human embodiment and sexual attraction that papal biographer George Weigel has described as “a kind of theological time bomb” that will have dramatic consequences …perhaps in the twenty-first century” (Witness to Hope, 343).
John Paul’s argument, in essence, is that both secular libertines and Christian pruddery have missed the point. Human beings are radically, essentially physical. Human beings are not “ghosts in a machine,” as Descartes described it.
In a dramatic way, the entire Christian understanding of the incarnation means that Christians are and must be “pro-sex” and must celebrate the body generally. I would even say that Christians take the body at least as seriously as the devotees of most religions, including even Hinduism. The doctrine of the bodily resurrection reflects the Christian belief that we are our bodies — that if we are to survive death then it must be a physical survival. A disembodied spirit would not be a human being.
In the Baghavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna the exact opposite of the Christian view of our essentially bodily natures:
As a man discards his threadbare robes and puts on new, so the Spirit throws off its worn-out bodies and puts on new ones… The Spirit in man is imperishable.
While Christianity agrees with the Gita (and with yoga!) that there is an imperishable, immortal essence of the human being, which, for lack of a better word, the west has traditionally called the “soul,” it does not agree that the physical body is merely incidental to that essence — something that can be “thrown off” for a new one.
Rather, in the Christian view, we are embodied spirits or spiritual bodies — and thus it is our bodies themselves that are (or will be) immortal. Thus, the Christian hope is even more absurdly optimistic than people give us credit for: We actually believe that we will live forever… in glorified “resurrection” bodies, not as disembodied spirits. I’ve never been the least scandalized by those radical yogis who claim that yoga can lead to physical immortality of a sort or at least extreme longevity: it seems perfectly plausible to me given the Christian revelation.
That is why St. Paul tells the (male) Corinthians that they should take good care of their bodies and not defile themselves with prostitutes — and why Christian practitioners of yoga celebrate the body and do what we can to maintain good health. That is also why Pope John Paul II, in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, emphasized how incarnate human beings come to God in and through their bodies — and that sex, far from being inherently sinful, is actually a way to God. In John Paul’s teaching, sex (for non-celibate “householders”) is a sacrament (a “sign”) of divine presence because it is the preeminent example of that spiritual intimacy that is the birthright of all human beings.
Christians stand on mats at a church hall, stretching their arms to the heavens and bending to their toes. They lay their palms on the floor, the soles of their feet perfectly flat. Chants spill from a stereo.
It looks as though the group is doing a yoga pose called Downward Dog – but it isn’t. Group members, who meet weekly in Roanoke, bend into postures they call the Tallit, not the Big Toe, and the Dove, not the Pigeon.
They are participating in a program called PraiseMoves, not yoga.
The name changes are a subtle indicator of the sometimes tenuous relationship between the Eastern discipline of yoga and Western religions. While many Christians have practiced yoga for years, some Christian leaders have denounced it as pagan and demonic.
“Everybody has their own path that they have in terms of their spiritual journey, and my point of view is that I would want everybody’s path to eventually merge into the Christian path,” said Nancy Harvey, who leads the PraiseMoves group at Huntington Court United Methodist Church in Roanoke. “But it’s not my judgment to make one way or the other.”
To read more of this article, click here.
Many people are crazy about yoga. The reason most people practice yoga is that it makes them feel better and feel more in shape. The different poses and postures make their body flexible and healthy. Yoga for most is the best natural way to relax and unwind. If you are interested in keeping your body
in shape, this might be the best exercise for you.
Did you know that yoga could help fight certain illness that may come your way? There has been research that proved yoga helps you to control anxiety, reduces asthma, arthritis, blood pressure, back pain, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, diabetes, headaches, stress, and more.
Yoga has a lot of benefits and advantages. All in a day’s work, it can reduce tension and stress. Of course, after a heavy day, you will feel that your muscles have been stuck up and you will feel wasted.
If you do practice yoga, you may see an increase in your self-esteem. It is important to gain confidence so that you may face people without worry. Yoga is good for the body in increasing your muscle tone, strength, stamina, and flexibility. If you are too heavy, or conscious about your body shape, yoga can help you lower your body fat and help you stay in shape.
Yoga exercises can also burn excess fat and give you the desired figure that you want.
If you need time to relax and forget your responsibilities, then yoga will be good for improving your concentration and can enhance your creativity. Yoga helps you to think positively because it can help keep you free of your anxieties. If you have a fresh mind, you can easily think good thoughts.
Your body needs to relax often. Sometimes, at the end of the workday, you an feel exhausted. After some of the hardest days, we may not find time to unwind because troubles at work are still on our mind. Yoga helps you to clear your mind and create a sense of calmness and well-being.
Yoga exercises help you improve your blood circulation. Your organs and veins need to be exercised for them to function properly. Yoga can help stimulate your immune system, which can help keep you free from diseases.
Some people practice yoga to get enlightened. They believe that yoga will help them lift their spirit and keep them relieved. Yoga works differently for people, be it spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental, or physical.
Many people think that yoga is only for spiritual, or religious, people. But that myth is wrong. Even if you are not religious, you can do yoga. You will see and feel the difference, and at the same time find out how it works for you.
Due to the pressure and demands of life, we are stressed out and forget the essences of our lives. We tend to lose touch with the ones we used to spend time with, even ourselves.
We find ourselves rushing most of the time with deadlines and hassles at our jobs. This leaves us little time for our minds to wander and have that physical awareness.
These are a few things that yoga can provide. Occasionally, dedicate some time to relax and unwind, which only yoga can do.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in India but it has taken the attention of the west only in the late 19th century. Before it became popular, people in the United States thought that yoga was a mere peculiar activity invented to distort the body to come up with different positions for some strange reasons. Even until now, some people are still skeptical about yoga and refuse to undertake it. Sad to say, these people do not know the benefits they are missing.
If there is anytime that is best to begin a yoga practice, it is now. There are so many reasons why it is important for you to relive your life this very instant and yoga can be that ultimate solution.
First things first, not all myths about yoga are true. To set things straight, yoga is not a completely religious practice so you could set aside the religious issue right at the start. Yoga is also not about mind over body; it is about their “unity”, which is in fact the literal translation of the word “yoga” itself. The practice is not about repetitively reaching your toes as many times as possible; it is about proper breathing and mental focus while maintaining a certain position. There is nothing superstitious about it. In fact, modern science has already long confirmed the benefits of practicing yoga and the list becomes longer as more researches are being conducted year after year on the benefits of yoga.
Yoga is not only an art and a science. It is a lifestyle, an exercise, a therapy, a preventive cure and a medical treatment all rolled into one. Yoga is a complete way of living that can improve your life and you as a person. It is the perfect physical and mental therapy to have the most blissful life you once thought you could never experience. That is why beginning yoga now will bring you that much closer to reaping the benefits of the practice as early as possible.
Yoga has a many physical benefits to offer. It increases the flexibility of the joints, tendons and ligaments of the body. It also tones your body absent the dreadful lifting of weights. The most apparent effect of yoga on the body is loss of weight that is why yoga is also a popular exercise. Yoga is in fact the most holistic form of exercise. It exercises those body parts that are not consciously worked out upon even by gym addicts.
Another revolutionary advantage of practicing yoga is its health benefits to the body. It massages and stimulates all organs of the body. It in effect becomes the perfect preventive measure to avoid diseases, including the life-threatening ones. By becoming more attuned to the body and what the body is telling you, some yoga practitioners have also attained a heightened awareness to impeding illnesses. Yoga also detoxifies the body because all the stretching makes the blood circulate to every part of the body, so every part of the body gets the right amount of oxygen supply. In fact, it has been known to relieve or improve different kinds of medical conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, heart diseases, varicose veins, obesity, respiration problems, body pain and chronic fatigue. Of recent, researchers have found incredible effects of yoga on HIV-diagnosed persons and the benefits are truly promising.
Most of the prevalent diseases in urban areas originate from a common problem and that is stress. Yoga can help to alleviate stress that work or school may bring you. It also has other mental benefits such as reducing body tension and boosting self-esteem. It increases self-awareness, focuses attention and relaxes, calms and clears the mind. It is because it allows the mind to concentrate on the self and the body, which brings about positive effects including improvement of mood and attitude to a better you. As a whole, it brings your emotions into equilibrium, giving you a more positive disposition in life.
But the truth of the matter is that these are mere “side effects” of the real benefits of yoga. Yoga makes you learn more about yourself, your mind and your body. It will give you a sense of enlightenment, where every inch of you meet in a dimensional space where everything is ecstatically immaculate. Its goal is to fuse every part of you, the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual levels. In fact, it is no secret that yogis are generally happy people with a zest and appreciation for life.
The world is a busy place. Busy people usually live a routinary life that sometimes, they forget to take care of themselves. In fact, modern day diseases are mostly caused by lifestyle and work. Most people who acquire these illnesses are too busy to exercise and give time to themselves. To become a better person, you must act on it and the best time to do that is right now.
Change your life by changing your lifestyle and the best beginning could be through the practice of yoga. So, before saying “no”, try giving yoga a shot and you may realize that it is the final answer you have been unknowingly searching for all along.
1. Oustretched in Worship
Offers a Christian approach to yoga throughout the state of Alabama.
2. Welcome to Scripture Yoga
How could the class be Christian yoga if it wasn’t focused on God’s Word? … During the Emmaus Walk, the Christian yoga ministry was founded on the scripture: …
3. Christian Yoga?
But this is not the case with so called “Christian Yoga. … CHRISTIAN YOGA (Understand the Times Radio Commentary) 1998. Christian yoga sweeps the US (video, …
4. Christian Yoga
Non-profit organization that provides a Christian approach to Yoga. … This Christian approach to yoga simply allows us to combine these two essential …
5. YOGA – Just Exercise or a Hindu Religion?
Christian Yoga,’ I thought. … Yoga is not a Judeo/Christian word! … From this I could conclude that ‘Christian Yoga’ could only indicate one of two …
6. Christian Yoga
Christian Yoga comes from traditional Yoga. Are Christian Yoga and traditional Yoga compatible? … Can a Christian Practice Yoga? (YouTube site of Swami J) …
This type of Christian yoga is very gentle with 25 minutes of full body … Conversely, practicing Christian yoga outwardly doesn’t make one right with God; …
8. Why a Christian ALTERNATIVE to Yoga?
Christian fitness, meditation, weight loss, stress relief, flexibility, DVDs, stretching, Christian alternative to yoga, praise and worship, not Christian yoga
9. Yahweh Yoga | Christ-centered yoga & teacher training
Yahweh Yoga offers Christ-centered yoga & teacher training classes in Chandler, Arizona. Check out our Christian yoga DVD and trendy, flattering workout clothes.
10. Marsha West — Christian Yoga? C’mon!
Churches are now offering “Christian yoga.” ( An oxymoron, if there ever was one. … If your church is integrating “Christian yoga” or any other New Age practice …
11. What is the Christian view of yoga?
What is the Christian view of yoga? Is yoga just a stretching routine, or are there … Yoga originated with a blatantly anti-Christian philosophy, and that …
12. Christian Yoga
Christian yoga opens the door to some who are wary of the ancient Hindu practice. … A Beliefnet message board discusses Christian yoga. …
13. “Christian Yoga”
“Christian Yoga” Hindu yoga has been known in the West for many decades, … But the author of Christian Yoga, being a Benedictine monk, adds some particular ” …
14. Yoga and Christianity
Yoga and Christianity: take a closer look at hatha yoga, the one most often believed to be purely … I once talked to a yoga teacher who became a Christian. …
15. A new wave of Christian yoga
Long controversial in some Christian circles, yoga is fast gaining adherents … As yoga has become more mainstream, Christian alternatives have emerged. …
16. One Truth Ministries – Brian Flynn – Christian Yoga – Oxymoron
Brian Flynn conducts seminars for churches and small groups nationwide sharing his testimony and warning them of the … FACTS ABOUT YOGA Please be aware …
17. PraiseMoves – The Christian Alternative to Yoga
Christian fitness, meditation, weight loss, stress relief, flexibility, DVDs, stretching, Christian alternative to yoga, praise and worship, not Christian yoga
Beware: New Video on “Christian Yoga” – Christoga – From the Lighthouse … Is it okay for a ‘strong Christian’ to practice Yoga? …
19. Christian Yoga?
The Phenomenon of Christian Yoga … There is no Christian Yoga. … Article by Chris Lawson, ” Christian Yoga: Rooted in Hindu Occultism” This …
20. Article – Christian Yoga and Hindu Gods
Christian Yoga and Hindu Gods “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 … Yoga is an ancient Hindu religious system of meditation and discipline. …
21. Christian Yoga – The new appropriation Strategy of delinking yoga from …
Christian Strategists are worried that christians who benefited from Yoga may … And now that it is “sanctified”, let’s have a brand of “Christian yoga. …
22. Yoga – Relaxation or Occult?
Yoga is from the Sankrit word Yug, meaning “union” (with the Divine, your higher ” … Cultic & Occultic Movements, Jack Sin, “Should a Christian Practise Yoga? …
23. Christian Yoga: Oxymoron
Christian Yoga-Oxymoron. Why is there such a thing as Christian Yoga? … If your reason for practicing “Christian” Yoga is to feel closer to God why …
24. Christian Yoga Magazine
And there is nothing particularly Christian about practicing yoga, either. … Yoga (or Buddhist) meditation is not the same thing as Christian or Jewish …
25. Yoga from a Christian Perspective Resources – Christians Practicing Yoga
Yoga and Healing. Meditative Prayer in the Christian Tradition – Lectio Divina … I Teach Yoga from a Christian Perspective – Yoga Deepened My Relationship …
26. Christian Yoga | Yoga
Christian Yoga, The Principle behind Christian Yoga … Christian yoga is a spiritual practice of Christians most common in Eastern and …
27. ABC News: Yoga With a Christian Bent
Yoga With a Christian Bent. Exercise Enthusiasts Reinvent the Practice to Suit Their Beliefs … faith,” said Christian yoga instructor Susan Bordenkircher. …
28. Doug Pagitt, Solomon’s Porch and Christian Yoga
John MacArthur, Doug Pagitt, Christians, and Yoga … “Christian yoga has been gaining a devout following, and Twin Cities pastor Doug …
29. Christian Yoga? – Yoga
Christian Yoga? plus articles and information on Yoga … So if a Christian group wants to practice “Son Salutations”, or “PraiseMoves, …
30. Christian Yoga
Christian Yoga at Manresa … Christian Yoga is a way of uniting with Christ. … Our Christian yoga program weaves together body postures with breath, sacred and …
31. Yoga and Christianity: Loving with All your Parts
Yoga and Christianity are being bridged by many people who … Actually, principles of Yoga are already contained within Christianity and Christian meditation. …
32. Discover Christian Zen |
Christian Zen means different things to different people. … Anti-Christian Yoga. Ayurveda. Bede Griffiths. Centering Prayer. Chaturanga dandasana …
33. Holy Yoga – the premier style of Christian Yoga – Testimonies
… program this is from the perspective of an experienced Christian Yoga teacher. I did receive a Christian Yoga certification from another program and spent just …
34. wcco.com – Controversy About Christian Yoga
A new fitness craze, called Christian yoga, has a very devout following, but some are criticizing the “New Testament” twist to an ancient tradition.
35. Soul Stretch | Christian yoga for all ages & fitness levels
Christian Yoga Schedule for Royal … Booking Private Christian Yoga Retreats For … here to enhance your Christian yoga practice with these recommended …
36. Yoga from a Christian Perspective Resources – Christians Practicing Yoga
Yoga and Healing. Meditative Prayer in the Christian Tradition – Lectio Divina … The “Christian Yoga Teacher Training” courses and curricula I’ve seen thus …
By Bill Nolan
Every Monday evening for the past six weeks, I have left the treasures of Western civilization and headed East. OK, so it is only two blocks from my home and only one of them is east, but go with me here. I have become a sojourner in a new time and space. I have been instructed to configure myself in ways previously thought to be impossible given my physical structure. I have begun the practice of yoga.
Now let me dispel a few misconceptions: There is nothing un-Christian about practicing yoga. My eternal soul is in no danger, at least not from this practice. And there is nothing particularly Christian about practicing yoga, either. Its roots are in Hindu and later Buddhist philosophical and theological thought; the ultimate purpose of yoga is to prepare for meditation—in other words, all movements are preparation for the experience of stillness. Thus, while a benefit of yoga might be increased physical fitness, the goal of yoga is spiritual enlightenment.
The first Monday night I attended class I asked if we had to sit “Indian style.” I thought I was supposed to bend at the knees in order to touch my toes. And every time I was supposed to inhale, I was exhaling and vice-versa. I couldn’t have been doing things more wrong and I was frustrated because everyone else had legs that crossed the way they were supposed to, could reach the floor easily and knew how to breathe correctly. If I hadn’t already paid the non-refundable fee for the eight-week course, my first formal yoga class might also have been my last.
Of course, any spiritual practice that seeks a greater awareness of my body, mind and spirit will take practice, patience and self-discipline. And it can be a frustrating experience because it never goes exactly as I map it out. Too often, my best efforts fall short because perfection—whether that be God’s definitive “yes” in answer to my prayer for happiness or the unmatched quality of my “downward dog” pose—is the only acceptable outcome.
Yoga has taught me much about my quest for spiritual perfection. First, no such perfection exists. That makes letting go of that goal a bit easier. Second, the mere awareness of my physical being is itself a path to enlightenment. I am more aware of my body, of how it moves and bends and takes in and expels oxygen. I am conscious of the rhythmic, if not always artistic, connections between my movements and my stillness and am more aware than ever of the need for balance in both. Third, there is a power and grace that is found in humility. Yoga is a humbling experience, not because it reminds me of what my body cannot do, but because it reminds me that if my soul cannot be silent, I cannot hear the voice of God. If my mind cannot be aware of my breath, my whole being will be out of sync. And if I cannot experience the One that is within me, I will never experience the One in another. Those are the insights from yoga so far. So I just signed up for six more weeks. I have so much more to learn…