My yoga instructor explained yoga as a lifestyle that leads to an “enlightened state” where physical postures and practices are only 1/8 of what we do, at least in Ashtanga Yoga (eight-limbed yoga), which is what I am learning. I don’t know that yoga will become a “lifestyle” to me. There is so much emphasis on meditating in order to attain an “enlightened state” — what does that even mean? If it simply means a better understanding of the world around me, then I can be on board with that.
She says that we are all one, down to the very atoms that make us who we are, and that there is no difference between me, the earth, or the car parked across the street. And I suppose meditating to her is an effort to attain that feeling of oneness and connection with the universe. But I know that even though we are all made of atoms and that in the end our bodies and this earth will pass away, I also know that I am anything but the same as a car or a blade of grass because I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, the crown jewel of all creation. God realized that the one thing that was not good out of everything he had made was for man to be alone… and so he created me.
If yoga can be used in Buddhism and Hinduism, I don’t see why it can’t be used more in Christianity. Yoga is simply a tool to help live a more balanced, meaningful life. It doesn’t have to be a big hocus-pocus ultra-spiritual experience… But it can be. It can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a tool, nothing more, and everyone’s practice is a little bit different.
Yama teaches us to live lives of peace, moderation, truth, honesty (non-stealing), and celibacy. While these are good virtues to live by (bar the last one!), I want to live by so much more… by the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). And since we are at war, I want to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness (that comes from the gospel of peace), the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit (the word of God) (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Niyama teaches us to live lives of purity, contentment, discipline, studying scripture, and surrender to God.
Asana teaches us how to sit still. Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
Pranayama teaches us to control our breathing (life force/energy).
Pratyahara teaches us to withdraw from our five senses to find a quiet place. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).
Dharana teaches us to focus our attention on one single object.
Dhyana is the act of meditating. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).
Samadhi is reaching that enlightened state, the “merging consciousness with the object of meditation,” also known as “a higher level of concentrated meditation which transcends the realms of body, mind and intellect, and where the logical and analytical ability of the being becomes silent” (thank you Wikipedia).
I will give yoga a shot, not because I am seeking an out-of-body experience but because I want to hear that that still, small voice that can only be heard when we shut out the noisy world around us.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12).