"A Love Letter to Yoga" for International Yoga Day
Today is International Yoga Day.
I myself am not one to share pictures of my own yoga practice (although these 18 photographs of global yogis around the world are pretty inspiring!). I can, however, try to put into words how yoga has changed my life; how it gets me out of my selfish little head; how it reminds me to breathe; how it makes me strong; and how it brings me closer to God.
So, without further ado, here's my love letter to yoga:
Yoga is my love. I move heaven and earth to practice it, usually once a week, and more if I’m lucky.
I love standing at the top of my mat, centering everything just so, letting my shoulders relax, and having the space to breathe. No one needing to be fed, no one walking in on you while you’re on the toilet, no rushing, no exasperation - just space to breathe.
In the span of that hour and a half, I become so many things - a tree, a cat, a cow, a pigeon floating on air, a happy baby, a child at rest. Don’t get me wrong: these are all wonderful things to become, but what happens at the end of every class never ceases to amaze me.
It’s a pose called “shavasan,” or “corpse pose.” It’s a relaxation position where you lie on your back, close your eyes, and let your arms and legs fall open. Then you are instructed to let you whole body sink deeply into the earth. In shavasan, tension of any kind is to be released and nothing is to move but the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen as you breathe.
Shavasan is totally where it’s at - but here’s the best thing: while everyone is sinking into the floor and emptying their minds, our instructor walks silently around the room in her bare feet and lovingly kneels by each person, lavender oil in hand, and softly, ceremonially rubs two dabs into your temples, filling the entire room with sweet-smelling perfume.
Scripture tells it this way: two days before the Passover, the religious leaders (that would be me!) were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
And, while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, he sat at the table and a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of pure nard that she broke open and poured on his head.
People who were there said to one another in anger, “Why was the perfume wasted in this way? It could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.”
Yoga is my love.
Once a week, I move heaven and earth to breathe, center myself, become other things, and practice shavasan. I let my body sink deeply into the earth, and a barefoot woman prepares my body beforehand for its burial, its going down to death, and its rising again.
And then, when it’s all over, I get up, pick up my mat, and walk. All light, all lavender. It’s just like Jesus says, over and over, in all those old stories: our faith makes us well.
Thank you, yoga, for continuing to make me (and so many others!) very well indeed.
p.p.s. If your spiritual gift is not swearing, please don't watch it :)