Until recently, I viewed yoga as a religion or a practice directly in conflict with my Christian faith. Even when I began attending yoga classes, there were sayings that the teacher would lead us in that I would quietly just not do. No drama, just a lack of participation. The phrases seemed uncomfortable and created a dissonance within and made me think that they were questioning of my Christianity.
But if the truth be told, I wasn’t that great of a Christian. And I was unhappy. Something was missing.
I started asking questions of my teacher, and very wisely, she fed me tidbits – not enough to spook me - but enough to make me think. One of the first principles of yoga I learned were the Yamas and Niyamas. Although the names were foreign and didn’t sit well in my mouth, there was nothing to fight against.
Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Do not steal
Bramacharya – Self control
Aparigraha – Lack of greed
Sauca – Purity
Santosha – Contentment
Tapas – Discipline
Svadhyaya – Study of sacred scriptures
Isvara-pranidhana – Devotion to God
Nothing objectionable. Just a way to live.
Many yogis put emphasis on Ahimsa or Satya – do not harm and tell the truth. Good concepts, but for some reason the one that caught my eye was Svadhyaya – the study of sacred scriptures. Nothing in yoga said what to study, just to study.
For the first time in years, I picked up my Bible and began reading. Although I grew up in a church, attended a Christian high school and university, and am still a member, at 50 something clicked inside and a door opened. The connection between what was on the pages and what my life should look like became clear; I began to live what I was reading every morning. The unhappiness and discontent slowly peeled away. What was left was peace and acceptance.
Yoga made me a better Christian
This morning, I turned to Ephesians 4 and 5. A short way in, I read the words “Put away falsehood” and I whispered the word, “Satya.” In a few short verses, I realized that every Yama and Niyma was there. Every one of them. Oh sure, some are a bit more oblique than others, but the thought, the idea, the feeling is there.
5 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (SATYA) 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. (ASTEYA) (APARIGRAHA). 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear (BRAMACHARYA) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice (SAUCA), 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (AHIMSA)
1Therefore be imitators of God (TAPAS)(SVADHYAYA) as beloved children. 2 And walk in love (SANTOSHA), as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (ISVARA PRANIDHANA).
My worlds intersected and I smiled.
Thoughts to take with me today: Anything that brings me closer to God can only be good.