Mindful Meditation, Yoga, and a Relationship with our Creator
Years ago, when I was a young second lieutenant in the Army, my friends and I were at the Officer’s Club on a Friday night when they had a hypnotist entertaining the crowd. My girlfriend, her husband, and I volunteered to go on stage to be hypnotized during the show. I was nervous, as I really didn’t want to be hypnotized, and was scared of allowing someone else control over me and what they could make me do. While standing on stage, listening to the hypnotist go through his spiel, I simply continually silently prayed. I don’t remember the prayer, but I remember my focus was on Jesus.
My go-to when I can’t think of a prayer is simply to repeat Jesus’ name over and over, and this always provides me comfort. I am pretty sure I learned this from my mother, as I stood next to her in church, and in life, for so many years.
Back to the stage, I listened to the hypnotist finish the hypnotizing segment and eventually he sent me back to my seat when he realized I wasn’t going to be a good ‘client.’ My girlfriend’s husband remained there and he was surely under the spell of the entertainer. He did whatever he was instructed. Even after he was brought out, and sent back to his seat, throughout the show, whenever the hypnotist would say the “key” word he’d programmed, my friend would unwillingly shout out the planned response.
I think back to that experience often as a lesson. Firstly, when you’re scared or nervous, simply call upon Jesus. Secondly, you are in control and the guardian of your mind and heart. You decide what to allow in and what not to. You decide to focus your life on Jesus, the One who gave us life. And to focus on Him in all you do.
We can apply this to our yoga practice. Merriam-Webster defines yoga as “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.” We can use our yoga practice to attain mental control and focus both our mind and body on the One who gave them to us.
So, how can we practice yoga and keep our eyes on Jesus?
Being Mindful of our Bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT says, “Don’t you realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” While the context of these verses is referring to refraining from sexual immorality, we can still apply the fact the our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit to our yoga practice. By being mindful of how we treat our body and focusing our mind and heart on the One who gave it to us, we can also honor Him.
Joshua 1:8 NLT says “Study this Book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Yoga can be a time to strengthen your physical temple, yet also a time to calm your soul by quieting your mind from the busyness of life, and taking some time to focus on you. By becoming self-aware, we can learn where we need to connect with Jesus to make ourselves whole again. We should be meditating on the word day and night in order to prosper in our lives. I have found two good ways to ensure my focus remains on Jesus. One is to read the word when I wake up in the morning. I don’t always get a full Bible study plan in, because, well, life, but I do try to open up the YouVersion Bible app on my phone before I open anything else in the morning. Sometimes I will read the day’s lesson of the plan I am following. Other times, I may just search a word, or phrase, or just start reading. This is a way to start my day “meditating on the Word.” Sometimes, I will grab a verse from the reading and annotate it as my intention for my day and/or for my yoga practice that I have planned later in the day…because, me, I am not a morning person, so my yoga is usually around noon.
Psalms 19:14 NLT says “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Setting an intention for your meditation and your yoga practice is a great way to connect your practice with your ultimate goal, to be closer to Jesus. Having an intention can bring focus to any workout and really keep you grounded towards your purpose. Your intention can be simply to be present and keep your thoughts from wandering onto crazy life stuff. This can give your mind rest while you strengthen your body. Your intention can be to release tension and stress. So many yoga postures allow us to sink into gravity and release stress, why not sink into the arms of Jesus at the same time, He is strong enough! Give your cares and your pain to Him, and you will come back up lighter and free. Take a moment before your practice to look inside and see what you need today. Whatever that need is, offer it to God, and ask Him to use your practice to shape you, heal you, and bring you through to the other side stronger.
Listening. If you have taken a yoga class before, you have probably heard your teacher say something like “quiet your mind” or “clear your mind” and “let go of any wandering thoughts.” This can be scary for some of us. It brings me back to my hypnotist experience. Sometimes, I am scared of clearing my mind, for fear of what could take control of it. However, we are blessed to know Who we want in control of your mind. Therefore, we can use this opportunity to give control to Him; allow Him to speak to us in these precious quiet times. If you are anything like me, “hearing” God has been the hardest part of being a Christian for me. It’s not that I don’t want to listen, I do. I seek God and I often ask Him for guidance, wisdom, peace. And yet, so often, I find myself frustrated that He’s not answering. Earlier this year, I was trying to fit more yoga into my schedule. I love a great Vinyasa flow class and even a Power Yoga, where I can get a good sweat in and feel my muscles shaking and growing stronger. However, the only classes that were working for my schedule were Restorative and Yin. I had committed to practicing more in the new year, so I started going to both restorative and Yin classes. In both of these practices, you are spending 4-6 minutes in one pose. I was finding that instead of being focused on the posture and body alignment all of the time, my mind was pretty clear and I spent a lot more time in silence than I ever would at home, even during my Bible study quiet time. While in these long postures, I started to hear God. Every single class, I came out with an answer to something I’d been musing or an idea to solve a problem I’d been having. I realized that all of this time, I’ve been pouting that God wasn’t answering my call, and these calm and quiet yoga classes helped Him reveal to me that I needed to actually spend some time simply listening and He would answer. Both mind-blowing and incredibly simple, right? Psalms 37:7 NLT says “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.”
So, before you head to your next practice, take a few minutes in quiet meditation and prayer. If you’re struggling with something, ask God to provide you with comfort, wisdom, or guidance. If you’re just not sure what you need at the moment, ask God to reveal to you what you need from Him. If you’re going to class at the gym or studio, arrive a few minutes early and spend that extra time, alone on your mat, finding and setting your intention for your practice. And see where that takes you!
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.