My name is Audrey and I haven’t been to yoga in eight months. Well, that was true until yesterday. When I moved back from seminary last summer I immediately got a gym membership and found a new Bikram studio. I went to Bikram regularly, but without the enthusiasm I used to have for it. The new studio didn’t feel like home. The focus it brought me in Alexandria was lost and it felt like a chore. The gym I joined felt big and impersonal after three years of workout sessions with my prayer partner at the school gym. I continued my workouts all summer thinking that if I just did what I’d become accustomed to it would eventually feel like home. It didn’t.
As the program year began at church and my stress level rose I did the opposite of what would have been good for me: I stopped going. First to fall away was yoga. Then went the gym. I could mention the length of commute to yoga during rush hour. I could talk about how big and intimidating and impersonal the gym was, but the truth is: I was mourning the relational aspects of working out with friends. Going to the gym by myself was sad. It was work when it used to be worship for me.
During seminary our class chaplains matched each member of the class with a prayer partner. Some prayer partners set weekly times for bible study and intercessory prayer. Some prayer partners went out for coffee or manicures together. My prayer partner and I went to the gym each night at seven o’clock. Our prayers didn’t start with “The Lord be with you” and they didn’t end with a literal “amen,” but they were holy and honest.
I’ve noticed my energy and mood declining and I’ve resolved to do something about it.
Yesterday morning I went to a new yoga studio. They do hot yoga, but it’s not Bikram. At first I was Judgey-McJudgerson –
“There are no mirrors!”
“What is all this ‘Listen to your body. Do what feels good’ crap?”
“It’s not hot enough in here.”
But when I allowed myself to relax out of the strict Bikram mindset and to be fully present I realized how out of sync I have been with my body. I realized how much I needed to “listen to [my] body and do what feels good.” I stretched and turned and sweated it out and it felt wonderful. The freedom of the prana flow was a release. As the class progressed I got dizzy. I tried to push through it but I realized I needed to rest. The lack of mirrors made me more comfortable when I descended into child’s pose while the rest of the class continued with the routine. The teacher came over and helped me to stretch my back out. As she pressed on my back she quietly sympathized, “ow,” when she felt the knots. As I stayed in child’s pose for a little longer I felt grateful: grateful for the lack of mirrors, grateful to be feeling the pain in my body that I didn’t know was there, and grateful for the ability and resolve I found to do something about it. Our bodies are gifts from God and how we use or abuse them is a reflection of our gratitude. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I finished the class, but not without going into child’s pose to rest a couple more times. As I got ready for bed last night I could feel soreness that has been missing for a long time. It is a soreness that comes from a good workout. It is a “good ow.”
Child’s pose is a pose of total submission and surrender. In my practice it is a pose that allows me to let go of everything standing between myself and God. It is an acknowledgement that I can do nothing without Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) At my ordination I wanted to lie prostrate at the point in the service when the congregation prays for the Holy Spirit to descend but it was not what my bishop wanted for the liturgy. I lay in child’s pose on the floor of the sanctuary a couple days before my ordination in prayer and submission. Yesterday, entering child’s pose helped to center and focus my prayers in a way I’d forgotten I needed.
Rarely are the good things in life easy. We have to work for them. We have to make choices. We have to decide that the end result is worth the journey. We have to realize that we are worth the effort. So my embodied prayer life is coming back. Spending 90 minutes in a hot room feeling my body just as it is and pushing it to be more is a place God has been waiting to meet me. I am glad I found my way back there.