I had a conversation a few months ago that, honestly, I'm still processing.
In a way that was just a smidge confrontational (more than a smidge, actually), I was asked how I was able to practice both yoga and Christianity.
Although I was tempted to go into the big spiel about how yoga is not a religion and does not follow the teachings of a specific religion, instead I went into my own personal experience.
I grew up in church. To be specific, I grew up in the church where my parents met. That my grandparents physically and spiritually built. Prayer and singing were a part of my larger family experience. All of that being said, Christianity was never forced on me. I never felt like my beliefs in any way presented unhealthy expectations or restrictions. I was never discouraged from questioning. I have always viewed - and continue to see - my faith as an enhancement of my experience here. A framework that shapes how I experience and exist in the world. Even though it is an absolute in my life, my faith has never felt pressured or judgemental. My faith is my joy.
However, I have struggled at times to feel connected. Like I was on a different plane than my Creator. That there was this separation that I sometimes had a hard time crossing. Like my faith and my support existed *out there.* Somewhat distant. Something I had to ask for and search for and hope was there when I reached out. Even though I knew that Jesus was always with me (cue the iconic picture of Jesus knocking on the door in the garden that all small Southern churches proudly display), I was so disconnected to myself that I didn't know how to experience that companionship. It just didn't make sense to me.
But then life got hard. Really hard. And really scary. I started to experience my faith in a new way. I started to see my faith, my connection, my God as something that I actually carried with me. It wasn't external at all, it is internal.
It started with my obsession with Inland by Jars of Clay. Remove the shoes you came on. Feel the earth you're made from. For several months, I came home from work, stepped in the grass, and took off my shoes. The connection to where I came from, to where I'll end up, grounded me. Literally.
As I grew more consistent in my yoga practice, I continued to deepen my ability to connect to myself. I really started to know my body and my breath and my heartbeat. And the more I looked inside, the more I started to feel the connection to the Divine. The deeper I could connect to me, the more of God I could see.
I didn't have to look outside. Outside was the wrong place for me to look. I needed to go in.
Even though I have believed for as long as I can remember, yoga has taught me that I am never alone. Because I learned to look inside in order to find divine connection.
In each breath. In each heartbeat. Each moment that I experience is an opportunity to receive love and to give love.
Each time my feet step onto my mat, I offer gratitude and openness and a willingness to listen, follow, and respond. Each time I speak from my mat, I see the opportunity to bring peace, love, and ease to my students. And each time I leave my mat, I continue my day feeling reassured, comforted, and empowered.
I don't go into each practice with the thought of my practice being my prayer. Not at all. It is not my intention, but more often than not that is what happens. When I am alone on my mat, it is a conversation. I ask my body what it has to say, and that conversation naturally continues into a prayer. As I move and breathe, my heart gets still. As I flow through familiar poses, I listen. As I lay in savasana, I rest.
There is this magic point in each practice where I am overpowered by the understanding that everything will be okay because everything is okay. It happens every single time I practice. I feel like it is the equivalent of what my childhood church described as praying through. I become a part of the peace that surpasses all understanding.
This peace and comfort that I felt intermittently over my life is now an absolute constant. I figured out how to access this connection when I stopped looking for it. My breath is the connection.
It was inside me all along.
Join me for Finding Space. Over 5 hours of yoga. Video practices that are yours forever. 16 practices varying between 12 and 60 minutes. Skills and tips to find space in your body, your home, your schedule.
Finding Space for Compassion. Finding Space to Get Settled. Finding Space in Your Hips.
Plus journal/thought prompts. Private Facebook Group. Access to me for your questions.
We'll get started on 8/28. Join us. Click here for more details and registration information.
Register by 8/21 and receive a bonus class that will teach you how to use household items as stand-ins for common yoga props.