Today is my birthday.
I decided today was also the day to go back to yoga. The last yoga class I attended was after some stressful events at the hospital. I overdid it, and I paid for it. Today I decided to return with a more moderate view of what I can and cannot physically do—and to take it easy and enjoy myself.
Immediately upon entered the studio I was glad I came. The music, the smell of incense, the quiet chatter of woman all different ages, shapes and sizes. These are my people. Woman in community--coming together, yet separate. We share the energy of the room. Our practices interact and mingle, yet each in her own space, on her own mat, doing her own hard work.
I started taking the discipline, the path, of yoga seriously about two years ago. I had been going for years. I have asthma and will never be a big runner. It fit my fitness level and my body and I enjoyed it. Then it started to happen. As my body adjusted to the discipline of yoga my mind started to follow.
Yoga opened up an expansive and deep way of looking at the world. I was depressed and white-knuckling my worldview. Yoga seeped in between the cracks and gave me permission to let go and shed things that were not serving me anymore. My time on the mat was a guide, as strongly as if a person were sitting there telling me where to go, only more so. I found the freedom to quiet the monkey chatter in my mind, to throw off the judgment. So much judgment! I had never been modeled anything but judgment, criticism, overanalyzing, generalizing, minimizing…surrounded by people, faith and politics that judged and then moved people and situations into the appropriate boxes.
Yoga was my dirty little secret. My world considered yoga a tool of the devil…sort of like a gateway drug. If I did yoga I would soon throw off all my faith and start worshiping the thousands of Hindu gods. I knew this was hogwash. Yoga was intensely strengthening my faith, my understanding of God and of myself, and supporting my Biblical view of the cosmos. Yoga was expanding it all; until I thought my mind and soul might explode! My practices and meditations brought me to the very foot of the throne of grace and to the tips of the universe.
And on my birthday I decided to give myself this gift.
We started the practice sitting comfortably in meditation and we were encouraged to set an intention for our practice. I smiled inside and set the intention to love myself. I set the intention to shed any reason to explain or defend my physical performance or how well I controlled the monkey chatter in my mind. I set the intention of non-judgment as an act of self-love.
As I flowed from Warrior Two, to Triangle, to Airplane to Plow…my mind flowed to my birthday, even picturing myself as a baby coming into the world, all bloody and crying, as if saying, “A precious soul has arrived!” I felt the joy of my parents. I breathed deep. I exhaled with purpose.
When it was time for meditation I was relaxed and open. The teacher led a chant. She mentioned they had done this mantra before, so she didn’t translate the Sanskrit to English. I decided not to chant, because I didn’t know what I was saying. Instead I sat, perfectly still, so a bird could land on me, breathing deep and easy.
And my heart began to fill. Throughout my practice I had been hearing, “I am your God and you will be my people.” I didn’t judge it or analyze it. I submitted to it. I heard it over and over throughout the practice, sometimes almost bringing me to tears. As I sat in lotus, taking in the chant, my heart began to fill with intense warmth. It was tangible and wonderful.
Finally, the teacher repeated a line from the mantra in English, “The Divine dwells in the heart.”
I let it wash over me and fill me. I had set the intention to love myself. Love is centered in the heart. God in his mercy reminded me it is on the path to self-love where I find my God and where I become His people. When I practice “vairagya,” the elimination of whatever hinders progress and refinement, when I throw off all the judgment, when I throw off all that entangles, that is when I am able to truly love myself. And in that place of self-love and acceptance I enter my heart and find the Divine.
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