Today, Friday, June 21, is International Yoga Day.
It still amazes me how many Christians distrust the practice of yoga — associating it with paganism and mystery. I’ve heard no small amount of sermons where pastors freely call out yoga and mindfulness practices as tools of Satan. They automatically assume that by practicing yoga you become a practicing Hindu. And that just isn’t true. I’ve actively been practicing yoga for over ten years, and I am no closer to becoming a Hindu now than I was a decade ago.
What I am closer to is my body and maintaining ongoing recovery through breathing and meditation practices.
Each morning I do my devotions and I practice yoga. It sets me right spiritually, mentally, and physically. I feel restored and ready for the day. I do not in any way feel like what I am doing is sacrilegious or wrong.
Yoga forces me to confront my body, to observe the way it works, to notice its strengths, and to be grateful for its uniqueness. Sure, some days with ED (my eating disorder) are extra tough, and it’s difficult to put my hands on my belly for a breathing exercise and not feel self-loathing. But other days I am able to marvel in the strength I have to do a crow pose. And those days happen way more often.
I have better learned the art of receiving and extending grace through yoga, and I am convinced that no stressful moment can win out over a quick session of nadi shodhana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing).
Our bodies are miraculous (physically, spiritually, and mentally), and yoga has helped me to embrace that truth.
You may not be into yoga (yet). But I encourage you to give it a try, especially if you have a mental illness (for some helpful research on the subject, check out this article). There are a ton of fantastic resources out there, but my favorite is the free YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. So put aside your hesitations if you have them, and practice some yoga today. Namaste!
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience, either by writing a guest post, or doing an interview with me. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.