Curiosity drives quite a few of my book choices, and after attempting following the yoga routines on runner’s world made by Rabecca Pacheco and reading a couple of her blog entries, I was favorably impressed with her writing and fitness.
There have been several articles by Christians blasting yoga as a demonic exercise form because of it’s relationship with hinduism – which is frankly more than a bit muddled. Why do they blast it? Because yoga apparently channels demonic power into your body. Frankly, they go too far without any rational underpinnings on why downward dog equates with summoning a demonic force.
To make it more confusing or just more fun – Other Churches have Yoga groups!
This really made me itch with curiosity over the stretches and routines that I have been trying. Rebecca Pacheco is still way to extreme for me, and Yoga with Adrienne worked much better as an introduction. But this is a little deeper than curiosity for me. I am a Christian and a pastor, but the theology of the body of the church that would offer up a way to describe the experiences of athletes in ways that connect with God and Christ are sorely lacking.
Seriously, Christ said to love God with all your body, and most Christians walk around like this body has nothing to do with our redemption.
I’m really not ok with that.
So, this book and others on wilderness and celtic Christian spirituality are steps in my exploration of what it means being a Christian that swims, bikes, runs, rock climbs – and frequently finds these activities to be meditative, contemplative, and firmly rooted places of prayer in my life. Given what I had read on Pacheco’s blog, I knew she would have something to offer…
She very much did.
Despite the Om Girl clothing franchise which seems very much geared towards having and holding a ‘yoga’ body, and to some extent, despite her own appearance, Rebecca dives deep. Her exploration of yoga comes from her own history, her childhood and her own desire to explore.
Christian books on spiritual disciplines are usually fairly dry affairs. Pacheco whose analysis of yoga ends up with categories that would leave fans of John Wesley (me) humming along to her tune. There were quite a few resonances with Christian Spirituality, especially early church and celtic.
She keeps the balance between Spiritual, Mental, Physical, Social, and Ethical centered on the later four for the majority of the book and is even handed in her move to Spiritual. When she discusses yoga, it is independent from the Hindu and Buddhist movements that incorporate yoga. As she moves through the discussion of Hindu gods towards the end of the book, it actually made me remember characteristics of my God that I had forgotten or glossed over. The humor of God, the destructive aspects of God – allowing death and rebirth or transformation, the part of God which is eager to give knowledge, I had left these aspect of the Christian God behind.
In the Christian tradition there are poses for prayers and perhaps the yoga poses that connect with Hindu gods by etymology could be connections with aspects of the character of God. These positions could be non-verbal prayers for connections to the creativity of God to get work done or prayers for the destruction or cutting away from us some particularly painful and caustic part of our lives/personalities/habits.
When I was praying through some of the celtic prayers I have been looking at lately, I found that this little book on Yoga and the discussion of the Hindu gods, had awoken me. Opened my eyes to see these Christian prayers more fully.
Pretty cool if you ask me.
Did it help develop my theology of the body?
There is still a lot to be done.
Pacheco made a spiritual discipline out of Yoga with out connecting it directly to any particular religious framer work. Which allows the practitioner to do make such connections as they choose. While I’m skeptical of this approach, I also know just how much it has been used in the past. There is nothing that can be truly secular, it can either be a true and integral part of the human experience – leading us towards God – or it can be false misleading and destructive.