Yoga and Christian Meditation
The practice of Yoga predates Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism and this path to wholeness has been interpreted over the centuries and throughout the world in many different ways. You may attend a class where there are candles, joss sticks, chanting and references to ancient Hindu texts. The teacher may talk of his or her own guru and the lineage of their tradition. On the other hand, you may be in a very hot room doing very strenuous exercise. Of course, there is every variation in between. It is important to find a class where you are comfortable and at ease, both physically and spiritually and where the discipline supports your own journey to wholeness.
In the ancient writings where yoga finds its roots, the physical practice was just one component of an eight-fold path which prepared the way for meditation. The most ancient poses we know of are just about being able to sit well. Being able to sit, relaxed but alert and without pain is a valuable skill, as modern day practitioners know well!
These writings (the aphorisms of Patanjali) describe yoga as, “stilling the restless fluctuations of the mind” and another tells us that “postures should be steady and relaxed.” So, we do the poses with attention and focus, being in the present moment, noticing how it feels, without judgement, without trying to achieve anything. As we move and breathe we look for unnecessary tension and habits which are not useful. Over time we develop the ability to release effort and let go. The age, shape and flexibility of the practitioner are not important.
Of course, meditators will recognise the skills we are practising here. In our contemplative work we sit in the present moment, noticing and letting go of distractions, mental habits and tensions. We do this without undue effort or judgement. It is a discipline which bears fruit in our lives outside of the time of sitting.
As a Christian meditator I find that my sitting meditation practice and my bodywork practice reflect, support and enhance each other. Without trying to achieve, but applying a kindly discipline, both aspects of this quiet work enrich my life “off the mat.”