Monday, February 11, 2013

Life...and...Hot Yoga

In January, I decided (oh, let’s be honest, there was no decision, it was a stupid, spontaneous whim) to try out a Hot Yoga studio nearby.  I probably should have figured it was a mistake as soon as I walked in, positioned my mat in the back, and proceeded to watch 20-something-year-old girls with rock hard, beach bodies come in and put their mats in the front as close to the mirrors as possible (what was I thinking?).  My second clue should have been the sweat dripping down my face within the first five minutes.  However uncomfortable, I stayed, nauseously made my way through the first class in the sultry 105-110 degrees, 60% humidity, and survived to go back a second time.  I’ve been going two or three times a week, not for a rock hard, beach body (I’m not stupid), but because I really need the exercise of stretching, flexibility, and balance.  So far, I can’t say I see much progress, but I am learning some things about life in the process.  Please be assured, this isn’t some Eastern Mysticism kick, but lessons I’ve heard for years become much keener when it’s 110 degrees.  So, here we go…

Steady focus enables me to do more than I ever dreamed possible.  They tell us to fix our eyes on a point in the mirror, concentrate, meditate, and then, and only then, slowly go into form.  To achieve our goals, to find proper balance in life, and make it through a difficult patch of God-stretching-me-outside-of-my-comfort zone also requires focus  (the writer of Hebrews tells me to “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith”), concentration (as I’ve been studying through Romans, Paul often uses the term “mind-set”…we can’t have a spirit-filled-set-mind without concentration), meditation (David reminds us often in the Psalms of the great benefits of ruminating on the words of the Lord).  Once I get the hang of looking hard at Jesus and not the rest of the world around me (especially in comparison), gain a biblical mind-set, and meditate on truth, stretching out of my much-loved, comfortable life in obedience to God’s direction becomes possible…and, even enjoyable.  I’m actually amazed at things I can make this tired body do with focus, concentration, meditation, and a step-by-step plan.

HOT is the best temperature for greatest growth (& stretch).  Yes, it’s hot, humid, and I hate it…BUT there’s a purpose for hot and humid.  The more they adjust the temperature and the heat flares up, the more flexible my muscles become.  Really!  Some of the things I can do in that hot room, I don’t seem to be able to accomplish at home where the temperatures are a comfie, equitable 73 degrees.  I’m amazed at what I’m able to learn to do when it’s HOT.  Just so, I sometimes complain about the “heat” being turned up in my life circumstances, I don’t like it, and it causes me to sweat…a lot.  YET, I’m being reminded that in those times, I’m able to do more than I ever thought or could imagine; I’m growing, learning, teaching myself new skills all the time through the power of the Spirit who indwells me. 

Learning to breathe right is critical for endurance.  Ever struggle to persevere, to stand steadfast, especially when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water?  It’s easy to get anxious, to lose “balance,” and to stress over your situation (your ability, or inability, as the case may be).  However, learning to take a deep breath (in and out through your nose), and relax in spite of the awkwardness, makes steadfastness more doable, and with minimal anxiety.

Regular rest periods are important for allowing the body to regroup and get at it again.  That’s right.  I live for what they call “sabasthana” (dead man’s pose).  Our instructors place a two minute rest right smack dab in the middle of the class, and then they sprinkle them throughout the remaining 45 minutes.  After contorting yourself into a pretzel, these few minutes are a gift from heaven above.  It’s amazing how two minutes flat on your back, breathing deeply, can renew your energy to get at it again.  Between the deep breathing and the resting, my whole focus has changed by the end of the 90 minutes.  Remember the Psalmists mandate to “Be still...and know...”  There’s a reason that Sabbaths (not sabasthanas) are built into our routine.  We NEED them regularly.

So, while I’m not practicing yoga for any spiritual benefits, truth is that biblical truth is being more deeply imbedded in me.  I’m certain it’s all my instructor can do to keep from busting out laughing at me as she seriously goes through her script, but I keep reminding myself “I am not a failure; I am a learner;” and...I’ve committed to four months of this torture.

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