Leaping and Landing: Yoga Teacher Training for a Believer

Am I ready for this? What if it becomes apparent after I start that I have no business being there? What if I’m not strong enough? What if everyone else has a flat stomach? What if I fall over in balancing postures? What if I pass out? What if I can’t keep up? What if I’m asked to experiment with other belief systems or world views? What if I disappoint my teachers? 

All of these questions have run through my head at least once or twice since I started thinking about the 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Landing. Sometimes I leave class at my studio inspired and ready to begin the next step in the journey, and on other days, I leave feeling shaky. Maybe taking a step is called a “leap of faith” because leaping with momentum is the only way to get there. You can’t stop once you’re in mid-air. Once you leap, you have to land, and it’s not going to be where you started. I began by taking one step at a time. Think about it. Pray about it. Talk about it. Pray more. Fill out the application. Write the check. Put it in an envelope. Address the envelope. Put a stamp on it. Double check my motives and my heart. Mail it. Every single one of these things took courage. I have had a mix of emotions with every forward move. I’m excited, inspired, nervous, and doubtful all at the same time.

In some ways, yoga teacher training feels like a big leap from where I’m at right now. In many ways, it is. But I think it’s the leaping that’s important. In the air is where I find faith. In the air is where I become light. When I land, I’ll be in a new place, further down the path. Even if I land only one foot ahead, I’m still moving forward. I decided to apply for teacher training because I felt pulled in that direction. Everything around me has been confirming it – my time in the Word, prayer, conversations, circumstances. After years of being out of practice, I finally got back on my mat a little over six months ago. I pulled my old green man out of the trunk of my car, rolled it out, and started breathing. Many months later, I can say that I’ve shed more than a few pounds. I have begun the process of shedding baggage and weight in my mind and heart.

The Lord has been calling me to lay some things down at his feet, but knowing what that is supposed to look like is hard. My yoga practice, with the help of my teachers, has taught me that laying things down is a daily surrender. The parallels between what Jesus teaches and what yoga offers are uncanny. (He can use anything that is surrendered to him!) Jesus calls us to forgive not 7 times, but 7 times 70 times. We have to forgive over and over and over and over again, often the same wrongs done against us by the same person. Forgiveness isn’t usually a one-time act. Neither is laying down burdens. I have found that when I surrender on my mat the tension in my body or the thoughts weighing on my mind, I have to do it all over again at the end of class and often many times throughout the class. Sometimes when I get on my mat the next day, the same tension is there; sometimes it’s not. I have to assess my body, my mind, and my heart daily. This is where yoga draws me closer to Jesus. Getting on the mat is a lot like getting in the Word. When it’s a daily practice, one in which I’m ready to receive something and not just power through, there is life, healing, peace, and more love. Getting on my mat is a physical reminder of what should be happening with my faith. I find that the closer I am to Jesus, the lighter I am. As I surrender, he takes the burden for me. I surrender to Him who is greater. On my mat, I find myself asking, “Lord, what do you want me to give you today?” I find myself sitting before his feet in gratitude for what I do have: peace, friendships, health, stability, family, wealth that most of the world doesn’t have, etc. On my mat, I push myself because disciplining my body is good for me. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 says

25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The strength I’m building now will fade. I know that. Yoga is not eternal. But physical discipline helps me to understand more fully what it means to be disciplined in other areas. I’m learning more and more that without daily practice, intentionality, and mindfulness growth doesn’t happen. As a believer in Jesus, I have to “practice what I preach.” As an English instructor, I have found that if I’m going to teach something or present something, I go back to it with the eyes of a student first. When I know I’ll be responsible for sharing it with others, I end up putting more time into understanding it more fully myself. The same is true with my faith. When I know I’ll be responsible for sharing something, I put more thought into it. I study longer, I pray harder, and I mindfully dig in. This is part of why I want to do yoga teacher training. If I know I will be help responsible for teaching others, I will be more fully engaged in the learning.

If I’ve learned nothing else so far, it’s that there is no gold star. In virtually every aspect of my life, I have lived for the elusive, proverbial gold star, and I have pushed myself to the breaking point many times. If I’m not getting praise or recognition, if I’m not “winning”or being the best, I often feel a sense of defeat. This is not freedom! This is not the life God has called me to. When I answer the question, “Am I living to please man or God?” often the answer is man, and when it’s not, I’m still looking for the gold star from God. Yoga has helped reinforce the truth that there is no gold star. This is a process. This is a journey. It’s not a competition. All I need to do is be mindful, have integrity, and surrender to the One greater than myself. I just need to be where I am today, and trust that everything is ok. God still loves me, even when I screw up. God love me the same as the worship leader, the missionary, the program director, the tenured professor, and the one in scorpion pose. Do I want to please him? Absolutely! 100%! But pleasing him isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being obedient and honoring him in all I do.

It’s with an expectant heart that I submit my yoga journey to the Lord. It’s with full surrender than I give Him this journey for his own purpose, for his own will. If I learn, let it be a learning that draws me closer to my Maker, my Creator, the One who formed me in my mother’s womb. If I teach, may I teach in a way that reveals his heart for us. May my teaching be gentle, corrective, and loving so that change is inspired not demanded. If I regulate my diet, my schedule, or my physical routines, may I do it so that I reflect Jesus and give Him all the glory. If I abstain from any of these things, let me be like Daniel, refusing to bow before anything or anyone other than my Lord and my God. I don’t know how the journey will play out. I don’t know how God plans to use yoga teaching in my life, but I trust that there’s a plan. I don’t know where I’ll land, but for now I’ll enjoy the flight.

Namaste, Amen.

(Photo Credit: DSG Mktg)

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