Advent is a time of new beginnings. Not only does Advent mark the beginning of the liturgical year in the Church, but Advent, for me, also marks the beginning of my journey of teaching Christ-centered yoga classes.
I first began teaching these Scripture-based yoga classes during the Advent season in 2012. I was in a sweet phase of impromptu, middle-of-the-night Bible-study in which my eyes were being opened to new ways of understanding the nature of God and applying the Truth of his Word. It was during this time that I first felt God prompting me to use Scripture in my yoga classes. I had been teaching yoga for several years, but I had never attended any faith-based yoga class, let alone one that was centered on Jesus. Hesitantly, I approached my supervisor about the prospect of teaching a Christ-centered yoga class. I secretly hoped that she would say no! I did not feel comfortable teaching Scripture, as I was not raised in the church and felt ill-equipped. I also worried about who would attend and how they would respond to the blending of biblical Scripture and the practice of yoga. I was uncomfortable and unsure of myself to say the least.
I reasoned with God…
ME: I am not qualified. I need to get trained to teach Scripture-based yoga.
GOD: Jesus is the one who qualifies you. He will lead the way. Follow Jesus.
ME: I need a certification.
GOD: My Holy Spirit is the only certification that you need.
ME: How will others respond?
GOD: I will be pleased with your obedience despite what others may think.
I stopped arguing. My supervisor gave me permission to teach. It was settled. I was to teach a 4-week series of yoga classes for Advent. It was time for me to prepare.
Up to this point, my knowledge of Advent consisted mostly of chocolates and calendars and counting down the days until Santa would pack up his sleigh and travel the world with gifts to give. What I found in preparing myself to teach those first classes during Advent was pivotal for me, my faith-walk with Jesus, and my yoga journey.
Maya and Advent
The philosophy of traditional yoga teaches the concept of “Maya”, the notion that there is more to this world than meets the eye. Maya is the illusion that things are as they seem, as we perceive them with our physical senses. Maya is the veil which keeps us from seeing the world clearly; prevents us from seeing the whole picture. Maya is a very interesting concept when placed within the Christian worldview, and the season of Advent helps to move the veil of Maya aside, in order for us to see the world, ourselves, and each other correctly.
For the follower of Christ, the season of Advent reminds us that our lives are connected to a bigger story that God is telling in this world. Our stories do not stand alone, but have been placed inside the greatest love story ever known to mankind. God is redeeming the world, making all things new, and bringing Light forth in the darkness. And get this, we already know the ending to the story! Love wins, darkness is defeated forever, and there will be a time when God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
Entering into the season of Advent, Christians are invited to recall the past, awaken to the present, and anticipate the future. There is a bigger story being told, and we are reminded of our place in this story. We are currently living in the “time between” what has already happened through the birth of Jesus Christ, and what is still yet to happen when Jesus comes again to defeat darkness for all eternity. The Advent season assures us that there is a bigger story being told, and our lives are mere subplots in this story. When we are deceived by Maya, we cannot see and do not understand this as Truth.
How can we see beyond the illusion of Maya?
How do we see that which cannot be seen? How do we perceive the Light beyond the darkness? How do we live with hope in the face of despair? How do we ground ourselves in the “now” while living on the promises of the future?
The practice of yoga draws back the veil of Maya, helping us to see what truly is- the realest reality. Yoga is a powerful tool for recognizing our roles in God’s big story, establishing our identities in Christ, and cultivating our hearts as an “Advent people”.
The practice of yoga is the practice of getting still…yoking ourselves to this place and time. Slowing the mind down to become aware of what is actually happening in this moment. What do I feel? What do I hear? How is my spine aligned? Can I feel the breath in my lungs? Where does my flesh touch my spirit? Where does my spirit encounter the Spirit of God? And ultimately, how do I abide- moving through my life in communion with the Holy Spirit?
In yoga, we are taught to sit on a mat, watching, waiting, and listening. We cultivate eyes to see, ears to hear, and we are awakened to the real-est reality.
Yoga also helps us to recognize the past and the future as separate from, yet connected to, the present moment. For the Christian, yoga fosters our ability to see clearly, to gaze intently into the darkness with a bright and bold hope. We are taught to encounter the present moment in light of God’s promises for the future. We learn to embrace our unique positioning, physically grounded here in this moment on earth, while already established in eternity.
Through the practice of yoga, we are awakened to the three comings of Christ, past, present, and future, which we will discuss here over the next four weeks of Advent.
For now, ,yoga teaches us to “see” that which is not seen, to “hear” the still small voice of God, and awakens us to the very real presence of God right here, right now.
Emmanuel, God with us…