I LOVE yoga and Jesus! The brilliant thing is they go together like peanut butter and chocolate, the combination of which, to me, is basically heaven in your mouth. While I’ve “only” been practicing yoga for a bit over eight years, I’ve been Christian my whole life. The thing is, over the last few years I’ve experienced God more on my mat than in thousands of church services. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I don’t share this to degrade church gatherings, as my experience of them has been wonderful and life changing. Instead, I share this because realizing yoga is prayer, and experiencing the deep bliss it brings, has been both a level of connection with the Divine, others, and creation I never knew prayer could be, and simultaneously enlivening in a way words can only hint at.
Here are six ways I see yoga is prayer, but first I’ll pause to note it occurs to me yoga IS church by a different name and form.
- Our bodies are the temples of the Divine.
Realizing our physical beings are dwelling places for God encourages us to not only appreciate and love our bodies as they are (as clearly the Divine within us does), but also inspires us to care for our mortal vessels. Whether it’s via exercise, dietary choices, sleeping habits, the activities we partake in, or anything else that can increase or decrease my physical health, remembering I’m the Spirit’s beloved hangout spot encourages me to mindfully care for my body well.
The best part to me, though, is this means we can encounter our Creator in a physical, tangible way. Regularly practicing the embodied part of yoga (btw, yoga isn’t just postures we do on our mats, it’s a practice for transforming how we think, live, and exist in the world) heightens our physical senses by deepening our connection to and felt experience of our bodies. At the end of a yoga practice yogis will often experience a sensation of Light, and/or a flow of energy, and/or an ecstatic vibrancy. The best word I have to name this feeling is God, and the longer I practice yoga, the more frequently I receive this deep bliss.
- Yoga is therapy.
On our mats we are gifted with the opportunity to be radically “alone” with ourselves. As we move/position ourselves physically, while breathing mindfully, we explore what’s going on in our minds. Like when we see a counselor, while practicing yoga we bear witness to the stories haunting us, thoughts troubling us, life stuff worrying us, our own inner darkness, etc., while realizing even though these are “in” us, they don’t define us, and we can choose to do the work of transforming them into something better.
Prayer, after all, isn’t only requests or celebrations; it’s also awareness, which is the first, crucial step to growth.
- Yoga is a download from heaven.
You know how our smart phones download updates and new apps? The flip side of #2, wherein we come face-to-face with our inner darkness, trauma, and anxiety, and have the chance to do our work to change these narratives, is that yoga helps us open a channel to heaven, through which our Source pours more Light and Love into our beings. In quieting our minds, guiding our breath, challenging our bodies, and expanding our awareness, we become like an iPhone receiving apps for kindness, peace, and joy.
- Yoga is an embodied prayer.
Have you ever seen an incredible dancer perform? She/he is putting into physical form something emotional, mental, and/or spiritual. On our mats, and everywhere else for that matter, we have the opportunity to do the same with our bodies. We can BE prayer by bringing to mind the good we want for others, the darkness inside us we want to release/transform, whatever we’re grateful for, and/or the Love we want to increase inside us, and then express them in our faces, fingers, toes, and so on. The beauty of this manner of prayer is there is no right or wrong.
- Prayer/Yoga is connection.
Prayer is not only about connecting to Something Bigger than and Beyond Ourselves (I name this “God”, what’s your term?); it also links us to others for their thriving and flourishing. Yoga does the same thing, physically, mentally, and spiritually. This one is especially hard to put to words. It’s a feeling of unity and harmony with others. It’s a tangible blurring of the boundaries between my Creator and I. It’s a palpable experience of joyous relationship with all creation. It’s a felt realization of Christ in you and Christ in me.
- Yoga sends good vibes.
Related to #5, in both yoga and prayer we realize we don’t end at our skin. We’re connected to one another, the Divine, and all creation in magical, mysterious, and miraculous ways. Another way to say this is “we are energy having the human experience”. Over and over again, studies are showing our positive thoughts, intentions, and energies literally affect and influence others without a word being spoken. In yoga, we prayerfully and mindfully send our desire for others to thrive and flourish in an energetic, and often beyond words, manner into God and the universe.
Wow! I’m SO stoked after writing this to share with you. Realizing yoga is prayer is not only an incredibly bliss bringing experience (what else could result from connecting with our Creator?); it has incredible transformative power! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences below. Where do these observations take you?
Grace and peace,