Are you feeling extremely overwhelmed by life? COVID-19, exams, homework, registering for classes, making friends, exercising, working, calling home — you name it. Here are a few other things to add to the list of to-do’s: self-care, relaxation and time with God. The latter are arguably the most important but the first to be overlooked when we are on a time crunch. Life doesn’t have to be this way; in fact, life shouldn’t be this way. Enter yoga: a space to distance yourself from the busyness of life and focus on your relationship with Christ.
What exactly is yoga? Well, historically speaking, it is an ancient practice of the mind and body that originated in India. I am no yoga historian, so I will not pretend to be one here. Instead, I would like to focus on the actual practice of yoga and why it is a do-able and effective activity to work into your daily — or weekly — routine.
This rejuvenating, life-giving, calming and restorative practice can often feel intimidating and scary for a beginner, and that is understandable, but you don’t need to be super fit or flexible in order to reap the benefits. Yoga is a practice that grows as you grow; yoga will meet you where you, the yogi, are at.
Yoga, as a practice, gives you a space where you can connect with your mind, body and soul. Many postures will challenge your balance and your endurance, forcing you to ground yourself and breathe deeply. Take the Tree Pose, for example. In order to maximize your balance, you ground down into the earth with your right foot and press your left foot into your right thigh, raising your arms into the full expression. Here, you engage your core and breathe deeply, connecting your breath to your pose, and your pose to your thoughts. It is all connected, and a beautiful challenge … and that’s only one pose!
There are so many incredible and awe-inspiring poses that you can work your way up to if you are so inclined, or you can stick to a more mild, relaxing practice; both are perfectly valid and beneficial.
In the age of social media and our ever-present phones, yoga provides an occasion for disconnecting — unless, of course, you use your device as your yoga resource, which is, by all means, okay. For 10, 30 or maybe even 60 minutes, yoga replaces the need for social media and gives you the opportunity to simply be. As you settle into your practice, you focus on your breathing and begin to get acquainted with your own mind. You begin to notice that your thoughts wander quite a bit and are able to note which things exert the most influence over your mind. Slowly, but surely, you will learn to silence your frantic thoughts, calm your scattered brain, and focus on your breath.
At the end of most practices, the yogi is given the chance to come into their final savasana, or corpse pose. Here, in the silence, the peace is unparalleled as you lean into the stillness. Here, there is space for the Holy Spirit to enter in. Here, you intentionally create a place for God to be with you without any distractions. This is the element for the soul, the piece that so many of us are missing. We never give ourselves this space to be silent and completely still in the presence of our loving Creator — arguably one of the most important aspects of our relationship with Christ.
Thanks to technology, there are a multitude of amazing yogis on YouTube who will guide you for free. I would personally recommend Yoga with Adriene or Sarah Beth Yoga. If YouTube isn’t your thing, you can also attend classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays here at Westmont, hosted by the wonderful alumna Ariel, or you could build your own adventure: turn on some relaxing music, google a flow or some poses, and just do your own thing at your own pace.
Take this as your encouragement, your call to action, your tap on the shoulder, what have you, to pick up your yoga mat — or towel or rug or old tablecloth? — and set aside some time to be intentional while engaging your mind, body and soul. Thanksgiving break will be a much-needed reprieve for all of us, so why not take this time and give it a shot? Yoga will meet you wherever you are at: spiritually, physically and emotionally. You simply have to be willing to step on the mat and see where your practice takes you.