The Blessing of Physical Rehabilitation
When Christian women question me about yoga I am honest with them and answer, “Yes, I do yoga movements, however, I do not practice the spirituality of yoga.” I’ve met many Christians who do not approve of yoga because they see it as practicing another religion and opening one’s self to pagan practices. There are various Asian temples and groups for people who are members of religions where yoga is a part of their faith formation. They don’t entertain people who attend with misguided intentions of participating in a yoga class. Those who mistakenly go to these places are quickly disappointed to find they are attending a religious time of worship. No Lulu Lemon or yoga pants in sight.
Poorly informed Christians have told me that if it’s stretching, flexibility and muscle strength I am after, perhaps a better option would be Pilates. My response has always been to let them know that the inventor of Pilates, Joseph Pilates had studied Zen Buddhism (which would have included the spiritual practice of yoga), Eastern religions and drew from the ancient Greek belief that the complete man was well developed in mind-body-spirit. The influences of which can clearly be seen in the development of his now well-known exercise regime. I realise many Christians incorrectly believe the triadic notion of mind-body-spirit developed from Christian origins; instead, it is was introduced into Christianity resulting from the influence of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Their culture was taught that perfection resulted from the harmonious development of all three.
I very much respect the decision of those Christians who choose not to practice the physical movements of westernized yoga. My main concern with the objections made by anti-yoga advocates is their reluctance to understand how choosing to practice Pilates makes them no different from Christians who engage in physical western yoga exercises.
I will continue to practice Pilates and Yoga movements in the hopes of moving from beginner to advanced poses. This is going to take a couple of years due to my various physical injuries. As I make my way from unhealthy to healthy I trust that I am not sinning against God nor am I engaging in a religious practice. The exercises assigned to me over the years by physiotherapists are some of the exact same poses found in yoga. There are only so many ways to stretch and strengthen the body.
I can’t in good conscience pray to God for physical healing while simultaneously refusing to do the rehabilitative exercises designed for physical recovery. Yoga-Pilates has slowly helped to relive pain in my body and strengthen my muscles. I give thanks to God for this blessing and in return I’ve chosen to speak up so other Christians won’t miss out on experiencing healing and release from pain and discomfort. I don’t want to be a woman who blocks God’s blessings as a result of misinformation and cultural bias. Ladies, please: don’t block the blessings.