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.
When I originally began my weight loss and fitness goals in the spring/summer of 2013, I was dealing with knee problems. It was painful to walk, every single step hurt, literally! It felt as if it took an hour to walk one city block. I wondered how I was going to train for a 10K running race if I could barely walk 10 meters.
As the weight came off people began asking what diet I was on and if I was exercising. I told them I stopped dieting at age 26 and for more than a decade I had not been on a diet. I informed them that I was training in brisk walking. I wish I had been able to capture the looks on people’s faces every time I said “walking”. People seem to have a hard time accepting that brisk walking can be quite the physical challenge and that it is a healthy form of exercise.
I have to explain too many times to too many people why I have zero desire to ever run a marathon. I feel as if my fitness goals and weight loss journey is taken less seriously because right now I’m limited to doing, at most, a run-walk. My knee doesn’t allow me to run for long distances, but that is not the problem or the issue. From the bottom of my heart I mean it when I say, “I don’t want to complete a marathon”.
Questions I’ve been asked
(Q): But isn’t that every runner’s dream?
(A): No, not for this runner!
Q: How will you know you don’t like doing marathons if you’ve never tried?
A: Because, I hate running for more than 60 minutes, after that, I’m done, I just want to go back home or start walking. There’s no ax murderer behind me, so why do I need to keep running when no one is chasing me?
Q: It’s mind over matter! Keep running and you will eventually learn to love it!
A: Well… I have my mind set on not doing a marathon and instead I want to do something that is of interest to me. I want to do something that I enjoy now.
Here is the part where I have found the Blessing of “I Don’t Want To”.
Saying “yes” to investing a lot of time and energy into physical activities that I don’t enjoy is draining for me; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Training to do a distance longer than 10K is a major time investment.
There are plenty of fitness activities to choose from and neither you nor I are required to invest in something we don’t enjoy. Saying “no” has allowed me to search for activities that I will look forward to without having to do daily motivational speeches to myself or find some sort of accountability group to help keep me publicly accountable to my unwanted goals.
I wonder how many people out there are engaged in physical activities they truly don’t like and are only doing so because they are forcing themselves to engage in a battle of mind over matter. If you can get the same results doing another activity, one that you actually enjoy, why not choose that option? Choosing daily activities that are a burden, time consuming, and are not enjoyable eventually causes unhappiness. It doesn’t matter if you finished a marathon or cycled through the forest for 6 hours. If the process of meeting this goal was not enjoyable, you did not accomplish anything emotionally rewarding. A physical accomplishment needs to have all three components of well-being: mind, body, and spirit. Did your activity genuinely feed all three? And by genuine, I’m asking was your joy and happiness authentic or did it require daily pep talks, fitspiration pictures plastered everywhere and forcing yourself to attend almost every single session of training?
Even when we choose an activity that we do love, there are going to be times when it does require motivation to get things done, but it should be an exception not a regular occurrence. Enjoyable activities might require some motivation, but once you are finished there should be some enjoyment. I dislike going to the gym, every single time, but I can assure you that once my workout is over, I feel an incredible high. There are times when the treadmill beeps and I think, “Nooo, I don’t want to cool down, I want to keep on going!!”.
Exercise is a time for release from the stressors and problems in our lives; it’s not a time to add yet another task that doesn’t bring fulfillment, emotional release and joy to our life.
Be blessed in your physical activities by choosing to participate in workouts that add life to your day.
There is a traditional Jewish morning blessing (Elohai Neshamah)where you say,
“My G-d, the soul that you put in me, it is pure: You created it, you formed it, you breathed it in me, and you tend it in my core. But you will take it from me and put it back in me in the world to come. For all the time that the soul is in my core, grateful am I before you, Adonai my G-d, and G-d of my ancestors, master of all works, lord of all souls. Blessed are you, Lord, the one who restores souls to lifeless bodies.”
When I wake up in the morning I want to learn to bless God and give him thanks. This is still a work in progress for me because waking up usually involves, grumbling as I reach over to turn my alarm off. I lay there dreading certain tasks on my to-do list and then I fly out of bed in attempt to reach the bathroom before the other people in the house so I can have hot water and some decent pressure flowing out of the shower head. When I used to head to the gym at 3:15 a.m. it wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me and required a lot of motivational head games. At the time I chose to workout before work because I knew I enjoyed my evenings so much that I never wanted to interrupt my pleasant evening with an unpleasant activity such as running.
I’m returning to my morning workouts this week, but thankfully not at 3:15 a.m., it’ll be a 5:30 a.m. wake up call. I’ll head to the gym to engage in activities that I genuinely enjoy. I intend for my mornings to start with a blessing of thanksgiving; this will be my morning praise, no motivation needed. My blessing will be that God has restored life to me again and I will give Him blessings by engaging my body in exercise that feeds my body and my spirit. It is no blessing to me or God if I unnecessarily force my body to do things that are not of interest or a benefit to me.
I pray that you are blessed this week in whatever physical activity you have chosen to do to keep fit. Let your activities be a blessing, not a burden.
Did you know that we have pharisees in the fitness world? Yes, indeed we do! In the literal sense of the word, pharisee means separate or separated from. Who were the Pharisees as portrayed in the Synoptic Gospels? Well, they are written as a group who were obsessed with man-made rules, especially rules about what they considered to be pure and impure. These groups believed that their views and their way was right and everyone else was wrong. They looked down on others who didn’t practice and meet their moral standards. Their leaders were the most vocal in the community and whether or not you agreed with them or cared to follow their ways, they still let you know what they believed and why you should be living life according their methods.
The pharisees of health and fitness are those who I refer to as food purist bullies also known as the food police. Are you a food bully? Not sure, well my handy and unscientific questionnaire will help decide that for you.
Do you think you’re a caveman/cavewoman and eat like one? Well, that’s all good and healthy, but the real question is do you insist that your eating lifestyle is the only correct method? Do you stare down friends, co-workers and family as they place a piece of non-caveman approved food in their mouth? Do you proceed to tell them how unhealthy their food is and as a result, emotionally ruin the meal for everyone else?
Do you insist on informing everyone you encounter that eating anything other fruit, vegetables and nuts is detrimental to your health? Do you become uneasy when you enter someone’s kitchen and see them cooking food? Do you suddenly find yourself telling them to turn off the burner as you preach to them the reasons why their boiled peas are now useless?
Do you go around telling everyone that you don’t eat carbs? That you are somehow miraculously able to stand up straight, let alone lift weights without having consumed any carbs what-so-ever? Do you have a bad habit of telling everyone at the lunch table how many carbs are in everything they are about to eat? Do you have carb envy, you know, that look that you get when you see a well-toned and fit person happily eating carbs while talking about their latest half-marathon stats? You don’t know what look I’m talking about; well, those of us who consume carbs are well aware of that look 🙂
I could give many more examples of fitness pharisees; just because you didn’t make the list of examples in this blog post, you still know who you are! LOL!
Are you a fitness pharisee? Let us not take our health pursuits to the extreme level that New Testament Pharisees took with religion. We are not here to create rules about health that make taking care of ourselves become a soulless, spiritually void list of value-based duties. If you’ve found a method which works for you, then great, stick to it, but at the risk of being a stumbling block and discouragement for others; don’t insist that your healthy way is better than someone else’s healthy lifestyle.
The wholistic goal of health and wellness is to take care of what God has created. We are God’s creation and He expects us to take care of ourselves. Body, Mind and Spirit is what we are made of. God does not want us to be a hindrance to our self or others with rules that He never created.
If you have a difficult time respecting the health and wellness choices of other healthy people (whether in your thoughts or in your actions), pray and ask God to give you a heart of peace. Pray for protection against a spirit of judgement and superiority.
Each time you feel compelled to correct or ridicule someone else’s healthy plan, please, STOP! Simply put your lifestyle approved food in your mouth and keep eating! Bon Appetit!
I once heard a fundamental preacher say, “Jesus never laughed, because there’s nothing funny about hell.” WHOA! I can’t say for certain that Jesus did indeed laugh only because I can’t find it anywhere in scripture. That being said, the bible also doesn’t say that he didn’t laugh. I simply can’t imagine that Jesus never laughed. There had to be times when Jesus was sitting around with his 12 best friends eating and having a great time joking around.
Life and salvation are no joke, they are both serious realities, but in the midst of the seriousness of all things eternal, we need to remember to have a good laugh. My rule is that I gotta have at least one good laugh per day. This might be too much for some people, but however often you choose to do so; you gotta laugh at some point.
What the experts say…
“We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. … The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar”, says Wilson. “Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate. … And laughter appears to burn calories, too. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.”
O.K., I have no memory of ever having laughed for 10-15 minutes straight, so I’m not going to recommend ditching a physical workout in exchange for a laughing session. But I will recommend that both your physical fitness and your spiritual fitness be infused with some laughter and humour. Working out has some funny moments; so the next time you fall flat on your face while running, get up, dust yourself off and have a good laugh about it. The same thing goes for our faith. Being a believer doesn’t have to be confined to sad, tear filled and dreary feelings. We can laugh at ourselves; life is hilarious sometimes.
Ask yourself when was the last time you had a good hearty belly laugh; the kind that leaves you in tears. If that’s too extreme for you, think back to the last time you laughed. Hopefully it doesn’t take more than a minute to remember.
If you are in need of a few more laughs and less tears and stress, here are a few suggestions:
-Go online and find some comedies that you like. Watch one or two and don’t be afraid to laugh out loud, even if you are alone.
-Head to a comedy club with your spouse, family or some friends.
-Find a funny novel to read
-Signup for an account with Netflix or something similar and you’ll always have comedies at your convenience