Once, early on in my 8 year career as a yoga Instructor, I found myself exhausted in the one yoga class I actually got to participate in every week. I had driven 45 minutes, rolled out my mat and SHOWED UP. But, dang, it was early.... and I had been up late with my toddler. Downdog felt like the ceiling was sitting on top of me, warrior two felt like an ugly, twisty, hip-heavy hour (or 30 seconds) of torture. I was just tired. But I was also determined to muscle my way through that class. I didn't drive all that way, early on a Saturday, for nothing. Can you guess where this is going? While moving from an upward facing dog to a downward facing dog I felt a shockingly sharp tear in my shoulder. I spent the rest of the practice laying on my mat, hoping the pain would subside. It didn't. Not for a looooooong time.
That was my first yoga injury - and I had actually torn my rotator cuff. It was a long, frustrating, painful recovery. I've never made that same mistake again. It only took one injury and six months of healing (and zero practice) to convince me that my pride would only crush me on my mat. Rushing my way through a practice for the sake of doing it all only wounded me. It didn't serve me and I'm glad I experienced it.
Since then I've been in plenty of situations where I am tempted to do too much. Either I want to prove that I can do the hard things, or I want to make sure I walk away having experienced every second of the practice. But I don't. And that's okay. More than that - resting in my weariness is the right thing to do. Choosing to not muscle my way through my exhaustion reveals something stronger in me.
"I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in..." Ephesians 3
Don't you feel this way sometimes, friends? Don't you find yourselves trying to draw from a brute strength when what will heal and restore you is a glorious inner strength? The practice of a lifestyle that invites Jesus in requires the ability to relinquish often. Rather than trying to force, strive and push we need to soften, release and accept the atmosphere of right now. Yesterday we may have had endless energy on our mats and in our hearts. Tomorrow we might have a renewed strength and endurance. But, right now, if we are tired, the practice must move away from a physical act and become a solely spiritual response.
It isn't really about the postures, you know. We engage the body in the same way that we engage the heart, mind and spirit, but the practice isn't physical. It is a practice of lifestyle. It is a certain and profound way to enter into the sweetness of the presence of God, while setting aside the things that distract us from their truth. We practice in our cars, in our homes, in our churches, in Trader Joe's, in Target, at the park, in the school drop off line, in our marriages, in our relationships, with our children and also on our mats. If ever we forget that the postures don't make the practice, we've lost the gravity of what we're doing.
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There are always going to be times when we are being called to a 75 minute child's pose, or to honor our bodies by doing less. I've been practicing yoga for over thirteen years and there will always be plenty of times when I have to head the call to rest. True balance is in relinquishing the desire to always do more. Sometimes what we truly need, and what will revive us, is to respond to rest. In those surrendered moments we enter into what is truly, fully, irrevocably more...
"And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." Ephesians 3
May your practice be slow, patient, and overflowing with the humble choice to be obedient to the call to rest. May you find peace in listening, rather than rushing ahead. May you find life in observing, rather than assuming you already know. May you find joy in the growth that comes from embracing grace for your own practice of lifestyle.