From the other side of the studio's plate-glass windows, yoga probably looks easy. Movements are slow and gentle. Once in a position, you hold it for several long, deep breaths. A passerby might look in and wonder what a bunch of middle-aged women were doing frozen in time with their heads down toward the floor and their behinds up in the air.
But yoga is not easy...at least not for me. When Sally tells us to relax into a position, I am usually anything but relaxed. Forcing my tense muscles and tight breath to soften requires concentration, effort, and strength. By the end of this morning's practice, I was covered in a thin film of sweat.
We ended today's session in the corpse pose: splayed on the floor, flat on our backs, completely relaxed, eyes closed, resting. I felt simultaneously strong, energized, and engaged and completely relaxed.
I mentioned in yesterday's post that exercise class is a time to pray. Lying on the studio floor this morning, as I concentrated on relaxing into the floor and letting it support my body, I prayed, "Lord, I want to be like this - this yielded - to your will for my day. I want to be so completely guided by your purposes for me that I offer no resistance to your leading, that I feel no tension letting go of my plans in order to pursue your plans for me for the day ahead."
And yet, this prayer for a yielded spirit was not something limp, passive, disengaged. As I relaxed into the floor and prayed for an attitude of complete submission to God's will for my day, I was conscious of my recently warmed-up and stretched muscles, conscious of my core strength, my alignment, my breathing. I was warmed up and strengthened and had cleared my mind, and I was praying for God to use my strength (and my time, my thoughts, my energy) for his purposes.
Strength and submission. Where man so often creates a false dichotomy of either-or, God issues a divine "and" - I must give Him both.