I started incorporating yoga classes into my life probably close to two years ago, but my ability to stick with it has largely been based on whether my grad school schedule and the gym class offerings aligned. I’m proud of myself for sticking with some at-home yoga as often as I have this past week or so. I was reflecting on my yoga practice today after someone asked me how often I do yoga and for how long each time. I finally found a video series that I’m really enjoying — one that both challenges me and doesn’t leave me completely twisted up in knots or feeling anxious about how much longer I have left in each session.
I’m proud of my yoga journey because I previously believed that I couldn’t do yoga because of my scoliosis. I believed that my spine was fused together in such a way that it was too rigid to bend in a forward fold or rest in a supine twist. However, God proved me wrong. I would even affirm that I am more flexible today than I have been for most of my life. I am strong. Both physically and mentally flexible and strong.
In yoga, many instructors lead the class through setting an intention at the beginning of each practice. The idea is to center the mind on a thought or idea, or even to focus simply on breathing. During the last year, the practice of intention-setting in yoga has led me to some very intimate moments with God. I would imagine much like the state that many long-distance runners feel when they get deep into their run and the initial burn wears away. Setting an intention helps me engage with clarity in my yoga practice. I choose not to focus on all the details – how strong or weak my legs feel, how long I can hold a plank, whether I’m daydreaming or thinking about every part of my body as it moves. Instead, I have focused some practices entirely on stillness, where I seek stillness in each posture, a quieting of sorts. Other times, God clearly told me it was time to wander so I started trying creative adjustments in my poses.
And the funny thing is, every time I set a yoga intention, God always asks me to carry it out into the world beyond my mat. So that stillness – well, I became still in my work and relationships for a while too. The very clear statement to wander was God asking me to embrace some discomfort, ‘put myself out there’, and remain open to the unexpected.
More recently, I decided to focus on intentions not only in my yoga practice, but in my daily life. Truthfully, I’ve had a journal for almost a year that was given to me by some friends focused on intention-setting and I haven’t used it. Until now. On some pages it has specific prompts or reflections, but on every page it also has this prompt:
“Starting today, I will…”
I really dislike the stigma that the turn of a calendar year is the best time to start something new. While there is a sense of building toward a climax during the end-of-year holidays and a release of that tension through the pass to the new year, I feel more compelled by God’s promise that His mercies are new every morning. Every moment. I don’t think it’s every too early or too late to make a change. Set an intention. Try something new. Restart something old.
I’m so thankful God has helped me find a way to take care of my body, mind, and soul through the movement and intention-setting of yoga. And I’m really digging this journal that encourages me to set a new intention every day, or as often as I open the journal (which, by the way, has not been every day). I have found a lot of God’s grace in yoga as I’m learning over and over the affirmation one of my instructors shares at the end of each class:
May you be gentle with yourself, patient with yourself, show kindness to yourself and kindness to others.