HIJAB IN CHRISTIAN YOGA?

Last week a woman donned in a floral hijab slipped into the back row of my YOGATHEA® class just before the door closed to start. She brought her own yoga mat. She did not look familiar. Immediately I mentally ran through my playlist wondering how offensive my Christian music would be to her. Did she not see the little cross in the logo? I gave her 3 songs before she would leave. She stayed. She stayed for the entire class AND the meditation when we pray or say Christian affirmations. She stayed!

Unfortunately the dark skinned woman left before I could meet her after class. I could only hope she was somehow inspired by YOGATHEA®. And later that afternoon I received this Facebook message:

screenshot www.facebook.com 2016 02 29 01 18 33 · 
 

 

Awesome! I was elated to know YOGATHEA® was a positive experience for a person of a different faith. I was also curious about how the hijab stays on in down dog? So yes, I will post the prayer on forgiveness I found online and read in class. The author didn't leave his or her name in the chat room I found this in...if this happens to be your prayer, send me a message!

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

"God, help me forgive. Help me to eliminate all thoughts of malice and revenge. Help me to accept responsibility for my wrongs, acknowledge the rightness -- and blessing -- of correction, and help me to move on and help others. Help me to accept the past, learn, and improve from the experience. God help me to forgive all things, big and small. Please save me from being consumed by thoughts of hurt and anger. God, help me forget and forgive. Help me forgive as Jesus Christ forgave. I pray for the strength to help, assist, and bless those who hurt, exploit, and condemn me. This is a difficult and scary prayer, but I need it and I need You. I need your grace, strength, and healing power. Please help me forgive. Please let me forgive, God. I ask you for the courage to forgive completely. Please let me bless and help everyone, even those who hurt me. Please let me remember that forgiveness is strength, not weakness. Forgiveness is power, not frailty. Forgiveness is freedom, not submission. Help me God. Please."

A hidden reality of helping women in fitness, is the response and support of their husbands or significant other (Aka "old man"). I have yet to help a woman achieve significant changes to her body without her experiencing some turbulence in her relationship. Most of the time, this situation is resolved with a few mature conversations helping the husband or "old man" accept that his woman is now "hot" and will indefinitely be receiving extra looks and some unsolicited attention from other men. The woman typically reassures him of her faithfulness and eventually appeases his insecurity. Case closed and they live happily ever after with hot new wifey (and if she's lucky, he decides to join her at the gym so she doesn't spend their 401K with another man due to husbands premature death attributed to hypokinetic chronic disease!). Unfortunately, sometimes a metamorphasized woman becomes destructive with her new prowess-powers (think of a Pink Incredible Hulkette seductive homewrecker on steroids). 

My experience in conservative Indiana is most Christian women who regularly exercise their faith don't fall like this. Intuitively, an evolving woman understands that becoming her healthier, fitter and typically better looking self will glorify God, especially when free of the vanity idol. Sadly, I've seen too many Christian husbands struggle with the idea of their wife receiving looks from other men. Hurting and handicapping other from evolving is not Gods plan which is why I'm sharing these reasons Christian Husbands Should Help Their Wives In AND Out of Yoga Pants...and into yoga class!

 

1. You like how she looks in AND out of yoga pants. Yes, another man might catch a glance too but doesn't know or appreciate her assets like you do! The truth is, your wife is likely a modest dresser and isn't looking to draw this type of attention to herself. The rest of the truth is that most men at the gym and in yoga class are more interested in looking at themselves instead of a momma trying to get in shape. Their nanosecond imaginative look at your wife in yoga pants doesn't have time to get her out of the pants because they need to make sure they are posing, grunting  breathing or sweating properly. If only Adam was watching his wife strolling around that forbidden tree... This really does put you in a dilemma now doesn't it Christian husband? If you really understood grace, you wouldn't have an issue and would trust your wife's judgement on the yoga pants thing. God trusts you and grants you grace when you mess up...shouldn't you do the same with her? Help her into those yoga pants!

2. Christian Women Should Work It!  (See my post: Why Christian Women Should Work It) Work it does NOT mean riske wardrobe, table dancing on Friday night or general floozie. It means she's "got it!" Size doesn't matter on this one, we all know when a woman "has it" and many-a-sized woman has it! Yes, Christian husband, you know your wife has it but does she realize she has it? Yes, I understand that you know that other men know she has it too and you're trying to keep the cat in the bag. The truth is she could be SO MUCH MORE!!!Encouraging her to wear to those yoga pants and get to that yoga class will help her become more comfortable in her body and in using her body. Better yet, you are the first in line for the ALL THAT MORE which will lend you many more opportunities to help her OUT of those yoga pants.

3. Community. Women are supportive of each other and thrive in groups. Typically, a yoga class is predominately and sometimes exclusively women who form wonderful sisterly relationships, especially within the YOGATHEA® Christian Yoga + Meditation Classes. The health benefits of yoga and meditation are undeniable and benefit the individuals and their communities. We will send her home properly encouraged, listening to her laments along the way. This community and her yoga pants will energize you to help her in AND out of those yoga pants...whichever your prefer!

Christianity Today's Her Menuetics ran a popular web article last week: To The Christian Men and Women Debating Yoga Pants. Having worn yoga pants on a near daily basis since the last millennium, way before yoga pants were popular, I had to laugh. Reverends, Women, Bishops, and people with P.h.D behind their name were actually discussing this on a forum! Unable to control my snark, I suggested that Christian men wear yoga pants for more accountability in this area. I actually had a gentleman, and new blogger friend, Tim Fall, agree with me (more on Tim later).

 

 

Being a Christian Yoga Instructor and long time fitness professional, I'm obviously biased on this issue. That said, I do consider yoga pants a very important topic of Christian conversation. Discussing women in yoga pants certainly adds to our Christian body of knowledge and grows our love to change the world; therefore, I share these reasons why Christian women SHOULD wear yoga pants:

 

1. Yoga Pants Make Better Moms

 

Raising 4 young children as a stay-at-home mom and part-time fitness instructor, yoga pants proved to be my daily armor in those tumultuous times (or decade to be more accurate). Spandex is a great fabric to brush off the dried grimy hand prints that seemed to appear at thigh level. At the end of the day, being a workoutaholic, I was typically covered in dried sweat from my morning workout, tired and worn down from toddler tantrums but at least I could manage because of yoga pants. This Tim validates my point here, drum roll please....

 

2. Yoga Pants Equal a Better Probability of Actual Exercise

 

For years I have told my class that the hardest part of working out is showing up.Most people are very self conscious and self critical of their workouts and negative-talk themselves out of participating in an activity (exercise) that enhances their own health! Though many a woman wears yoga pants without ever having done yoga, if the yoga pants are actually donned that morning, the chances ARE better to actually make the workout!

In the United States, the leading causes of death today are lifestyle related, or lack of adequate diet and exercise, and 7 out of 10 Americans die of preventable chronic disease (1). Sometimes the easiest cure is the most difficult.

 

 

3. Yoga Pants Develop Assets

 

After years (39+ and holding to be exact) of hearing the gospel from a male dominated pulpit, I heard a woman preach to a church full of men and women. Yes, I have heard strong, wonderful women preach, but until last week, this was only to women. Patriarchy is a sin that continues to haunt the church and prevents its growth (See Tim Fall's Blog "Patriarchy--When False Doctrine Runs Amok"). The Bible is peppered with amazing women who decided to take on a role outside of the home and do some amazing things. The Bible is also missing the names of other women who certainly contributed as the Chronicles accredited Deborah's victory to Barak. Other women are just forever forgotten... As I work to train Christian Yoga Instructors and hold Christian Yoga Retreats, I'm wearing yoga pants more frequently than ever and they seem to be developing assets for my business partners and I.

My Law Professor colleague and friend told me about a State Legislator in Montana who submitted legislation that yoga pants be considered indecent exposure. I laughed again because who is going to enforce that? How would the friendly police officer approach the woman without her feeling sexually harassed? How would the respectful male police officer maintain his purity if he's require to monitor women's backsides. If a case actually went to court, how would the court decide what is too tight or thin? This is all starting to sound like Sharia Law to me because Burkas and Hijabs would take care of this entire issue...but so would men wearing yoga pants which is yet another reason why Christian women SHOULD wear yoga pants!

Note to Readers: For the record, in case your blood is boiling about the all important yoga pants issue in the Christian community, please know that I don't wear yoga pants to church and have a variety of longer tunics to cover my assets in the gym as well.

(1) U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, Disease Prevention, http://surgeongeneral.gov/publichealthpriorities.html#disease, downloaded June 5, 2009.

A business coach once shared with me that his #1 secret to success was to be more interested than interesting. I agree. Ironically, some of the most successful interesting people I know are also the most interested people I know. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart stores, supposedly rarely if ever forgot a name. Sam Walton also made many trusting business relationships to build a worldwide store chain. He was interested, which transcended him to become extremely interesting.

I'm not sure I'm the expert in being interested, though it's on the forefront of my mind. So here are a few strategies I'm using to manifest interest:

 

1. Listen--The old saying God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason has so much truth. The more I practice yoga and meditation, the more keen my ability to pick up on the subtleties of what people are saying. For example, when you boss is asking about your work, he really may be scoping you out for a different more exciting opportunity or responsibility. I believe we pass up life changing opportunities everyday because we don't have the acuity to hear the call. Often the call is through people so listen!

 

2. Ask--We are all evolving people. Though we may know where one has been, and where they are now, you may find yourself full of assumptions about where they are going. The moment you feel you know someone, you are putting them on a shelf and limiting their ability to move and help you. Today is a new day, and if you ask you may find you really didn't know the person you "know" so well.

 

3. Real Face Time--In a world of virtual relationships, we are loosing the ability to be competent with basic social graces. I know the college freshman in my class prefer to communicate with me via email and other web based communication systems. If possible, I often wait to answer their question personally in class to have some "face time" communication. This gives me the opportunity to ask more questions and be more interested in them. Giving people our face as we speak and facing our bodies towards them are great communication strategies. I'm always amazed how many adjacent- shoulder-looking-into-the-horizon conversations I see at the gym and church and work and well everywhere. Give people real face time instead of the virtual kind.

It's intriguing to be thought of as an interesting person and being interested can certain help achieve that; though, it seems to me that if being interesting was the goal, the efforts to be interested would flop. My main motivation for becoming more interested is to develop more interesting relationships and I believe these strategies will do just that!

Nobody likes a gossip, plain and simple.  Last weeks Maranatha Mat Chat discussed the 5 Situations You're BEST to Be Silent and described situation number 4 as "When It's Not Your Business--enough said."  When it's not your business, it's not your business. Enough said. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for people in a regular social group to refrain from commenting on other people within that group.  While I think this is true of almost every social organization, one in particular ought to be the exception -- Church.

Church gossip can be very obvious, like fitness class gossip, however, I've found these 3 subtle games of church gossip to be accepted and even worse encouraged.

 

1. Prayer Request

Often we confide in our friends at church for various reasons. Having a strong sense of community the "friend" feels free to share this personal information with other sisters in the spirit of praying for the "problem". This is perfectly fine if the "friend" has asked permission or the sister-in-need has asked to share this information with others in order to pray. Without this permission, any Facebook, text or over coffee prayer requests is gossip. 

How to sit out:  If you receive a prayer request like this, ask your "friend" if they have received permission to share this request. This "friend" may or may not be open to the fact they are a gossip, however, you can stop the cycle and change the subject.

2.  Consulting Leadership

In this gossip game, a sister has become privy to information that they are uncertain about.  In the spirit of "getting advice" as the Bible encourages us to do, the sister feels free to share another's personal information with the church leader.  

How to sit out:  Mathew 18:15-16 clear establishes a protocol for this situation, at least when sin is involved.  Notice each time you are involving the person who is potentially in sin--not talking about them to someone else!

 

3.  Blind Speculation

My mother-in-law likes to say, "you don't know what it's like to walk in their shoes."  People have funky moods, miss church, don't say hi, are busy and give looks (this is only a very small sample of what people do).  Making a judgement or speculating on this with another is gossip.

 

How to sit out:

Make sure that any conversations you have on behavior are focused on how to be helpful, not speculating motives or infractions.

Sitting out of the gossip games in church may mean sitting out of specific discussions or groups, even the leadership group. You may find yourself needing to establish boundaries with a church gossip. Obviously churches need to discuss issues of people's behavior, but keep in mind that any discussion of another person in a negative way, without their express permission or participation is gossip. One key in avoiding gossip then is to always involve the person under discussion.  Although this does avoid gossip, it could lead to being a busy body if taken to the extreme, but that is another blog...

As a person who not only enjoys exercising my mind and body but my mouth as well, I have learned, mostly the hard way, a few times it's best to be silent.

If in doubt, my experience is that it's best to keep my mouth shut, however, here are 5 situations you're BEST to be silent:

 

1.  When Listening 

As a discussion becomes interesting, it can be terribly difficult to refrain from interjecting your ingenuous sparked idea.  You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason, be silent and allow the other person to complete what they have to say.

  

2.  When Someone Else Deserves the Credit

We've all been there, either someone received credit for our work or we are recognized for the work of another.  In either case, speaking up will inevitably make you seem overly entitled so it's best to be silent.

 

3.  The First Date

Whether a business meeting or Friday night dinner, you just met the person.  Listen and let your less be more so that you have a chance for the second date..

 

4.  When It's Not Your Business

Enough said.

5.  After an Apology

We all screw up so when you find yourself needing to apologize, be humble and apologize sincerely. Once you have apologized, listen. The information the offended shares as this point is likely difficult for you to hear but incredibly valuable for your maturity so zip it!

Practicing yoga and meditation has certainly helped me grow in the time to be silent, in AND out of social situations. If you find yourself dominating a conversation (uh-hem guilty), pipe down and remember Proverbs 17:28, "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent."  So true!

This week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby as a "closely held" corporation, which according to my friend and IUK colleague Linda (a #yogathea who is very involved teaching her business law classes thus neglecting her yoga class) "brings up a host of other issues" about whether public corporations can hold firmly held religious beliefs reflected in their mission, vision and core values statements. If you're unaware of the details of this case, Hobby Lobby, a national craft store chain founded and operated by a religious group with fundamental beliefs about birth control, appealed to the US Supreme Court to be exempt of providing birth control options as a part of their employee health care plan as now mandated by Obamacare.

The last I knew, health insurance provided by an employer is a privilege not a right.  Because of this, I am grateful President Obama is making efforts to have health insurance accessible to all.  However, thank you to Your Honors for protecting the religious freedom of businesses as I run a "closely held" Christian Yoga corporation that relies on exercising freedom on a regular basis.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about women exercising their freedom to use birth control pills for whatever purposes, I simply don't understand why someone thought is was their employer's responsibility to pay for this inexpensive and accessible prescription. Evidently they don't want to accept the financial responsibility here.   Taking personal responsibility for ones health involves making informed choices on nutrition and exercise and following through to provide the resources to enable health.  The resources are often time, money and energy which Americans don't want to give.  Instead, American Citizens  place the responsibility of their personal health in the hands of their employers, hoping to avoid committing money, time or energy.  Employers are assuming this responsibility and directing health decisions for us.  Now, our employers and insurance companies are desperately trying to educate and incentivize us to take responsibility, though based on the sedentary look of these Justices above and the observation that more people patron restaurants than gyms on Monday nights(simultaneously the gym's busiest night of the week and the restaurants slowest); I'm guessing we aren't going to take responsibility for our health and our healthcare will be dictated by our employers' insurance company protocols.  This too may eventually influence our personal religious freedom as these protocols are likely going to be more sensitive to the business' core values, not to the many personal religious beliefs out there.  This young lady seems to have the right idea to "stand" for religious freedoms!  I doubt she is worried about what her employer's health care plan covers... (even if she may need help for cramps :-O)

Assuming responsibility for your health could very well protect your religious freedom.  Most of my #yogatheas participate in class as a hobby of sorts, this lobbies for their religious freedom.  Bike races, community runs, yoga class participation, tracking body-bug data are only a few of the hobbies that help you assume responsibility and lobby for your religious freedom.  I love teaching and training the Christian Yoga Instructors because I see them exercising their religious freedom in their communities. Most of these instructors teach as a hobby and this hobby lobbies for religious freedom.  

When I was a freshman in college biology, I remember chronicling the Krebs Cycle as a soap opera for the final project:  "As Kreb Turns".  During the drama, glucose, fatty acids and oxygen had a variety of rendezvous relationships that ultimately turned into ATP (adenosine triphosphate aka energy) which then fueled the cycle for "Kreb to Turn" again.  The presentation was given with unlicensed background cassette music that looped the "As The World Turns" theme music.  Our creativity gained us the opportunity to present to other science faculty, evidently our insights into energy production was fresh to their scholarly ears  (emphasis on the pun "fresh" added!)

Finding fresh energy in life is a challenge, however there are a few, easy practicals that are guaranteed to produce a fresh energy in your life.  Any effort through these strategies always bring about a self-appreciation and well, I have yet to meet a person regretful of participating in any of these organic energy production activities.

1.  Exercise

Energy is produced during all types of exercise.  Kreb can turn a few different ways, depending on the type of exercise and energy production that is in order.  Whether aerobic, anaerobic exercise, a great workout will produce energy for you and a long term workout regimen will produce energy in every area of your life (trust me on this, it takes a lot of energy to be me!)  See you in yoga soon?

 

2.  Nutrition

You've heard it said we are what we eat.  Eating is to nourish our bodies for it's required activities, not to pacify anxiety.  A balanced diet rich in nutrients fuels us to create fresh energy in life.  Nutrient rich foods are able to be broken down to make Kreb turn.  Think about it, you wouldn't put kool-aid in your car because it wouldn't fuel it to drive.  If you're finding a deficit of energy in your life, try a higher quality fuel.

 

3.  Rest

Need I say more?  When was the last time you got up from a great night of sleep feeling terrible?  As I write this past my bedtime, I am feeling convicted.  Okay, I'm not a TOTAL health freak and despite requiring a lot of energy to be me, I still need fresh energy from proper rest.  Goodnight...almost, or good morning, it's your Wednesday Morning Mantra Manna!

 

4.  Find the Light of Life

Jesus says in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."  Jesus is the light of the world and has a lot of energy which he displayed through the transfiguration, miracles and resurrection.  I personally like having the "light of life" within me and believe it energizes me.  Becoming aware or finding the "light of life" comes from aligning our own personal energies in meditation.  One is fresh with a quiet and stable energy after meditation and yes, Christians can evidently be fresh!

 

So go produce some fresh energy in your life.  It's okay for Christians to be fresh and you're future self will thank you for it!

Last week I shared my anxiety over taking my four children on a Memorial Day Weekend trip.  Yes, the Christian Yoga Instructor experiences anxiety and considers it a sign that something needs to change.  It's not the trip itself that was burdening me, it was the imbalance with my personal time.  Being with my kids requires a lot of energy and attentiveness and "too much quality time" feels burdensome.  I spend a lot of time wearing the mom hat and I love my children dearly, unfortunately the role and responsibilities of mom have started eating at me to the point where spending time with my little blessings is seen through the scope of obligation.  Some obligations are a joy, say a job you love or giving a tithe or donation; my children had moved into the obligation category of taxes or cleaning the garage.   Listening to my instincts and own advice, I postponed the trip and took some time of solitude away to discover how I could change my perspective and enjoy being with my kids again. 

After sitting in solitude for hours, hidden away in the beautiful public Indiana Arts Museum Gardens, I heard nothing.  Unfortunately there are no mountains or deserts in Indiana (usual Biblical locations where God reveals something profound) and I was hungry so I decided to pack up and get dinner.  Enjoying my Mediterranean cuisine at a patio table for one on a beautiful sunny evening with low humidity (rare in Indiana), it hit me! I need to see my children through the scope of opportunity, not obligation.

We value long term relationships.  When a couple has been married for any length of time, we celebrate.  The longer the relationship, the bigger the party. Weddings celebrate an anticipated life-long union.  Our closest and longest relationships are those that lend us opportunity for the most spiritual growth.  They really do cut to the heart and shape our soul.  Completely expecting all of my children to outlive me, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to spend the rest of my life with all four of them!  They may live at different proximities from me and hold varying philosophies from me, however, they will continue to lend me opportunity the most opportunity for my spiritual growth.  And let's just say I have LOTS of opportunities! 

Realistically, I know my perspective of obligation doesn't change overnight. Taking time to meditate on the opportunities my children bring to my life is essential.  Certainly this will help me become more grateful and graceful with them! In the interterm and on the practical side of life, I decided to get a babysitter one afternoon a week this summer to allot me time and space to think.  I don't have to be the do-it-all-yourself-perfect-mom.  Having this arrangement and time to hear God's direction, I can honestly say I am now looking forward to taking our postponed trip this weekend.

Confession of a YOGATHEA® Mom:  I am procrastinating making arrangements for our upcoming family Memorial Day Weekend trip because the thought of the whole thing is exhausting to me. 

There's still 4 days left to make arrangements right? We are bound to get awesome accommodations from a last minute cancellation...right.   The truth is that I'm more anxious about how to manage my 4 children, all day, everyday at home for 2 months this summer.  This really shouldn't be the case, since there was a time not so long ago that I had all 4 kids home with me all day, everyday, as the older two were home-schooled.  After an hour of reflection in yoga, knowing my perspective is causing discontent in my life, I finally fessed up to a couple of veteran moms; they completely understood.  The truth is these trips are becoming easier as we are out of the stroller and diaper stage, everyone dons their own seatbelt and mostly minds their own business in a book or electronic gadget.  Thank God for DVD players in the van!  Better yet, my two oldest will be especially helpful with the laundry because they know I won't leave until it's done.

Following my own advice, I took some time to express gratitude for this little vacation and the extra time I will have with my children this summer.  Gratitude is a virtue and cultivating it requires formal expression.  Whether writing a thank you note, expressing verbal gratitude, offering prayers of thanksgiving or keeping a personal list, formal expression of gratitude helps us to experience richer, more gratifying days in life.  This past New Year a friend of mine gave me a crafted "faith jar".   The purpose of this jar is as I came across issues that challenge my faith or bring me exhaustion (like planning a summer home with 4 kids) I am to write these down and throw them in the jar.  The notes in the jar are little prayers of surrender that I can commence 2014 reading, seeing what God has done.  The use of this practice creates room in my heart for gratitude as I literally let go of my worries into the jar.   I must confess, again, that it is only May and my 16oz Pinterest-esque jar is getting full, though my heart is more clear.  Remembering the positives and taking the time to formally express gratitude for them is my secret to having a great day, everyday.  

With four children, a job, business, husband, house and plethora of roles, I am a plagued with "have-to-syndrome".  Despite the "have to" syndrome, I am fortunately able to juggle my responsibilities and activities through my Christian Yoga and Meditation practice.

My daughter was blessed with three brothers and is in desperate need of organized female comaraderie, so when her Brownie Troop leader quit and the moms were willing to share the responsibility, I naturally felt I "have to" help.  The meetings involve some prep time and often include a lot of prepubescent silliness which compels me to "have to" settle them down and redirect their attention.  With much budding testosterone in my home, I  "have to" settle kids down on a daily if not hourly basis.  Around the house I "have to" cook dinner, clean the kitchen and make progress on the never ending laundry.  I "have to" spend time with my family and get sufficient sleep.  I "have to" get up at 5:15 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays to teach that 6:30 AM Yoga class.  I "have to" write my blog, though note there wasn't Wednesday Morning Mantra Manna last week because I was in "have to" mode fixing mywebsite that crashed! The most dangerous "have to"s in my life are more elusive:  I "have to" succeed, I "have to" win, I "have to" be [insert something impossible and  irrational, analogous to perfect].

My "Have-to" syndrome can lead to the inability to prioritize the "have to"s and somehow I am simultaneously going in multiple directions which inevitably leads nowhere at all!  The cure is solitude.  Solitude requires space to do absolutely nothing.  Solitude isn't as effective in my own environment as it is elsewhere because there is always something I "have to" on my turf.  If Jesus needed 40 days away in desert, I at least need a few hours or days every once in a while right?  Following God's example in Genesis, if I should allot one-seventh of life without "have to"...wouldn't life be wonderful!   "Have to" takes on many forms, even noble and sacred.  Solitude does not include "have to," which can initially seem wasteful, boring or terrifying altogether.  At it's core, solitude opens up the soul.  Solitude has yielded the stillness needed to settle muddied waters in my "have to" plagued life--I see more clearly.  I know, and may you know by taking some space and moments to do absolutely nothing in solitude. 

This past weekend I journeyed to Zion, Illinois to "Experience the Outlook of Freedom" at my Christian Yoga and Meditation Retreat for women. 

Zion is a suitable city name because Illinois Beach State Park is absolutely gorgeous.

At the retreat I was able to catch up with some old friends and make new ones as well. 

Throughout the retreat we participated in various activities to find freedom. 

 

Friday was "Freedom in Mind" when we found new perspective to our problems to "be a blessing to each other," Romans 1:12.  Saturday was "Freedom in Body", when we focused on the yoga exercises, learning to release grievances from our body.  And Sunday was "Freedom in Spirit" with a focus on meditation.

Each woman, in a different place on her unique journey, was moved and I absolutely loved how God used us, broken as we are, to help each other.  We didn't necessarily have to do or say much, in fact we didn't say anything at all during the meditation walk and circles.   Just being there as women together to "Experience the Outlook of Freedom" was enough.

As we are back to our normal busy lives, I'm enjoying the free music our fabulous entertainer Catalina Bellizzi gave us.   Our weekend away won't change our entire lives, though I know when we change one perspective, we start a slightly different road on our journey which can bring us to an entirely different place in time.  Freedom always brings momentum which is much better than being "stuck".  I learned to be free in who I am more than what I am accomplishing.  I have been able to live the working life, but also the life of raising kids for 10 years and feeling that my skills are not being fully utilized.  But, now to be able to help guide retreats and teach Christian Yoga I see how God has prepared me to fulfill his plans for me!  Experience the Outlook of Freedom was a complete success and I'm so grateful for all the women who attended and helped contribute to its impact!

Preparing for this weekends Christian Yoga and Meditation Retreat, "Experience the Outlook of Freedom", forgiveness has been on my mind.  Forgiveness is freedom.  There are may scriptures nudging us towards forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves as we let go of our grievances. 

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. 

Pain is an effective teacher.  When I was a child I remember being paddled for jumping on my parents bed (they had given me warning as I gleefully wrecked their beautifully made bed).  I never jumped on their bed again.  Good thing (for them)  I remembered the pain.  I've met many Christians who are ridden with guilt because they can't "forgive and forget".   As they try to forget, they miss the fundamental steps of forgiveness...what they are doing is covering a festering wound.  In their heart, they still want revenge.  We all know this.  Often it is important to REMEMBER so that we do not enter a dangerous relationship again...as I said, pain is an effective teacher. 

 Christ instructed us to forgive, so that we can be free to use our energy in positive ways, versus revenge.  Forgive and forget are two separate things.   After forgiveness, it is our free decision to restore the relationship or not.  This judgment should not be taken lightly and council or advice helps us find perspective.   If we should decide to restore the relationship, I do believe forgetting is essential.   Though Christ is able to no longer hold our sins against us through forgiveness, our sinful nature usually needs some help and in that case a little forgetfulness might be in order! 

The opposite of success is mediocracy, not failure.  I often tell my classes that we don't know our limits until they've been exceeded.  I usually say this after someone falls attempting a challenging pose. 

 

I really want to do a hand stand, I'm so close yet each time I attempt to succeed, I fail.  Success does not come without failure...sometimes lots of it.   Failure couples success, they go hand in hand.  Mediocracy rarely if ever couples success, or failure.  I suppose that's why mediocracy stays in the not too dangerous zone and doesn't ever seem to change.  A hand stand is not a mediocre yoga pose.  One day I will lift off onto my extended arms and remain perpendicular to the ground...perhaps next week.  The success will be bliss and worth the effort for me.  Knowing myself well, I will then work to complete a hand stand push-up or hand stand lotus...more failure ahead for an even bigger success. 

Successes in life involve effort, sacrifice and well failure.  Many of the results in the ministry of Christ could initially be considered failure but proved to be a stepping stone to success (being murdered or having such a small number of followers in comparison to the multitudes of listeners).  So the next time you are feeling like a failure, remember you tried which puts you on the path to success and makes you more than mediocre.

Preparing for this weekends Christian Yoga and Meditation Retreat, "Experience the Outlook of Freedom", forgiveness has been on my mind.  Forgiveness is freedom.  There are may scriptures nudging us towards forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves as we let go of our grievances. 

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. 

Pain is an effective teacher.  When I was a child I remember being paddled for jumping on my parents bed (they had given me warning as I gleefully wrecked their beautifully made bed).  I never jumped on their bed again.  Good thing (for them)  I remembered the pain.  I've met many Christians who are ridden with guilt because they can't "forgive and forget".   As they try to forget, they miss the fundamental steps of forgiveness...what they are doing is covering a festering wound.  In their heart, they still want revenge.  We all know this.  Often it is important to REMEMBER so that we do not enter a dangerous relationship again...as I said, pain is an effective teacher. 

 Christ instructed us to forgive, so that we can be free to use our energy in positive ways, versus revenge.  Forgive and forget are two separate things.   After forgiveness, it is our free decision to restore the relationship or not.  This judgment should not be taken lightly and council or advice helps us find perspective.   If we should decide to restore the relationship, I do believe forgetting is essential.   Though Christ is able to no longer hold our sins against us through forgiveness, our sinful nature usually needs some help and in that case a little forgetfulness might be in order! 

Once in church I was listening to a story of how a huge bald man wearing only his Speedo, running  shoes and iPod jogged past the secluded forest worship service this young minister was leading during his summer evangelism efforts in the Ukraine  (before the Ukraine became unstable).  I couldn't help but think despite how interesting and inviting a forest worship service in the Ukraine sounded, I would prefer to be the dude in the Speedo jogging freely in God's creation.  I think Jesus would prefer jogging in the Speedo too, after all he did do crazy stunts like walking on water and hanging out alone in the desert with the devil.  Jesus spent most of his ministry outside of the traditional temple setting and practices.  Everyday of Jesus ministry was unpredictable and well, risky.  Jesus has the Feds on his back.

It's not that I don't appreciate new ideology or moral encouragement shared in church meetings and of course the esprit de corps of song is moving--just not as moving as running on a secluded Ukrainian forest trail in a Speedo.  Running in a speedo is much more out of the ordinary, perhaps the worship devotional would have been out of the ordinary for the huge Ukranian man.  I believe Jesus wants us to try the extraordinary to build our faith, once we have overcome our greatest obstacle, everything else is downhill, right?  At least until the next obstacle arises.   

It seems to me that walking on water attempts and dangerous ship rides were extraordinary efforts of the apostles and hallmark faith building events for them as well.  We remember with great detail times of risk: air gliding, Polar Bear Plunges, Mud Runs, trying yoga. 

I don't own a Speedo or the female triathlon equivalent.  I gave up running years ago though do occasionally jog for a convenient workout on vacation. Perhaps the next time I'm on vacation I will take that jog in the forest in my Speedo equivalent of sports bra and yoga shorts.  I hope I'm as comfortable as the Ukrainian dude, running past a group of young adults singing Christian hymns.     In efforts to grow your faith, I encourage you to try something outrageous, though make sure to keep the Feds off your back while on that road less traveled.

Years ago I provided occupational therapy services for the Indiana Department of Corrections in a high security all male prison.  Interesting job.   Most of my time there was spent in the infirmary, though on occasion I would need to make an escorted walk across the prison yard to the solitary confinement area to see a patient.  This trip usually involved hearing some whistles sprinkled with "hey baby" and occasionally more explicit and creative heckling.  A little uncomfortable, but nothing too serious being they were literally behind bars.  I definitely kept my head forward and walked as straight as possible giving zero indication that I might be working it.

 At one point in my tenure at the DOC I made this walk pregnant, which transformed the whistling into a stadium applause, and the uproar wasn't for the younger cute blonde trainee replacing me on my maternity leave...it was for the belly!  As I waddled and tried to ignore the dudes as usual, the shouting and cheering was getting louder and wilder with gate rattling and all--you would have thought that I just scored the winning score of a game.  Ready to have a baby in a few short weeks, I couldn't walk in my straight stiff posture--somehow by default I was working it.  The prisoners, and I, found this hilariously ridiculous--at least I could laugh at it (again they were behind bars).  Fortunately security picked me up in a vehicle to escort me for the return walk saying they didn't want to risk any chaos.  I was glad to not have to "work it" past them again with my waddle. 

Developing my yoga practice helps me move with poise and grace and confidence... poise, grace and confidence still gets whistles.   Having helped hundreds of women learn to feel more comfortable in their bodies through yoga, I know there is a fear of unsolicited attention from men that they are trying to avoid.  When the attention is from a group of men it becomes especially painful.   I also know that the women who keep a sense of humor while "working it" (whether the work is intentional or not) thrive.

A vexing story to me is that of Queen Vashti from the Old Testament Book of Esther.  This Queen was married to a powerful warrior that liked to celebrate his victories.  On the 7th day of an all boys party with open bar, he was drunk and summoned his wife to leave her guests at the all women's royal party so she could "work it" for him and all of his drunk male guests.  Nada.  As a result, for what I consider keeping her dignity as Queen, the royal advisors banished Vashti from her husband for life and stripped her of her royal position.  A decree went out for women to "respect their husbands from least to greatest".  Interestingly, despite having an estimated 350 wives,  Xerxes appointed Vashti's son as heir to the throne*.  Obviously Vashti didn't need a royal decree to be respected.

Fortunately for all of us Christians and Jews, Esther the Jewish girl was able to be a part of the king's sex slave collection (harem) and had the opportunity to spend one night in bed with him.  Somehow as a virgin she wowed him to become queen.  Esther knew how to "work it".  Later in the story when she needed that favor to save her people, she "worked it" again.  Esther's prowess saved the Jewish race which birthed Jesus.   I'm glad Xerxes didn't ask her to "work it" in front of his drunk friends though I'm guessing he learned that lesson the hard way and yes we are still discussing this over 2,500 years later!  Some stories just don't get old.

I've often heard Esther celebrated for her submission, today's mantra manna celebrates Esther for being able to "work it".   "Modest is Hottest"  is a virtue, but not at the expense of being unable to have the prowess to "work it" within the system as a woman.  Being a hermit and hiding doesn't change the world for Christ and this is why Christian woman should be able to "work it"...just like Queen Esther.

*Esther and Ahasuerus: An Identification of the Persons So Named ; Followed ...

 By Richard Edmund Tyrwhitt

The battle of the sexes as been going since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the garden...exactly who's fault was that?  Growing up, my dad use to tell me I was an "American Woman".  My dad was a Coptic Orthodox Egyptian immigrant who came to America to escape government religious prejudices that stunted his opportunity.  I'm not exactly sure whether "American Woman" meant I didn't have to face the persecutions he saw Egyptian women face, or that I had all the same opportunities as men in America, or that I had a big mouth and wasn't afraid to speak it.  Somehow by his voices proud richness and projection with a rounded edge, I believe dad meant all three!  Dad's declaration of "American Woman" has been mostly true for me.

Despite my equal opportunity as an American Woman, I have struggled with determining my value as a woman in the Christian faith.  Somehow through all the messages of God knows our troubles and understands, I never really believed Jesus understood what it was like to have PMS or experience the vulnerability of being a woman.  It's hard to feel valued when you're not understood.

Recently I read Paul Smith's "Is It Okay To Call God Mother:  Considering the Feminine Face of God."  Smith says,  11am Sunday morning is the most sexist hour in America.  I agree with Smith.  It would not be beneficial for me to share with you my thoughts and experiences of sexism in the church, that's not the purpose of this blog post.  I do want to bring to your attention that it IS okay to call God Mother.  God is referred to as feminine throughout Bible and understanding the gender neutrality of the original Hebrew and Greek Bible brings about a larger more balanced image of God than what you may have learned in Sunday School.  Did you know El Shaddai means breasted one?

So now to answer the question:  Are Women As Valuable As Men In The Christian Faith?  Knowing I was made in God's image, just as man (Genesis 1:27), and that my daughter is just as strong as my sons, with her own unique spirit and abilities to change the world--a force with passions and life and fire; women are definitely as valuable as men to God.  Knowing that my daughter will have to look a certain way for people to listen to her testimony and she too is more likely to be preaching from a yoga mat instead of a pulpit, I see that she will not be as valued as men in the Christian Faith and she too will have to grapple with her worth in Christ as a woman.  Fortunately, my daughter is also an "American Woman" and American Women have done much to foster change in the past century.  Perhaps it's time we consider increasing our value in the Christian Faith!

 [Just in case you were wondering, this picture is meant to be sarcastic].

For more references to the feminine face of God in the Bible, please see:  Hosea 11:3-4, Hosea 13:8, Deuteronomy 32:11-12, Deuteronomy 32:18, Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 42:14, Jeremiah 44:25, Psalm131:2, Psalm 123:2-3, Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, and Luke 15:8-10.

Babies spontaneously perform all sorts of  yoga poses without reserve or contraction.  As babies mature and acquire shame, the posing becomes less.  Starting a yoga practice takes humility.  Humility lightens the weight of shame.  Humility feels better than shame...a lot better than shame!   I can breathe and move and be flexible in humility.  I too have humiliating moments as a yoga instructor.  Fortunately, these moments have lightened my shame of being seen and freed me to be unconcerned about what side is up in down dog.  I hope my "Top 10 List" will make you laugh and more importantly embolden you to lighten up, take a risk and show up to a yoga class sometime.

 

 The Top 10 Humility Inspiring Moments as a Yoga Instructor

 

10.    Wearing my yoga pants to class inside out. 

That white diamond shaped lining in the seat of my yoga pants is suppose to be on the inside.  Must have been tired getting dressed that morning. 

 

9.  Faucet Nose

Starting the Sun Salutations at 6:30AM, my nose begins to leak like a faucet in forward fold.  The angle changes to down dog and more streaming.  At plank, I'm amazed that my nose can do this because there is literally a tablespoon of thin fluid on my mat.  Note to self:  Don't do yoga right after using the Netty Pot.

 

8.   Relaxing every muscle...I'm always hoping these will be silent and unoffensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Enough said...

6.   Happy Baby Pose.  If only we looked this cute!

5.   Wedgies in spandex!  I've had many and I'm not posting a picture.

 

4.  Titillation.  I wear padded sports bras now and always recommend two because gravity belongs in the same category as death and taxes.  

 

3.  Teaching yoga pregnant

I taught yoga throughout my four pregnancies.  Ironically my classes had a noticeable spike in attendance each time.  I'm guessing people didn't feel so vulnerable following along with the pregnant instructor.

2.  Face plant in Bird Pose.  That's what you get for having an ego.  For the record, I'm now working on hand stand poses and haven't fallen yet...

1.  Leaking Milk

After class, a woman asks me if I am nursing my new baby.  I proudly reply, "yes, I am."  She nicely says, "I can tell." and points to my soiled tank.  Wonder how long I was teaching with that wet spot there anyway??

See you in class soon, hopefully with my pants on correctly and body fluids under control!  Remember, you don't have to be perfect, you just have to show up!!

This past week I finished "The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" by Brene' Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.   Next week we will send our oldest son back to public school after homeschooling him for 18 months.  I really thought I was supposed to be Super-Christian-Mom and help my over-active child sit still and concentrate for academics while speaking to churches and selling Christian Yoga And Meditation products during my "free" time.

Here's who I really am: I'm a gym rat with spandex, supplex or other "ex" fabrics assuming a significant portion of my wardrobe; I fart while teaching Christian Yoga; I think Jeff Foxworthy is hilarious because his jokes remind me of my family and friends; I have deeper spiritual experiences during Christian Yoga and Meditation than I do singing in church, and I relate to the working moms more so than with the stay-at-home moms. 

 

Did I mention I'm really competitive? 

Doesn't much fit the Christian supposed to be list.  Fortunately Jesus used socio-religious renegades to spread His gospel like the ancient redneck Apostle Peter (a fisherman) and the alleged former psycho Mary Magdalene (woman healed of 7 demons).  Jesus embraces me so I'll embrace me too.  

 

Perhaps I'll teach my son Christian Yoga and Meditation to help him sit still and concentrate in his studies.  Or maybe his activeness will help him change the world for his generation...  Dr. Brown, thank you for your insights and encouragement and if you comment on my blog I will be glad to send you a complimentary digital copy of my currently out of stock Guided Meditation CD, "Let Be and Be Still and Know" to help you deal with the larger college boys who can't sit still in your classes!