8:38 PM

This past weekend, I did something I've never done before - attended a yoga workshop! 
Above is a group picture of our Friday night class.
The workshop was given by two local yoga studios: Argenta Healing Arts and YogaYou (in Cabot).

The instructor was the guy pictured in the middle above, Adam Ballenger, who flew in from Salt Lake City!

I dragged along a friend of mine who regularly does yoga with me at our gym - Rachel - seated to my right in the picture. Thanks, Rachel!

I've been doing yoga for about 10 years now, and I love it. I love the quietness of it, the strength of it, the way you push your own body to new places, and how those places may be different every day.  I love that it stretches out muscles and aligns your spine and makes you breathe deeply and steadily. I love that it gives you opportunities to discover what your body can do - whether that means twisting in a pose you've never done, holding a pose longer than you thought possible, and sometimes balancing in bizarre positions for several breath cycles. I love that something so different from running or lifting weights can so strengthen and shape your muscles. And when you do run and lift weights, there is nothing so good for your body as stretching it all back out. Mmmm!

I'm going to interject here and say that last night, when I pushed "publish" on this post, I had a lot more words than you see here. Lots more information. Somehow, it got wiped and I don't even remember what I said. Grr. So, this is now a much condensed version of what I intended to say!

Above, Erin, one of the instructors at the Argenta studio, demonstrates an arm balance posture. This posture was made extra tricky because we were all dripping sweat and our legs kept slipping off our arms. I was pushing against my arm so hard, my foot sheared my skin on the back of my arm. Ouch.

Here, Adam used me to demonstrate one way to work into a hand stand. You start out in Downward-Facing Dog (aka Down Dog) and then walk your legs up the wall. One main difference is that you shift your body weight over your arms, aligning your shoulders up with your wrists and supporting your spine. You squeeze the muscles a little below your shoulder blades while softening up your neck. And then you hold that with your back arched. I had to hold that pose FOREVER while he talked everyone through it. My arms were ready to collapse!

A different view of the demonstration.

If you don't know much about yoga, it's basically a series of poses, called asanas, that flow into each other and become vinyasas. There is nothing loose or floppy about the asanas. They are all precise movements in which you concentrate on stretching muscles away from each other, towards each other, lengthening, broadening, scooping, pulling in of your often looks so serene and even sounds serene as everyone is working very hard to breathe easily...but your mind is often racing through a mental checklist to make sure your body is aligned safely and strongly.

In the above picture, everyone is preparing to move from Down Dog into another asana. Yoga is all about balance...not just balancing on one arm or leg, but also doing the same movements to the left and right side. So you move slowly through the different poses one side at a time. Usually you incorporate a series of poses (vinyasas) beginning and ending with Sun Salutations - a very common vinyasa that lets your body recover between positions.  So what you see above is Adam calling out "lift your right leg and then swing it through into a low lunge". That usually leads to Warrior 1, Warrior 2 or some other lunge posture. Yoga is GREAT for your legs simply because you always come back to a lunge of some sort. 

Actually, yoga is great for all parts of your body!

In the picture above, Erin is hanging out in a hand stand. I have yet to attempt to do this with both my legs off the wall. It requires a significant degree of concentration! 

Another interesting thing about yoga is that you have to warm up your muscles thoroughly before attempting some of the more demanding poses. And just when you're good and loose, then your muscles are all worn out! Catch 22. I love seeing people who can do things like Erin is doing because it challenges me. I love to see what my body is capable of doing.

I have one yoga instructor who always reminds us - "This is not a competition. Not with your neighbor or even with yourself." I know it isn't, but I often make it one whether I mean to or not. 

Because there is a lot of movement in your spine in yoga, both with backbends, flexions and twists, you continually pay attention to what your spine is doing - how it's being held, strengthened, supported. That's one reason that the Sun Salutation is a vinyasa you return to - no matter what you've just done, a good Sun Salutation, which incorporates both flexion and extension of the spine, calms your muscles and allows for plenty of restoration of your spine, both the bones and muscles. Above, we reached for the sky, making ourselves as tall as possible immediately before we swooped over in a swan dive to a forward fold. So you extend, then flex your spine. 

Although so many yoga terms (in sanskrit), seem weird, they become familiar and almost automatic. When our instructor says, move through the vinyasa and find your way to Down Dog, you somehow!

And before long, you know without having to be told that Uktasana is Chair Pose (I don't know if I'm spelling those right..), Tadasana is Mountain Pose, Bujangasana is Upward Facing Dog or UpDog.

Here we work on a hip opener/balance posture. You cross over your knees, then bend over, sitting back.

Another pose to stretch your hips and hamstrings.

A balancing twist. We did lots of those and my body FELT them the next day. From my bum to my spine to my hands! (I'm in the light blue tank top in the foreground above)

My yoga instructor, Lupe, from our gym, watches Adam demonstrate the possibilities of an arm balancing pose.  He was showing us how it was possible to maintain upward mobility by lifting your core and back seems like you should be collapsing forward onto your nose, but you can fight that and actually manage some pretty seriously awesome poses! Again, I am not quite up to that level. 

Let me also say this about yoga: I would be lying if I said there was not a spiritual component to yoga.  By its very definition, yoga is a mind/body thing. And you can study the famous yogis and get into some very new-age, very strange stuff. That's all out there. 

That is not what I take from yoga or seek out in yoga. Nor do I seek out instructors who are too spiritual about it, in that sense. I realize Satan is continually looking for ways to deceive people and I believe many people are deceived by the types of messages taught in yoga studios by yoga teachers around the country and world. When I began to do yoga years ago, I gave all this a great deal of thought. 

As a Christ-follower, He is my fulfillment. He is my enlightenment. I know that I will not find myself by holding a pose. I'm not lost. I'm surrendered to Christ. I know that it is good for my body to be strengthened, to be silent and to breathe. I know that there are many moments when I'm in yoga that I am actually praying and sorting through the different events of my day. 

There are numerous benefits to yoga as a workout. I can testify to that whole-heartedly, both mentally and physically. It's rewarding and stress-relieving. But don't let anyone convince you that you will find the happy core of all humanity through it. That's ridiculous and a lie of Satan's. There is no happy core of all humanity. No positive energy flow we all share. We're all born sinners...that's the only constant energy source we share: sin. The only salvation lies in Jesus Christ. If you're searching for meaning in your life, don't do so through yoga. There is ONE truth and his name is God. 

So, enjoy yoga for its physical challenges and the crazy things you can do when you gain flexibility and strength, but if you're looking for answers to life through a yoga practice, you're going to be disappointed. 

There is only one true source of fulfillment and it's through Jesus Christ. 

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  1. I was hoping you'd post about your workshop! I saw Kyle at church and he told me you were there. Looks like a great weekend!

  2. Just read the updated post! Thanks for the great post.