Yoga by any other name is still Yoga

There is a theme in my recent posts. The theme might be summed up as my recent return to embracing my childhood work ethic, after years of chronic illness left me unable to be as active as I would have liked to be. I was stuck in a state of exhaustion and pain which also had me questioning my former life of hard work as well.

My childhood on the farm was one in which lifting hay bales was known to be a better way to build muscles than lifting weights. Then I saw the rise of popular workout regimes (which I won’t name here) where you do things like pound tires with sledgehammers. And this is not done in order to remove the rubber from it’s metal rim to fix a flat, either. People are paying membership fees in order to pound giant tires just to pound them… as exercise… and then posting their sweaty pounding sessions on instagram.

The pride filled, ‘I wanna look like that in a bikini too’, part of me wants to try it with my own tire and hammer…while the former farm girl in me scratches her head and thankfully I am usually able to bring myself out of the temptation.

Working harder with my hands, at some task or other, (even if it’s just running a vacuum across my floors) has been something I feel called to start doing again with increasing vigor and intention. Just to be more active in general and use my time more wisely, not necessarily to look better in a swimsuit.

At the same time: spirit checks and a general mistrust of a lifestyle that is too focused on ‘self-improvement’ continues to keep me from trying the latest workout fad.

A Christian friend who, pre Covid, liked to take long walks with other Christian friends–outdoors in good weather and shopping malls in cold weather–for health reasons; physically, mentally, and spiritually–shared my reservations about getting into the ‘work out life.’ She had similar spirit checks about getting too involved with self-improvement efforts. She understood all I was feeling about it and even shared some of her more alarming experiences when she had tried joining some workout groups of other women in gyms and yoga studios too. Yikes.

But I hesitate to even bring up these feelings with most, as exercise and physical health seem to be generally accepted almost as acts of godliness that aren’t to be questioned.

When I got sick with PTSD and anxiety disorder (and then discovered I had toxicity issues from supplemented foods, environmental exposures, and so-called healthy foods I was eating)–I was told many different things would heal me. The exercise fans told me I just needed to push and exercise my way right through all the pain and then I’d be fine. The therapy fans told me weekly therapy and only mild to moderate exercise, was needed, so I didn’t up my stress levels and could figure out where my thinking was messed up, as physical and mental stress is what had conked out my body.

The standard doctors wanted to give me antidepressants to fix it all. Most of the natural doctors and nutritionists wanted me to take supplements (one even said that certain supplements boosted serotonin and were like natural prozac). The advice ran in all directions. Yet there was a common thread with every therapist and doctor I consulted, from the naturopaths to the conventional ones. From the new age and the buddhist to the Christians. I heard the same advice over and over everywhere I went for help. I braced myself to hear it, as it was so common:

Have you tried Yoga? Are you meditating? It’s been proven to work!

Being a contrarian by nature: I naturally made it my goal to recover without doing yoga and meditation. My avoidance of those methods was more than general contrarianism, though. I was well aware, prior to getting sick, that Yoga prepared the body for death, not life. That it even might open doors to the occult. Same with meditation. That my heart can’t be fully for God while doing a downward facing dog. That if I blank out my mind, anything could enter it. That it is impossible to separate the religious element of Yoga into simple ‘exercise’, and that the devil likes to convince us, by appealing to our pride usually, that his ways are actually beneficial, healthful and restorative; not deadly. Usually sin and evil hooks us by seeming to help us tremendously; only to ultimately lead to death and a numbing of conscience to where we accept worsening sin and evil; in the long run.

And so now that I am being more active, I am looking around at other active people and paying attention to what has happened in the ‘gym scene’ too.

It looks like the swinging hammers at tires phase may be dying out. But, Yoga is really everywhere, now. Except it’s morphed into something else and isn’t being called Yoga. It’s so 2010 to still call it yoga… It’s yoga with prefixes like restorative or hot now, or else it’s just stretching and breath work and preparation for real exercise. In other fitness circles, they proudly boast their method is a blend of yoga (Hindu) and taoism.

Not like it matters, though. Even if yoga was always still being called yoga, most Christians I know would not have a problem doing it to try and keep or restore their health. Just as they haven’t for nearly a decade now.

In general, what’s happened in the exercise world since I last looked into it, seems to be about what has happened in the church and the world, too. The deception has morphed into something so puffed up that if one wasn’t aware of the dangers such things held as seeds; one isn’t going to now recognize the fullness of its rotten fruit, either.

Meanwhile: I am thinking this is just more proof of the lateness of the hour. And that I might have to find a hayloft and an old school farmer who needs it organized. That may be about the only safe thing left for my hands to do right now.

“I love Jesus. I just have a problem with His followers.”

group of sheep at the field

Lest I be guilty of a bait and switch I need to say this before anyone reads any further…this is probably not the post you think it is going to be. Because I do not agree (anymore) with the title of my post. I have heard this sentiment (or some variation) many, MANY, times. I used to say it (or some variation of it) myself. Over a decade ago I stopped calling myself a Christian and said instead that I was a ‘believer’, to distance myself form Christians. When I first stumbled upon this famous quote by Ghandi– I loved it! I felt justified:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Again: please note: such sentiments grieve me now.

Back when I relished such statements–back when I regularly made them myself, I was not fully understanding who Christ was, or what He did, or His huge, grace-filled, heart for His church/Christians. Oh, I have understood that, in my head, since childhood. But save for one near-death experience in my youth that started a born again process in my heart; it has taken years to truly thaw my frozen heart. And all the while my heart was thawing, I kept looking to other humans, or my own works and personal operating system.

I am not saying I have it all figured out now. Nope. Just that I think I have come far enough in healing from sexual abuse that I am starting to root out the bitterness (toward the church–one of my abusers was a protestant minister) that had me agreeing with, and repeating, such sentiments.

I am also a student of scripture. And as strong as my feelings/emotions and damaged neurological development may be on a certain subject, when I keep seeing the truth written plainly, over and over in The Word, eventually I come around.

The Bible is clear that if you love Jesus Christ, you WILL love His church; because He loves His church. See this list of Bible verses about Jesus’ love for His bride–the church, for proof. (The list isn’t exhaustive.)

It isn’t about us–it is about Him. We aren’t gods in our own rights; God is God. Of course we aren’t like Christ. That’s the entire point. There was only one of Him. No one else’s death and resurrection could ever be powerful enough to save the ENTIRE world (if they but repent of their sins and turn to Him in belief). People who are looking around at the church (filled with human beings) for something which only Jesus can offer them (healing, restoration, salvation…) are missing the point of it all. They will be disappointed. Every. Single. Time.

At times I still fall back into the trap. Because it was humans who damaged me, I still want it to be humans who undo that damage. But I know now that such thinking leads to disappointment, addictions, resentment, unmet expectations, and a host of other ents and ions which make life, marriage, and close relationships, HARD.

When I attended a Christian event expecting the people there to meet my needs (without even fully realizing that’s what I was doing) I came away angry, and justified that my beef with God’s people was…justified. “Everyone there wants to just ‘fix’ me!”  I lamented to my husband.

Yup. Some sure do. It happens. I don’t know why. Maybe they are codependent (though I dislike labels and psychobabble!). Maybe they aren’t quite sanctified themselves. Maybe I have a note on my forehead that says ‘I am bitter at the church, and I have a right to be, and you can be the one to take that away from me if you play your cards right’.  Maybe they have the same thing wrong with them that I have with me and they are mirroring things they want to hear from others. Or, maybe, God is urging them to try and help me heal. Either way, I see now that at times I can benefit from such attempts, if I lean in and ask pointed questions…Other times I have the power to detach and not react to off-based attempts. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of how not to treat other people.

And so it happened again today. After church a woman in my small group interrupted me mid-sentence (she displays some ADHD tendencies–no biggie to me though, I have similar issues!), presumed my motive behind my explanations to a book I was recommending, took what I said about my son out of context, and then told me that she wanted to pray over me and heal me of my doubting, my reactiveness, and my need to apologize for myself.

Yeah. I do all those things. Even though I wasn’t exactly doing them in that moment; the shoe still fit! I also like this woman a lot. She is strange and lovely and childlike and willing to say things that others who are too…. aware of themselves and how they are coming across… would never utter; all of which I adore in another. So I bowed my head and gave her my hands and made myself ready to receive her ministry over me.

By this time we had meandered outside on a busy sidewalk and it was there, in public, that I let her do her thing. She’s a prophet-type of personality who believes she hears from God regularly; I’d gathered that much in the short time I’ve known her. I’d been praying for her since I met her, as we had an immediate connection and my husband and I talked regularly about her, by name.

So when she assumed a prayerful position over me, but then paused and asked, ‘now what’s your name again?’ I felt a sting of rejection. The old insecurities rose up and threatened to take over. The old wounded me, most certainly, would have been lit to the moon; just by that alone. But I want to love Jesus’ church, for His sake if nothing else. And love isn’t ignorant, it doesn’t turn a blind eye; but it does understand. And I knew she was prone toward spaciness, that she had just met an entire group of new people, that my traumatized brain often forgets things as basic as why I just walked into a room. So I gently repeated my name (again).

In her prayer she told me I had been under-appreciated since birth. (Yup.) And that I had a good deal of anger inside of me, but that a good deal of it was…she paused… righteous. (Yup to the anger and good to know it isn’t all bad…). Then she said God wants to give me a new word to replace the word unappreciated….and after a short pause she excitedly said, “Surprising! That’s your word! Because you are surprising and you love surprises and God wants to give you surprises.”

Sure seems I have been given my ‘word for 2019.’ It’s a lot better than unappreciated, and a whole lot better than what I had felt was my word for 2018: abandonment.

She finished the prayer by telling me my heart had been healed and that I would no longer be plagued by reactiveness and self doubt. (or something like that). I just smiled and nodded. Being healed didn’t feel much different than prior. It still doesn’t.

Yet I can’t stop thinking about the word she gave me: surprising. Or the fact that if I believe that I had a real victory; it will become more real. If I doubt it; it won’t.

Right after the prayer I said something which she again presumed meant something else than what I’d said. Instead of asking me what I had meant by it, she said something that belied that she was insecure and doubting HERSELF.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

I laughed because, again, you can’t make this stuff up! It also proves that if I take the veracity of this message based upon its deliverer…I will shoot holes all over it; I will be like Gandhi, admiring Christ but shunning Christians, and I will not have the victory that God is trying to give me. The victory is somehow tied up in embracing and loving the flawed vessels through which it is coming.

I saw me; when I looked at her. Boy, did I ever see me.

So I dropped all proper etiquette and playfully cried out “Aha? What’s that? Are you doubting yourself? Did you even listen to what you just told ME about not apologizing for yourself, about not being reactive and about not doubting?” “Physician heal thyself!” I quoted, as I blew her an air kiss. By this point she was getting into her vehicle and I in mine. I saw her laughing and shrugging her shoulders.

It doesn’t always go like that. I’ve received healings and advice before. But I’ve never had the hutzpah to repeat it right back to the one fixing me. This is a new development. But looking back on it all, the greatest moment of intimacy between us as well as the greatest feeling I had of being healed, was when I cheekily quoted her the proverb Physician heal thyself

Well, after that, we went out for lunch. Whereupon God gave me a surprise when I ran into one of my abusers and his wife. They acted fake-happy to run into me. But I intentionally ignored them; as I am trying to maintain no contact. (And some of them make it difficult by showing up in public places at the same time as me; or by sending me cards, etc.) Noticing that I had turned on my heel and walked the other way, the wife gave me lip, claiming I was being uppity. I swung back around and told her that since her husband is a child abuser, he ought to be in jail– not going out for lunch– and so of course I am going to ignore you!

They left in a huff. Her mutterings sounding like something my mother might say, and has said to me a few times too.

I ate my food with shaking fingers. Then shook for a bit after we got home.

Ordinarily a day like this would have wrecked me for weeks. Luckily ‘I’ve been healed now‘, by Jesus, of course. He just happened to work through a woman who seems to be just as fragile and broken as I am.

The End.