A Teacher of Faith – Or, more realistically, yoga beyond asana…..
I was asked some time ago to contribute to the studio blog about my experience as a “teacher of faith“. And perhaps to Crystal’s chagrin, it has taken me some time to complete this task, for three reasons. First, I had never written a blog before. Second, I wondered: what is a “teacher of faith“? And third, my spirituality is very personal to me and it took me some time to know how to communicate this respectfully to readers.
I admit I’m not fond of the phrase “teacher of faith” only because it is a bit vague. I have had the opportunity to be taught by many amazing teachers, all of whom I could described as “teachers of faith“. They may have different beliefs than mine but we all value and connect with spiritual concepts beyond the asanas (or poses). Pattabhi Jois once said asana without spirituality is “little more than exercise”. As such, we are all teachers of faith, it is simply our approach that differs.
That being said, Crystal was specifically looking for my thoughts as a yoga teacher of the Christian faith. As a Christian, my experience is related to the personal relationship I have with Jesus Christ, who I love and worship solely, and study how works through reading the Holy Bible.
So I overcame my fear of blogging and began writing on Easter, arguably the most significant Christian holiday, as it represents the most beautiful sacrifice known to man. Christianity is an organized religion with shared concepts, values and beliefs but the beauty is in the personal relationship we have with our Saviour.
The basics of Christianity are this: that Jesus Christ was sent by His father, God, to earth in human form, to show humans how to live and to sacrifice His life for our sins, so that we may have eternal life. Prior to this, early Christians accessed God through His prophets, like Moses, who were conduits for His divine words. One example of this is The Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses by God; the first of which says that Christians are to have “no other God” (Deuteronomy 5:6, Exodus 20:3).
These basic tenets of the faith: loyalty to The God of Isreal, recognition of Jesus as Messiah, acceptance of His sacrifice as ransom for our sins, and a focus on love and grace – these impact me in every area of life, including my yoga practice. What I teach and what I do have to align with my faith, for it is this on which the foundation of my being is held.
One example of this is a tattoo of scripture I got a few years ago, after being involved in a car accident that has changed my life significantly: I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me (Philllipians 4:14). I chose my spine for the placement, enduring the pain because just as the spine strengthens and supports the body, my faith strengthens my soul and my entire being.
My faith also impacts my comfortability with how I teach and practice. For example, I rarely chant or “OM” and I don’t attend Kirtan because these are not in line with biblical teachings. I do appreciate the sounds as art rather than ascribing to their spiritual beliefs. I have read The Bhagavad Gita and observe Patanjalis Yoga Sutras as guidelines for a healthy lifestyle rather than taking on their spiritual concepts. I pray to God regularly but I also meditate. There are certain types of yoga I will not do, again because my faith may not be in line with their teachings. I have left classes where a spirit is “invoked” because I did not feel comfortable. However, I enjoy listening to chanting and Eastern music, but with a different ear and focus than listening to Christian worship music (like “Because He Lives”). I observe Lent as well, in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice. Every day I gain new experiences and each time I take this back to my biblical teachings to see where it may fit.
These experiences are mine alone and may not reflect the same as other yoga teachers of Christian Faith. My faith contributes to a deep respect for yoga beyond the postures, to be inclusive and to live a life, in the studio and off the mat, where my Lord and Saviour would be proud of my actions. As such, even though I may not be fond of the term, I am proud to be considered a “teacher of faith“.
I end by saying, humbly,
Namaste (The light in me honours the light in you)
And God Bless