Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34:5
Shame. It’s everywhere. There are millions of reasons to feel it every single day. You can’t escape it, nor will you ever, as its the consolation prize of being a flawed human. Not only do we feel shame individually, but others place it upon us. It’s a heavy self-loathing parasite that belongs among the weeping and gnashing of teeth. It has taken me many years of feeling shame to learn that it is harmful to my spirit. It’s the arch-nemesis of fruit I strive to bear.
Shame seems to be a cornerstone in evangelical and fundamental circles. I’ve been victim to it, plenty of times. Shamed for liking rock music, drinking, smoking, reading ‘Love Wins’ by Rob Bell, accepting the evidence of evolution, not going to church, being liberal, coloring mandalas, reading ‘DaVinci Code’ or ‘Harry Potter’, refusing to sing on stage in church, advocating for LGBTQ, advocating for medical marijuana, using Medicaid for the birth of my babies, working as a bartender to support my children as a single mother,…the list goes on and on in ways I have been shamed.
And now…the fact that I practice Yoga.
Conservative Catholic Blogger Matt Walsh has recently written an article shaming Christians who are practicing the “pagan ritual” of yoga. The gist of the article warns Christians about yoga being Hindu worship and compares it with an Ouija board conjuring demonic spirits. He suggests we play Monopoly instead.
Before I tell my story of how Yoga has brought healing into my life, first I must address how absurd his monopoly argument is. I love monopoly. It’s fun and in no way am I shaming Monopoly. However, monopoly is a game about money. It is about the love of money which is the root of all evil. Therefore, how can this writer honestly shame a healing exercise while lifting up a game about the root of all evil? Are we harming our kids with Monopoly by placing into their psyche the loving of money?
Maybe. In fact, at this point I would rather take my children to a child’s yoga class over game day at church playing monopoly, any day of the week. I would most certainly purchase Yogarilla for my children at Christmas and place it under my Pagan Tree, rather than Monopoly. Walsh asks how yoga is compatible with Christianity. How does Yoga usher in the Kingdom? How does it bring people to Heaven?
How does Monopoly? Monopoly teaches individualism, selfishness, and greed.
Yoga brings healing. Peace. Serenity. Wellness.
When I found yoga, I had recently left the bar scene. The bar scene was completely toxic to my spirit, and in doing so, I had to change people, places, and things. I left a job I loved as a bartender in a lakeside beach town, where I made more than enough to support my children and I. I had to leave it however, because I was not rising. I was thrown into a daily gossip ring, and was surrounded by humans that weren’t rising either. They were drinking, kept down by alcoholism. Now, I’m not shaming people who drink excessively. I’ve been there. It’s a trap of community, escape, and addiction. I don’t believe “God” is mad at people who drink, but rather, hopeful that they’ll get out of the trap.
When you leave that trap though, it’s traumatic. You’ve said goodbye to a past-time, a place of belonging, and in my case, I left an entire town, one I loved. I had to. However, none of it was easy. I was heartbroken. Down-and-out, and in a very vulnerable time of recovery.
Then I found yoga.
In yoga, for one whole hour, I am calm. I am not anxious or worried. The door closes and the hurting world is outside, and I can forget about it. I am learning self-soothing methods, and strengthening my muscles. I am being kind to my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. My brain is releasing needed endorphins that I used to release through running, however, I have bad knees. Running is terrible on my joints. Yoga helps me manage depression and anxiety in a healthy way versus taking medication. It has given me an outlet that I enjoy that has helped my posture, empowered my sense of self, and has brought awareness to me on making healthy choices for my body.
I refuse the yoga shame, as should you. There are so many recovering drug addicts, sex/love addicts, and alcoholics that have found yoga extremely helpful in recovery. It saddens me that there may be vulnerable Christians out there listening to Matt Walsh and John Piper demonize yoga. It saddens me that anything that has historical tradition that predates Christianity is automatically evil.
Yoga brings healing, and our aim as Christ followers should be to encourage healing. Follow the link below from the American Osteopathic Association discussing the Health Benefits of Yoga:
Shame causes harm. Shame causes people to engage in harmful behaviors. Shame is demonic and parasitic to the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The more someone feels bad about themselves, the more they are unable to rise and ripen their fruits. Jesus Christ holds us to a standard of Grace, not perfection, therefore, shouldn’t we follow that example, not only to ourselves, but for others too?
Furthermore, I have seen non-Christians display beautiful fruit, so even if someone is Hindu, or Pagan, Jesus says “You’ll know them by their fruit.” He doesn’t say you’ll know them by what church they go to or whether or not they said the “sinners prayer.” He said fruit.
In conclusion, treat shame as you would a poison because that is what it is. Shame has never done anything good in my life but rather beat me down and taken me further away from Unconditional Love, which is the message of Christ.
We are forgiven.
It is finished.