I go to yoga because it is a place where I can be anonymous . . . put aside all things churchy, pursue the art of emptying my mind.
In other words, yoga has been in the past one place where I can at least pretend to be normal. Not the pastor, not the one who no one can swear in front of, not the one to whom you direct obscure questions about God or look toward for a meaningful thought to share with the group (usually right about when I am smack in the middle of composing the week’s grocery list in my head). Usually I just sit nice and anonymous in about the second row, taking care to keep my mouth soft and salute the little bit of God in all the other people there (as directed by our very limber teacher).
While it would be a bald-faced lie to say that my mind gently empties and I allow myself to be in a place of openness to the universe, etc., etc., sometimes, if I try really, really hard, I can suppress thoughts of work and dinner and homework and the sermon and the annoying email I got today and the fact that the plant outside my front door is dying and my house is filthy . . .
. . . which was what I was almost doing when I heard the teacher announce triumphantly that tonight we would be doing headstands.
As I clawed through my sheer horror back to the present moment, I heard her explain that the Jewish holiday of Purim had just passed. She told the story of Esther and how everything gets turned upside down in this story: the powerful become weak, the most unlikely young woman becomes queen, and the little band of Jews is saved from destruction again. This upside down living is echoed, she said, in the world around us, where everything we thought was cold and dead is now all of the sudden sprouting with new buds and singing the potential of new life in verse after verse everywhere we turn.
My first internal response was to wonder why on earth this would inspire us to risk the integrity of our spinal columns. But then, inevitably, I started to think about faith. I tried to keep the pastor voice in my head quiet but I just couldn’t help it . . . I realized that Lent is kind of an upside down time, too.
Here we are, counting the days until the cross, living in each waking moment that we pass up yet another Diet Coke, the impending death of Jesus . . . . Jesus, the one who lived an entire life of paradoxes, inviting us to turn our best instincts completely on their heads. He was forever inviting us to live our lives in stark contrast to the world around us, acting counter-intuitively, living radical justice and love. It did not escape me in that moment during yoga class that we as followers of Jesus are fast headed toward his death and resurrection, his ultimate salute to living life upside down.
And yet I must wonder–even with the amazing paradox of life following Jesus, are headstands really necessary?
Life upside down: yes. Body upside down: I think not.
Namaste and Amen.