The original title, Imperfectly Whole, is the phrase I’ve been using to explain how yoga has impacted my Christian faith. For years I tried to be the perfect Christian, and when I began practicing yoga, I began learning that God already sees me as whole. In the New Testament, when English translations use “whole” or “perfect,” the root Greek word is often the same word. I might not be perfect in the way our culture understands perfect now, but I am whole. To me, wholeness implies health of the whole body, mind, and spirit.
As I’ve lived with this new understanding of how God sees me, I find that I rely on daily practices to help me retain this sense of wholeness. These daily practices help me remember and trust that God is present with me in every day life.
This brings me to Ruach Yoga.
Ruach: in Hebrew, ruach means life-breath or spirit, as in the life-breath of God that sustains us every day. This ruach life-breath of God filled Adam and Eve with life and brought a valley of dry bones to life.
It’s this life-breath of God that flows through us with every breath as well—which means God is as close to us as our breath! God is in every moment, sustaining us… and I always forget that.
Yoga helps me remember.
Yoga: Yoga means to yoke, or to join, and in North America yoga is generally thought of as a physical and mental practice that involves intentional breath work. The breath is used as a tool for enduring hard poses, a measurement for when to move, and a guide for meditation. So in respect to the emphasis on the breath in yoga, this is a good word here.
But it’s also appropriate in another sense: While yoga can mean the postural practice, yoga can also mean devotion to a way (bhakti yoga) or the practice of yoking two things together.
For instance, in grad school, I wrote a manuscript that incorporated two stories using two different styles of writing together. One of the professors on my thesis committee, a renowned yoga scholar, said that the very act of joining those two styles and stories together was in its own yoga.
So, Ruach Yoga is about the practice of noticing God in every breath. This yoking of God and breath together can take many forms both on and off the mat.
On the mat, Ruach Yoga is about
- being fully present with God—body, mind, and spirit
- remembering the source of breath that gives us life
- using the breath as a guide for meditation
On the mat yoga sets us up for Ruach Yoga off the mat:
- breathing in line at the grocery store
- remembering God in the deep breaths we take trying to calm down after disappointment
- knowing God is present with me while I’m teaching class or on the bus
- finding God while trying to convince my toddler to eat dinner
So that’s what I will continue to write about here: God, yoga, life, writing, work, breath, being.