I remember the first time I noticed the parallels between yoga and my relationship with God. I was halfway through an intensive three-hour workshop that was soundly kicking my rear end, and the teacher, Nicole, had just thrown another tough pose at us.
Here are the basics: balance on your toes, squat down so your knees are bent and your thighs are parallel to the ground, then cross one leg over the other so you're balancing on just one foot. Oh, and hold your arms out wide.
Sound impossible? Yep. Felt that way to me too.
I'm a little embarrassed by the snarky thoughts that ran through my head as I tottered and wobbled and fell over and over. This is stupid. This pose is impossible. She's just trying to make me feel bad. I was so frustrated with the pose, I nearly stopped trying.
Then Nicole said, "That's the great thing about yoga: you put yourself in a frustrating or difficult pose, and see what comes out."
"What if what comes out is vitriol?" my classmate said with a laugh, who looked just as frazzled as I felt.
"Well, then you know you need to work on that," Nicole said. "Maybe you need to embrace the challenge and give yourself some time to get better, or ask for help instead of feeling angry."
Ask for help instead of feeling angry.
Her statement reminded me of a situation at work earlier that day, when I was slammed with a last-minute project that would require nothing less than an act of God to finish on time. I felt a storm cloud forming over my head, and I could feel the resentment tightening the muscles in my shoulders. I typed so violently I nearly pounded my keyboard through the desk.
I worked, fuming, for about ten minutes before I found myself half-thinking, half-whispering a prayer: God, please help me get this done. Help me get through this project. I didn't plan to start praying. It was like God nudged me and said, "Hey, you know you can ask me for help, right?" Immediately I felt the tension dissolve.
I got the project done on time.
Back on my yoga mat, I tried again.
Hey, God, I'm about to fall over and break a bone here. Hold me up?
It took a few minutes, but I grew steady. Just concentrating on asking God for help gave me the focus to hold the pose, trusting that he wouldn't let me tip over. When I finally managed to hold still for a few seconds, I was so delighted I laughed out loud. Nicole gave me an approving smile, and the class moved on.