Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Pranayama

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7

From the moment you woke up to the seconds before you started reading the scripture above, how many breaths have you taken?  If your answer is, “I don’t know,” then you and I are on the same boat!  In fact, we take take  on average approximately 20,000 breaths per day, so it makes sense that we’re not aware of every breath we take and the number of breaths we have taken since our eyes opened this morning.  God has breathed the breath of life in our nostrils the moment we took our very first breath at birth, and we have been continuing the tradition of breathing everyday for the most part (with the exception of traumatic events that you may have experienced that temporarily paused the breath of life — which in that case, I celebrate that you were able to resume breathing again).  God made breathing an essential part of sustaining life in our earthly bodies.  We experience various types of breathing in life: Deep breaths, shallow breaths, slow breaths, short breaths, erratic breaths (thanks to hiccups, sneezes, coughs, etc.), held breaths, and forced breaths.  The fourth limb in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama is sanskrit for controlling the breath/regulating the life force.

The state of the body changes depending on the way we breathe. Just with breath alone, we can induce and reduce anxiety, stress, aggression, and any other unfavorable emotion.  Believe it or not, you can actually increase and decrease your blood pressure by changing the way you breathe.  During one of my annual check-ups, my blood pressure was 130/80 which was higher than my normal.  Granted, I had just come from taking a cycling class 10 minutes ago, it was really hot outside, and I speed-walked across the parking lot because I thought I was going to be late for my appointment.  I asked her if she could take my blood pressure again at the end of my appointment “just for the fun of it.”  She looked puzzled but agreed to do so.  At the end of my check-up, I began taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths while I took longer exhales than I did inhales.  My blood pressure changed to 120/73 (which was still higher than my usual 115/68).  She was surprised at my new blood pressure reading until I told her I simply activated my parasympathetic nervous system through deep, slow breathing.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is our nervous system that is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response to homeostasis.  Unfortunately, most of us live with our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) — our “fight or flight” response to health — active.  When our SNS is active, our muscles and organs tighten up, stress hormones are released, and our digestion & elimination slows down.  This is a needed response if we’re in danger and need to get out of harm quickly, but if we live with an overabundance of SNS active, our bodies will not be able to relax, balance and heal.  One of the greatest ways we can balance and heal our bodies is through controlled breathing, aka Pranayama.

God has created our bodies to heal itself.  One of the ways our bodies heal itself is through the breath.  When the breath is balanced, the body, mind and soul become balanced.  Here is a pranayama called Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) that I like to practice to create balance between my masculine and feminine qualities (we all have both), moving and stillness, self-control and surrender… faith and deeds:

  • Close your eyes and begin breathing in and out through your nose, moving toward matching the length of your inhales with your exhales (i.e. – if you’re inhaling for 4 counts, the exhale for 4 counts).
  • Bring your right hand up to your face and fold your index and middle fingers down.
  • Plug your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril; hold your breath as you plug your left nostril with your right ring finger (simultaneously, unplug the right nostril).  Continue, imagining that each breath you’re taking in is coming from the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4):

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 33:4
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
Ezekiel 37:5

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Asana

Asana is Sanskrit for physical postures. Most people wouldn’t think of postures as something that would be significant as a Christian, and you may be curious to see how I’m going to relate yoga asanas — yoga poses — to Christianity… but postures are indeed significant in the Bible:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”  Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.”
Genesis 17:1-3
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
Psalm 95:6
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:13-15
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:6-7
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1–2
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
I Kings 8:22–23

Asanas in the Bible were more than just symbolic for one’s feelings; they were expressions of love, reverence, respect, humility, surrender, awe, security… It’s actually the way God created us.  He created us to be expressive beings with the ability to glorify Him heart, mind, soul, spirit… and body.  When we use postures to experience who God created us to be, we’re practicing yoga asanas.  Being that there are Christians who believe that Yoga is not of God, I would like to address the biggest misconceptions specifically when it comes to yoga asanas:

MISCONCEPTION: YOGA POSTURES ARE NAMED AFTER ANIMALS AND HINDU GODS, SO PRACTICING YOGA ASANAS IS LIKE WORSHIPPING ANIMALS AND GODS THAT THE POSES ARE NAMED AFTER.

It is true that some of the poses are named after Hindu gods and animals, but using these poses in your yoga practice does not mean you’re worshipping a Hindu deity.  According to Mark 7: 15, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  For me, when I practice yoga asanas, I focus on my breathing, being present in each moment and acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit.  But, if practicing yoga asanas causes you to go against your conscience, you should not practice it because, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Romans 14:14)

I’m sure there are more misconceptions about yoga asanas, but the above misconception is the one I’ve been told numerous times.  So how should we practice the yoga asanas to glorify God?

1.  Start with a word of prayer.
Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders.  Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, focusing only on your breath.  Once you feel settled physically and mentally, let God know that you are dedicating this practice to Him (or anything else you would like to tell him before you start).

 


2.  Warm Up
Do some gentle poses to warm up the spine and joints as well as to gently stretch any tight muscles.  Some great warm-up poses are Cat/Cow, Child’s Pose, and Downward Dog Pose.


3.  Salutation Flow

This is typically known as a Sun Salutation, but if this term bothers you, then you can use a different term such as “God Praise Flow,” or just simply, “Salutation” which is what I generally call it.  It can be the traditional Sun Salutations or a set of poses to flow in and out of.  Connecting each movement with breath, it will begin to energize your soul while increasing heat in your body.

 


4.  Standing Poses
Standing poses such as Tree and Mountain create stillness, balance, and connection to earth.  It reminds us that “being still” (Psalm 46:10 and Exodus 14:14) takes work.  We call yoga practice a “PRACTICE” because it really is that: A practice in being still.  A practice in balance.  A practice in strength.  A practice in being completely present.

 

 

 


5.  Seated/Kneeling/Arm Balancing/Prone/Supine Poses
This includes non-standing poses where you’re inverting (upside down) or creating backbends, twists, laterals (side bends), extensions (lengthening the spine), and forward bends.  Inversions include handstands and shoulder stands; Arm-balancing poses include Crow pose and Firefly pose; Kneeling poses include Gate pose and Camel Pose.  I generally keep prone (lying on belly) and supine (lying on back) poses towards the end for flowing easily (as opposed to standing up, lying down, sitting up, kneeling, lying down again, etc.).

Each pose has a different effect on the body, mind and soul, with backbends being extremely energizing and forward bends being very calming.


 

6.  Supine Cool-Downs
There is no strict rule about lying down on your back for cool-downs, but I personally prefer to cool down lying down on my back because it’s a peaceful transition to Savasana.  Any gentle movements that will release any leftover tension in the body is appropriate.


7.  Savasana
This is the final pose in an asanas practice.  This is where you lie still and surrender your body, mind and soul to God.  Completely.  Savasana is known to be the most challenging pose in yoga because you’re not only disciplining the body to be still but your mind as well.  Savasana can be in the form of a guided relaxation or complete silence.


I always like to finish my asana practice with a breathing exercise… which I will discuss next week!

 

 

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 5: Ishvara Pradihana

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”  This is the beginning of the well-known Serenity Prayer which is used by many 12-Step Recovery programs.  Ishvara Pradnihana is sanskrit for surrender.

In March 2019, I completed a 3-day leadership workshop called Y12SR (Yoga of 12-Step Recovery) in Charlotte, NC.  I went into the training expecting to learn how to lead this program that’s available as a supplement to any 12-step recoveries in existence; however, what I quickly realized is that we’re all addicts to something because addiction is any urge that’s hard to control or stop.  One of the topics we discussed that weekend was the concept of co-dependency.  I would’ve never considered myself a co-dependent person, but my teacher Nikki Myers, explained that co-dependency is the most common addiction which is a belief of looking outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – to bring fulfillment and joy. This is also the base out of where all other addictions and compulsions begin.

When we become addicted to anything/anyone, we become unwilling to let go of the source of our addiction; What’s ironic is that we think this gives us more control, when in reality, our addictions end up consuming us.  The only way to let go of this destructive cycle is to practice Ishvara Pradnihana.  When we surrender our lives to God, we are waving our white flag and asking for Him to take complete control of our lives.  In the scripture below, the king with ten thousand army of men represents me and the one with twenty thousand represents God:

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”
Luke 14:31-32

Personally, I think control is overrated.  Before I became a Christian, I tried to control everything in my life: I tried to control how close my best friends were to each other so that I can make sure none of them were closer to each other than they were to me.  I tried to control my weight by starving myself and then purging out any amount of food I ate as well as exercising for 3 hours almost everyday.  I so badly wanted to control every aspect of my life only to be sobered to the truth that I had no one to guide, direct or mentor me towards the life that I was meant to live.  I lived a very fast life until I became a Christian at age 19.  When I became a Christian, I felt so relieved that I could let God not only fix my life but take control of what my life was going to look like from that point on.  Carrie Underwood sang it best when she sang:

Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands,
‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.
I’m letting go, so give me one more chance.
And save me from this road I’m on…
Jesus, take the wheel.

There’s a sense of relief when we don’t have to be the Controller of everything.  Surrender doesn’t mean that you do nothing; it means that you control only the things you can based on God’s Word — The Bible — and anything outside of your circle of control, you give it to God.

I live by three things when it comes to surrender:  Resolve, Dissolve and Release.  If I can resolve an issue biblically, I do it.  Second, whether or not I was able to resolve it, I move on to dissolving it out of my heart through prayer and meditation so that I don’t hold onto to the stress and the toxic energy of bitterness.  Finally, I release it by giving it to God.  I say, “God, take it please.  It’s now yours.”

I would like to leave you with the full version of the Serenity Prayer written by the Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 4: Svadhyaya

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.”
Lao Tzu

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lists  Svadhyaya as the fourth Niyama (observances) in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.  Svadhyaya (pronounced “Svad-yaya”) is self-study or introspection.  To study yourself is to be gut-level honest about who you think you are and to have the courage to change the things that are causing roadblocks in your journey to seeing who you really are.  The main roadblocks I will discuss today are: pride and prejudice.


PRIDE

Luke 14:8-10 reads, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

When I was living in Los Angeles, I had a friend who worked for Universal Pictures film studio.  She was a coordinator of some sort there (I don’t remember exactly what her title was), and she used to be able to get tickets to some really cool events in the entertainment industry.  Some of the tickets were guest passes (where you actually have an assigned seat, pretty far back in the venues), and others were seat filler opportunities where you got to sit in the empty seats nearby big name celebrities.  I didn’t attend as a seat filler, but one of my other friends did, and he told me that he once got to sit right behind Halle Barry.  He was really excited until he was kicked out of that seat after an important actor showed up and needed that seat.  He said even though he knew that getting moved to a farther seat was possible, he felt kind of dumb getting up and moving back.  He said he felt a sense of humiliation, feeling like he wasn’t important enough to sit near Halle Barry.  Now, imagine if he walked into that venue, expecting to be seated next to George Clooney and Brad Pitt, only to be scolded or even kicked out of the venue.  People around him might’ve laughed at him for not having self-awareness.

How often do we think of ourselves in a puffed up, unrealistic way of thinking?  Maybe I’m being extreme, but I have met some people in my time who lacked an emotional intelligence.  They thought they were better than everyone and that they’re always right.  Sometimes they would do an “one-up on you” thing where whatever you share with them about yourself, they try to outdo your story.  In my experience, these people are clouded by their pride to see their insecurities that they cover up with pride or refusal to see themselves for who they are.  Whenever we think that we’re better (or worse) than someone else, we are not practicing svadhyaya because our authentic selves — aka the Atman/Authentic Self — are not more important or less important than anyone else.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Romans 12:3

PREJUDICE
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
John 7:24

We are influenced by everything around us.  When I moved here from South Korea as a child, I was told by my relatives to “stay away from black people because they are violent.”  So when I saw that my first teacher at the elementary school that I was enrolled in was African American, I immediately remembered what my relatives told me.  But by the end of the week, I was more fascinated by her than afraid of her.  She had the most beautiful, white teeth and a warm smile.  She took care of me and made sure that I wasn’t being bullied by other kids. (Ironically, the kids that gave me a hard time were other Korean kids.  Go figure.)  From that point on, I embraced the many racially diverse cultures more than my own; in fact, I became prejudiced of my own race because of the cruelty I experienced from those mean Korean kids.  I have since then evolved into a person who strives to not judge people by their race, gender, age, religion, sexual identity, socio-economic status, and any other areas that my selfish/sinful nature wants to judge people by.  Prejudice is in us all because we as human beings jump to conclusions, judge books by their covers, etc.

We’re also prejudiced of the expectations or views we have of ourselves.  For example, if I state that I will never be able to pass the Bar Exam (which I’m not interested in doing, but bear with me), I have already set up the “Do Not Pass” sign on that road.  We must see ourselves the way God sees us.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One he loves.”
Ephesians 1:3-6

As a Christian, God tells me that I have been blessed with every spiritual blessings in Christ.  He chose me in Christ — BEFORE the creation of the world — to be holy and blameless in His sight.  He predestined me to be His daughter.  When I think of these things, the temptation to judge myself melts away.  The more I practice svadhyaya, the more I feel at peace with who I was created to be.



With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 3: Tapas

When I was a freshman in college, I spent many nights cramming for tests.  I have (unsuccessfully) attempted to pull all-nighters before mid-term and final exams.  Even as an adult (many years out of college), I have procrastinated getting things done because I “just didn’t feel like” doing them right away.  Tapas — which is sanskrit for “self-discipline” — is something none of us excel at 100% of the time.  We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm, and we favor rest and relaxation over hard work.  It seems that it’s becoming more and more challenging to make self-discipline the normal expectation.

As Christians, God expects to go against the norm.  It’s impossible to be a biblical definition of a Christian (more commonly referred to as a disciple in the Bible) and not practice tapas.

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
Proverbs 25:28
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tapas applies to every part of our lives, but today, I’m going to talk about physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual aspects.

TAPAS AND THE BODY

I hate exercising.  I love how I feel after I exercise, but the part that I usually struggle with is actually getting myself started with exercising.  I’m sure this sounds very odd, coming from a fitness instructor and a yoga teacher.  I guess for me, I love being active but I don’t like to exercise for the sake of burning calories/losing weight/toning up/etc… which is why I teach fitness and yoga classes.  I used to be a member of a boutique fitness studio where everyone did 60 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  The workouts varied from day to day, but we always did cardio on the treadmill and the rowing machine combined with various weight training and TRX work.  One of the reasons why I joined was for the discipline aspect.  I knew that each time I went, I was getting out of my comfort zone and pushing my practice of discipline which was great for my character.  The more I practiced tapas in regards to exercise, the more I found myself relating to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (second passage above) and enjoying a healthier and stronger body.

TAPAS AND THE MIND/HEART

There’s a reason why I put both mind and heart in one category:  When we’re not disciplining our emotions, our minds begin to believe the emotion to be the absolute truth.  Since 1994, I have helped lead youth and family ministries in California, Texas and North Carolina.  It was such a blessing and a privilege to have the opportunity to impact teenagers in a positive and spiritual way, but one of the constant challenges were helping them to gain a conviction that what they feel at the moment are not necessarily godly nor the reality.  I’ve seen many teenagers fall in love with the wrong person and get their hearts broken.  One thing I would hear often is, “I was convinced that he/she was the one.”  Some of them would learn from this and not just rely on their feelings; unfortunately, some would go on to make the same mistakes which ends up in one heartbreak after another, and each time, destroying their self-esteem and outlook of positive relationships.  Adults are not immune to making this same mistake.  If it’s not a romantic relationship, it could be friendships, work situations, encounters with strangers, etc.  My husband once broke up a loud, verbal altercation at our community gym which started because one guy was trying to use two workout equipment at the “same time” (going back and forth between the two).  Another guy quietly confronted him on it, so the guy (the “reserver”) apparently started yelling at him (the “confronter”) and getting really close to his face like he was going to beat the guy up.  My husband approached them calmly and gently talked some logic into the situation (“We’re all just trying to work out.  We all live in this community.  We’re all neighbors.  Let’s all back up and cool off.”)  Apparently, that’s all it took for them to back up  and calm down.  Before my husband left, he witnessed apologies being exchanged between the two guys.  Our emotions have the power to change our minds about what’s real and what’s not.  The good news is that we have even a greater power to determine what our minds believe as the truth.  And when we discipline our minds, our heart will follow suit.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9
TAPAS AND THE SPIRIT

I’ve been a Christian for 26 years, and it is still a challenge to practice self-discipline when it comes to my spiritual life.  I’m not talking about having my daily times with God; I pray and read my Bible daily, but what I struggle with is disciplining myself to practice godly characters (fruits of the Spirit) daily.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-22

I’m pretty good at practicing all of these when it’s easy for me (I’m sure that’s the case for everyone), but when I’m trying to be loving, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled toward people that seem to know how to push my buttons, this list becomes quite the challenge for me to live out.

And I suppose that’s why I need to rely on the Holy Spirit to practice Tapas everyday.

Come back next week as we talk about the 4th Niyama: Svadhyaya (self-study).

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas, Pt. 2: Santosha

Phrases such as “The grass is greener on the other side” and “FOMO” is a common phrase and acronym used often to describe the desire of being somewhere else other than the place we are currently at.  The sanskrit word, Santosha, means contentment.  Santosha is the second Niyama which is one of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga

Many people mistake happiness to be synonymous to contentment.  Paul states in Philippians 4:12, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation that he was faced with: He was a Pharisee who had a significant conversion to Christian discipleship, experienced the highs and the lows of being a missionary, and he was imprisoned twice, with the latter one resulting in eventual execution.  I’m sure there were moments that Paul did not feel happy, but he somehow remained content.

After much contemplation of scriptures and prayers throughout the years, here’s my conclusion:


CONTENTMENT IS A COMPLETE SURRENDER AND UNCONDITIONAL TRUST IN GOD

One of the things I love doing is taking long road trips with my family.  Throughout the years, we have driven to many states spanning from California all the way to Massachusetts as well as many of the states along the way and then some).  My husband prefers to do the driving through the busy cities while I prefer to take over the driving through long stretch of (what seems to be) nothingness.  Whether my husband or I are doing the driving, my daughter sits in the back and reads, plays games, naps, sings and chats with us without worrying about anything.  Even when we had to drive through a massive summer rainstorm in Alabama or in dense fog in the nighttime through the mountains in Utah, she was content.  This contentment came from knowing that even though the last leg of the trips feel like they last forever, she fully trusted that mom and dad are responsible drivers and that as long as it is up to us, we will protect her and have her best interest in mind.  This is a great lesson that I try to remember when I’m not feeling content.


HAPPINESS IS A TEMPORARY FEELING BASED ON TEMPORARY THINGS

Growing up in the United States has great benefits such as freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, opportunities for wealth, many colleges/universities as well as numerous restaurants, shopping centers, recreational facilities and events such as sports and performing arts (although they are currently limited due to the pandemic).  It’s an entertainment paradise.  But in the midst of all the opportunities that we have access to, it’s quite easy to become unsatisfied with what we have.  When we get what we want, we feel happy; but then six months down the line, we see that there’s an upgraded version of what we have… so we become unhappy with what we bought.  Happiness generally seems to be tied to something temporary.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe one can be both content and happy.  I think happiness can be a byproduct of contentment, but it’s the state of contentment that will last even long after the feeling the happiness is gone.

I can honestly say that I’ve been both happy and content.  I can also truthfully admit that I’ve been sad but content… but because of my commitment to striving for contentment, the sadness doesn’t last for too long.  When I feel (emotional) pain, I make every effort to not push it away but rather allow myself to feel it and find contentment in the middle of that pain.


For me, my contentment comes from knowing that God knows exactly what He’s doing with me and that I just need to sit back and enjoy the ride with complete trust that God’s got my back.

 

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Niyamas Pt. 1: Saucha

Today, we start a 5-part series on Niyamas which is sanskrit for “observances.”  The five Niyamas are qualities to practice in our personal lives for not just the betterment of ourselves, but it also serves as a way to get closer to experiencing our authentic selves.  The first Niyama is Saucha (pronounced “sowcha”) which means “purity.”  I’ve heard people also define saucha as “cleanliness,” but I feel that purity is a much more accurate definition.  Cleanliness generally refers to our outer bodies, decluttering our living spaces and anything on the outer parts of an object.  Purity on the other hand, refers to cleanliness as well as something deeper.  Purity can refer to one’s mind, one’s internal body systems, emotions, and even one’s soul.

“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish,
and then the outside also will be clean.”

Matthew 23:26

The scriptures are clear on the importance of having a pure heart:

“The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.”
Proverbs 21:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”
1 Peter 1:22

So how does one practically practice Saucha?


PURITY OF THE BODY

Purity of the body includes cleansing techniques such as Jala Neti (also known as nasal irrigation), a short-term detox diet and fasting to get rid of any toxins that you have accumulated throughout a span of time.  I think it goes without saying, that keeping the outside of your body (your skin) clean is also important, but without purifying the inside of your body from time to time, the toxin-buildup will start to come out through the pores of your body by creating odors and skin issues.

I started a modified intermittent fasting about a month ago.  I eat for 8 hours, and for 16 hours, I fast.  I also fast from solid foods once a month, but that’s more for spiritual reasons (which I will talk about towards the end of this blog).  One of the reasons I started intermittent fasting is because I noticed that as a woman in her mid-40’s, I’ve been experiencing a change in my body composition.  It is much easier to accumulate fat in my midsection, and I was finding myself feeling bloated more often than I wanted to admit.  I have gotten a food allergy test before, and other than being lactose-sensitive, I don’t have any food allergies.  I eat a plant-based diet, and for the past 5-6 months, I’ve been eating more of a vegan diet.  I generally don’t eat a lot of junk food, but ever since I started my intermittent fasting, I don’t have junk food cravings.  I feel a lot cleaner on the inside with less bloating, so it helps my mind to be more onboard with observing Saucha of the heart and mind.


PURITY OF THE HEART AND MIND

There are so many layers to the purity of the heart and mind, but for today, I will only focus on one aspect:  Seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Children are awesome.  They laugh unapologetically when something is funny, they don’t hold back tears when something makes them sad, and they forgive quickly and literally forget what they were mad about.  They’re able to live this way because they haven’t yet been tainted by the toxins of life.  When they play, they are fully in that moment.

How great would our lives be if we were willing to let go of insecurities, bitterness and anything else which are preventing us from living a life of freedom to be in the moment without any cares and worries of the next minute?  I know this is so much easier said than done, but God has blessed us with many ways of chipping off these layers that we build around ourselves that prevent our hearts and minds from experiencing complete purity.  Some of the ways that I’ve personally utilized for heart and mind purification are counseling, yoga, (biblical) meditation, life coaching, and of course, reading the Bible and praying.

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:16

PURITY OF THE SPIRIT

Purity of the Spirit can not be achieved by human effort.  There is nothing we can physically do to obtain a pure spirit.  This is only possible with Christ.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

We don’t achieve purity from obeying the Word of God (as in, we can’t make ourselves pure); We become pure by the God’s grace and mercy.  He purifies our spirit; however, in order to stay on the path of purity, we must live in obedience to God’s word (the Bible).

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.”
Psalm 119:9

Of course, there are so many other facets of Saucha that I did not cover in this blog because that could literally take an entire book to write about… but I hope you were able to at least get a glimpse of Saucha from a Christian Yogi’s perspective.

 

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 5: Aparigraha

As we finish up the last of the 5 Yamas in Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” let’s do this quick breathing exercise together:

Keep your shoulders relaxed, sitting with spine in neutral.
Take a deep breath in.
Let the breath out.

Now, breathe in again; but this time,
notice how the breath feels as you fill up your lungs with air.
Then breathe out, letting that breath go.


How did that feel?  Pretty good, I’m sure.  🙂

Aparigraha is sanskrit for Non-Possessiveness.  This covers everything from materialism, hoarding, unhealthy habits… basically, anything that causes attachments outside of God.  Why is practicing Aparigraha so important?  I will break my response into two parts: During and After.

 

During the Practice of Aparigraha

One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-possessiveness during this COVID-19 Pandemic is all the online shopping that is practically being shoved in front of our faces. When I checked my e-mail yesterday afternoon, I had 73 Unread messages, and almost all of them were e-mails from retailers notifying me of a sale, a coupon code, or a new promotional item.  I think I’ve only shopped from maybe 7-8 of those retailers, and I generally delete those e-mails; but once in a while, an e-mail subject line will catch my eye if it mentions a 50%-75% off sale.  I will click on the e-mail and start browsing on their online store, feeling the temptation to buy the leggings or the eyeshadow palette just because they’re on sale.  I may even add them to my cart, but in the end, I delete them out of the cart because I know that I don’t really need another pair of leggings or another palette of eyeshadow.  Part of what helps me is going back to what the logic part of my brain — the frontal lobe — is telling me.

When we’re practicing non-possessiveness, we allow ourselves to receive the enjoyment and the nourishment of the object/people/situations but we don’t become attached and/or addicted to it.  We begin to understand that we can not look at tangible things the same way that we look at non-tangible things.  Tangible things are temporary, whereas non-tangible things are eternal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthian 4:18

After the Practice of Aparigraha

Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot online is ads for weight-loss and fitness programs.  Most of these ads show the “Before” and “After” photos of people that have successfully lost weight or gained muscle-definition using their program.  Just like how the “After” photos show the benefits of the program, you see the benefits of practicing non-possessiveness after you actually practice it.  By not buying things that you don’t really need, you will have money in your bank account, you won’t have a credit card bill at the end of the month (which would included a monthly interest rate that you will have to pay), you will actually enjoy the things that you already have, and you won’t have to worry about somehow making more room in your home for the things you just bought.  You may even notice that you feel happier from not being ruled by a life of excess.  You’re able to make space in your heart and your soul for more experiences, more freedom, and more joy.  This brings about a sense of empowerment to move forward without dragging a big, heavy load of things that will only slow you down from your ultimate, divine purpose in your life.

In the beginning this blog, I invited you to do a breathing exercise.  The air that you breathed in nourished your body and kept you alive; but what would’ve happened if you held on to that breath and not let it out?   That very breath which was meant to nourish you would have become toxic to your body.  Just like the breath, the tangible things in this world are not necessarily bad; but if we don’t learn to enjoy them and then let them go, they will end up become toxic to our spiritual growths.

Each of the five Yamas that I have spoken in these past five weeks — Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmachaya (Non-Excess), and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) — make up the restraints and moral codes that build on the previous Yama.  Next week, I will begin the topic of the second limb of Yoga which is Niyamas.

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

CHRISTIAN YOGI’S PERSPECTIVE ON YAMA PT. 4: BRAHMACHARYA

Brahmacharya — loosely translated to non-excess or moderation — is made up of two words, brahman which means “the divine” or “ultimate” and charya which means “the path”.  So put together, brahmacharya means the path of the divine.  When one is on the path of the divine, they live and make choices avoiding selfish motives.  To be on the path of the divine requires us to let go of idolatry in order to continue the journey to the Self, the one that God has created us to be. 

To claim that we all struggle with idolatry may sound harsh, but it does not make it any less true.  The dictionary defines idolatry as, “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”  The Bible defines idolatry as anything that one puts before God. 

“Do not worship any other gods besides me.” Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god.”
Exodus 20:3-5

(On a side note, when God said that He’s a jealous God, it doesn’t mean a resentful jealousy; He’s referring to a protective, zealous, loving claim on His children.)

As a Christian living in the United States, I’m bombarded with struggles toward materialism, addiction to social media, and over-indulgence of the senses whether it be delicious foods, staying up late, binge-watching Netflix, etc.  Late last year, I started thinking about living a simpler life with less things.  Being that my family and I made a move from North Carolina to Texas in the middle of the pandemic (you can read all about it here), we had the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff (you don’t realize how much you’ve accumulated until you start packing for a move).  Getting rid of things was a lot harder than I had expected.  It felt like as we sold and gave away furniture, kitchen items, clothes, electronics, etc., we were letting go of the memories that were attached to them.  We live in such a sentimental world with heightened emotions where the media tells us to “listen to your heart” and “YOLO.”  But the problem of living an emotion-based life is that it causes you to put your utmost importance on pleasures of the flesh.  Not that we shouldn’t enjoy a refreshing watermelon or even a delicious piece of chocolate cake, but if our attention is more on these things than on God, they become idols in our lives. 

In the beginning of 2019, I had the privilege of taking a weekend certification workshop from the famous yoga teacher Nikki Myers, who said that co-dependency is also an addiction where “the belief that something outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – will bring fulfillment and joy.”  I think this can be said of almost everyone.  One could argue and say that if this is the case, we must get fulfillment and joy from within ourselves (and not from God).  But have you ever tried to make yourself experience fulfillment and joy without anything or anyone?  In my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to not be co-dependent.  You can either be co-dependent on God, or your can be co-dependent on people, places, things, behaviors or experiences for that fulfillment and joy.  I believe that the latter way of living creates idolatry.  As a Chrisitian who uses yoga philosophy as a tool to enhance her faith and relationship with God, I practice brahmacharya — the way of the divine (aka the way of Jesus Christ) — by choosing to find moderation while living in this world so that I can ensure I don’t become self-indulgent on the pleasures of this world.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn

Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 2: Satya

Satya (pronounced suht-yaa) — which means Truthfulness — is the second Yama which can be found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  As a Christian who uses Yoga and its philosophy as a tool to enhance her relationship with God, truthfulness is completely in line with the Bible.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” 
Ephesians 4:15

So often, we approach truth and honesty without consideration and love towards the person we’re speaking the truth to.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I’m just being honest,” or “What, you’d rather me lie to you?”  The first Yama, Ahimsa — which we talked about last week — is all about non-violence.  Ahimsa and Satya go hand in hand because truth must be spoken in a non-violent (loving) way.

“Love and truth are two sides of the same coin.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

In order to mature and grow to be fully aligned with the Self (aka the authentic YOU that God has created you to be) as well as to be united with Christ, we must speak the truth that is saturated with love.  The love from our truthfulness must be so evident that the words that we speak serves them and not our egos.  Any other way results in words being used as a personal weapon to destroy others.  In addition, in order to speak the truth in love to others, we must also be speaking the truth in love to ourselves as well; but how about if we don’t really know the truth?

One of my favorite phrases is “self-awareness.”  I love this phrase because in order to be self-aware, you must first be still, take a step back, and then examine yourself from the most unbiased way possible.  That last part — unbiased self-examination — determines whether you are self-aware or self-unaware.  Unbiased self-examination can not happen without Satya.

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:25

Having an unchanging standard is essential for unbiased self-examination.  The Bible does not change, so if I’m examining myself and examining the Bible to make the two match up, I must be the one to change.  My self-awareness comes from comparing my truth to Biblical truth.  Whenever I find myself feeling stuck or unsure of where I am in this journey of life, I know I have the Word of God to steer me back — like a compass — on the path that is already paved for me by Jesus.

Although being truthful takes courage, it has some great rewards.  Mark Twain is known to have said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”  One time in my younger years, I decided to accept an invitation to spend time with a guy that my friend and I both liked.  She felt a bit insecure and jealous about my friendship with him; and instead of turning down his invitation or just being honest with her, I lied to her and said that I was helping my mom with some chores.  Granted, nothing inappropriate happened between us, but because I lied to her, I made up several other lies to cover up that lie.  It became exhausting to remember all the lies I told just to cover up that one lie!  Had I just been honest with her, there wouldn’t have been tension in our friendship and I wouldn’t have had to waste brainpower just to remember all the lies.  In the end, I confessed to her and I apologized.  She was more hurt about me lying to her than the fact that I spent time with him.  It took some time, but our friendship proved to be stronger than the guy who ended up exiting our lives later that year.  Part of John 8:31-32 reads, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   There is so much freedom in living out Satya! 🙌

Come back next week as I discuss the third Yama, Asteya (Non-Stealing).

With Gratitude,
output-onlinepngtools (10)

FOLLOW JHENI ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

FB Facebook
IG Instagram
TwitterTwitter
LinkedIn LinkedIn