Sophia Rising – Is Yoga An Acceptable Spiritual Practice?

Sophia Rising by Monette Chilson

Sophia Rising by Monette Chilson

Is yoga an acceptable Christian spiritual practice? That is one of the questions that will arise for many of us as we read Monette Chilson’s new book Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga. 

I love the way that Monette weaves her own faith journey through her exploration of yoga. Her choice of Sophia as the name of God she uses throughout the book will immediately send many outside their comfort zone. However she explains:

Most of us will pay lip service to the fact that God transcends gender, but our experience – because of the stigma associated with the feminine divine in Western religions – does not include prayers, images or words that let us express this truth. Whether the aversion to referring to God in feminine terms stems from patriarchal roots, a desire by early Christians to separate themselves from Goddess worhsip or to differentiate themselves from gnostic communities, the result has been a severing of the sacred feminine that has silenced voices that would pray to God our mother. Sophia embodies those missing pieces, giving us the prayers, images and words we need to complete our limited human perspective on who God is- and who God wants to be in our lives (13)

In the second chapter of Sophia Rising, dubbed The Heart of Yoga, Monette describe one of her  favorite applications of pratyahara, the Benedictine practice of mindful eating. For those of us who love to garden, cook and eat it is a wonderful invitation.

“If you want to experience taste in a sacred context, try slowly and silently eating a bowl of soup on a cold night. Not only will you savor the taste of the soup as it moves over your tongue, but the warmth of it will move through your body, extending the experience beyond that of a meal where we eat and move on to another bite, another thought, another activity before the food is even down our throats.

While soup is soothing and a great way to ease into mindful eating, you can expand your experience into a seasonal rhythm. Soup is perfect for a winter practice. A salad full of the first greens of spring can usher in the warming winds of the season, awakening our taste buds to the delicate treats ahead. Juicy strawberries and peaches, dripping from our chins, call us to the informality of summer, while crunching into a crisp apple is the perfect way to transition our taste buds to back to the routine that fall brings with it. Who would have thought that yoga could be so delicious?!”

As Monette explains, it is an interesting paradox that in narrowing our focus, we expand our awareness. By restricting our intake of stimuli, we actually increase our consciousness of God’s presence in any given moment through acts as simple and mundane as eating.

Sophia Rising disturbed, enriched and challenged me. It’s provocative and well researched content stretched my views of spiritual practices and Christian faith in a healthy and inspiring way. I do not currently practice yoga but this book definitely tempted me to begin. And for the many of my Christian friends who do practice yoga and yet have never been sure how to integrate the practice with their faith, this is a must read book.

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Yoga & Jesus: This is a spiritual practice

I continue to be challenged and stretched by the ways that people connect to God and to Jesus Christ.  The posts below are by Christina Whitehouse-Sugg.  I found them particularly intriguing because of my growing interest in Christian meditation and as you know I am also passionate about Henri Nouwen.  I feel that we have too easily dismissed the practices of other traditions because we think of them as non-Christian and yet God created them all and it is not surprising that we can use them to connect to the God revealed through Jesus Christ

Christina describes herself as a chameleon who struggles with finding a color of my own, a performer who often loses my voice only to find it in silence, a minister who is more comfortable among sinners than saints.  She blogs at Thoughts for the Journey

…yoga has become a significant spiritual discipline for me. My easily distracted ENFP brain (Oooo! Shiny!) is quiet & focused as I attempt to master poses that have been around for centuries. But more and more, what draws me to my yoga practice is the short lesson at the beginning of each class that focuses our practice that day…I am hungry for the spiritual truths that God reveals to me through my teacher.  Read the entire article

I wonder – can you see how these five elements are helping my spiritual devotion as a follower of Christ?? I recently read the following reflection by Henri Nouwen on flexibility and it resonated strongly with my current understanding and practice of yoga.  Read the entire article