One of the things I distinctly remember from my Christian Science Primary Class instruction and Association Meetings, was how my teacher cautioned us time and time again about the evils of various “Eastern” philosophies. I don’t remember specifics of what exactly he said, and since I have long ago destroyed my class notes and materials, I can’t easily refer back; however I do remember him in one instance specifically cautioning against parents sending their kids to things like karate classes. I seem to remember it was along the same lines as the whole “animal magnetism” theme. I always thought this was weird, as I have never saw anything wrong with martial arts at all. I’ve always seen them as a form of defence, and to my understanding, a true devotee of any martial art would never initiate a conflict. Also, as I understand it, martial arts teach balance–not only in body, but in mind, soul, and spirit. What could be wrong with that? I have come to see that, contrary to the teachings I received in Christian Science, there is nothing to fear from Eastern philosophy. It is beautiful, ancient, and contains much wisdom. It brings you into harmony and balance with yourself, your body, and everything around you.
I’ve recently begun to attend yoga classes, specifically practicing hot yoga as part of my efforts to improve my physical conditioning and lose weight. I’ve practiced hot yoga in the past, and found great benefits to it, and am greatly enjoying re-starting my practice. I came out of my first class feeling amazingly uplifted physically. I noticed right away that a lot of stiffness and soreness that I often experienced was greatly reduced or eliminated. I also came away feeling mentally “cleansed”. I go about 2 – 3 times a week and am noticing a great improvement in my physical condition, as well as weight loss.
At the very end of every yoga class I’ve ever attended, the instructor always says “namaste“. Namaste is a common greeting and gesture (usually a slight bow with hands clasped together above the heart–referred to as “heart centre”) in the Indian subcontinent, but it does have specific, and to me profound meaning: the gesture is the recognition of the soul in one by the soul in another; the word literally means “I bow to you”. It is a gesture of deep humility and respect.
What I gain from my practice of yoga is a sense of peace and balance. That is what I see as the core of this teaching. The different poses, the management of breathing, all combine to physically align the body to a state of balance and harmony, and cleanse the internal organs and the mind. This sense of peace, harmony, and balance is found in many other Eastern philosophies and practices, and also in North American First Nations/Native American spirituality. For me, this is deeply resonating, and since I’ve embraced this sense of balance and harmony, my life is immeasurably better. Rather than fighting against and denying the reality of what I experience around me, I seek to find harmony with it or bring harmony to it, or at least find it within myself.
For me, there is no more fear, paranoia, exclusiveness, or denial. I accept the world as it is, for better or worse, and act to try to improve it where I can, but most of all, I always seek to live in balance in all aspects of my life. As a spiritual mentor of mine often says, you need to have an “open mind and a warm heart.” I firmly believe if you have those two things, you will go far, and be much happier. Namaste.