When we go through busier seasons, such as the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s easy for us to get out of certain routines. We opt for shopping over an afternoon jog at the end of the work day. At holiday parties, we eat cheesy appetizers and chocolate-covered strawberries instead of raw fruits and vegetables. Then, when the decorations are stored and the refrigerator cleared of all sugar-coated goodies, we are faced with the reality of routine.
For clergy folk, such a busy season has just passed. Along with Easter Sunday comes the preceding Holy Week, full of extra services and activities. This year, I helped to lead six worship services in the course of five days. Each service was meaningful and uplifting, and I am grateful for the lay participation of St. Luke UMC, Shipman Chapel, First UMC of Cleveland, and Monticello UMC to make these possible. However, I must confess that I almost fell asleep in my quiche on Sunday afternoon! Some of you might have done the same.
In the course of the Lenten season and Holy Week, yoga has been such a changed routine. My time spent on the mat did not disappear, but it was much more sporadic. I would cut my practice short in order to check more items off the to-do list. It was no surprise that two days after Easter, I discovered many a tight muscle when I got on the mat. Poses that were usually “easy” now required more effort. As I eased into Head-to-Knee pose, the inevitable happened: I could not touch my toes! I bent my knee and lengthened my spine. Still no success. The foot seemed further away the more I reached.
If I were teaching a class and a student had this problem, my response would be immediate: “Use a prop. Wrap a strap around your foot, hold both ends, and all you’re doing is lengthening your arms.” But here I was, both teacher & student, alone in my yoga room, and my response to myself was the opposite: “A prop?! I don’t need a prop. I can do this pose just fine without a prop.” The more I tried to reach my foot, the worse the pose became. The more I resisted using a strap, the more resistant my body became to the stretch.
I had unintentionally welcomed pride onto the mat, a pride that basically says, “I can do this just fine without any help.” Physically and spiritually, pride is a dangerous companion in the yoga practice. It can cause physical injury. But it can also have spiritual implications, telling us that we don’t need God’s help on or off the mat. In the book of Proverbs alone, the word “pride” appears nine times in the Common English translation. All of these mentions are negative because they include an attitude of, “I know more than anyone (or Anyone) else knows.” Such pride hinders us, and it’s something of which we should let go. When we do so, we discover that a little “prop”-er help makes us better.
I eventually and begrudgingly got a strap from the closet and spent five minutes working on the stretch. Before long, I looked to see that my hand had reached my toes, and I had kept the correct alignment. The pride had slinked away from the mat when I let something (and Someone) help me touch my toes.
As we journey through this Easter season, let us guard against a pride that hinders us from learning more about God and each other. Instead, why don’t we “prop”-erly rely on God and each other to help us in our tightly wound areas? Who knows how far we can reach when his love reaches with us?
all good things to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.