Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stumbling Blocks and Mat Class

A few years back there was a fun Canadian sitcom called Corner Gas.  It was a show about the quirky residents of a small town in Saskatchewan.  One of the characters is a transplant from Toronto, which, of course, is large, urban, metropolitan. 
In one episode, she decides to teach a Pilates class.  She attempts to explain the class to the residents, who just don’t seem interested.  As one of them says, “Isn’t he the guy who killed Jesus?” 
One of the locals seems ticked off, and the reason is revealed.  “Oh, you mean Mat Class!  Wanda’s been teaching that for years.” 
“Why don’t you call it Pilates?” the Torontonian asks her.  The answer, of course, is obvious – who’d want to take some fancy class named after a bad guy?  Mat class: same exercises, different name, no worries.
I practice Yoga.  I’ve been practicing it on and off for ten years.  To me, it’s never been about any of the New Age stuff, the mysticism and ‘religion’ of it.  From the beginning, I chose exercise DVDs and books which emphasized the physical aspects. 
I love the fact that God created our bodies to move and bend.  That He created them with the ability to become stronger – and stretchier!  It’s so fun to master poses over time, reaching further toward that ‘pretzel’.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and through yoga I’ve been able to increase my flexibility, which helps other parts of my workout.
As part of my climb out of Chaos I started working out at the main gym in town a few weeks ago.  Being physically active has been a big part of my life for many years.  Jerry, one of the trainers, asked me what kinds of exercise I do, and along with weights and cardio, I mentioned yoga.  
I didn’t think much of it, until he called me over last week and introduced me to Yalena who wanted to learn some stretches for her feet.  I told her I’d try and find some, more than a little intimidated at the thought of doing so in Spanish. 
This week, Jerry told me he’d like me to teach a yoga class at the gym.  My first thought was, Wow, I asked friends to pray that I’d meet new people and make new connections… God is good! 

My next thought was, Oh, boy, one-on-one is going to be hard enough.  There’s no way I could do that in Spanish! 

And then, Wait, is this going to be okay for a missionary? 

I’ve been pondering the last one.  I asked our SI-DR leadership, and they gave their approval, even suggesting this could be another ministry opportunity for me here. 

But, I still worry.  I know that for some, it’s a big deal.  I don’t want to be a stumbling block for another.  Some Christians have changed the name, used Christian music, and talk about ‘dedicating the practice’ (a phrase often used in yoga) to God.  So, I could just call it Stretching or Mat Class. 
On the other hand, could I use this as a jumping off point for discussions about faith?  Some people, like me, practice yoga for increased flexibility, to help relax and prevent injury. 

Others practice it seeking an inner peace that eludes them.  That part of yoga doesn’t appeal to me, as I know the Source of peace.  Could I use this to share the truth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?  And the larger truth, that the only peace to be had is through the Way, the Truth and the Life?

Some of you reading this may feel I’m out of line in this.  That no matter how I dressed it up, it’s still wrong.  I understand that.  But, I hope that you’ll give some thought to what I’ve said. 
I certainly don’t have it all together, but I think it’s a good thing to wrestle with how we put into action what we believe.  After all, each day, each of us is called to ‘be in the world but not of it’ and that is no easy task! 
This afternoon I’m going over to Yalena’s house to show her a simple routine I put together.  It’s been fun to research exercises and figure out what I want to say in Spanish. 

(Speaking of connections, it also gave me to opportunity to contact a friend who is a personal trainer in the US and have one of the Dominican SI missionaries review my notes!)   

I’m excited, and a little nervous to see how it goes.  And, I’ll continue to pray and ponder the idea of teaching a yoga (or stretching or mat!) class.    

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