This week, an old friend from high school invited me to attend a local yoga class with her. Staving off the initial fear of making a complete idiot of myself as I force my little hamstrings to cooperate, I eagerly agreed to an opportunity to spend quality time in good company. As much as I wish I could call myself a yogi, I am easily the least flexible person on the planet, and my sense of hand-eye-coordination is essentially non-existent.
Don’t get me wrong, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. I can nearly guarantee I will never split my pants. My legs literally can’t move that way, but I digress.
I arrived promptly five minutes before class, spread out my pink matt, and extended my spandex-clad legs before me. And so began the battle. In an attempt to obey the instructor, I pitifully groped at my ankles, mere inches from my chubby toes. I glanced to my left and right at my fellow yogis. Many were folded over, hinging perfectly at their hips, nose to knees, fingers interlocked around feet.
My inner perfectionist was getting frustrated. No matter how hard I reached, my body just couldn’t seem to cooperate with the instructions. I thought I was as relaxed as it gets, but my body wouldn’t move. I began to resent the instructor as we transitioned from pose to pose. She seemed to expect so much from a beginner. It’s not my fault that I wasn’t built with any flexibility.
“Breath into the stretch, deeper. Relax your muscles and breath,” she whispered to the class, ambient music wafting in the background. For a moment, I stopped forcing my body to obey. Patiently, I focused on each muscle in my body: my shoulders, back, abdominals, glutes, thighs, and finally hamstrings.
I felt my body ease into the stretch, fingers finding hold on my big toes. I was holding on to so much unnoticed tension. My definition of relaxed was so constricted. I was so focused on the big picture of the pose that I forgot to pay attention to what my body needed in order to create it.
There were so many parts of my body that I didn’t realize were tense until I truly took the time to focus on them and readjust. It took patience to will my sinews to unwind and unclench. It took awareness. The pose unfolded itself once I focused on the stretching that needed to happen first.
I believe that’s how we act in our relationships with God much of the time. We are so eager to overcome and achieve goals, and succeed that we forget to recognize what we need to do in order to get there. I was so eager, but, in my impatience, I held myself back.
I was reminded of Isaiah 54:2. God calls us to enlarge, to stretch our tents wide without reservation, lengthening and strengthening. Stretching isn’t comfortable, but like that day in the yoga studio, it is necessary in order to prepare a place for God to bless us. I improved my pose. God improved my perspective. I signed up for a month of classes.
I encourage you to be diligent in the pursuit of your heart’s desires, but do not focus too heavily on the goal. Instead, focus on readying yourself. Be prepared for the success as God unfolds it before you. Think about the components rather than the final product. God is constantly refining us like silver, working us and making us more closely in Christ’s image. Don’t ignore the process because you never know where the tension holding you back might lie.
Slow down. Focus. Breathe.