Yoga and Easter
Christ is Risen! Happy Easter!
As I’ve been editing and posting Father Clooney’s reflections on Lent and the Yoga Sutras for the past few weeks, I’ve been struck--again--by how much the practice of yoga prepares the body for prayer and meditation, for being still before God.
Over Lent, Father Clooney worked his way through the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which start with
guidelines for how we treat others and ourselves (yamas and niyamas)
move to poses, specifically the posture of sitting (asana)
move to breathing and withdrawing the senses (pranayama and pratyahara)
move to holding a focal point in one's mind and meditating on it (dharana and dhyana)
end with a unitive state, a calm, enlightened state (samadhi)
In these eight limbs, we are prepared both mentally and physically to meditate on one thing, and during Lent, that one thing is Jesus' path to the cross. Meditation during Lent can be somber as we wait for Easter.
But EASTER! People wear brightly colored dresses to church, flowers pop out of the ground, the tomb is empty, death is defeated, and new life is everywhere. This year, weather in Pennsylvania was sunny, almost-too-warm-for-March beautiful. The energy in the air was contagious and hope-filled.
The day after Easter Sunday, I went to work like I do every Monday. A cold, rainy front had come through the night before, and the week started drearily. Easter was over.
In a bit of chitchat, one of my coworkers said, “You know, for Christians, Easter should really be a BIG holiday, right? Like, isn’t it what everything is all about for them?”
Yes, it should.
Her words knocked me out of Monday's funk. Easter is the story. Christ is risen over death.
And Easter isn’t over on Sunday.
In the liturgical church calendar, Easter is 50 days long. Easter--or "Eastertide"--starts on Easter Sunday and goes until Pentecost Sunday 50 days later. In contrast, Lent is 40 days long, not including Sundays, which makes it 46 days.
We could be celebrating Easter as least as long as we celebrate Lent. Fifty days of celebrating life over death.
What if we treated Easter like we treated Lent? During Lent, we talk of fasting and meditating on Christ's death. What if, during the season of Easter, we were to talk about life-giving practices and meditating on the empty tomb?
When I look at the Eight Limbs of Yoga and think about Easter, I think that the difference lies in the last three limbs: what we hold in our minds would be different--focusing on life and the empty tomb, we would meditate on life, becoming one with Christ's resurrection in our lives.
How would this Easter practice change us from the inside out, helping us become more alive, more life-giving, more like Christ?
Photo Credit: "Easter Sunday 1" by Kimber Shaw, 2010, cc license