Can Yoga Be a Bridge Inside Us?

Guest Post by Luciano Galman

It was 1980 when I came across Yoga in Ten Lessons by Fr. JM Déchanet, OSB, who is considered the "Father of Christian Yoga." His format--theory, practice, therapeutic effects, contra-indications--served me well as guide and manual. And to this day in the absence of a guru, I slowly, gradually, carefully use the book in my practice of hatha yoga. 

Image of "The Pole" from  Yoga in Ten Lessons  by Déchanet.

Image of "The Pole" from Yoga in Ten Lessons by Déchanet.

I adopted a series considered basic, but some of which naturally flows into more advanced postures. For example, the Dolphin posture flows into the intermediate pose and the Pole (Supported Headstand). When I found out that the latter is therapeutic for hemorroids, I devoted special effort learning it and consequently avoided a medical procedure.  

As I gradually lessened the number of postures yielding to meditation sessions, I noticed something happening inside me. The Pole (Supported Headstand), branded by Fr. Déchanet as an "impressive pose," created a sort of what I would call "show off phenomenon." While it gave me a sense of control and self confidence, it also triggered something which seemed to me as gloating. And I realized: "You don't learn a yoga posture to show off, not even to yourself."

The experience surfaced a desire to examine my real intentions for whatever I am deciding to get involved in. I confronted my inner motivations. This self confrontation opened up hidden longings and desires. For example, my humble beginnings were questioned: "Have I truly accepted my humble beginnings or am I in fact ashamed of them? Are my strivings normal efforts or are they compensation mechanisms, perhaps dictated by my insecure self?"

You don’t learn a yoga posture to show off, not even to yourself.

Thus, my practice of hatha yoga enabled a self-knowledge that is honest, real and authentic. The options became focused and clear: either you project an image or you accept the real. I observe that people quite often prefer projecting an image of themselves rather than their real selves to ensure being accepted, admired, or even put into a pedestal.  The reality of me, with my strengths, weaknesses and especially my vulnerability is in fact a better choice. Acceptance of the entire self is a major step, even perhaps a requirement towards meaning and fullness of life.

Jesus was very emphatic when it comes to the discrepancy between image projected in public and the reality inside oneself.  He said,  "Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption. In just the same way, from the outside you look upright, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23: 27-28). He was indeed harsh towards His enemies but in full view of His disciples. I wonder whether these harsh words were in fact "warning shots" towards His future disciples, His would be followers. As a Christian I do believe that Jesus' emphasis on this issue is key to His message of changing our lives for the  better...towards perfection. And that if we want to unlock His messages bolted in His parables and sayings, we need first of all to be true to ourselves inside out.

I carry on with my spiritual journey in the company of hatha yoga. This practice of uniting body, mind and spirit hone skills, like paying attention, being mindful, accepting what is, letting go, gaining ability to "walk the talk" with consistency. I am hoping and praying that I am indeed crossing a bridge from dichotomous existence into a life of integrity, from dividedness and compartmentalization into wholeness, from imagery and illusion into reality.