Is yoga an acceptable Christian spiritual practice? That is one of the questions that will arise for many of us as we read Monette Chilson’s new book Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga.
I love the way that Monette weaves her own faith journey through her exploration of yoga. Her choice of Sophia as the name of God she uses throughout the book will immediately send many outside their comfort zone. However she explains:
Most of us will pay lip service to the fact that God transcends gender, but our experience – because of the stigma associated with the feminine divine in Western religions – does not include prayers, images or words that let us express this truth. Whether the aversion to referring to God in feminine terms stems from patriarchal roots, a desire by early Christians to separate themselves from Goddess worhsip or to differentiate themselves from gnostic communities, the result has been a severing of the sacred feminine that has silenced voices that would pray to God our mother. Sophia embodies those missing pieces, giving us the prayers, images and words we need to complete our limited human perspective on who God is- and who God wants to be in our lives (13)
In the second chapter of Sophia Rising, dubbed The Heart of Yoga, Monette describe one of her favorite applications of pratyahara, the Benedictine practice of mindful eating. For those of us who love to garden, cook and eat it is a wonderful invitation.
“If you want to experience taste in a sacred context, try slowly and silently eating a bowl of soup on a cold night. Not only will you savor the taste of the soup as it moves over your tongue, but the warmth of it will move through your body, extending the experience beyond that of a meal where we eat and move on to another bite, another thought, another activity before the food is even down our throats.
While soup is soothing and a great way to ease into mindful eating, you can expand your experience into a seasonal rhythm. Soup is perfect for a winter practice. A salad full of the first greens of spring can usher in the warming winds of the season, awakening our taste buds to the delicate treats ahead. Juicy strawberries and peaches, dripping from our chins, call us to the informality of summer, while crunching into a crisp apple is the perfect way to transition our taste buds to back to the routine that fall brings with it. Who would have thought that yoga could be so delicious?!”
As Monette explains, it is an interesting paradox that in narrowing our focus, we expand our awareness. By restricting our intake of stimuli, we actually increase our consciousness of God’s presence in any given moment through acts as simple and mundane as eating.
Sophia Rising disturbed, enriched and challenged me. It’s provocative and well researched content stretched my views of spiritual practices and Christian faith in a healthy and inspiring way. I do not currently practice yoga but this book definitely tempted me to begin. And for the many of my Christian friends who do practice yoga and yet have never been sure how to integrate the practice with their faith, this is a must read book.