By Sue Magrath

I’ve been aware lately that I have let the Clergy Wellness Corner slide for the past several months. Our spontaneous decision to move from Leavenworth to Spokane ate up the months of April through July of 2022, and then my father-in-law’s health issues and, ultimately, his death and its aftermath have occupied our time until, well, last Monday! 

One of the ways that I have managed to stay somewhat sane and balanced during all this has been through regular, weekly yoga classes. As I was in the midst of a pretzel-like twist this morning, my instructor said, “Hold the pose, but not your breath.” I thought to myself, “Hmm. That will preach!” At this point, I started thinking about some of her other frequent sayings and realized how they could be applied metaphorically to life in the church. So, here are a few of the statements that are good advice for us all.

“You do you.” This statement usually comes fairly close to the beginning of class regarding the different options for a particular pose. Translation? Do what you’re capable of, what your body tells you it can or cannot do. You don’t have to perform the most difficult version of a particular pose. In church speak, be who you are, not trying to live up to some model of perfection that you or others think you should be. And don’t push yourself past your physical and emotional capacity to function. When you’re exhausted, rest; when you are trying something new, give yourself the grace to not do it perfectly.

“Hold the pose, not your breath.” Physically, always keep breathing. Sometimes we hold our breath, not realizing that a reduction in oxygen intake is counterproductive to healthy movement. In life, the same is true. Hold your position on an issue, an idea, or a disagreement, but keep breathing. Keep listening to yourself and to the other. Breathing helps you remain calm, truly listen, and receive guidance from God, the other, or a trusted advisor.

Engage your core. In yoga, activating your core muscles helps you stay balanced and strong. In life, activating our core is about staying tuned in to the core of who we are, what we value, and whom we believe in. When we engage our core, we act from a place of connection with God and our commitment to those we serve. When we do this, we are less likely to falter, lose our balance, or fall away from what matters most.

Namaste. This Hindu word is shared with one another as we end yoga class each week with hands in prayer position over the heart. There are many ways to translate its meaning, but my favorite is, “The light within me sees and honors the light within you.” Another lovely form is, “The sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you.” 

In the church, it is easy to lose touch with the sacredness of the people we minister to. Disagreements, complaints, and controversies all get in the way of being able to see each person as a bearer of light. We need reminders that each person is sacred and beloved in the eyes of God. Namaste.

Sue Magrath is a spiritual director and the author of several booksHer previous career spanned fourteen years in the mental health field. She is passionate about clergy wellness and has authored the book, My Burden is Light: A Primer for Clergy Wellness.

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