The theme of a recent daily devotional of mine had me drawing connections to the practice of yoga.
Our human brains often want to grasp at the future, which can be the cause anxiety, worry, doubt, and mistrust… basically stress and unhappiness. I don’t want these feelings. The simple remedy to this, as my personal study suggested, was to REPENT and RETURN [to God.] [i]
In the context of most Christian churches today, the word repent generally has a connotation referencing a feeling of shame, a ruing of something done wrong. A sorrow for one’s “sin.”
The association to a feeling, however, isn’t part of the original, the original word that has been translated to the English repent. The Greek word Metanoeo means simply “a change of mind.” [ii]
Ensuing feelings or emotions regarding the previous state of mind are not addressed with the meaning of the word itself, and neither are the concepts from which to change the mind from and to. (From a Biblical standpoint, context may provide further usage of the word, and there are other less numerous Greek words that also translate to repent that encompass these associations.) [iii]
Of course, metanoeo doesn’t have to have a spiritual or faith based association. The idea of “changing the mind” is a basic tenet of yoga and other meditative practices. The benefits are wide ranging.
Before I can change my mind to something, I have to notice that my mind is on something else. This awareness is often referred to as mindfulness, and is one of the most crucial benefits of yoga.
For example, how does yoga really reduce my stress? First, I have to notice what is causing the stress. With awareness, I can make decisions (mind change, followed by any appropriate action) to reduce stress. Is it my body in an overly stressful position? I can change my physical stance. Is my mind focused on past events, or making up stories about the future? I can think about something else. This change of mind can change my feeling of stress, physically and/or emotionally. The stress reducing benefits of yoga aren’t magic. Yoga simply offers me this awareness as training, over and over and over and over.
In the physical practice of yoga (yoga asana), it is often the breath that gets followed with the mind. The “mind on the breath” model is also a part of various forms of meditation, as are brain engaging mantras and visualizations.
As the definition of repent has shown, the practice is not to shut down in shame once I notice my mind is somewhere I don’t want it, but simply to change it. To repent and return.
So when YOU find yourself in downward dog designing tomorrows outfit, or in pigeon pose planning dinner, simply smile, repent, and return. Return to what? That’s your choice yogi, but consider the option that will benefit your goals. Less stress, less tension and worry, increased joy, space, trust, patience… sounds like a plan to keep on practicing.
i. Young, S. (2004) Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
ii. Wikipedia. Metanoia (thology). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanoia_(theology)
iii. Fallon, B. Repentance Word Study. Retrieved from http://www.freegraceresources.org/repentwordstudy.html#12fn