You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43–44
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?” Abraham Lincoln
One reason the teachings of Jesus today referred to as the Sermon on the Mount were so radical is that the lessons were opposite to those those taught by the religious leaders of the day, who promoted a “we versus they” interpretation of the law. To some in the crowd who heard the Sermon on the Mount, it might have seemed as though Jesus had come to abolish the law. This was unacceptable to many, but to those who were excluded from Jewish society, based on the standard interpretation of the law, Jesus’ words brought new hope. In truth, the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount neither affirmed nor denied the law. Jesus was teaching a third way.
Jesus’ point was that the law in and of itself was good—a gift from God intended to promote mutual and reciprocal love, one for another. Jesus taught that we experience God’s love through loving and praying for those with whom we are at odds. The highest intention of the law was to be in loving relationship with God and with each other.
In our faith-based yoga practice we are invited to explore Jesus’ third way. When a yoga instructor offers cues to guide a student into an asana, the student must test those cues, grasp the instructor’s description of the asana’s intention, and be directed into the pose by listening to their own body, heeding the voice of the teacher within. To incorporate Jesus’ third way into our yoga practice we need to first find the essence of the asana. This gives us the freedom to adapt the pose, still feeling its full benefit even as we reflect the individual needs we sense in our bodies, minds, and spirits. What we learn from practicing the third way on our mats informs us how we are to live as people of faith. When the intentions of our thoughts and actions point to a loving relationship with our neighbor, we are following the third way.
Inhale I Am Exhale Following
Focus Pose: Adaptive yoga, is a powerful practice. Originally designed to make yoga accessible to persons with disabilities, it has evolved into a practice for everyBODY that teaches students to find and practice the essence of each pose, and express that essence according to their abilities. To practice an adaptive yoga pose, consider a pose that currently is beyond your physical capabilities—maybe that pose is Side Plank, vasisthasana. The pose is both an arm balance and a core strengthener. Ask yourself, what is this pose DOing? And equally important, what is this pose NOT doing? Let your answer be respectful of the traditional pose, but don’t get caught up in any “shoulds”, instead honor the essence of the pose in your practice, and adapt accordingly. Perhaps your adaptation might include leaning into a wall from a standing position, braced by your hand and arm. Perhaps your adaptation might evolve from a seated position, belly contracted, and back long. Adapt and find a third way to practice.