The Practice of Liberation
[The woman was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.] When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off our chains, but live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela
It has been said that Jesus’ ministry on earth was comprised of one-third preaching, one-third teaching, and one-third healing. The story in our passage today relates one of the many miraculous healings Jesus performed. The woman, crippled and bent over for 18 years, is healed by Jesus’ words and touch. Jesus, who had been teaching in the synagogue, caught sight of her, stopped teaching, called her over, and healed her, setting her free. The woman was a daughter of Abraham (a Jewess) who was present in the synagogue because she was a woman of faith. One encounter with Jesus and she found herself liberated from pain and suffering; she had been made whole. Jesus’ healing the hunched-over woman, though, is only part of the story. He performed this miracle on the Sabbath, and healing on the Sabbath was considered work and was therefore forbidden. Jesus, knowing this prohibition full well, healed her anyway. The priests and scribes were furious, having more concern for the law than for the fact that Jesus had just liberated this woman from nearly two decades of relentless pain and suffering.
In her sermon on this moving story Rev. Barbara Lundblad notes the reaction of the religious leaders: “How can it be that the liberation of one threatens another? Isn’t liberation of one liberation for all?”
We bring integrity to our yoga practice when we honor our body. We are free (and encouraged) to modify our poses as needed, and that freedom liberates us to experience the practice more fully. Interestingly, when we choose to modify a pose in class, we not only experience the benefits ourselves but give visual permission to our neighbor to exercise the freedom to modify as well. A liberated yoga practice—like a liberated faith practice—embraces freedom, threatens no one, and carries the potential of freedom for all.
Inhale I Am
Focus Pose: Dancer, natarajasana, is a beautiful pose with many variations. One popular modification is to bring the free hand to a wall for support. In my chair yoga class I have students put their free hand on a secure chair back and use a strap in the other hand to bend one leg. When modifying a pose it is important to remember and honor its essence. Dancer is a balance pose, but it is also a heart-opener. The chest is lifted and open, while the lower back is relaxed and long. Flex the lifted foot to help keep the knee aligned. Always use your breath to determine the most beneficial modification for your body. It is only when the breath is deep and calm and the body is comfortable and steady that you will find freedom in the pose.