And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him. – Matthew 3:16 (NRSV)
One day, I found Bikram Yoga. I didn’t know anything about the revelations that would come out about Bikram himself or the community and its issues. I just knew it as really hot yoga in a room of people who pushed themselves to a brink. It was controlled and timed and choreographed and predictable. It was exactly as I needed; I started to go every day.
But there was one part of the Bikram Sequence that challenged me: camel pose. Ustrasana.
Camel wasn’t hard for me, physically. Camel was hard for me because of what it asked of my spirit. You see, the camel pose is designed to open up the heart. But my heart didn’t want to be open. Trauma said: no. So I sat it out for a while.
Ancient Christian rites have specific sequences of movement built into liturgy. Before we go to the table of nourishment, for example, we unburden. We confess, repent, and receive forgiveness.
Even before the table, our initiatory ritual—baptism—is the movement of cleansing. It flushes out the toxicity of past experiences and bathes a person forever in God’s grace.
My work to prepare to open my heart revealed that I had missed a step in the sequence. I had released the toxins in my body. But I hadn’t flushed them out.
So I did a cleanse: a physical fast as well as a spiritual cleanse. A flush of toxins as well as a prayer: here God, take it; cleanse me.
And then I was ready. I began the yoga sequence. But this time, when we got to the camel, my heart opened—and God opened a channel that any time I need, I can go right back to it. Cleansing, again. Letting the light in. Being made whole.
Open my heart, God. Cleanse me. I’m ready. Selah.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.