For Christians, Lent is traditionally a time to fast and repent. It’s a time to make a conscious effort to put aside obstacles to our relationship with God. If you’re Christian, or if you know Christians, you may associate Lent with giving up chocolate or alcohol, for example. For yogis who are also Christian, there are certainly connections between Lent and yoga.
A post I saw on social media got me thinking about Lent and yoga. One of my friends noted that Lent is not about giving up chocolate. It’s about the cross, specifically what the cross means to you if you’re Christian.
I thought about this for a while, even repeated the question in my mind: What does the cross mean to me?
If you have Christian roots, you’ll probably agree the cross is the most important symbol of Christianity. It represents Jesus’ sacrifice, and no matter how you see the impact or meaning of that sacrifice, if you take some time to consider what it means, you may begin to see some connections between Lent and yoga.
Letting Go of Ego
During Lent, Christians focus on the last days of Jesus’ human life. As we do that, we can’t help noticing one of the more important lessons associated with the Crucifixion. Jesus emphasized dying to self.
Sound familiar, yogis?
Yoga teaches us to let go of the ego—the lowercase self, if you will. We do that to return to the Self, the spiritual beings we’ve forgotten we are. Lent is a time to be especially mindful of letting go of ego.
Lent and Yoga Focus on Simplicity
The forty days of Lent are a kind of back-to-basics season for many Christians. The idea of giving up things that block our path to God is closely related to the fourth yama of yoga, bramacharya. The word bramacharya means “behavior which leads to Brahman.” Brahman is basically the Hindu name for God.
In Lent and yoga, we focus on stripping away habits, desires, and other obstacles that keep us from getting closer to enlightenment, or union with the Divine.
Lent and Yoga Focus on Discipline
Traditional Lenten practices, like giving up meat on Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, are about the discipline human beings need to stay committed to a spiritual path. In yoga, that discipline is the third niyama, called tapas.
I’ve heard tapas described a number of ways, but it’s basically the fire of discipline, and it leads directly to the fourth and fifth niyamas, self-study and surrender to a higher power.
Yoga is a spiritually-driven lifestyle, as is Christianity, at least for those who practice Christianity as a lifestyle first and religion second. All I mean by that is religions often get so ritualistic and dogmatic that practicing religion can become more about doing (or not doing) than experiencing ourselves as spiritual beings connected to our source.
Remember too, the Easter season culminates in resurrection. So does our yoga practice, each time we rise from savasana and take our yoga off the mat and into the world.
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Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!