Scapulae and Bible Study
Let me tell you a story about this new workout series I'm doing. It's called yogasthenics and yes, that is a combination of yoga and calisthenics, meaning it's intended to build strength using a base of yoga poses and flows.
It's also ridiculously difficult.
Still, in that very first session, as I adjusted and readjusted each and every move into something a normal, out-of-shape human could manage, I had an epiphany.
Did you know that when doing the downward dog pose, you are supposed to activate your scapulae? That's what the instructor said. (Yes, this instructor was so advanced, he could not be low enough to say push back your shoulder blades.) For the first time in my life I could do downward dog without wanting to Old Yeller it.
For most of you that is a piece of information you either already had, didn't want, or are now sorry you know, and fortunately for you, that isn't my point.
You see, this little tidbit about shoulder position was nestled amongst a variety of other really advanced moves. At one point he said if you are ready for a challenge just slide up into your handstand as you make this transition.
He then proceeded to not only slide beautifully into a handstand but then lower himself into a plank from said position in a controlled manner.
I crawled my feet back like I was trapped on a roof trying to feel out the top rung of a ladder.
While the only time I looked remotely like the guy on the screen was the final move when we were laying on the floor staring at the ceiling, I loved it. I went back for more. I intend to finish the series.
Because I learn things like activating my scapulae in downward dog.
You see, I've done dozens of yoga based workouts targeted at people like me where there is the "regular" workout and then someone just to the right of the main instructor doing the alternate version so you don't feel bad about not being able to balance on your elbow. I've done a lot of downward dogs. Yet never did they tell me about the shoulder blades. Why not? Because that's advanced. That's getting into the nit-picky details of the position. You can't get into those details when you are introducing the very basic essentials.
For me, though, I've learned those basics. I needed that next step. Although I still need many elements of those beginner workouts, I was ready for more details.
To find more, I had to listen to a conversation aimed at people far beyond my current position.
The same is true for when we study the Bible.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about people needing the milk of the Gospel because they were not yet ready for solid food, but then in Hebrews he discusses the need for those who have gained some maturity to move on from milk and eat the meat of the Word.
That can be intimidating.
My husband holds a Masters of Divinity and studies deep theological apologetics for fun. Sometimes my brain starts to buzz and my eyes cross when I try to listen to some of his favorite podcasts. But most of the time, when I'm listening to people who are far more knowledgeable than I am, I'll find a nugget. I'll find a small pebble amongst the boulders that takes me one step further than I was before.
I wouldn't have found that listening to a children's Bible lesson. Probably wouldn't have even found that in a Sunday morning sermon. Both of those are aimed at being good for the mature but accessible for the beginner.
Will some of it be over your head? Yes. Will it show you just how much you still have to learn? Yes. Are either of those bad? No. Because if you are aren't listening to those who are ahead of you, there's no way for you to grow. The beginner can learn from the expert as long as you don't expect to become the expert overnight.
Will I be able to do a handstand when this series is finished? No. But I hope to be able to do the "jump back to plank" instruction he started with. I know the next morning, despite having laughed at my inability to follow everything the day before, I felt amazing. I felt better than the last time I'd done a more "appropriate" level workout.
The same can happen when you go listen to a podcast like The Bible Project or Knowing Faith or The Hero of the Story. Look for that one little nugget that takes you deeper, opens your understanding, and hints on what more you could be. You don't have to read all the referenced text books or articles. You don't have to follow everything. You don't even have to listen to the entire episode in one sitting. Find your nugget, dwell on it, then go back for another.
Every journey is taken one step at a time, and it's so much easier when you have an expert guide.
And the next time you try a yoga-inspired exercise, activate your scapulae in downward dog. You can thank me later.
Note: Before anyone comments about the origins of yoga, I will mention that the workouts referred to in this article use only the physical motions and positions and not the religious elements of yoga. Many even add on and create additional workouts from these forms - like the yogastehenics mentioned above.