In 2009, my journey with yoga began. I had practiced yoga periodically before starting a habitual practice, but my practices were few and far between. My husband and I were freshly married, and I was looking to pursue a career in the fitness world. Running was enjoyable somewhat, and I put up with doing pilates, but none of it seemed to really "fit" me. Like I said, occasionally I practiced to a generic yoga DVD, but I was unsure about the spiritual influences, so I wasn't consistent with my practice. At the time, I was nannying for a family and one day we were standing in the kitchen, and the kids aunt randomly said, "Hey, you should try out this yoga class my church is hosting." Immediately, this piqued my interest. Yoga in a church? For curiosities sake alone, I decided to go give the class I try. Never would I have been prepared for what I was about to encounter.
Stepping into this yoga class, and the room was filled wall to wall with women of all ages and body shapes. Yoga mats were laid out on the floor, and a energetic, passionate woman was in the front leading the pack. To be honest, I was expecting just a work out. And I got myself a workout. I found myself sweating all over my mat, and having such fun playing around with new-to-me poses. What I didn't expect was how heavy the Holy Spirit was in the room. The instructor played worship music, encouraged us to worship Jesus by moving our bodies, minds, and spirits on the mat, and wove scripture all through out the class. By Savasana (final resting pose at the end of class) I was hooked. This practice was for me.
Leaving the class, I felt energized and so excited to find this gem in Christian yoga. It just made so much sense; worshipping Jesus with your mind, body, and spirit. I went home, and it was all my husband heard about for days. I couldn't wait to go the following week.
Pretty soon, my love for this practice evolved to me wondering if teaching was something I could pursue. I sat down at my computer and googled Christian yoga. The first thing that popped up was Holy Yoga Ministries. I was intrigued, so I sent a e-mail inquiring about their teacher training. The following morning, Brooke Boon, the woman who pioneered and started Holy Yoga called me. I remember sitting on the phone with her and thinking she was one of the most passionate women I had encountered; she loved this form of yoga, and she loved her Jesus. She invited me to look further into Holy Yoga Instructor Training, and I told her I would think and pray about it.
The next few days I started coming across articles and blogs on the internet stating yoga was most definetly not for Christians; claiming it was demonic and not be dabbled with. This of course made me question my new found passion. In no way did I want to compromise my walk with Jesus. I continued to read all the articles with a heavy case against yoga. My heart was heavy and conflicted. Finally, I decided that I must have misinterpreted my new passion for yoga... And I walked away from my yoga mat.
The night I decided to walk away from christian, or Holy Yoga, I remember literally weeping. My heart was so grieved. I didn't understand why it effected me as deeply as it did. Walking away from yoga, literally felt like a death. The next morning I woke up with blisters on my face because of how much I had cried and stressed over the issue. This may sound a little (or a lot!) melodramatic, but I couldn't explain why it effected me as deeply as it did. But, I had made my decision.
I walked away from yoga.
Over the next few weeks, Jesus began to move in my heart concerning yoga. He began whispering to my heart that HE was calling me to teach yoga. I couldn't understand why, but I started listening. I was resistant, and I wrestled with the issues of it being okay, even beneficial to practice yoga as a Christian. Through Jesus' grace, he allowed me to wrestle deeply with these issues and come out stronger than ever. I read Brooke Boon's book Holy Yoga, which explains how a Holy Yoga practice is deeply worshipful and differs from a regular yoga practice. I highly recommend this book if you are questioning practicing yoga as Christian.
Still, being the ever questioning soul I am, I continued to wrestle and pray. I ended up taking a very basic online yoga instructor training, just to get my certification so I could teach. It wasn't Holy Yoga, and like I said, it was very basic. Holy Yoga was something I continued to wrestle with for years; if it was something God was calling me to. But, I couldn't get away from it. Holy Yoga was pressed into my heart constantly. There would be periods of time I literally stalked their website; visiting it daily, and reading any and all info on their page. One night, I sat down and watched a video explaining how to become a Holy Yoga Instructor (I had already watched it several times) and my husband came up behind me, laid his hand on my shoulder and said It is time for your to go to Holy Yoga. Again, I wept. Jesus had used Holy Yoga like nothing else to move my heart. I had run from it for years out of fear, and finally Jesus was saying through my husband stop running, it's time.
I enrolled in the 225 hour Holy Yoga Instructor training program. Even though it took me a little longer to finish because I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter shortly after I signed up, I started the long distance training and followed up with a week long retreat in Arizona this past October.
Holy Yoga has been the balm Jesus uses to my soul. When I am weak, stressed, and shaking, it is where I meet my Jesus. It is deeply worshipful. Jesus used Holy Yoga to teach me what grace really means. I had never encountered grace before like I did when I started worshipping Jesus on my mat. Holy Yoga is world class yoga, and I love the yoga, but it really isn't about the yoga. It is what happens when I show up on my mat to worship Jesus through my body, mind and spirit.
So, all this to say, you may still have some legit questions about Christians practice yoga. Is it okay? Is it beneficial? With my whole heart, I answer a resounding YES. While I don't have the space to completely go in to every question raised in this post, I would HIGHLY recommend reading Holy Yoga by Brooke Boon to answer some questions.
But quickly, I would like to touch on some surface level things:
1.) Yoga is NOT a religion. Yes, there are religions that have adopted yoga into their practices. But just as pretty much every religion incorporates prayer, meditation, music and other spiritual disciplines into their practices, it isn't solely affiliated with any religion.
2.) The simplest way I can explain how I worship Jesus on my mat is to give the example of how we can raise our hands during worship. It is the same thing. We move our bodies to worship the One, Jesus, who has breathed breath into our lungs.
3.) Holy Yoga is about connecting to Christ. In the classes I teach, as I help guide my students into Savasana (final resting pose), I say in typical yoga this would be the point where you would "empty your mind", but in Holy Yoga this is where we ENGAGE our minds on Jesus; we get quiet so he can fill our minds with his goodness and grace.
I recognize that these points are just the tip of the iceberg for some questions you may have. But allow me to encourage you: go before Jesus with your concerns. Ask HIM to speak to your heart about practicing yoga. I am confident that when we quiet our hearts to Jesus, he will speak the truth to our hearts.