Thursday, September 14, 2017

Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

Yoga is a complicated subject in the Christian community. Some have called it demonic and see its Hindu roots as incompatible with their faith, even going so far as to take legal action against school districts with yoga programs. Other Christians see yoga, especially the western version, as spiritually benign, a harmless exercise to improve flexibility and strength. Then there are people like Williams, who blend their Christian faith into their yoga practice.

 

Caroline Williams is sitting on her yoga mat in a Manhattan studio. She is about to begin filming for a yoga instructional video, the $10,000 cost of which is being paid for by 226 backers from her recent Kickstarter campaign.

There are no statues of Buddha in the background, or images of Shiva or Ganesh. Instead, next to Williams’ mat is a Bible. She opens the video recording with a prayer, leading future viewers to dedicate this time to God, as in the Christian one.

“Child’s pose is a good time to reflect with a scripture,” Williams says to the camera, before reading Lamentations 3:19-32 from the Bible. Except for a few differences—the prayer, the scripture reading and the Jesus-focused affirmations from Williams—the instruction is regular old fast-flowing, muscle-stretching, bum-tightening yoga.

To be specific, this is Christian yoga. And it’s a thing.

Yoga is a complicated subject in the Christian community. Some have called it demonic and see its Hindu roots as incompatible with their faith, even going so far as to take legal action againstschool districts with yoga programs. Other Christians see yoga, especially the western version, as spiritually benign, a harmless exercise to improve flexibility and strength. Then there are people like Williams, who blend their Christian faith into their yoga practice.

“Since 2005, there has been a huge increase in Christian yoga,” said Renee Prymus, the managing editor of the website Christians Practicing Yoga, noting that around that time three Christian yoga training organization opened in the US. “Christian training schools keep popping up, which tells me it continues to grow,” she added.

One of those schools is the “Gospel-centered” Holy Yoga. The school has trained 2,200 instructors in 13 countries since it opened in 2006, and interest is “exploding,” according to Sue Bidstrup, who oversees enrollments there. So far this year, Holy Yoga has experienced a 15 percent growth in new trainee instructors, she said. The training program involves a six day yoga retreat and a nine week online course where students can anticipate “time on your mat, in your Bible, in prayer and meditation,” according to the website.

Exactly what can make yoga Christian is undefined. It can look like Williams’ DVD with prayer and scripture readings. Christian worship music might be played during a class. Some put yoga poses to traditional Christian prayers or incorporate a whole Bible study into a class. Holy Yoga doesn’t present trainees with a Christian yoga formula but encourages each certified instructor to incorporate Christianity (or not) as they see fit.

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The post Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga appeared first on The Aquila Report.



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