Shoulder to shoulder with my Jesus tribe I know that I am accepted and loved, that I belong and that I have found a group of people who have experienced the great love of Jesus Christ…. on a mat… a yoga mat.
You ask me how? How can a Christian practice yoga? I mean, isn’t it Hindu? Aren’t you worshiping the sun or Shiva or a weird looking elephant dude… or something? I could tell you that the movements we call yoga in America are actually more closely derived from the exercise regimens of Indian palaces than from the ashrams who adopted them (Science of Yoga, W.J. Broad), but I’m not sure you’d believe me. So I’ll tell you what God told me.
First, let me clearly state that I recognize that not everyone can or should practice yoga. There are people who have had negative experiences with yoga, and I agree 100% that yoga is not the best creative practice for them to adopt. However, that doesn’t mean that it effects everyone in the same negative way (proceeding with wisdom, discernment and caution). For I have experienced the love of God in such strong, powerful and healing way on the mat, that I cannot go along with the notion that a Christian cannot practice yoga. Let me tell you what Jesus has taught me along my journey into yoga…
In my life, God has used yoga to help me re-claim what others call “flesh” and label as bad or sinful. In previous ministry experiences I was told you can’t dance in church… that the body was fleshly and couldn’t be used to worship God. Yet as I sought God and His Holy Word, I found a God who was not only “allowing” me to dance, but commanding me to dance (Ps 149 & 150), and, in fact, a God who danced over ME (Zeph 3:17). As I re-claimed my body in worship, I exalted a God so incredibly worthy of my highest praise.
As I was really digging into this yoga thing, I heard how wrong and sinful it was to do yoga. Here we go again! More people telling me another way I couldn’t use my body to worship God. So I went to the single most worthy place I knew to go to for counsel and wisdom: the Holy Bible. And there I heard God’s voice whisper, or rather speak, very clearly: “I have you where I want you. Do not let these voices deter you. Jesus was ridiculed for the places he went and people he hung out with. I am calling you to the same. Jesus came to redeem, restore, renew and reconcile. Again, I am calling you to the same.” Specifically he led me to Colossians 1:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Everything in heaven and on earth was created by God and has been reconciled unto Christ and through Christ! All things… certainly my body.. and yes, even movement through postures we commonly refer to as yoga. There in Colossians (1:22-23) he told me he had not only reconciled everything, but he had reconciled me to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. My body reconciled through his body. Yes and amen! As a result of this reconciliation, he has brought me into his holy presence, where I am found holy and blameless, without blemish, standing before him without a single fault and free from all accusation. He asked me to continue to be steadfast in this truth and stand firmly in it—to be deeply rooted and established in it this truth, his love and his calling on my life. He told me not to drift away from the assurance I received when I heard the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—and that Good News means I’m saved by grace and grace alone.
As I continued on in Colossians 2 and 3, God was clear to me that I was not to adhere to the self-imposed rules of man—rules that have the appearance of wisdom but are indeed rules that dictate how I can and cannot worship—rules with an appearance of humility that actually treat the body with harshness, instead of the care and attention it needs to function in a healthy way. He assured me that I am made alive through Christ and that whatever I did, I was to do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ (3:17). Ultimately God knew my heart and knew movement was a way for me to enter into His Holy Presence—and he was happy to have me enter in through a redeemed and sanctified yoga practice.
After God further confirmed all he had spoken to me (through others’ Godly wisdom and counsel), he led me to attend a YogaFaith Miracle Immersion training, and it was there at the training where God both wrecked and rocked my world. He met me in such powerful ways, bringing healing to deep places I didn’t even know were broken or amiss. Between the scriptures proclaimed over us, the worship music enveloping us, and words of truth emanating from amazing men and women of God—people like YogaFaith founder Michelle Thielen and teachers Jennifer, Rie and so many others—God used yoga to help me explore and unlock places within my spirit that I had walled off from him. And in this place, Jesus demolished many destructive lies of the enemy that had kept me in in bondage! Praise the Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!
I returned from my Miracle Immersion with a renewed purpose for teaching and practicing yoga. I am firm in my purpose of using yoga to bring Jesus’ peace, healing, and compassion, as well as vitality, energy and a better quality of life to others. I am better equipped to add Jesus’ love to both the secular and sacred classes I teach. I also collaborated with YogaFaith to create a yoga-focused virtual Bible Study of God’s Creative Gift–Unleashing the Artist in You, a seven week study of God’s Word on artistry, beauty and creativity through an embodied practice of yoga. You can join me on that journey by visiting the YogaFaith store or by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Dee Jones of Open Door Photography
It all boils down to this: #JesusFirstYogaSecond
It’s not about the yoga. It never has been. It’s about listening to the Voice that calls me to work alongside him to redeem, restore and reconcile. I’ll follow that Voice. With all that I am—heart, soul, mind and STRENGTH—for in Him I live and move and have my being! To God be all glory!
if you would like to research more about this topic, I would refer you to several articles: My fellow YogaFaith instructor Kelly McLellan has written an informative article about her experience as a CHRISTian yogi, called “Jesus & Yoga (Part 1)”. In addition, Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul, and Mindful Silence, has a thoughtful piece on “Yoga as Christian Spiritual Formation” that is worth the read.
Blessings of ARTistry, CREATivity & BEaUty, Jody
(c) 2016, Jody Thomae
Find out more about YogaFaith here and more about YogaFaith Miracle Immersions here (YogaFaith Yoga Alliance Teacher Trainings–or Miracle Immersions–certify at both the 200 and 500 hour levels). You can find out more about Jody and the classes she teaches at rootedreaching.com or by following her YogaFaith with Jody Facebook page.