Finding a yoga class in your community
Molly Metzger and Renee Prymus
Yoga is a a systematic program for peaceful living with fuller awareness, and a tremendous tool for spiritual growth offered as a gift to the world by India. When a person’s heart is open to the richness, beauty and power of another tradition, it not only brings respect and understanding of the other, but it produces a meaningful deepening of one’s own relationship with God.
The methods vary, but the original and underlying inspiration remains the same: to work with yoga as a spiritual path for all and as a way of opening to God. For Christians, that path goes to God through Jesus Christ, guided by the indwelling Spirit. For others, the path will lead to their understanding of Divinity or Supreme Being or Absolute.
There is a no particular style of yoga that makes it "Christian." As Tilden Edwards says, “What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent. If our intent in assuming a particular bodily practice is to deepen our awareness in Christ, then it is Christian. If this is not our intent, then even the reading of Scripture loses its authenticity.”
FINDING A CLASS WITH A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
When you try a class specifically geared toward Christian practitioners, you may find the teacher employs a variety of methods in praying through our whole being. Some use affirmations drawn from scripture while holding a pose. Others “embody” classic prayers like the Lord's Prayer in posture sequences (see Home Practice for examples), and still others develop posture flows to inspiring song prayers as a way of offering thanksgiving, making intercession, and glorifying God in and through our bodies.
There are several teacher training schools in a North America with a particularly Christian perspective. Visit these sites to find a teacher or classes specifically trained in this style in your area.
PRACTICing IN local studio or athletic facility
In a typical class, whether taught by a Christian or non-Christian, students might be encouraged to develop their awareness by connecting with the sensations in their bodies, by connecting with their breath, and by noting any emotions or thoughts that arise as they practice asana. This is yoga. As students begin to connect with their bodies, they might be invited to enter into the deep stillness within the body-mind. It is in this inner stillness that we as Christians are invited to open ourselves to the presence of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit within the heart and mind.
Yoga Alliance estimates that there are more than 70,000 yoga teachers in North America and more than 20 million practitioners. There is a dizzying array of styles. It may take some trial and error to find a style and teacher you are comfortable with.
First, find a style that speaks to your physical needs and abilities. Yoga can be vigorous and physically challenging or slow and gentle. Both have their place. A class description or discussion with the studio will help you to decide what is right for your physical needs on any given day. Teachers will vary widely in their approach to postures as well as philosophical teachings.
Second, try a few classes with various instructors at different studios. Many yoga studios have special deals for new students to help you find your class. Approach each class with a spirit of curiosity: some teachers start or end classes with a teaching of yoga, a reading or a poem; some encourage chanting or singing. Our Discern section can help you decide what you are comfortable with. If there are elements that you aren't comfortable with, remember that you can choose to not participate--to pray instead of chant, to do Child's Pose instead of a difficult pose, to opt for Legs-up-the-wall instead of a headstand.
A good yoga teacher will help you protect your body by offering modifications for most poses, and will be happy to answer your respectful and well-intentioned questions (sometimes during class, but generally before or after: respect the stillness created in class).
Don't be discouraged if you don't find the perfect studio or teacher at first. With so many options, it may take some time. For inspiration on how others practice and teach, visit our Blog.