My first post to capture my journey on Holy Yoga…and a post for the curious.
Believe it or not… for the past 6 years of my yoga practise, I have not heard about its roots or association with Hinduism. Yes, call me naïve. Call me whatever you want, but that is the utter truth. And unsurprisingly so. I believe there are 2 key reasons.
- Gym Yoga Classes do not often draw any religious references but focuses on Yoga as a fitness activity
If you have ever walked into a yoga class at the local gym, you may find the focus of the class centred around ‘well being’ and ‘having a good session’*. Almost as if gyms know that associating any religion to the now popular ‘exercise’ is not good for business; hardly ever have I been to a yoga class where it openly encourages spiritual connection. Sure, the poses are often referenced back to a its Hindi name, but often together with its English counterpart, such as “Reach your arm towards the front of the room, as far as you can, until you can reach no further. Then drop your hand down to touch your shin or ankle, if you can……to get into Triangle Pose …Trikonasana.
[*Note: I only draw from my own experience attending yoga classes from various gyms with various teachers throughout the last 5-6 years of my practise, with the most recent being classes at Madonna’s gym Hard Candy. I’ve also asked a lot of friends and gym junkies who tend to agree.]
By God’s grace, He has shielded from exposure to any religious compromise
Perhaps the classes differ in traditional Yoga Studios, which I have not experienced. Only ever at gyms. And perhaps those classes do focus on the spiritual elements. (I’m sure that’s how I’ve heard about ‘chanting’ and the concept of ‘ohm’ yoga, but never thought much of it.) The truth of the matter is that I have not been exposed to these to realise yoga’s common association with Hinduism. I would even say ‘Namaste’ together with the rest of the class at the end of a session, thinking it meant ‘Thank You’ to the teacher when. I’m not disputing the fact that for some people, religious compromise may have been apparent in the traditional yoga classes that I have attended. The point I’m trying to make here is that I have never felt that way. I strongly believe this is God’s grace pouring over me. He, who has brought me along in this journey, has shielded me from doubting yoga has any form of paganism or idolatry. He has allowed me to see the benefits of yoga through the physical form only, so that I may be here to experience Holy Yoga. Had I have known or even doubted yoga to have any conflict with my focus on Jesus, I would have stopped long ago but He allowed me to enjoy the 6 year journey that made me fall in love with the physical discipline of it, much like others enjoying cross fit, swimming, dancing, singing etc… (And yes, I would later learn out about yoga’s connection with Hinduism and I’ll talk about this more later).If you’re wondering how stupid I can be for not knowing, I can only say it’s the power of God. Because if it was really that blatantly obvious, only He could have shielded me from it all. Although, point 1 still exists as an influencing factor.
Then, how did I come to find Holy Yoga?
Although I’ve been to a lot of gym yoga classes, much of my yoga practise has been self-taught via training videos from the Internet. Having a dancing and figure skating background has helped. From a young age, I’ve always loved and appreciated the body’s capabilities and its expression in the physical form. Being blessed with a petite physique has also given me an advantage for these types of activities.
During my second pregnancy, I enjoyed a prenatal yoga program taught by renowned yogi, Briohny Smyth on the Daily Burn. It was this dedicated practise throughout the nine months of my pregnancy that I became interested in becoming a Yoga Instructor.
After giving birth, I was determined to get back in shape and did Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (more about that here). I loved the results I got from that program and I got back in shape within 4 months post-partum, which is a pretty amazing result. Admittedly, I never enjoy the training much. I still do some high intensity interval training regularly to stay fit and unlike some others, I never grew to enjoy it. Yoga, on the other hand, I simply LOVE. Before, during and after.
Once I got my body back, I started going back to work running a small business venture with an old friend. God strategically placed me into this office in Surry Hills. Shortly after I started, I was walking to the office one day when I passed by the InYoga studio right next to our offices. That prompted me to enquire about their Yoga Instructor training program.
I vividly remember walking in to enquire about the course and talking to the instructor about how it would be impossible for me to fit in training on Sunday mornings when I have church service. I remember turning my back from that conversation feeling like the awkward stares were burning holes into my back. Now ‘that’ was the first ever feeling of discomfort I had about yoga. In retrospect, it almost felt like a satanic intervention to make me ‘fear’ what I loved; to confuse me about what God had blessed me with.
After learning more about the Instructor program at InYoga, I realised that a significant part of the program was dedicated to Yoga’s roots in Hinduism and honouring that and other meditation forms, such as “chanting”. I was mortified. So, all this time, I was oblivious to certain poses honouring Hindu gods and meditation that was ‘opening up my mind to Satan’ by the ‘clearing of our minds’ during traditional yoga practise? Sun salutation was to Hindu gods? Something new to me! Gee, you do learn something new every day and not everything you learn is beautiful, I dare say. I have been that obnoxious?!
What followed were days of conflicting emotions.
Sadness that something that I have loved so much may be against God’s will. Disappointment that I had gone down this path and yet God had not sent me any signs of disapproval. It hit me like a truck.
For many nights, I would Google ‘Christians view on yoga‘ and read through countless arguments for and against yoga as a Christian; all without conclusion, of course.
At one point, I gave in. I accepted defeat. I was close to closing doors to yoga in favour of the arguments that yoga was a form of paganism.
But something deep down was calling on me. I trust it is the Lord speaking to me.
I refused to give up and did more research. I then came across the Holy Yoga ministry. Brooke Boon the founder of Holy Yoga, explains how yoga has been God’s blessing for her. She goes into the depths of the Scriptures commanding that we worship the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and STRENGTH (body) in Mark 12:30 and plenty more verses that command that we present our body to God, who has blessed us with our bodies, our temples, to do His work in Him and through Him. I shall share more about this in upcoming posts, where I continue to journal my Holy Yoga learnings and emotions.
So Holy Yoga, huh? Is it really Holy? Or is it just another form of paganism as deemed by some Christians? I prayed on this, researched more, prayed more. I continued to seek advice from my parents, friends, our pastor to seek His answer on it. After about a month of rigorous seeking for His answer, I pulled out and decided to stop doing yoga altogether.
I spent another month battling the acceptance of this. I realised I was only fatigued by the intensity of seeking. I wasn’t truly ready to accept this. Two months after I had first found Holy Yoga online, I believe God lead me back to it.
Like Brooke says,
God is sovereign and created yoga for us to enjoy! I refused to accept that Hinduism is claiming it as their own. Much like the notion of ‘prayer’ being common across religions, it doesn’t stop us Christians from connecting with the true God in prayer, just because prayer also exists amongst the Mormans, the Hindus, the Muslims…. likewise, Christians would fast and so would the Muslims. Just because a discipline is in common, it is the intention that would define what is Holy or not, I believe.
Hence, I would then follow my pursuit to finalise my flights to Holy Yoga’s retreat in the U.S. and sign myself up for the instructor program. This would tie in with my recent decision to get baptised, just weeks apart from one another.
All of this ties in with my 2015 New Years resolution priorities – to make this year the real start to my Christian journey, to seek His Kingdom, to seek ministry work, to forego the treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy….and I lay up for myself treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6 19-21)
Whilst I’m unclear, at this stage, where Holy Yoga will lead me in ministry work. I am faithful that God has His plans for me on this journey.
I am hearing that I must continue this with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
So, here I start. My journey in Holy Yoga – 100% Jesus, 100% Yoga with the study of anatomy a bonus 😉
Source: HolyYoga.net Lookbook (April 2015)
More on what Holy Yoga is in my next post.