As you may know, I have been meditating upon the next step in my yoga journey for the past 6 months or so. Within the last 2 months, I think I have found the right path for me, but it is something I really never expected. Honestly, I laughed when I first heard the words “Holy Yoga”. I thought, “Is this like Testamints or Christian waffle mix?” (Christian waffle mix is really a thing, as insane as it sounds — I deeply regret not taking a picture of it when I saw it in the Lifeway holiday catalogue last fall. OMG. Literally.).
But it is not as weird as it sounds, not at all. I’ve been attending classes sporadically, as my schedule allows, connecting with current Holy Yoga instructors in my area, and following Holy Yoga on Instagram. I stumbled across the blog of Amanda Dean, a Holy Yoga instructor right here in Richardson. She is such a gifted writer that I reached out to her, even though we had never met, to ask her if she would use her gift of words to describe how she felt when she first discovered Holy Yoga. I thought perhaps she could describe to you how I have been feeling about this endeavor more eloquently than I could. AND SHE DID. I teared up when I read this post in my Inbox, because it so accurately describes what I have felt over the years but not been able to put into words. I will let her speak now, please post any questions that you have for me or for Amanda in the comments. I will be following this post with a post next week about my own journey and some FAQ’s.
About ten years ago, I stepped through studio doors, feeling anxious yet excited. My first yoga class was about to begin and I had little knowledge of what to expect. As a former gymnast and dancer, I was familiar with all things pointed toes. Yoga was a foreign language.
I unrolled my borrowed yoga mat and listened as our instructor walked us through the deep breath. The “yoga breath” was new and strange. I noticed right away it was hard to sit still. (Stillness has a way of inviting all kinds of mental noise doesn’t it?) As I focused more and more on my breath, the inner clamor began to quiet. She spoke words I had never before heard. “Sanskrit” she called it. I watched and did my best to move my body into each asana (posture). Some felt natural…some not so much.
I walked out of class feeling lighter and just better. I can’t tell you I fell in love right away, but I found myself back on my borrowed mat the following week. I explored different styles and instructors, some filling the space with sounds of chanting and Tibetan singing bowls. Some with the sounds of Sheryl Crow. Over time, my body began to crave this breath and movement and I settled in with my favorite teachers.
I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember; I practically grew up on a church pew. That’s where I met my Savior and have known him ever since. Truthfully, I wasn’t familiar with the controversy surrounding yoga and Christianity. I wasn’t afraid to walk into a class because I knew He walked with me. In fact, it made sense to me, this yoking together of the breath and movement and rest.
Yoga classes begin with setting an intention. Some teachers talk about the energy around or within us. Some speak of the “third eye.” From the very beginning, Truth rose and resonated from within. I started dedicating my practice to my Abba early on, trying to breathe Him in with each inhale. There was never an emptying of the mind as far as I was concerned. It was actually the opposite.
I remember the first time my practice felt like worship. I closed my eyes in Warrior 1 and lifted my hands high. Prayer and praise come from the heart right? Since my heart was already there, my body simply followed.
When I set out to become a yoga instructor, I tried to find a Christ-centered program. With little luck, I settled for a secular teacher training called YogaFit and completed my Level One Certification. I started teaching right away and tried to incorporate scripture and praise music. It wasn’t until I discovered Holy Yoga almost two years later, and I knew this was what I had been searching for all along.
Holy Yoga is “100% Yoga and 100% Jesus.” Training culminates in an intensive immersion retreat and that was where I attended my first Holy Yoga class. It felt like coming home. Tears poured down my cheeks as I truly experienced the presence of Jesus on my yoga mat. It was yoga, but it was so much more. It was grace and freedom in bare feet and yoga pants.
In Holy Yoga, we invite God into our practice-whatever that looks like. Whether the practice is gentle or sweaty, we ask Him to meet us where we are. And my friend, He is always faithful to show up. I honestly feel that Holy Yoga is a vehicle for more of Him…more of His healing. More joy. More peace. More presence. And the physical benefits of yoga are just an added bonus.
Brooke Boon, founder of Holy Yoga says, “It’s not about the yoga.” She’s right. It may start out that way, but finding Jesus on your mat leaves your practice forever changed.
For more about Holy Yoga, please visit www.holyyoga.net
Amanda Dean is a lover of Jesus, yoga, dessert and words. She is a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor in Richardson, TX. Amanda has also completed training in Holy Yoga Touch Therapy and is currently enrolled in her Master’s training. She is a contributing writer to Mindfull Collective and Cedar and Soul Find her at www.mandajoy.com and www.mandajoyblog.wordpress.com