Like many people, the first time I heard about yoga, my mind and thoughts all ran to people twisting their bodies gymnastically and all sorts of sophisticated postures. I then thought to myself, “That’s a Hindu practice and discipline.” Things even went from bad to worse when I heard of Holy Yoga: “How can yoga be holy? How can one even merge yoga with Christ? That cannot be a Christian discipline, and one cannot redeem yoga for the Glory of God.” All these questions, confusions, etc., kept running through my mind, just like anyone else would. I believe many still doubt the holiness of yoga, and some even believe it’s another form of religion.
I also thought of it that way, like aforementioned, but through further reading books like Holy Yoga by Brooke Boon, my attention was caught straight away, my beliefs in yoga changed, and as I further enrolled for an instructor training with Holy Yoga, my eyes were opened to believe that what I had earlier rejected and thought of as being idolatry is a must-have for everybody.
When I first joined Holy Yoga training, some of my Christian friends rejected me. I had a pastor friend who even began distancing himself from me, but I kept saying to myself, “I wish they could read and dig deeper into this than just making criticism. I wish they could go through the Holy Yoga statement of faith and know how important this is.”
As a Holy Yoga Instructor and as a Christian, I am here to share with anyone reading this, whether you are a Holy Yoga Instructor or not, that yoga is needed for everybody and that this practice can be redeemed for the Glory of God in Christ.
What Makes Yoga Unique
The uniqueness of yoga is that it’s a practice that benefits your body, your mind, and your spirit. Few other disciplines can do that, if not none.
To someone new to yoga reading this, kindly take note of the following key points and truths about yoga:
Yoga means “to yoke” or union. As a Holy Yogi, our focus is not union with anything else but Jesus Christ. We can drive this from Matthew 11: 29 -30 -KJV (Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.)
We take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves for it being lighter, solely focusing on God (as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Therefore, despite all the philosophy, beliefs, values, culture, ethnicity, and relation to Hinduism, yoga can be used as a tool for God’s glory.
Yoga has eight limbs.
Yamas: principles on how to treat others and the world around us.
Niyamas: standards of practicing self-discipline
Pranayama: breath control
Pratyahara: sense withdrawal
Holy Yoga, or Christian yoga, is not a religion but a discipline or practice just like prayer, fasting, etc., and consists of bodily alignment, reliance on God, and mindful breathing.
Despite the fact that yoga is of many forms and modernity, my focus is today on two forms that we integrate into Holy Yoga. 1. Bhakti yoga – involving the opening of the heart to divine love, involving songs or chanting 2. Hatha yoga – involving physical postures and breathing techniques.
How, then, does yoga benefit one practicing it, and why is it necessary for everybody?
Yoga benefits the body, the mind, and spirit. We are looking at a healthy interior (spiritually comprised of the soul and mind) and a healthy exterior (body). We keep pursuing the union of the body, mind, and the Holy Spirit within us, intentionally worshipping God and serving Him with our entire bodies/beings.
The only way one can benefit from yoga to me, is by making the shift from performing it to living it; it’s a lifestyle and discipline that ought to be lived beyond performing it.
How Yoga Benefits on the Mat
Yoga benefits through healing, relaxing the body, improving muscle tone, better blood circulation, weight management, pain management, etc. Postures/Asanas like back bends release held emotional energy; inversions can strengthen the nervous system; the standing, arm balancing, and sitting poses etc., all increase core strength, courage, confidence, detoxification, and all other good stuff we can talk about. It is with no doubt that spending time on a mat is worth it, and below are other ways yoga can benefit one beyond the mat.
How Yoga Benefits Beyond the Mat
Due to its incorporation of meditation and breath practice, which help calm and center the mind, yoga, without any doubt, brings mental benefits, such as reduced stress, trauma, anxiety, and depression — making your brain work better.
According to research, “All exercise can boost your mood by lowering levels of stress hormones, increasing the production of endorphins, and bringing more oxygenated blood to your brain… It can affect mood by elevating levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is associated with better mood and decreased anxiety.”
I remember a time when I had been going through stress, trauma, and depression, and lost control of my body. I had suicidal thoughts and felt like I had no reason to live. I had inherited acres of land from my late father, and someone fraudulently took possession of my land and sold it off. The land was valued at over $50,000, and according to our standard of living in my country, that’s a lot of money to lose. I tried a court case but lost it, too, leaving me with feelings of hopelessness and being stranded.
I was deeply wounded and felt the world had come to an end, just like anyone can be. Whether you’re a trauma survivor from an accident, abuse, rape, divorce, or anything else, you know what I am talking about; how you feel broken, wounded, betrayed, and pained. Luckily enough, God brought me an opportunity of training with Holy Yoga at that very moment, and through the community and trainings, I found my healing. I learned how to control my mind, concentrate and focus on things that are present, and, more important to me, let go of all the clutter, confusion, and mess from past pain, stress, abuse, etc.
When you’re stressed, depressed, or traumatized, your body becomes an enemy; you start not feeling safe inside and feel betrayed by your own body, and, in such a situation, yoga can help reclaim control of your body.
Attain a deeper relationship and connection with God. Yoga enhances your prayer life by enabling you to worship and serve with your whole being — your body, mind, and spirit. It also has practices that develop a calm, quiet mind and heart. Through breathwork and meditation, the concentration we learn from yoga enables us to remove all the thoughts, confusion, clutter, etc. from our minds and focus entirely on God. Much as we’re used to prayer being full of loudly making our requests known to God, it is also better to note that it involves a need to be calm and listen to God’s voice. This can be described as a close and good relationship with God.
As a yoga instructor and student, every time I read the Word of God and take time to meditate upon it, which is even in Joshua 1:8 KJV, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
I feel more in communion with God, and the Holy Spirit gives me a revelation as I take time and listen to my heart as it comprehends it; I feel more meaning from what I read than before.
In conclusion, Holy Yoga and Christ-centered yoga are practices that help us to live a life yoked to Christ.
I don’t know what your thoughts are about yoga and its relation to Christianity. Maybe you criticize its practice by Christians, etc., but my assurance to you and everybody reading this is that yoga is a discipline needed by everybody. Its ability to give you a healthy body, mind, and spirit makes it unique and one-of-a-kind. And for those of you who are traumatized, stressed, in need of healing, and feel you’ve lost control of yourself, I’d encourage you to try Holy Yoga. You can always log on to www.holyyoga.net for more information about Holy Yoga, how to join this community of good people, the ongoing instructor trainings, and lots of other resources like books to read, etc.
Kalyango David is a 200-hour Holy Yoga instructor currently living in Uganda, East Africa, with his wife, Milly, alongside their four children. David is a Christian, Pentecostal in lifestyle. Apart from yoga, David is an accountant by profession and has a real estate management company. He currently has a vision of using yoga as a tool to bring healing to traumatized people in his community and has plans to build a soul-care center for that vision. (Email: Kalyangos2017@gmail.com).
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