Holy Yoga Outreach Ministry
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (MSG)
At its very core, Holy Yoga is missional. It is a ministry committed to serving the Body of Christ and to sharing the Good News of the gospel to all who have ears to hear. As Holy Yoga instructors we have obediently answered His call to serve. We have given of our time, our energy, and our resources in order to further His kingdom. As Holy Yoga instructors, we share a gift with our students that is both 100% yoga and 100% Jesus. The practice brings us closer to Christ and, we pray, brings our students to His feet as well. We overflow with love for Him and for this practice. There are many, though, for whom either yoga, or Jesus, or even both, are seen as barriers.
When Jesus taught us how to pray He said, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven is a special place, a place where ALL tribes and peoples are represented. One day, we will rejoice with our brothers and sisters of all stripes and tongues. In the Kingdom, ALL will dance, and pray, and sing, and do handstands and forearm balances. This means that the Kingdom community is not isolated to just the people who look like you, or visit the same stores, or live in the same neighborhood, or attend the same church. It means that at the time of redemption, we will be rejoicing with all of creation. If we are told to pray for the coming Heaven on earth, then we are called to actively work towards a Kingdom community now – a Kingdom community that is made up of all different kinds of people, of all different kinds of persuasions.
As Holy Yoga instructors, called to serve, we should be looking for ways to engage in different communities. We need to bring the light of Jesus to people who might otherwise never have an opportunity to step on a yoga mat. The benefits of Holy Yoga are endless: deeper communion with God, increased sensitivity to the Spirit, improved health, reduced levels of stress – just to name a few! But did you know that not all people, because of the fallen world in which we live, have access to the practice of yoga? Yoga is generally a middle-class activity. Socioeconomic, gender, and even racial barriers bind access to this amazing spiritual, mental, and physical experience.
As part of the Holy Yoga community, called to bring Heaven to earth, we need to reach those who have been continually subjugated by society and offer them the gift of yoga. You’re not being asked to create an organization, or head an effort to change the systemic causes of inequality. You are being asked to pray, to ask God how you can actively engage in a community of people, and perhaps represent this Holy Yoga ministry outside of your comfort zone.
But I am nervous. Being among the young (or old), foul-smelling (or different-looking), rough-around-the-edges is uncomfortable for me. I don’t know what to do or where to start. And I am comfortable right where I am – serving on my mat.
Beginning to reach out into our communities may be as simple as taking classes to new locations. Consider offering free Holy Yoga classes to those who would, apart from your outreach, not encounter the practice: Crisis pregnancy centers, After-school programs, Assisted Living/nursing homes, Low-income housing complexes, Group homes, and Homeless shelters, etc.
So, what do I do next?
First, pray. Seek God’s leading on where you should serve in your community. You might not feel called to teach Holy Yoga anywhere other than in your church or community center. It’s true that not everyone needs yoga (although we would certainly argue that everyone could benefit from it!), but everyone needs Jesus. There are countless ways to take your yoga “off the mat.” So, put on a smile, an open heart and a Holy Yoga t-shirt and get out there and give of your time and energy.
Here are a few simple ideas and organizations to get you started: Tutoring for children and adults (including non-English speakers), Sorting at a food bank, Habitat for Humanity or other building/repair programs, Nursing homes, Libraries, Special Olympics, Head Start, Soup kitchen, Homeless Shelters, Foster homes, WIC, YWCA.
In some of these locations, we might be limited in our ability to speak of Jesus. Our willingness to stick around -- to engage, to get to know people, pour water, rub feet -- speaks volumes, and shares Jesus without words. We may find that later these same individuals trickle into our Holy Yoga classes. Whether they do or not, we are serving Him, living “a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
If you are fearful of venturing out on your own, why not encourage your own Holy Yoga students to join you in service? Our students, we pray, are experiencing renewal as they draw near to Christ on their mats. Perhaps many of them, like us, need a little prodding and encouragement to step out in obedience and serve in their communities. A group activity might be just the thing to get them going. As their teacher, modeling this obedience may lead you in creating such a project. Think about what you and your students might do together to “Be Jesus.” Easy group projects include: Making and serving meals, Habitat or similar building projects, Fund-raising walks, Food drives (preferably including delivering the food collected together).
Perhaps our outreach will result in more people experiencing this transformative practice of Holy Yoga. Perhaps seeing us serving in myriad ways in our Holy Yoga garb – with the joy and peace our practice gives us – will draw others to the practice of Holy Yoga.
But what if it doesn’t? What if our service -- our living whole, obedient lives on and off our mats -- does no more than share Jesus’ love with people in our communities in an authentic way? Hallelujah!
Engagement. Alignment. Gaze.
Engagement is crucial. We are not called to just do the physical work of service but also to immerse ourselves in relationship. Smile. Talk. Offer assistance. Introduce yourself and ask names. Engagement is real; it is tangible.
By seeking to be the Body of Christ in the world off of our mats, we are also aligning ourselves with thte Holy Spirit's call on our lives. At the same time, we collaborate with fellow Holy Yoga instructors and other believers actively working toward a Kingdom community in the here and now.
Equally important to engagement and alignment is a focus, a centered attention: our gaze. We first cast our eyes on Christ, and what naturally follows is a commitment and a yearning for that Kingdom community.