Yogis often use the term ‘yoga journey’ for explaining the role yoga has played in their lives. For me, it’s more about the way God has used yoga as a catalyst for my faith and walking out my calling. So here goes. It’s story time, friends!
< This is me, telling you my story… >
I practiced yoga on and off in college. Along with pilates, zumba, and whatever else was in fad. Mostly, in that season of my life, I was a cheerleader. Not the pom-pom shaking ‘rah-rah’ cheering, but the ‘Bring It On’ competitive cheerleading, rich with gymnastics, tumbling, dance, and stunts. I did that from 7th grade through college. I loved the energy, the challenge, and it was fun. But whatdo you do with cheerleading as a graduate? I looked at ‘adult open’ teams, but couldn’t get into it. So I experimented with yoga because of the vast amount of Living Social and GroupOn coupons available. Hah. The first style of yoga I got into was Bikram. That’s the SUPER EXTREMELY HOT YOGA.
Bikram is a set of 26 poses practiced in a 103 degree room. It’s the same poses, delivered the same way, no matter where you take a Bikram class. It’s almost militant. It intrigued me because it was hard, I mean really hard, but it was not just physically challenging — it was mentally challenging. You’d get half way through the class and want to quit from the intensity, monotony, and heat exhaustion. But the instructor would challenge you to keep going. I remember one instructor said, “Your body wants to quit, but don’t let it. You are capable of far more than you think you are. Set your mind to it and you can do it.” Mind over matter, essentially.
That was the season of my life when I lived in South Florida (2009-2012) and when I was thinking of going on the World Race. I wasn’t sure that I could do it. The backpacking. The tent. The camping. Did I mention the tent?
I remember that line from the Bikram teacher resonating with me. I went to the beach after that evening’s yoga class and I talked with God, as I often did at the beach. With my feet in the sand and my eyes on the moon, God and I decided that night that I would go on the World Race. Thanks, Bikram dude, for letting God use you.
So then I went on the Race and my world was turned upside down in so many ways. But it was during Month 6 of the World Race that I first felt the Lord call me into ministry through yoga.
I was in Thailand and it was December of 2012. I was there serving at an anti-trafficking ministry and I met a girl named Lindsey who was teaching Christian Yoga as a form of rehabilitation for women coming out of the sex-for-sale industry. I saw how God was using the yoga class as a safe space for these women who had suffered so much abuse to encounter His presence, truth, and love. Lindsey would share scripture passages, play worship music , and pray over them. I loved it. I knew that I wanted to get trained in teaching yoga. I saw it as an incredible opportunity to reach people who may never be willing to step foot in a traditional church, by bringing ‘Church’ to them…in the vehicle of a yoga class.
When I moved to Gainesville in 2013, I made my way into a yoga class at Flip Your Dog Yoga. Lenny Kravitz was pllaying and we were doing all kinds of crazy inversions. I had found my home studio. I signed up for a monthly pass and started to get serious about my practice. I had to keep referring friends to afford my own yoga habit, (#missionaryproblems) but I was growing in my interest in the yoga world and I wondered if this could be ‘my thing for life,’ ya know? As you get older, it’s harder to stay committed to high-impact sports. I saw my Mom (who used to be a gym-goer and beach-runner) and my Dad (who’s a black belt in Karate) struggle to find a physical activity they could enjoy and stick with as life circumstances and their bodies changed. The only active older people were playing golf, tennis, swimming, or yoga. Yoga had already piqued my interest as something so much more than exercise, and because of my wiring to go deep, talk about things that matter, and connect with people and God — yoga was the obvious choice. Yoga here I come!
When Seth and I got married in 2014, he saw the passion in me to get yoga-teacher trained and agreed it was something I should pursue. In 2015 I enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training. At this point, I had been working full-time in building the women’s ministry at Adventures in Missions a for a little more than a year During my weekends at Yoga Teacher Training, I saw the spiritual parallels between what I was teaching in my Beauty for Ashes Retreats and what I was seeing take place at the yoga studio. People were coming to BOTH places seeking healing. People were seeking a place to breathe, to be still, be accepted, and loved. Without being able to articulate it, people were looking to connect with God and with themselves. They were looking for Jesus! I felt the Lord opening the door for me to minister through yoga.
< in our graduation ceremony, we tie a string around our wrist symbolizing something we are letting go of or taking a hold of. I was taking a hold of yoga as ministry >
To start getting my ‘teaching hours’ in, I started teaching my first Christian yoga classes at my work. The teacher training I was taking was a secular training, so I didn’t really know was I was doing with “Christian Yoga”, so I just prayed and asked God what He wanted to share in each class. I would read a scripture passage, pray, and we’d do yoga. Meditating on the truth of God. My students loved it and so did I 🙂 I even got to travel back to Thailand and host my own yoga class there — right in the heart of the red light district in Chiang Mai. It was awesome.
In 2016, I started teaching Faith Based Yoga classes every Wednesday evening at my local yoga studio. My yoga-boss trusted me enough to teach how I wanted to teach and I was grateful. I’d start the class with prayer and offer a scripture passage as the meditation we’d come back to throughout the class. Sometimes we focus on the peace of the Lord, sometimes on our gratitude to Him, sometimes on some other aspect of faith. And at the end of every class, I get to pray over each of my students individually and corporately. I always pray that they continue to see and experience God as they leave the studio. Some of my students are Christian, but many are not Believers. I get excited knowing the prayers I pray over them may be the only prayers they receive all week.
This year, we launched MissionaryYogi, officially. I started posting yoga videos online, started hosting Wholeness Journey yoga missions trips, Christian yoga teacher retreats, and this blog where I get to share my heart.
Together with my friend Jessica, I hosted my first Wholeness Journey yoga missions trip in March 2017 to Guatemala and it was fantastic! We saw God move in so many ways. Our next one is coming up in February 2018 to Thailand.
My first Christian yoga teacher retreat was in July 2017 to Asheville, NC. I got to host it with my friend Anna and it was awesome. We served together at an addiction recovery program and we spent time seeking God’s path for the future of our Christian yoga community. We agreed that we want to be women who set a standard for what we are teaching, how we share the Gospel in the yoga community, and how we explain our ministry to others.
I am stoked that God’s invited me to create this unique form of ministry with Him. My heart is to create opportunities for yogis to encounter the one true Living God, found through Jesus Christ. I believe the physical practice of yoga and the power of prayer and meditation in the Spirit is a transformative experience that can strengthen our faith. I believe we can worship God in mind, body, and Spirit. And, with His guidance, that’s exactly what I am doing through this ministry.
Thanks for following along on my ‘Yoga Journey’. It’s totally “my thing for life” and this is just the beginning.
Do you have a ‘yoga journey story’? I’d love to hear yours 🙂
Namaste, friends <3
“It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.” ~Acts 17:28