Yoga has become a very popular workout class that most gyms offer, and it has been a wonderful tool for me, not only for my health and fitness, but also for growth in my relationship with Christ.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a lot of my life, and slowing my mind to pray and focus on God is something I wrestle with most days. Yoga has taught me how to concentrate on my breathing. With repetition and practice I’ve been able to apply these breathing techniques in a variety of settings. These breathing skills result in my mind slowing down so I can focus on God and pray.
Aside from breathing techniques that help me in a range of different settings, there are several different ways that I use my actual yoga time to strengthen my relationship with Christ. Whether you are participating in a class at the gym or practicing at home, you can bring God to the yoga mat with you.
One way I like to do this is by incorporating worship. Most of my yoga practices are at home, so I am able to set up my own playlist. I include Christian songs that have a steady beat and powerful lyrics. If you are new to yoga, it may be hard to listen to the meaning of the lyrics while doing the poses at first. A great place to start is by practicing a sun salutation. This YouTube video demonstrates meditating on the Lord’s Prayer and using the words to drive your movement through the poses. Give it a try! This rhythm of poses is repetitive so after practicing this flow for a while you can memorize the movements and focus on worshiping God more.
Another way I like to include God is by meditating on his word. I’ll either use a verse I have specifically found for that practice or refer to one I have memorized. Typically I find verses that remind me of my identity in Christ, who God is, or the promises He has made. Some verses I have used are Exodus 9:16, Proverbs 3:5-8, Matthew 19:26 and Revelation 3:20. Meditating on these words has opened my mind to what these verses have to teach me, giving me a peace that can only be explained by God.
The most important parts of my yoga practices are the prayer times. After a flow that focuses on a specific body part, I like to rest in a restorative pose, like child’s pose. During this short period of rest, I spend some time praying to God. These poses truly become restorative for me because God uses them to restore me and fill me up.
Another prayer I often do throughout my practice is a simple breathing prayer. For example, a prayer for forgiveness would go something like this: As I breathe in I pray, Lord, please forgive me. As I breathe out I pray, I repent of my sin. I breathe in again and pray, Lord, I embrace your loving forgiveness. I breathe out and pray, I release this shame from my sin. I repeat this as long as necessary, changing the words for however I need to talk to God at that time.
Finally, the yoga work is done and it’s time for the final resting pose. This is my favorite time. Lie on your back, relax every muscle you can, and just remain still. This is the perfect pose to be still and know (Psalm 46:10). This pose typically is a time of thankfulness for me. During these still moments, I often thank God for the strength he has given me through this practice, for the peace I feel in his presence, and for his overflowing love. I let this prayer time take as long as I need. Sometimes it’s just a minute or two, but sometimes I will end up in this prayer time for 15 minutes or more. This is your intimate time with God, so make it whatever you want it to be.
And yes, Christians can do yoga. God knows your intentions, he examines your mind, and he knows your heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10, Psalm 44:21). These moments of movement, stillness, focus, and prayer can be such a wonderful time when you bring God to the yoga mat with you.