Yoga as a Spiritual Practice

Yesterday Christine Sine posted another blog in her series “What is a Spiritual Practice?” It was written by Christina Whitehouse-Suggs and was about yoga as a spiritual practice. This is something that obviously caught my attention as yoga has (especially in the past two years) become a very dear part of my life and a very significant way that I relate to God.

Let me begin by specifying for all of you that yoga is not in and of itself spiritual. It is not a religion and it does not need to be practiced religiously. I know that there are those who think that yoga is part of Eastern religion and Hinduism in particular and that because of that Christian’s shouldn’t practice it. I strongly disagree with this, on two levels. One being that it’s just not true. Yoga is not religious in and of itself. Yoga is a philosophy. Like any other philosophy it can be incorporated with a broad range of religions or it can be followed or practiced on its own without religious connections. Secondly, I tend to think that even if it was really religious in nature there would still be things that we as Christian’s could learn from it. I think there are probably things that we could learn from a lot of other religions. Not that I think we should openly accept anything and everything that is out there, but I do think that an open and honest dialogue can never be really harmful and that we can glean much from people who believe and practice a faith that is different than our own.

That all being said I think that for me yoga, both the physical practice and the philosophy of yoga have become very spiritual and very closely connected with my religious experience. I have learned and continue to learn a lot about God and life and myself through yoga. And I have experienced God through my yoga practice. It stretches me and grows my faith and draws me into an experience of the divine just as any other spiritual practice does.

I have written off and on quite a bit about how I relate to God through yoga, giving examples of things I learn from yoga and even posting yoga routines that incorporate scripture and prayer and that have been powerful experiences for me. To share all these posts again would be way too much, but I did want to re-share a few of them that specifically talked about things I’ve learned about God and myself through yoga to compliment Christina’s wonderful posts about what she has learned through her yoga experience.

Here are both of Christina’s posts on yoga as a spiritual practice:

Becoming a Good Student – about the “five qualities that contribute to being a good student of yoga and how they relate to natural elements”. She points out that these are also significant qualities needed for being a follower or student of Christ.

Yoga & Jesus – about three of the paths of yoga and how they relate to the greatest commandment given by Jesus. l

Here are just a few of mine:

Lessons from Yoga: Headstands – about experiencing a tangible picture for the up-side-down and back-wards kingdom that Christ calls us to

Lessons from Yoga: Warrior Poses – about power and fighting for justice and standing up for ourselves

Lessons from Yoga: Savasana and Letting Go – about surrendering to God and letting go

Lessons from Yoga: Focus – about the difference that focusing on God instead of ourselves can make

Hope you enjoy some or all of these posts.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Yoga and Prayer: Strength

Life has felt really overwhelming to me this week. I didn’t even realize until last night how truly overwhelmed I had become. I had felt all week a sort of off centeredness and I antsy agitation. I felt stressed and eager to do something. But, there was something else I was feeling all week that I couldn’t put my finger on… until last night. Overwhelmed. That’s what I’ve really been feeling and I’ve tried to dive into stuff and distract myself from it but in my heart I felt incredibly overwhelmed and helpless, out of control and powerless. But, I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, not even myself.

So, this morning knew that I needed to remember with my mind and my body that there is a power greater than myself. I needed to remember that God is in control even when I’m not, that God is powerful even when I am not. I needed to remember that God is not helpless and that he is with me. And I needed to remember that he had given and will give me strength for each day and the circumstances of each day. I needed to call on that truth and that strength.

So, for yoga today those are the things we focused on and drew our attention to. We did a lot of strong warrior poses, remembering that God does and will fight for us. We spent a lot of time coming back to and staying in Mountain Pose remembering that our God is a strong mountain and grounding ourselves in that truth. And we prayed together – prayed for God to be powerful over the situations of our lives that overwhelmed and scared us.

We used a few songs from the Four Tet album Rounds again today for music and each time we came into mountain pose I said Deuteronomy 31:6. So, here’s what we did:

Sun Salutations – 2 sets

Mountain Pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Standing Forward bend

Lunge with right foot back

Warrior I right foot back

Downward facing dog

Lunge with left foot back

Warrior I left food back

Down dog with leg lifts (do both legs)

Plank pose

Four Limbed Staff Pose

Upward facing dog

Downward facing dog

Standing Forward bend

Mountain Pose –  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Standing Forward bend

Lunge with left foot back

Warrior II with left foot back

Reversed Warrior II with left foot back

Extended side angle pose

Downward facing dog

Lunge with right foot back

Warrior II with right foot back

Reversed Warrior II with left foot back

Extended side angle pose

Downward facing dog

Plank pose

Four-Limbed staff pose

Upward facing dog

Downward facing dog

Standing Forward bend

Mountain pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Warrior II with right leg back

Triangle Pose with right leg back

Mountain Pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Chair Pose

Mountain pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Warrior II with left leg back

Triangle pose with left leg back

Mountain Pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Warrior I right leg back

Warrior III right leg up

Mountain pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Warrior I left leg back

Warrior III left leg up

Mountain pose – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Standing Forward Bend

Downward facing dog

Child’s Pose

Hero Pose

Lion Pose

Child’s Pose

Bharadvaja’s Twist to the right

Staff Pose

Bharadvaja’s Twist to the left

Seated forward bend

Half Boat Pose

Bridge pose

Reclining Twists

Corpse Pose

Peace and strength yours today.

Rejoicing in the Journey –
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Yoga and Prayer: Creativity

I believe that God is immensely creative, that seems so clear to me as I get to know him better and see how he works in people’s lives. And I also believe that we, as his creatures, are each and every one of us, creative beings. We were created to create (among other things). Lately, I have deeply desired to create. I feel like there is all this pent up creative energy in me that is pushing to be let free. So, as I designed the yoga routine for our women’s time of prayer this week I really focused on poses that are suppose to inspire creativity and productivity.

We did the whole asana series with Bach playing in the back ground and smiles on our faces. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did J

Sun Salutations (2 sets)

Crow Pose

Kundalini yoga chair pose

Kundalini Yoga Jesus Pose

Cat Cow pose

Child’s pose

Bow pose

Child’s pose

Bound Angle Pose  – from this pose we grabbed our angles and made circles with our bodies, first one direction and then the other

Neck rolls

Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (with right leg straight)

Head-to-Knee forward bend (with right leg straight)

One-legged  King pigeon pose (with right leg straight)

Half lord of the fishes pose (with right leg over left)

(Do the last four poses on the other side)

Seated forward bend

Wide angle seated forward bend

Bound angle pose 

Then we did THIS sequence of poses working up to Blossoming Lotus Pose 

Forward bend in Bound Angle Pose

Bridge Pose

Kundalini Yoga Stretch Pose

Half Shoulderstand

Plow pose

Corpse Pose

After a little while in Corpse pose we came up to Easy Pose and had a short time of meditation with our hands making a circle on our laps (right finger tips rest on top of left finger tips and thumbs touch lightly making a circle). During this time of meditation we focused our attention on the spot just below our belly button – where our wombs are and the place where life is created. Lord, make our whole lives fertile with creativity.

After a little while my friend, Elaine, led us in a beautiful prayer and then I closed with Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

But, I think my favorite part of the morning was that after we were done we sat around and talked for a while and then as some concerns and issues were shared in the conversation we just naturally jumped back into prayer – it was beautiful. I feel so blessed to have this time with these wonderful women! Thank you, Lord! Thank you!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Yoga and Prayer: The Psalms of Ascent

For yoga today I did a sequence of poses and had a verse from the Psalms of Ascent that went with each pose. We got into the pose and then I said the verse that went with it. A lot of the poses were repeated throughout the sequence and each time the same verse was read with them. For me there is something very powerful about hearing a verse and also feeling that verse as your body is in a specific position and having that same experience over and over again. In a way it’s like the verse begins to sink into more than just your conscious thoughts, it starts to sink into your muscle memory and your psyche.

For music today I used the cd, Rounds, by Four Tet

So, here’s what we did today:

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Upward Salute – “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Standing Forward Bend – “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy”

Low Lunge (right leg back) – “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.”

Downward Facing Dog (bend each knee one at a time like you are walking in down dog) – “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.”

Low Lunge (left leg back) – “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.”

Plank Pose – “If the Lord had not been on our side – let Israel say – If the Lord had not been on our side…”

Child’s Pose – “…the raging waters would have swept us away.”

Upward Facing Dog – “We have escaped like a bird. The snare has been broken, and we have escaped.”

Downward Facing Dog – “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Standing Forward Bend – “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy”

Upward Salute – “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Warrior I (right foot back) – “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mountain Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Warrior I (left foot back) – “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mountain Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Warrior II (right foot back) – “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mountain Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”

Extended Side Angle Pose (right hand over head) – “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Warrior II (left foot back) – “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mountain Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”

Extended Side Angle Pose (left hand over head) – “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Wide Legged Forward Bend – “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Tree Pose (right leg up) – “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Tree Pose (left leg up) – “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Chair Pose – “My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Mountain Pose – “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Hero Pose – “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Bharadvaja’s Twist (to both sides) – “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Seated Forward Bend – “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”

Bridge Pose – “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.”

Half Shoulder Stand – “The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.”

Corpse Pose – “May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life… Peace be upon [you].”


Peace be with you.

If you live in Prague and you are at all interested in joining us in this Prayer and Yoga experiment please let me know 🙂

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Yoga and Prayer: Breathe

So, off and on for the past few weeks I have been doing yoga and prayer with a few other women (see Here for more on the original idea). I am still figuring out how to do this and what’s really going to work but it’s been a wonderful experiment for me so far. Over the next few months I will be leading yoga and prayer for women (everyone’s invited, so if you are in Prague and would like to be included in this please let me know). I would like to share on this blog what we do each week and a little about how it goes. So, here’s a little about today…

Today’s yoga time ended up just being me and my good friend, Carrie, which was a little disappointing for me, but God knows what we each need. So, I stuck with what I had planned and we had a nice time of reconnecting with our breath, our bodies and our God.

I started the yoga time by sharing what I’ve been calling God this week, “God who is”. That’s who I needed God to be this week… I needed him to just exist, to be. I needed to know and experience that God is. I needed Him to be with me and in me and with those I love and in them.

Then we watched the Nooma video, Breathe, letting the thoughts sink into our minds and our bodies with each breathe. Breathing in the blessing at the end, “May you come to see that God is here right now with us all of the time. May you come to see that the ground you are standing on is holy. And as you slow down, may you become aware that it is in ‘Yod,’ ‘Heh,’ ‘Vav,’ ‘Heh’ that we live and we move and we breathe.”

After that we did this yoga routine with a the cd Sigur Ros ( ) for music. (Disclaimer: I made this one up and I have no formal training or teacher’s certification. I researched the poses and did the best I could putting together a sequence but if you choose to use this sequence on your own do so knowing that it was not made by a certified professional):

Skull Brightener Breath

Mountain Pose

Upward Salute 

(Repeat mountain pose and upward salute 3 times – inhaling as you come into upward salute and exhaling as you come back into mountain pose)

Downward facing dog

Upward facing dog 

(Repeat downward facing dog and upward facing dog 3 times – moving smoothly from one to the other as you breathe)

Chair pose  

Upward Salute on an inhale

Mountain pose on an exhale   

Eagle Pose (without crossing the legs)

Upward Salute on an inhale

Mountain pose on an exhale  

Garland Pose 

Upward Salute on an inhale

Mountain pose on an exhale   

Gate Pose

Camel Pose

Hero Pose

Lion Pose

Childs pose                                                  

Bharadvaja’s Twist to the right

Staff pose

Bharadvaja’s Twist to the left

Seated forward bend

Bound Angle pose 

Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose with right leg straight

Head-to-knee forward bend with right leg straight 

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose with right leg over left

Staff pose

(Repeat last 4 poses on left side)

Fish pose 

Pull knees to chest and rock back and forth

Happy Baby Pose

Corpse pose

While lying in corpse pose I read this quote from the book With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen:

“The man who lives from God’s breath can recognize with joy that the same breath sinks into the lungs of his fellowman, and that they are both drawing from the same source. At this mutual realization, the fear of another disappears, a smile comes to the lips, the weapons fall, and one hand reaches out for the other. He who recognizes the breath of God in another can truly let another enter his life, too, and can receive the gifts which are given to him.”

Peace be with you.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)