Yoga—What is it and Should I Try It?
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Luke 10:27
Yoga. What comes to your mind when you hear the word? I have had a love-hate relationship with yoga over the years. Flexibility and balance are not my strong suit. I have tried yoga a few different times during my life. Mostly I would get discouraged trying to follow a lean woman in a leotard who could make her body look like a pretzel. And the breathing…I couldn’t get it. Was I supposed to feel relaxed after this? I thought that I just wasn’t cut out for yoga. The last couple of years I have developed a new appreciation for yoga. I usually do yoga a few times a month and came to realize that I didn’t need to contort my body to look like a pretzel. I just needed to do the best I could and reap the benefits of yoga. It isn’t a competition. This month’s article will explore the definition of yoga, a brief history, the benefits of yoga and introduce you to the new yoga class here at Bethel.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means to connect, join or balance. It is defined as union, unite, or to be yoked. Yoga is a mind, body and spirit practice that focuses on various postures (body positions), breath control and meditation or contemplation. According to Christian Yoga, “we unite our postures with our breath and our practice with our lives. We also create a union with the community and those we practice with.” Yoga is centuries old. Hinduism is the most popular religious group to use yoga. However, it was being practiced in some form long before Hinduism. Yoga was first introduced in the United States in 1893 when an Indian swami attended a religious conference in Chicago. He stayed in the U.S. to teach the philosophy of yoga. The second wave of yoga came in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. With this wave, the emphasis was on the postures of yoga and is commonly what we see in practice today.
A comment by a friend made me explore yoga and my feelings about it. The comment: “I don’t feel comfortable doing yoga as a Christian.” I went on a mission to explore what various religions had to say about the practice of yoga. It seems that because of yoga’s strong ties to Hinduism and Buddhism, several churches and religions do not encourage the practice of yoga. I also posed the question to our pastors. Pastor Jason told me that it was not yoga, in and of itself, that was a problem. It was the intention with which you do it. Is your intention to improve your body and health or is it to practice a religion, like Hinduism, associated with yoga? According to yogafaith.com, yoga is not a religion, but it has the ability to deepen one’s faith. This organization also states that it is a matter of intentionality. OK…I feel better about practicing yoga.
There are many potential benefits to practicing yoga.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, here are a few:
Increased muscle strength and tone
Improved energy and vitality
Improved athletic performance
Protection from injury
Lessens chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, and headaches
Lower blood pressure
Are you ready to give yoga a try?
We will be holding yoga classes in Bethel Hall on Thursdays, May 9 through June 13, from 5:30-6:30 pm. This class is for everyone! All adults, no matter your age, are welcome. You can attend any or all of the sessions that you are able to. You’ve never tried yoga? This class is for you! Don’t feel comfortable being on the floor? You can do chair yoga! You can work at your own level. Each session will begin with a prayer led by a Bethel member.
Jen Schimek, a personal trainer and yoga instructor, is volunteering her time for this six-week session. Bring a mat or a towel, water, and wear comfortable clothes that you can move in. If you are able, come a bit early to the first session you attend to complete a brief, confidential health history and waiver required by Bethel. Contact Kathy Ferguson, Parish Nurse, if you have any questions: email@example.com or call the church office. It is going to be fun! I hope to see you there.