By Michelle Thielen, Founder of YogaFaith
Pause for a moment from all the talk about how yoga is at odds with the Christian faith. Instead dare to completely surrender and exhale “you” to create space for God. THEN - stretch your faith and consider how you can join those at YogaFaith to reach out and provide compassionate care to victims of human trafficking.
If you have not experienced yoga for yourself, you may wonder, “What is all the craze with yoga?” Indeed, there are many benefits. Doctors, therapists, cancer and trauma centers are implementing yoga into their patients’ daily lives for wholeness, peace, healing and release from depression. YogaFaith is a Christian-centered yoga practice delivering benefits by intertwining faith with yoga.
Yoga is a mind, body and spirit practice. Because yoga creates a space for holistic wellness, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga are all encompassing. Yoga is inclusive, meaning that all are welcome no matter what walk of life you come from. Like Jesus, all are welcome to YogaFaith.
Yoga is simply defined as a union, to unite or to yoke. Not only do we unite our postures with our breath and our practice with our lives, we also create a union with the community, those with whom we practice. Combining your faith and yoga practice can create profound intimacy with Christ.
YOGA + FAITH
Yoga is not a religion. It is nonsectarian, able to deepen anyone’s faith. Aspects of yoga have been incorporated into groups and organizations, including religions, for thousands of years. Yoga is not a religion in and of itself, nor do you have to be religious to practice yoga.
There is a misunderstanding that one must be Hindu or Buddhist to practice yoga. Yoga predates many of the religions that have incorporated yoga techniques. In the Middle Ages (500-1500 BC) numerous variations and practices stemmed from the common Hatha yoga practice. Bhakti yoga is one stem. It focuses on surrendering to God. Bhakti is a spiritual journey and a devotion to the divine. This can cause followers of Christ to question practicing yoga.
SHOULD A CHRISTIAN PRACTICE YOGA?
Many people hold perspectives as to why they believe a Christian can or cannot practice yoga. I believe, it is a matter of intentionality. Christians are called to meditate, contemplate and dwell on God. What are you setting your heart and mind toward at any given moment? Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. For the Christian, no matter what we choose to do to honor our “temple,” do it all for the glory of God.
YogaFaith is a Christ-centered yoga practice. This is a practice of reclaiming and redeeming numerous biblical principles such as chanting, meditating, complete surrender and whole worship as the Bible describes, “In Him we move and breathe and have our being.”
Some Christians hang out with Jesus on Sunday and then go about their lives for the rest of the week, leaving Jesus at church. YogaFaith proposes that Christians keep Christ in the center of every part of life. The goal is wholeness: mind, body, spirit and soul.
The Bible encourages worship and adoration with the “whole self” repeatedly. Doing yoga, centered on Christ, can be your worship in action, your faith and prayers in motion. YogaFaith is one way to create a sacred space and intimacy with God. However, if God does not lead you to do this, then find what He is calling you to do to achieve wholeness.
When was the last time that you created a space and time to simply be still? We cannot and will not be able to hear God’s voice if noise is cluttering the frequencies. Christ-followers, need to find stillness and meditate with God daily. Completely surrendered and exhale “you” to create space for God.
YOGAFAITH FOR TRAUMA
YogaFaith has had the privilege to share Jesus and yoga with human traffic survivors for several years bringing hope and healing. Through Christ and Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY), trauma is surrendered and healing takes place. Those that experience trauma, experience isolation, depression, body image disorders and hopelessness have found YogaFaith helps them redeem their body, mind, spirit and soul.
Trauma is a disorder or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.
Because trauma causes actual changes in the brain, a trauma sensitive yoga practice must reconnect the brain, breath, physical body and one's spirit back together. When one experiences a traumatic event, severe damage can be done to the insula, the section of the brain that regulates emotion and works in assisting motor control function. When insula damage exists, one no longer has the ability to experience or express what the physical body is doing. Therefore it may be impossible to express joy, love or even sadness. This is why traumatized individuals experience isolation or feel lost, disoriented and fall into depression. Our goals is a simple invitation, never a command or instruction, to reconnect with their body.
As a survivor of childhood abuse and commercial sexual exploitation I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD. For the majority of my life I was told that my body was not my own and it was made for others. I leaned at a very early age to separate my body from my spirit and "numb out" because of either the physical or emotional pain I had to endure in order to survive. Four years ago I entered into a Christian recovery program and there I started my process of healing and restoration. I am now in ministry as a mentor/ advocate for exploited and abused women. YogaFaith is now part of my new season in which God is using to heal my physical body from my past trauma. It is such a awesome feeling to use my whole body in an act of worship to the Lord while actually meditating on His Word!
- Raquel Goodwin, survivor
A victim of trauma often isolates, which is why yoga can provide an opportunity to enter into a safe community of caring people. In YogaFaith we invite God to come into these broken, abused and dead places, to breathe His Holy Spirit into every fiber of one's being to restore, redeem and reclaim hope and healing.
Several years ago I became an ambassador for Shared Hope International after learning that there were five year old little girls servicing up to twenty men a day. I have since traveled with other organizations and YogaFaithers to Bulgaria, Greece, Cambodia, Thailand and other parts of Asia sharing Christian hope and YogaFaith with trauma and trafficked survivors. We may not be able to do everything on our own, but together we can do something. We can make a difference in our world and we can help save one life at a time.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING STATISTICS
- Human Trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world.
- More than 27 million people in bondage around the globe.
- Only 1-2% of victims are ever released.
- Average age of a victim is 12.
PAUSE AND CONSIDER HOW YOU CAN HELP
Share with others the facts about human trafficking. Here are just a few in addition to the above bullet points.
- It’s all about supply and demand, clicking on any pornography promotes the whole industry.
- Host a home meeting or outreach to raise awareness or hand out fliers.
- Pray. Form or join “prayer circles” around your city’s red light district. Pray for organizations that are on the forefront of ministry.
- Give financially or physical resources like clothes, toiletries and other basic necessities.
- Volunteer at a shelter to fellowship with and care for survivors.
- Know your child’s friends and other relationships. Be cautious of any “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” that tries to lure your child away from family.