The connection between mind and body has puzzled humans for centuries. For those of us living in this day and age, the connection between our body and our mind – consciousness, spirit and soul – is a daily consideration. Practitioners of yoga give particular attention to this connection; Yvette Cobb, owner of YC Yoga for Life Detroit, defines yoga as “the union of the self and the higher self.”
Yoga Takes Many Forms
The union between a person and their higher self can take many forms. People practicing yoga extend their bodies into various poses, stretching their muscles while focusing awareness on their breath. Many people believe that yoga is a Hindu practice, and they are not completely mistaken – yoga has a large and important place in Hinduism, but the basic movements and intentions stretch all the way back to the Egyptians, asserts Cobb, while emphasizing the fact that, regardless of where it originated, yoga is not a religious practice.
Yoga and Christianity
The connection between yoga and spirituality is a topic that has captivated the attention of many people, and many faiths. Some religious people object to practicing yoga, and the belief that yoga is incompatible with Christianity has become a hot-button topic for people all over the world.
“I started learning Holy Yoga because people told me I couldn’t do yoga because I am Christian,” says YC Yoga for Life instructor Trina Campbell, who teaches Holy Yoga, a Christian-based practice. The controversial assumption that yoga is a religion is one that Cobb and Campbell reject. Instead, both feel it is a spiritual experience that is acceptable for all human beings, including Christians. “The beauty of yoga is that it unites everybody because it’s about the breath of life,” says Cobb.
Movement as Worship
Campbell can see the concerns of Christians, who may be unfamiliar with the language, names of poses and chants involved in the practice. According to Campbell, risking worship of a false idol is not in the best interest of any religious Christian. As a newcomer to yoga, Campbell’s solution to this dilemma was to request English translations and interpretations of each chant. “When I’ve been uncomfortable, I’ve chanted the lord’s prayer – something I can connect my practice with,” she explains.
Campbell explains that the difference between Holy Yoga and other yoga styles lies mainly in the intention and connection. “We don’t rely on our strength; we rely on Christ’s strength,” she says. In fact, many Christians find that a Holy Yoga class can be a formal worship experience. For Campbell, hearing that her students have truly connected to Christ through the practice of Holy Yoga is the best reward. “People who don’t have time for church tell me they feel like they’ve had a church experience,” she shares, happily.
Nourishing the Spirit of the City
Bringing yoga and faith to Detroit, especially during this time of economic strife, are of paramount importance to both Cobb and Campbell. “Many Detroiters have lost their way or faith because of the [difficulties of] the ‘Big 3,’” says Cobb. She and Campbell hope that YC Yoga For Life Detroit will serve as an outlet for people looking for something to connect to.
When asked about her studio’s low prices and urban location, Cobb speaks enthusiastically. “One, it allows individuals who would not have the opportunity to experience a variety of movements, to feel good and be more health and body conscious. Two, it allows Detroiters to experience a different type of fitness, one that is fun and enjoyable. It’s a domino effect, once a person feels good, they can relax, sleep better and reduce stress.”
So the connection between yoga and spirituality, at least for this pioneering Detroit studio, is about healing and revitalizing the spirit. Her hope is that the center reduces the stress level of the city, helping to heal the spirit of Detroiters, many of whom are living in a survival mode in which joyfulness and health don’t always seem possible. Cobb sees herself on a mission from God, as a messenger for god, and believes that her movement classes can help people move into a more spiritually centered place, in which all things seem possible. By skillfully weaving scripture into her Holy Yoga classes, Campbell uses the studio space to facilitate and encourage Christians to move physically towards a connection with Christ.
No matter which way we look at it, yoga is a moving experience that raises spirits, even if were don’t know where to or from – when a person does yoga, they know where they are. During these difficult times in Detroit, we could all use a little of that.
A Pose By Any Other Name
When Jeanne Eagen, RYT, began teaching yoga at several churches in her area, she was confronted by an issue that surprised her somewhat.
“Many students expressed concerns about the Sanskrit terminology used in my classes,” says Eagen, who assures her students that the names used to describe the yoga asanas, or poses, are nothing more than words, and that they do not imply an association with the Hindu faith. She draws a parallel to dancers studying classical ballet; regardless of where they live or study, ballet dancers use French terms- plie’, for example, which describes a knee bend.
“The asanas have Sanskrit names because they originated in India. If yoga descended from a French tradition, then the poses would have French names,” explains Eagen, adding, “I ask my students to be open-minded and release preconceived ideas. I say, ‘would it seem to conflict with your faith if these words were in Spanish, German or French, because Hindu words are no different.’”
Source: Natural Awakenings Magazine of Wayne County