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Jesus Christ, Yoga Star

posted Jan 9, 2011, 6:52 PM by Natalie Cox   [ updated Nov 30, 2012, 3:30 PM ]

A friend of mine really loved his yoga teacher but couldn't figure out why she never let the class lie in Savasana, or corpse pose, for more than what seemed to be a few seconds at the end of class. One day he finally asked her if she'd allow them a longer corpse pose so as to really release and relax fully into a more meditative state. She explained that, as a devout Mormon, she did not really feel comfortable doing or teaching Savasana (note that she never led the class in any chants or Oms either), as the a mind/body that relaxed was especially vulnerable to all kinds of "sinful influences and thoughts." I guess she took the saying "Idle hands are the devils tools" very seriously.

But she's certainly not alone in her quest to reconcile her religion with yoga. After all, isn't yoga, with all it's sacred sounds, stories,and gestures, not at all dissimilar to a religious practice or at least a philosophy? The yoga community itself is constantly debating whether it's  a deeply spiritual doctrine or a really great exercise (or both). Some folks avoid and religious discomfort by practicing sporty, non-spiritual types of yoga with teachers who never mention Krishna or Hanumanasa or any of the other Hindu dieties. Others simply refrain from seemingly sacred activities such as kirtan (chanting) or use their savasana or meditation time to pray to their own god(s). 

But some folks deal with this debate in even more creative ways. Laurette Willis, self-described evangelical Christian bible teacher, is so convinced that yoga is the "proselytizing arm of Hinduism" that she created her own brand of Christian non-yoga called "Praise Moves"...which is essentially a series of yoga-like postures that are rebranded, Jesus-style. We're talking "Cross pose" instead of Tree pose (Vrksasana) and "Supplication-before-your-maker pose" instead of  Child's pose (Balasana). I'm just kidding about that last one...well, kind of. All the poses in the Praise Moves sequence are explicitly tied into various scriptures with the intent to make you contemplate Biblical teaching while you're working out.

Now, I don't have a problem with her borrowing and revamping the yoga asanas in order to promote the physical worship of her own god. Hell, a great many of the yoga poses out there were designed to serve the exact same purpose of embodied devotion. And I totally support her mission to bring folks to fitness with the gentleness and accessibility of yoga-ish forms of exercise and stretching. What I do have a problem with is her declaration that yoga is a "sin" and that it represents a "destructive path that leads away from the one true god." Ouch.  Even Christian yoga isn't good enough for her - she calls this practice an oxymoron. Does she really think that everyone will be so seduced by yoga and what she calls "the New Age lifestyle" that they won't be able to resist converting to Hinduism? How fragile does she think Christians are? It seems rather extreme to me that she compares gym-goers who were upset about losing their local yoga classes to "meth addicts." Yes, yoga makes you feel good. No, it's not at all like drug abuse. Have you ever heard of anyone out on the streets because of their yoga addition? Please. 

I have wonder how much of this is all tied into her profit motives. PraiseMoves is heavily trademarked and has it's own certification, branding; it even has a program for kids. It's a brilliant strategy, really. You freak all the good Christians out about the sinful devil-worship "true nature" of yoga and then offer your own non-yoga yoga as a safe alternative. Now that's good Christian capitalism.