By LINDA M. LINONIS
Holy Yoga breathed a new perspective into Bethanie Meredith. She hopes the classes she leads do the same for participants.
Meredith began practicing Holy Yoga in May 2010 while going through a difficult personal time. “For me, it gave emotional healing and spiritual awareness,” she said.
She became a certified Holy Yoga instructor in October 2011.
“Holy Yoga is my ministry,” said Meredith, who has been involved in various areas of lay ministry.
Meredith offers classes at four Mahoning Valley churches. “The church setting goes hand in hand with what I do. ... I couldn’t be in a better place,” she said.
The instructor said she also sees Holy Yoga as an “outreach tool.” For sessions at churches, the suggested donation is $10. “I tithe back to each church,” she said.
At a recent session at Canfield Presbyterian Church, almost 20 participants gathered in the Christman Room, where Meredith burned incense and played inspirational music to set the tone. A cross in front designated her yoga mat. For each weekly session, she picks a theme, recently on integrity, and incorporates related Bible passages. Yoga postures and movements move the class along, and it ends with a devotion.
The instructor explained yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “to unite or yoke.” The essence of yoga is connecting with one’s mind, body and soul through meditation, breathing and movement. She noted that is accomplished through “integrating His Word, prayer, worship and the physical practice of yoga to relaxing, contemporary and Christian music.”
Meredith said she finds support in Scripture for the practice of yoga in Mark 12:30 – “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
She encourages participants to “empty their minds” and “take their intentions to the Lord.”
Deliberate breathing is an essential part of yoga, Meredith said. She cites Genesis 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
She said she wants participants to contemplate they have life because of God’s breath. “I want them to pay attention to their breathing and be aware of their posture,” she said.
There also is a “lot of attention” to alignment and “finding balance.”
Meredith said she views Holy Yoga as a walk in faith. “If we trust in the spirit of God, the burdens will go away,” she said. “This is a quiet time with God ... personal time with the Lord.”
Holy Yoga benefits include increased awareness, peace, calmness, improved muscle tone and flexibility, strength in joints and ligaments, reduced stress, a sense of well-being and connection to God.
Class participants attest to this. Best friends of 38 years, Karen Koontz of Atlanta and Linda Uhl of Canfield were at a recent session. Koontz, visiting the Valley, said she looked online for a Holy Yoga class.
“I like the physical stretching, which has made me stronger, and the spiritual time with the Lord,” she said. Uhl, attending her second class, said more flexibility and getting stronger were important. “This is beautiful for your spirit,” she said.
Sisters Nicole Hopper of Mineral Ridge, a nurse, and Brittany Zetts of Boardman, a teacher, have attended for about three months. They said Holy Yoga helps alleviate job-related stress. “I like how this combines physical activity and Scripture,” said Hopper. “I’m an active person and doing this is enjoyable.” Zetts said she liked everything about the sessions, especially meditation. “It’s time to think about Scripture and what’s important,” she said.
George McDonnell of Canfield, a businessman in the village, said the strength building has helped him physically. “Spiritually, these sessions help me feel relaxed and peaceful and clear my mind,” he said.