Dear Renee, I came across your website today while searching, searching for what I don’t know but such relief to read your story. I have also always tried to be perfect – good mother, good wife, good christian, good catholic, good employee, good friend. Now I am tired, depressed, and sick (the Dr says I have adrenal fatigue). A few weeks ago I discovered yoga. Do you have any advice for me as a catholic christian who is exploring the world of yoga to find herself? Thank you for your inspiration. -L.
Thank you for sharing and asking. I am so glad that you found my site encouraging while on your internet wanderings — isn’t it amazing how God brings us to the right resources just when we need them? I’m even more glad that you found yoga!
Did you know that yoga is amazing for adrenal glands? That all the twisting and stretching squeezes and massages the glands so that they exercise too? Yoga has great short-term and long-term benefits for the adrenal glands, so I do hope that you’ll keep it up.
Yoga is also awesome for depression: the movements and emphasis on breathing release neurochemicals in the brain that counteract the effects of depression on the brain. Savasana (rest pose) especially is awesome for depression because it often helps one get rid of the anxiety or anger that often manifests as depression. I say “often” because sometimes poses like savasana heighten anxiety, in which case I would encourage you to work with a psychologist as you practice yoga. Yoga can bring up a lot of stuff that you don’t know you’re hiding. The body and the mind are more connected than we realize.
As far as advice… Just keep going to yoga. If you don’t like (or don’t feel comfortable) in one class, find another class. There are so many different teachers and styles of yoga–each instructor in a studio will be very different, and every studio is vastly different. Most yoga studios have first-time student promos you can take advantage of. Gyms usually have the most “spiritually-neutral” yoga, if you’re interested in that.
For myself, I’m often not threatened by the Eastern spirituality often promoted in yoga studios, but that’s because it usually counteracts the super-protestant-work-ethic-perfectionist Christianity I grew up with. I find the balance of Eastern spirituality and the respect yogis have for humanity in general brings me closer to the kind of Christianity Christ embodies. But each person is individual in this area.
I can also recommend a few resources for you:
Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice by Father Thomas Ryan. Super theologically dense — it will take you ages to read it but the content will answer a lot of the questions you might have.
Holy Yoga by Brooke Boon or Yoga for Christians by Susan Bordenkircher are lighter books, both of which come with DVDs, and offer how-to advice. I’d recommend either book for starting a home practice.
Father Ryan also has a DVD called Yoga Prayer that puts yoga to common Christian liturgical prayers. If you’re looking for more yoga classes from a Christian perspective, you might try the DVDs produced by Yahweh Yoga.
Online, the ChristiansPracticingYoga website has a lot of info too.
Other than that: breathe. Breathe deeply and breathe lots. God breathed into you at the very beginning, and continues to breathe into you even in this moment.
Be well, friend! Blessings on your journey.