What did God say about Yoga?

When Christ came into my life, I was a different me. My relationship to everything around me changed including practicing and teaching Yoga. I remember early on, as I read more of God’s word; each time I would then go to teach a Yoga class or get onto my mat, the knowledge from my studies of the traditional eastern practices of Yoga would cause me to feel deeply convicted that it wasn’t honoring Christ. As if I was cheating on the Lord by my Yoga practice. I later realized it was the Holy Spirit guiding me to my decision of no longer practicing in this way.

Confused, and looking for alternatives; I would research and share with others this deeply felt conviction and naturally, I received a range of opinions on the matter from “do not practice yoga, it’s not honoring the Christian faith and is demonic” to “it’s fine, yoga is for fitness and simply means to ‘yoke’ in union of mind & spirit and has no direct religious connotation”.

Then I took a closer look at Christian Yoga (developed in the 21st century) which offers a westernized version of the practice by adding Christian scripture and prayer yet continuing to practice with the use of asana sequencing and breath movement, which from ancient Hindu Vedic scripture was originally designed to give homage and prayer to the many Gods and deities of its spiritual tradition. My Christian yoga friends would say, “it’s all about the posture of the heart and what your intention is while doing the asana postures”

…conversations like this would immediately remind me of reading scripture of God’s many warnings about the heart being deceptive and the dangers in being guided by our own heart.

For me, doing Christian Yoga would be like flirting in front of my husband yet telling him that it’s harmless and meaningless fun; that my intentions are good. “You’re the man I love, You have no reason to feel jealous.”

Ultimately, the idea of continuing a yoga practice of any form just didn’t feel in integrity to my new relationship with Christ.

Romans 14:19-23 & 1 Corinthians 8-10 encourages believers to be fully convinced before God before they do anything and that some brothers and sisters in Christ who were converted from idol worship cannot do these things in clear conscience and to be careful in your own actions as to not lead others in weaker faith to sin. As a previous new ager and a student and teacher in the traditional teachings of yoga; this was true for me. Paul means specifically that for someone to violate their own convictions by participating in one of these disputed areas is to act against faith instead of from faith. When the Bible gives no clear direction, we have the liberty to make our own choice. If our conscience is telling us no, we are obligated to refrain regarding that issue. Understanding what Paul was saying in these verses offered me the clarity and peace of mind in making the decision that I personally, as a newly converted Christian, could not, in clear conscience, teach a practice; that, at its very origin, was designed to honor any God other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

This decision does not give me reason to judge another in their choice to practice in this way & I wholeheartedly respect anyone in their spiritual walk and desire to be closer to God. My primary intention is to encourage that journey and I hope that stre✞ch can be another vessel in doing just that. At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.

God was so kind and patient with me on this walk too; allowing me to stumble along the way (as I did many, many times) & to faithfully be there when I humbly came back to Him once more, having stumbled yet again. For an entire lifetime, I had pridefully attempted to “do it on my own” with no discipline much less directive other than whichever way the wind blew me that day and how I felt in each moment as being my compass. For this, I was exhausted and very lost. Being a truth seeker all my life, I had finally found it in the strength of Christ and in God’s word. The Holy Spirit faithfully guided me to the truth through His word like a GPS taking me back home in obedience to God.

I had a brand new path with Him leading the way.

God promises us He’s going to finish the work He started in us. Conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ

…and He is faithful.

I want to be faithful to Him.

…and shortly after, Stretch in Faith was born as the alternative that I was searching for. Simple stretching exercises, diaphragmatic breathing with breath prayer and meditation on scripture. That’s it. No emptying the mind meditation, no chanting or reciting scripture out loud, no asana postures (ie warrior sequences, sun salutations) or breath work. Yet, still receiving the same fitness, stress relief and relaxation benefits of my former practice.

What I have found in my routine is that the days I don’t feel like showing up for myself, I am reminded of the nature of this practice and feel eager to show up for Him…and I do, because that’s who it is always about.

His glory.

It has become a gentle and sweet devotional & prayer time that reminds me of my new identity in Christ.

My hope is it will sweeten your time with Him the same.

Stre✞ch in SELF CONTROL

Meditation for LETTING GO

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

PHILIPPIANS 4:13 (ESV)

Good News

Too often we say, ”once I get my act together, then I am going to come to God and really live for Him and allow the Spirit to control my life.” God says, let My Spirit control you while you are still struggling with that problem and I will help you triumph over it.

HE holds the power needed to help you with lasting change. Letting go of your old life and placing your old ways in His hands is the first step. Allow Him to guide you as you transform into new ways of being.

The secret to self-control is Christ’s control of Your life. It takes complete surrender of your old self, in Christ’s strength, for lasting transformation to occur. This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; SELF CONTROL.

A Prayer for SELF CONTROL

Father, I declare that You are my strength and refuge. I cannot do this on my own; I need You.  I pray that You reach down and surround me with Your supernatural power and strength and give me the faith to believe that all things are possible through You. Renew my spirit daily Father and protect me from Satan’s lies and discouragement.  I pray that when temptation comes my way, Your Spirit will guide me and help me to triumph over whatever situations I may face. Let only Your will be done in my life and help me make decisions that glorify Your name. 

It is in the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen

Breath Prayer

Inhale: I surrender my old life

Exhale: for a life with Jesus

Inhale: by the truth of Jesus

Exhale: I am set free

Inhale: I can do all things

Exhale: through Christ’s strength

Stre✞ch in GOODNESS

Meditation for RENEWAL

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will

ROMANS 12:2 (NIV)

Good News

To truly experience the fullness of what God wants to do in our lives, reaping the true “good life”, we must prioritize God above everything else and walk in His Spirit daily.

The goodness of God’s Grace gives us the ability to put to death any unhealthy expressions of our worldly desires that are distracting us from Him.

As we transform into a new creation in Christ, we continually renew our minds on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. When we set our eyes on not what is seen, but what is unseen, the work of the Spirit inside of us has the capability to take root and abundantly grow the fruit of the Spirit into all areas of our lives. This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; GOODNESS.

A Prayer for GOODNESS

Lord, I pray that You give me life in Your ways and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things that do not glorify You. I receive the grace that You have given me to not conform to this world and to access transformation by continually renewing my mind through authentic engagement with You in all that I do. Help me be self aware of when I’m falling into temptation Lord, and help me turn quickly back to you. Help me to make this a discipline of reclaiming my heart and mind; empowered by Your Spirit. Create in me a pure heart , Lord, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Thank you for Your tender mercy and love. It is in your name I pray, Amen

Breath Prayer

Inhale: God gives a pure heart

Exhale: and renews my spirit

Inhale: You satisfy me with good things

Exhale: and I am renewed

Inhale: I am created new

Exhale: in the image of God

The Power of Breath Prayer

In today’s modern world of distractive and keep it moving pace; we usually don’t prioritize checking in with ourselves throughout our days on how we are engaging with and holding onto stress.

Where do we feel tense, what are our breathing patterns, how are we sitting and standing or where are we holding onto daily aches and pains?

We’ll instead find ourselves restricting our breathing in response to emotional and physical ailments.

Breathing with rapid, shallow breaths from the chest as a fight or flight reaction to the world around us. It could be as simple as realizing you’re holding your breath while waiting for the next stimuli on your electronic device. Even in a relaxed state of laying on the sofa and simple strolling through our phones can have us in a stress induced physiological pattern of holding onto our breath. Both examples increase stress on blood vessels, decreasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

By slowing down and steadying our breath with deep breathing exercises, it engages the parasympathetic nervous system; moving optimal oxygen flow to the brain, promoting blood flow to our organs and as a result, processing our emotional responses to the world around us in a much more calm and controlled way.

The challenge? Refocusing the mind on breath during our most stressful moments can be a difficult task as our thoughts continue to run wild; creating more anxious feelings in the process.

Breath prayer is the bridge between the mind, body and God.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrew four 12

By turning your thoughts to Truth and focusing your mind on God’s word, you calm your mind and regulate breathing much faster through the strength and power of His character and truth.

How does this look?

Sitting or standing up straight with a neutral spine, take your mind to just below the navel.

Inhale through the nose while expanding lower belly out like a balloon. (Diaphragmatic breathing…chest remains still).

Exhale very slowly as you draw the navel in towards the spine.

On your next inhale, recite the words of your breath prayer to yourself then exhale emptying your lungs fully.

Psalm 56:3

Inhale: when I am afraid

Exhale: my trust is in You

Meditate on the words of the prayer as you inhale in and exhale out. Repeat at least 10 times.

Optional:
Try this breathing pattern for reducing stress and anxiety: Inhale for a count of 4,

Hold for 4,

Exhale for 8.

Breath prayers are a great tool for reducing stress and can be even more powerful when extracting breath prayers in your own unique prayer language from your favorite scriptures when meditating on God’s word.

***as a follower of Christ I do not attempt or endorse emptying of the mind or breath restricting meditation (this can be a very dangerous practice) as you are making yourself vulnerable to the Spiritual realm around you and can do a lot of harm to yourself by the possibility of unclean Spirits attaching themselves to you. As a former student of the eastern practices of meditation and yoga, I practiced and taught in this manner without realizing the incredible dangers of these practices; physically, spiritually and mentally. I firsthand have experienced and witnessed the dangers of these teachings and I do not take this lightly and will always warn with extreme caution against this type of meditation practice.

God’s word is pure light. Fill yourself up with His truth and His light during your meditations and keep yourself protected in the power of Christ strength.

God created the universe with His life giving breath, Jesus saved the whole creation with His last breath. It seems fitting that we be willing to praise Him with every single breath we have.

TB LaBerge

Stre✞ch in KINDNESS

Meditation for FORGIVENESS

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you

EPHESIANS 4:32 (NIV)

Good News 

When suffering our worst injustices, through Christ, we have been given the ability to extend grace and mercy rather than justice, to be kind even when treated unkindly and to opt for forgiveness instead of fairness.

Through the righteousness of Christ, God has forgiven us for our sin and through the power of His Spirit, He gives us the ability to forgive others.

We forgive others because we too have been forgiven. One underserving soul forgiving another. This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; KINDNESS.

A Prayer for KINDNESS

Examine my heart, Lord, so that I do not seek revenge, hold any resentment or desire pain to others. I turn to You for the healing needed of my heart and spirit. Father, I ask You to begin Your mighty work of healing and restoration around any unforgiving feelings or lack of kindness that I feel.

I pray that You wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my own sinful doing. A transformation of heart so that I can extend the same grace and forgiveness to others. 

Thank you, Father, for the mercy that you have shown me and for sending Your son to die so I could be forgiven for my sins. I am reminded to always choose to forgive others because You have forgiven me. It is in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Breath Prayer

Inhale: I forgive others

Exhale: as Christ has forgiven me

Inhale: My conversations

Exhale: are full of Grace

Inhale: I live in peace

Exhale: with everyone

Stre✞ch in FORBEARANCE

Meditation for PATIENCE

Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love

EPHESIANS 4:2 (NIV)

Good News

By choosing to be patient with others, we are choosing to allow God to work it out in His ultimate plan. When we choose to give grace and see that the other person is growing; God is giving us an opportunity to grow as we allow Him to work on them as He also works on us. By choosing to be forbearing in anger, bitterness and our sense of justice in situations; we are choosing to wait on others in the same way the Lord patiently waits on us.  Worship Him in the waiting and praise Him for gifting us His love and mercy. This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; FORBEARANCE.

A Prayer for FORBEARANCE

Heavenly Father, I am asking in Your grace, that You would help me to overcome my impatience and sense of justice with others and help me instead to humbly dress myself in the same long suffering that You have so graciously given to me. I am choosing forbearance in love as You work all things out in Your ultimate plan. Father, I pray that you continue to work on me and enable me to grow in grace and to develop a patient spirit and humility of heart. I pray this in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Breath Prayers for PATIENCE

repeat these with even breath throughout your practice

Inhale: I am slow to speak

Exhale: slow to anger

Inhale: I am gentle and patient

Exhale: bearing with others in love

Inhale: in God’s will

Exhale: I am strong

Stre✞ch in FAITHFULNESS

Meditation for TRUST

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

JOHN 13:17 (NIV)

Good News 

In our seasons of waiting on the Lord, He is waiting on us. He uses our time of waiting to mature our faith by anchoring our trust in Him again and again. We must stay focused on Him during this time because our faith will be tested. During our trials we can ask God for patience and to help trust that He knows what is best for us, He has a plan, He does everything for a purpose, and He will see it through.

As our faith grows, we no longer need to ask God why something is happening to us. We can allow Him to work through us during the wait and instead ask, “What is it you want me to learn, Lord?” This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle,; FAITHFULNESS..

A Prayer for FAITHFULNESS

Father God, I praise you for teaching me what it means to have faith in silence. As I release these clenched hands, I am reminded to not make idols out of my heart’s desires but to instead cling tightly to Your goodness and faithfulness in complete trust of Your intended plans for me.

Lord, as I face trials that are beyond my understanding, help me to find peace in Your plan as You set things in accordance to Your time. Help me to be more joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer as You strengthen and develop my character through the wait. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Breath Prayers for Trust

repeat these with even breath throughout your practice

Inhale: I trust in Your will

Exhale: with all my heart

Inhale: I walk by faith

Exhale: when I cannot see

Inhale: the Lord is my refuge

Exhale: and my strength

Stre✞ch in GENTLENESS

Meditation for SURRENDER

Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God‘s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1 (NIV)

Good News 

Based on its Greek origin, the word gentleness literally means “strength under control” The word was used to describe a wild stallion that had been tamed or broken. The tamed stallion still had much power and energy as when it was wild, but it could now be controlled and made useful for its master. Similar to when we completely surrender our lives to Christ and live for His intended purposes, we find a gentleness in our new nature that gives true strength of will in Spirit. This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; GENTLENESS.

A Prayer for GENTLENESS

Father God, I come to you in full reverence of your sovereignty and strength. I pray Lord to completely submit my will to Yours and follow Your guidance in living a surrendered life for Your intended purposes by surrendering myself to You daily. Help me Lord to not live through my own willpower, but true strength under control, guided by the Spirit, so that I may be useful for You. I pray Lord to be graciously understanding, tender and teachable with others and to whole-heartedly surrender my will to Yours in complete obedience to You Lord. It is in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Breath Prayer for Surrender

repeat these with even breath throughout your practice

Inhale: Your power is made perfect

Exhale: in my weakness

Inhale: I can do all things

Exhale: through Christ’s strength

Inhale: the Lord delights

Exhale: in my humility

Inhale: I serve others

Exhale: humbly in love

Stre✞ch in LOVE

Meditation for HEALING

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

PSALM 34:18 (NIV)

Good News 

Cry out to God in your sorrows! He will never leave your side and His steadfast love will never come to an end.   He is the God of all comfort and mighty healer of the broken, devastated and tender hearted.  Be gentle with yourself as you allow time for His healing & restoration to occur.   Worship Him in the waiting and praise Him for the blessings that are coming.  This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; LOVE.

A Prayer for LOVE

Father, I need healing of this sorrow and sadness that only Your love can provide.  Please come to my rescue, Father, and set me free of this heavy heart. Let my heart meditate on Your promises and allow Your Spirit to comfort and to fill my heart with Your love; which endures forever. 

Renew my faith in relationship with You as my first love and allow my heart to internalize Your promises every day as I put You as #1 in my life. Cleanse my mind of any doubts of Your power, Your faithfulness, and Your presence in my life. Let my focus be on You as I do all the things I did when I first began my relationship with You.  

A return to Your everlasting love.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Breath Prayer for Healing

repeat these with even breath throughout your practice

Inhale: in my heart

Exhale: Your Word is hidden

Inhale:  nothing separates me

Exhale: from the love of God

Confessions of a Born Again Christian – Finding PEACE

You need three kinds of peace.

Spiritual peace = peace WITH God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1 

. . . then we can have

Emotional peace = the peace OF God. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

. . . then we can have

Relational peace = peace WITH OTHERS. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

God’s peace is not related to circumstances. God’s peace allows us to be tranquil in the midst of trouble. 

How do we get to this place? 

Five keys to acquiring God’s perfect peace:

1. Obey God’s principles found in His word.

It’s so hard adulting! ALL.THE.THINGS!! So many decisions, responsibilities, commitments, options and expectations. In today’s modern age of information overload and get it fast in a hurry pace, what’s a girl to do!!? One wrong move impacts the next which can potentially change the course of my life FOREVER! That’s a lot of pressure to get it right.

Have you ever felt this way? That would not be an example of God’s perfect peace.

Take a deep breath. God knows you better than you know yourself. Grab your Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate scripture for you to hear God’s spoken word to you. Begin there.

God’s word is your owner’s manual for life.  It contains principles for health, finance, marriage, other relationships, business and much more. Just as a car runs more smoothly when you operate it according to its design, your life will run more smoothly if you live it according to God’s design as presented in His word.

2. We must accepts God’s pardon, His forgiveness and release from punishment = GUILT

I cannot believe that I did that. What kind of person would do or say those things? Definitely not a “good person”. How am I going to forget that happened and trust in myself that I won’t do it again? Who do I think I’m kidding? People are going to find out, and if they do find out, they’re going to think less of me. Then what? I’m never going to be able to get over this. I am so ashamed and should have known better. 

This is another fine example of what peace is not. 

We live in a broken world. It is impossible to live your humanly life without sinning, without error in judgement, without making mistakes. Let me say this again . . . It is impossible. This is what makes God’s grace such a gift. He knows. Confess your sin. Ask for forgiveness. God is a forgiving God. Forgive yourself and extend the same grace to yourself as He would.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:19

3. Focus on God’s presence.

Tension and stress IS your warning light that your focus is off the Lord.

It is what you focus on that determines your personal peace. Place your focus on the honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable. Those are the good kind of distractions that will move you in the direction of a peaceful mind. 

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy -dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Shifting my focus on strengthening my relationship with God and being in right relationship with Him by restoring my faith daily has gifted me a peace with Him, myself and with others, not by a trouble free life; but with a sense of calm even in the midst of life’s storms.

4. Trust God’s purpose, even when things do not make sense. God will direct your path. Acknowledge that God is in control. 

Let go, let God.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

For many years I would rely on my own efforts of self serving attitude of what I wanted, when and how I wanted it by controlling and manipulating my environment (by my believe to achieve affirmations) to get there…or not. Over time realizing there is no satisfaction (peace) in using such force, it’s incredibly selfish centered and it’s quite exhausting. 

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was of constant effort of controlling my environment until I began to let go and fully trust in His supernatural strength and peace that, we as Christians, all have access to.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5-6

5Ask for God’s peace = PRAY

The wonderful by-product of prayer = PEACE 

If you are not praying, you are most likely worrying.Worry is the opposite of peace. 

When pressure builds up, don’t worry, pray. Lay it on the Lord! God will not be stressed by what you tell Him. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Once I began focusing on my relationship with Christ above everything else, drawing from His strength by taking a pause through prayer and praise of His direction of my life; I found that my internal peace would deepen and the pressure of “getting it right” lessened. I began to stay present and focused less on tomorrow knowing that God’s got this. 

He always has and always will.

We can have peace in knowing this.

Stre✞ch in PEACE

Meditation for ANXIETY

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

Good News 

Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness and He is our covering in our most fearful moments.  Talk to God about your fear and uncertainty.  Through Jesus, He offers the strength you need to endure.  To fear not means to trust the Lord instead of believing our present situation is bigger than God. He tells us to fear not because He goes through the storms with us, strengthening our trust in Him and calming our anxieties so we can hear his guidance with a peaceful mind.  This is how we stretch our spiritual muscle; PEACE.

A Prayer for PEACE

Heavenly father, I am humbly asking for Your strength to calm me through these storms of fear and uncertainty. Through prayer and supplication, I call onto You to reach down and surround me with supernatural peace and give me the faith to believe that all things are possible through You. Let my trust be in You and You alone. I hold tightly to Your hand and allow You to begin Your mighty work in my life as You lift me up with Your miraculous strength giving me peace and calmness of mind.  It is in Your name I pray,  Amen.

Breath Prayers for Anxiety

repeat these with even breath throughout your practice

Inhale: tomorrow can worry

Exhale: about itself

Inhale: the word of God

Exhale: is my protection

Inhale: you are before me

Exhale: I won’t be shaken

Inhale: when I am afraid

Exhale: my trust is in you