By Emily Ploetz
“Peace be with you.” Peace may be a little word, but there is no word more freeing. Every morning, we burden ourselves with the weight of the world like the mythical Atlas. We would look for peace in the chaos of a busy life if we only had the time. Yet some of the most peaceful moments in life are when we are still—resting in the knowledge that the Lord is God. Mountain Park Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona, has created a time and space for a unique ministry that combines worship with a relaxing and renewing exercise: Christ-centered yoga.
Christ-centered yoga is a ministry that took form in the life of Elena Porter about thirteen years ago (video above from tenth anniversary). About this time Elena was facing many trials in her life and was in the pursuit of peace, so a friend suggested she try yoga. Elena fell in love with how peaceful the experience was, to the point where she began doing some research. She knew yoga was physically restorative and believed it had the potential to be spiritually-renewing as well. Eventually she stopped going to gyms so she could practice yoga in her garage, combining the exercise with scripture readings and uplifting music. A few months later, Pastor Allan Fuller announced that the Mountain Park was looking to expand its sports ministry program. Elena suggested the concept of Christ-centered yoga, and the program was quickly adopted. The classes were small at first, but now two hundred to three hundred people attend every week.
Mountain Park Community church offers multiple Christ-centered yoga classes, including general, power, and restorative yoga with about thirty to fifty people in each class. All of the classes are run by Christians who are trained and certified in specifically Christ-centered yoga. Pastor Fuller describes this ministry as a “creative onramp,” or, a way for people who are not interested in church to be engaged in worship and get indirectly connected to the church. A large percentage of those who attend do not come to worship services, but the classes themselves utilize worship music and scripture. The church’s mission statement is “inviting the distracted and disinterested to realize their role in God’s story.” Christ-centered yoga is a perfect embodiment of this idea because, though the church is sometimes viewed as irrelevant, this ministry creates peace-filled worship where guests can think about God in a new way.
As Elena says, “Yoga can get them into the doors to hear about God’s love, grace and mercy.” More and more people who attend the classes now try to come to church, and there’s always a new face in every class. “It’s a tool, and God is the center of this tool.” Peace does not come strictly from yoga, but it’s the serene environment that allows for God to come and speak—without all the stress, anxiety, and distractions of the world.
Bob, one of the yoga students, has been coming to Christ-centered yoga for eleven years. He said he chose to attend to find more peace and serenity in his life, and now this ministry is molding him into a more spiritual man of God. Carmen, another yoga student, has been attending for twelve years. She started attending after having knee surgery that limited the kinds of exercise she could do. Carmen said she had tried yoga before, but Christ-centered yoga was a completely different experience. “The teachers are amazing and their love of God is the center of the practice. I’m truly touched by the love that I feel, sometimes, it’s the honestly of the struggles they share with us, the truth of the Word and the connection of being surrounded in his love with these amazing teachers that leaves me in tears at the end of the practice. I didn’t realize much my spirit needed healing too, and how powerful Christ-centered yoga would be in building my faith.”
Mountain Park is gearing up for a move to a new building where they will have more room for classes, including new programs to reach elderly people in wheelchairs and local high school students with special needs. Christ-centered yoga at Mountain Park Community Church is connecting people to God one pose at a time.
Emily Ploetz is a communication intern for Church of God Ministries from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is currently studying English education at Anderson University. Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.