Prepping the research for a thesis project is a labor of love. Fortunately for me, at almost every turn yogis and spiritual leaders were willing to share stories of their experiences with yoga and worship. I am thrilled to be able to continue that sharing with you through this new Inspiring Interview column.
First up is Emily Carson. Don’t you just adore this picture from her lifestyle blog Holy Everything?
This lovely lady pastors a Lutheran church in Minnesota. One of many things that endears her to me is that she goes by Emily or Em over her Pastor title. Like all people with titles, Emily is a person just like the rest of us, looking to serve her community and honor the Lord. For me, being able to call Emily by her name makes me feel more at ease and connected (how very yogic of her!).
I find Emily to be so relatable. She blogs about fashion, photography, her church, and I la la love her taste in music.
Thank you for sharing your yoga story, Em!
What does the practice of yoga look like in your life?
I haven’t been in a regular yoga practice for the past year. I have been walking/cardio/strength focused. Since I moved to Minnesota 4 years ago, I haven’t found the exact right fit in a studio – so I’m still on the search. The last chapter of my life in Chicago was the time I really connected with Core Power and a hot yoga practice. LOVED that chapter of my life. :)
I miss my yoga practice deeply – and hope to recommit to some form of regular yoga this summer. But I do carry the breathing, disciple principles with me in daily life. I regularly find myself taking deep breaths in and out through my nose. I do incorporate regular stretching and breathing into my life and the life of the congregation I serve.
We often take stretch and breathing breaks in meetings and in confirmation classes with the teens. (Wendy’s note: LOVE THIS!).
Do you have a religious worship practice? If so, what does worship look like in your life?
As a Lutheran pastor, religious worship is a huge part of my life. We have worship at 8:30am and 10:30am on Sundays – there are regularly additional services at local care centers and in homes for private communion to the homebound. Worship involves silence, music, prayer, preaching, and sharing of the peace. There are often baptisms as well, and communion.
Where do you see similarities between these two responses?
Many similarities. The main similarity between my yoga practice and Christian worship was “intentionality” – a time and space set apart for connecting to something greater.
If you see yoga as nourishment to a person’s faith, how can yoga create a worship experience?
Yoga can absolutely be worship – individual yoga or a communal yoga experience. All it takes at the intention, I think. Worship takes a multitude of forms.
Do you feel that yoga could compliment or enhance*any* faith system?
Definitely – as long as the person was open to that approach. I think some people are very fearful about yoga, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it is something that they haven’t fully experienced. I think yoga is compatible with all of life. For me, It’s about connecting, breathing, and intention.
Where do you see the union of Yoga and Christianity?
Everywhere. Truly. If Jesus had been exposed to yoga, I think he would have practiced it. He often went off to pray and be silent. There are such a range of yoga forms – many of which are very compatible with a Christian life of faith.
Is there any “non-union” of yoga and Christianity; in other words do you see any aspects of yoga practice that does NOT compliment the Christian faith?
There may be some, but I’m not aware of them.
(In yogic sciences, the chakras are energy centers in the astral body that coincide with the spinal nerve channels of the physical body. These centers are said to relate to various aspects of our being: our senses, emotions and connections with self and others.)
Do you see a use / place for the chakras in an experiential worship?
I do see a place for this. But I’m not as in tune with chakras – as I haven’t really learned much about it except through some reading. But I do think in the right context, there would be a place.
What opportunities do you see for yoga teachers to impact students in leading a worship-full experience on the mat?
We had a yoga class here at church for about 9 months – led by a volunteer. It was very worshipful. Yoga teachers have the special/unique opportunity to empower their students to live more peaceful, intentional lives. It’s definitely a kind of ministry.
If you have any other thoughts you would like to share on the intersection of yoga, Christianity and worship, I would be honored to learn from them.
I feel like the Holy Spirit led me to yoga – and I’ve heard many others say the same. I think Yoga and Christianity are definitely compatible, and it is TERRIFIC that you are doing this project! Great work! :)
You can find more of Emily’s insightful commentary in her weekly online column The Lady Pastor.