Those who got out of bed early enough to combine yoga and prayer at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly were rewarded with greater flexibility and a peaceful start to the day. Murray Finck, bishop of the Pacifica Synod, led daily Stretch and Pray sessions at 6:30 a.m. — an inviting option for people who sat the better part of each day.
Participants of Grace Institute, a spiritual formation program based in Decorah, Iowa, and held at Sinsinawa [Wis.] Dominican Mound Center (see page 27), also find prayerful yoga movements on the schedule. Cheryl Kleven Doely, a pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Waverly, Iowa, leads the body movement sessions.
"Yoga movements help open the body, mind and spirit to deeper communion with God," she says, adding that the attention to breath is important. "The body carries in it our past, the mind projects into our future, but the breath brings us into the present moment — and we're more available to God, to self and to others."
Yoga has become popular, with an estimated 15 million practitioners in the United States, according to a recent study by Yoga Journal. And so have alternative forms of yoga. At least half of those are coming to yoga from a Christian background, says Thomas Ryan, a Roman Catholic priest and author of Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice (Paulist Press, 1995).
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers