These programs give you all the physical benefits while keeping your Christian faith front and center.
Experts cannot say enough about the benefits of stretching, breathing, and mindfulness. But don’t be misled into the thinking that yoga is the only choice out there for engaging your body, mind, and soul in exercise. In the last few years a number of exercise programs have popped up that provide Christians all the benefits of yoga but without the things that most concern them — namely yoga’s philosophical incompatibility with Christian teaching.
One of the most recent newcomers to this field, which is now being used in Catholic schools, is a program called PrayerMotion, developed by a medical doctor in Arizona, Anne Borik, who came up with the program to help her grandmother recover from a stroke. Not exactly exercise, but more of a relaxation, stress-relief, and focusing technique, the program uses a combination of music, breathing and hand “signing,” all based on 5th-century Benedictine monastic prayer.
“There is an area in the human brain responsible for feeling anxious and jittery that is activated when we are not thinking about anything,” says Dr. Borik. “But when we intentionally concentrate on a word and then bring it out in motion, that specific activity disables the anxious area in the brain, and we become more focused.”
At a time when yoga is being introduced in schools to help children with stress, focus, and behavioral issues, PrayerMotion is showing initial success in Catholic schools, but also works for people of all ages who want to stay grounded in a Catholic identity.
Here are a few other mind/body programs that keep God and prayer centermost, even in the gym:
Developed by a sports medicine expert and Catholic Dave Reddy, the program (used mostly in schools) runs on the philosophy that we need to be physically fit in order to go out in the world and take care of others. While not technically a mind-body program, it enhances physical education, sports and religious education classes by showing a clear connection between fitness and faith goals. Here’s a workout that grownups can do at home:
It may look like yoga — and this program does incorporate many of the physical movements and stretches used in yoga — but no one exercise program alone can claim ownership to the body’s own natural movements and tendencies. Pietra Fitness incorporates many of these time-tested techniques into its own Catholic-based classes. Christian prayer and music are integrated in the program to not only help the body but refresh the soul.
The approach pairs core strengthening, stretching and isometrics with the prayers of the Rosary. For example, the warm-up stretches are done while reciting the Apostle’s Creed, and pushups are done through each of the Our Fathers. Classes are offered in select locations across the country as the movement catches on, but you can also sign up for classes online or through downloads.
This DVD is a series of stretches and strengthening exercises done to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, invigorating your prayer life as well as your body.