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Holy Yoga

With fear and trembling, Stephanie found peace. In movement, she found stillness. Through transition, she became grounded. With meditation upon Christ, she did not seek to empty herself but instead be filled with God’s character. And by releasing her burdens unto Him, Stephanie was set free by His Spirit  

Stephanie’s story of finding wholeness in Christ began at a difficult time in her life. Following the birth of her third child, Stephanie not only lost her job, she fell into a battle with postpartum depression. If you, or someone you know, has walked through such a heavy burden, you know what it means to feel as if you’ve been thrown into a storm with nothing to hold on to; no solid ground beneath your feet. Stephanie remembers how her husband noticed her despondency, as if she was physically present without truly being there, like a cloud surrounded her, impeding her sense of self. Though the desire of her heart was to have intimacy with God and rely on His strength, nothing she tried could pull her out of the storm surrounding her. She read her Bible and attended Apex gatherings. She worshipped in all the ways she knew. Yet her connection to God, and to self, felt far away.

In 2013 God would kindle a spark within Stephanie, through Instagram of all places.

When she stumbled across Holy Yoga, the intentional practice of connecting one’s entire body, mind and spirit with God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, she was immediately interested. During her very first Holy Yoga session she prayed, along with her fellow yogis, “Lord we pray that you will imprint the words we are reading into our heart.” This was not a prayer she spoke lightly, without fear and trembling. Rather, it was a prayer that would open her heart, body, mind, and spirit to a deeper understanding of, and connection to, her heavenly father. The experience allowed Stephanie to hear exactly what God was telling her. She needed to surrender. She needed to fully let go, to release her perceived control and all her efforts made in vain. She needed to be made empty so she could be consumed with the strength only God provides. Surrender, through the medium of Holy Yoga, was imprinted on her heart. Stephanie let go.

apexanthologiesThere is a symbiotic beauty in using yoga, a physical practice meaning “to yoke oneself”, to pursue God while simultaneously transforming yourself into a literal, physical vessel for worship.

Stephanie Fullam relates her practice of Holy Yoga to scripture’s direction for us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”  (Philippians 2:12) She contends from that though we do not work for our salvation, we must, daily, work at tending to our relationship with our savior.  The time we spend in the presence of our God to pray, talk, and listen to His words is as essential to our spiritual life as water is to our physical one. The fear, or reverence, we develop through time spent in the presence of God, revelling in His character and His creation, leaves us in awe of our maker who so beautifully knit us and, the world around us, together.

With fear and trembling, Stephanie found peace. In movement, she found stillness. Through transition, she became grounded. With meditation upon Christ, she did not seek to empty herself but instead be filled with God’s character. And by releasing her burdens unto Him, Stephanie was set free by His Spirit  

With her newfound freedom and a deep sense of reverence, Stephanie was began to discover what this freedom meant as her entire being was being pushed to the limits: physically, socially, professionally, and spiritually. 

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Stephanie was pushed physically as she faced her own weaknesses in order to find His strength and assurance. Stephanie has a condition called Chiari Malformation Type 1, a condition which prevents her from doing inversions– yoga poses in which your heart is positioned higher than your head. Essentially, all headstands and handstands are off limits for Stephanie. For Stephanie, Holy Yoga allowed an opportunity to merge mind, body, and spirit for a deeper understanding of who she is in Christ. If humanity is indeed made in the image of our God who is wholly three-in-one, then part of our own nature is both one and many. Our very nature is heart, soul and body as the meditation of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reminds us: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ Holy Yoga allowed the truth this scripture teaches to become embodied within Stephanie as she wrestled through her condition.

She was disputed socially as people around her pushed back because they viewed “Christian Yoga” as controversial. Stephanie understands where the misconception begins. Yoga originated in the Hindu nation of India as a physical and spiritual practice, but the practice of yoga itself is not a religion. Yoga is an instrument or a tool which allows one to find physical, mental and spiritual clarity. Stephanieapexanthologiess explains that for the Christian who might practice Holy Yoga, the purpose is to be transformed by the renewing of the mind as they present their entire body to Christ as a spiritual act of worship. Meditation through holy yoga provides a space where one can confront the lies the enemy so often ensnares us by intentionally recalling the truths Jesus speaks over us in his word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “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.”

Stephanie was, in the words of John Piper, “Pierced by the Word of God”, manifesting a sovereign wound to illuminate her ever present need to pursue unity with her triune creator; a need shared by the lost and found alike, a need laid bare when we find our freedom in the surrender.

She was tested professionally as she chose to pursue God’s calling on her life to become a Holy Yoga instructor. While practicing yoga is peaceful, teaching yoga is not without confrontation. Stephanie had to learn to navigate difficult conversations, to speak truth confidently as both a believer and business owner.

She was stretched spiritually as she grew from a passive believer in Christ to an active, living testimony for Christ. A Godly commission doesn’t always translate into success by worldly standards. Stephanie’s expectations of being a successful yoga instructor were challenged when her class sizes were small in number. Through this spiritual growth, Stephanie began to see how it’s not about the number of people in the class, but their response to the class.

As she began her instructor certification, she attended a workshop led by Holy Yoga instructors in Toledo, Ohio. called ‘Alone Together.’ Stephanie reflects, “Until that time, I had a hard time understanding the difference between self-care and selfishness. At this retreat, I came into contact with other women who, daily, walked through life knowing they didn’t have it all together. Yet, they devoted their bodies and minds to a time of movement and meditation to understand more deeply the love of the Father, the companionship with Jesus, and the dependency on being led by the Spirit.”

apexanthologiesFor Stephanie, the practice of slowing down, feeling physical resistance to movement, and asking the Lord to reveal any chronic holding patterns preventing growth is exactly what Stephanie needed in her life– and what she was called to offer to others.

As a part of Stephanie’s Holy Yoga Master certification, she was tasked with leading a workshop. Stephanie created a Labyrinth Emmaus Walk incorporated with yoga. Stephanie explained exactly what that meant: As participants walked a maze-like arena, they carried a large stone to symbolize the burdens they carried. Once they reached the center, they dropped the stone, signifying the casting away of their burdens. After their burden stone was gone, they picked up a small stone to carry out of the labyrinth. This stone represented the single burden of God’s call on their life to grow and share their faith through the practice of Holy Yoga.”

Stephanie continued, “God knows we don’t have it all together, but because we are under Christ, the anointed one, we don’t have to carry our spiritual and physical burdens alone. We are under Him and there’s peace in that… I am not coming to shine the light on myself, but on the Lord;  offering a time and space for everyone to experience that individually.  I still come to church to worship.  However, for me there’s something completely different about Holy Yoga – an amazing experience to see people get in touch with their bodies and limitations and asking the Lord to meet them where they are and then asking them to grow.  When you go to a church and not only is everyone sitting and absorbing, but becoming a part of a movement, there’s a greater impact.”

So, the question is– Are you in need of surrender? Spend some time in prayer and reflection and then, perhaps, give one of Stephanie’s practice a try. 

 

 

Author- Elizabeth Van Dine

Photographer- Hilary Tebo

Apex is a diverse body of believers. The stories we share are intended to showcase the personal experiences of your fellow believers as they learn to live out their faith. Anthologies encourages our readers to view these stories as a platform for dialogue on a variety of topics relevant to our lives as Christ followers. 

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