In Yoga Chapel :: Part 1, I shared a bit of background as well as a promotional video for Yoga Chapel. I had a chance to sit down with Bethel and ask her a few questions about this new ministry.
You can check out that interview here:
Were you always a member of the United Church? What brought you there?
I’m relatively new to the United Church of Canada. I’ve only been a member for 3½ years now and I had never even heard about this denomination until I moved to Canada from the States in the summer of 2008. I grew up attending my father’s churches, which were Methodist. During college, I was a part of the non-denom world, and throughout divinity school I was fortunate to experience a little bit of everything as I tried to find my denominational home. I’m still very much attracted to different elements of all the various traditions, but I’ve been so impressed by the progressive steps the UCC has made throughout its existence – the first church to ordain women, the first to bless same-sex marriages, etc.
When did you first start practicing yoga?
It’s kind of silly, but the very first time I practiced was all by myself before having any real experience of yoga. I had heard of it and had a pretty good idea of what it was about. So, one night in San Diego, when I felt like moving my body because it was feeling rusty from traveling, I just started making up all these poses.
When my sister walked in, I jokingly said that I was doing “Boga” (Bethel’s-Yoga). When I finally did take my first class during my first year of graduate school (7 years ago), I was amazed at how much yoga was like Boga! That’s one of the things I love about yoga, it feels so intuitive – like it’s what your body was made to do.
Growing up, I had always been involved in fast-paced exercises, like running, sports and aerobics, so at first I didn’t like yoga very much at all. It didn’t feel intense enough for me. But overtime, as I was able to experience many different styles, I totally fell in love. And boy, can it get intense~
How do you see yoga meshing with Christian faith?
It’s hard for me to see how yoga doesn’t mesh with our faith. I see Yoga Chapel as an attempt to help people saturate themselves in their worship (giving thanks and being in awe) and petition (asking for help and guidance for oneself and the world). Our minds and bodies are so integrally connected in such profound ways that I find it disheartening that we often neglect this mind-body union within our spiritual lives.
For instance, if one is contemplating “joy” – there is such a difference whether this person is thinking of joy while jumping up and down with their arms and legs stretched out and a big smile on their face versus if they’re cowering in a fetal position with their hands covering their frowning face. We are affected and inspired not just by hearing something, but by seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, moving… So my hope is for the stories of our faith to become more alive within us as we hear and meditate upon them while moving and breathing with the Spirit of the words.
Yoga Chapel is also about helping people to decompress, release stress and feel grounded, so that they can better do the good work that their faith calls them to.