September is the official National Yoga Month (a national observance designated by the Department of Health & Human Services) designed to educate about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle. However, according to Tonya Phillips, the owner of P.M. (Prayer in Motion) Yoga, the benefits of yoga extend far beyond the physical.
Tonya had maintained a life as a stay-at-home mother of three boys for 16 years, but being a devoted Christian, wondered in what additional capacity God could use her. She then took up yoga. She was hooked, and began practicing 3-4 days a week.
As one who had dealt with anxiety and depression, the sense of peace she felt while practicing was “extraordinary; it was like a release.” Laying in Savasana, or corpse pose, Tonya would often pray, and after 6 months of practice, she felt God was calling her to take up instructing yoga classes.
As many ultra-legalistic Christians will eagerly point out, the roots of yoga practice are deeply embedded in Hindu and Buddhist tradition- often arguing this as the determining factor in abstaining from the practice. Tonya was aware of this and considered whether or not this was really God’s calling.
But “with His guidance, encouragement from my teachers, and a huge leap of faith, I entered the Yoga Teacher Training program at The Om Place in January 2009. Upon completion of that program, in June of 2009, I began teaching at PM Yoga’s new Middletown location,” Phillips said. Since then, she has come to realize that she is spiritually being used through her occupation- this was the capacity in which she would serve her God.
I asked her whether or not she had found that it was possible to find God, as a Christian, in yoga, to which she replied, “Yes, absolutely. During my practice is one of the only times during the day where I am quiet; I love to talk” she laughed, “so during my time of meditation I am actually forced to sit, be calm and quiet. It’s during this time that I hear God the most.”
Her students benefit both from Tonya’s walk with God and her yoga instruction. “One student, who had recently undergone a personal tragedy, said to me, ‘God knew what he was doing when he brought me to your “yoga ministry”. You’ve prepared me to deal with this stress in my own life through Him and through yoga.”
Tonya goes on to say that she is surrounded by an amazing community. “I pray for them, they pray for me.”
Her own spiritual life has improved since she began instructing classes at P.M. yoga. “ My spiritual life has moved in a measurable positive direction. As I teach, I am constantly amazed at God’s creation; look at our anatomy, our bodies. These are things to give thanks for. I’ve also realized that no matter what you do, you can be used for God’s glory. When I am teaching I incorporate scripture, so hopefully people can see where my joy is coming from.” And speaking to Phillips, her joy in both yoga and her God are evident.
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