Monday, May 14, 2007

Bible Bending Yogi

Laurette Willis knows a thing or two about bending; after all she is a yoga instructor and a Christian. Willis has put all of her bending skills into creating PraiseMoves, "the Christian Alternative to Yoga" where "deep stretching, gentle movement and strong scripture combine for weight loss, stress relief, flexibility, and strength."

That's right; strong scripture combined with yoga equals weight loss. Scripture such as "Isaiah 40:32" where participants get into "The Eagle" while the leader recites: "...they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." After the warm-up, PraiseMove participants might breathe deeply and assume various poses while reciting Psalm 23.

It is not merely the verses of the Bible that participants are bending to, they are following the Bible down to the letter. Literally.

After stretching to scripture, participants go through postures based on the Hebrew alphabet, such as Dalet:

which becomes:

But even more remarkable than the bending involved in making yoga more "biblical" is Willis's long, propitiatory explanation of why there needs to be a Christian alternative to yoga.

In a rambling sidebar, Willis argues that yoga is "the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement" intent on "emptying the mind" so that it is vulnerable to "harmful spiritual influences." Willis herself practiced the un-Christian form of yoga for 22 years and laments, "Before becoming a Christian, I remember numerous instances of 'traveling outside my body' during yoga relaxation periods. I wonder who--or what--checked in when I checked out."

Between analogies of yoga as rat poison and a bizarre excerpt from a 2005 Associated Press article which reported that Norwegian prison inmates grew more violent after practicing yoga, Willis insists that PraiseMoves is Bible-approved.

Using the Bible to condemn and sanction yoga requires a great deal of cognitive dissonance. How Willis can refuse to use "prayer posture" (palms together, fingers pointed up) because it is "too closely linked with the Hindu "namaste" greeting ("I bow to the divine within you") while endorsing Sun Salutation because the Bible prefers "up-lifted hands" is a Bible-bending feat that has yet to be surpassed.

Yet more proof that the Bible can bend in ways that would make any yogi envious.

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