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An activity to refresh body and spirit
Yoga class energizes while reminding participants to keep Christ in their lives
Christ Centered Yoga instructor Becky Martin prepares to rub scented oil on the temples of Stefanie Long as the class participants relax near the end of the Saturday morning class at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA.

Ever try mixing your daily prayer with a downward dog yoga pose?

Yoga students gathered to do just that at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville on Saturday.

Becky Martin, the founder of Christ Centered Yoga, hosted a free class in honor of Yoga Day USA, a nationwide celebration where people of all religious backgrounds can come and participate in stretching their mind, body and spirit.

Martin said her program is different from traditional yoga because it ministers to the person not only on a physical level but also on a spiritual and mental level — these, she says, are the three levels on which God created us.

Martin said she has read studies showing the physical benefits of yoga, and she has read others showing the health benefits of faith, prayer and touch.

“With Christ Centered Yoga, it is not just a physical yoga class. We are bringing the component of prayer, we are bringing the element of faith, and we are bringing the element of touch into class,” Martin said. “The benefits are (immediate), and that’s what we desire — to introduce the word of God in a nontraditional setting.”

During the class, Martin has her students sit in a circle with a cross in the center. She said even though she is the instructor, she shouldn’t be in the center of the room because she is just one of many worshipers of God.

Martin said yoga can also be a great exercise for your New Year’s resolution to get fit because whether you are sedentary or whether you are athletic, there is a yoga pose for you.

“Yoga will meet you where you are physically,” said Martin, who had one woman in her class who was doing yoga while sitting in a chair.

Martin said if you find an instructor who is trained in how to modify the poses, you can do yoga at any fitness level.

“Whatever you think is a negative physically or spiritually, yoga will turn into a positive and God will turn into a positive if you let him,” Martin said.

Martin was also able to use Yoga Day USA to help raise money for Naoki Hagiwara, a resident in Japan who wants to come to the United States to study Christian yoga to bring back to his country.

Martin is working toward starting a Christ Centered Yoga school this summer, which will be an intense five-week course. The money that Martin raised during Yoga Day USA will go toward helping Hagiwara be able to come to Georgia and live here for five weeks to take the course.

Haruko Sasaki and her fiance Shingo Hagihara, who moved here from Japan, said they have been in contact with Hagiwara. They also were participating in Martin’s class for Yoga Day USA.

Sasaki said she was interested in taking a yoga class to refresh her soul and body. She said the Christ Centered Yoga class reminds you to put God in your daily life, which people can sometimes forget to do.

Hagihara has been doing yoga for some time now, and he said it is a good hobby. Yoga, he said, makes him feel like he can focus and concentrate more when it comes to things such as his job and personal life.

Hagihara said he found Martin’s Christ Centered Yoga class to be interesting.

“I think we have great instructors and very good leadership to motivate people to do more,” he said. “Just one hour goes so fast, and I cannot believe how much energy I have and how refreshed my body is.”