In March of 2020, Erin Morgan was in Atlanta, Ga., to complete 100 hours of face–to–face training needed to become a certified yoga instructor. She had already finished the required 100 hours of online training. Now, she looked forward to bringing YogaFaith, a yoga practice that exclusively incorporates Bible scripture meditation, to The Salvation Army.
“While in Atlanta, COVID–19 shut everything down, but I was able to finish the training and get my certification,” says Erin, who is also the dance ministries specialist at The Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territorial Headquarters. “I returned home on an empty flight and didn’t leave my house for months.”
With plans for in–person yoga classes no longer viable, Erin set her phone on a tripod in her living room and began streaming live yoga lessons on Facebook. “I felt that, even if it couldn’t be done in a yoga class, people right now could use YogaFaith to help them with their breathing, calming down, and learning to be still in these hard times,” says Morgan.
YogaFaith is like other yoga variations, such as vinyasa, which emphasizes constant motion and smooth transitions. It is characterized by stringing postures together so that one breathes intentionally and moves seamlessly. YogaFaith also incorporates worship music that is played softly while participants recite scripture verses as tools of meditation.
“Traditionally, the goal of practicing yoga is to still the turnings of your mind to see more clearly,” explains Erin. “YogaFaith is the same, but in that still mind and clarity of vision, you allow yourself to see the presence of God. It’s another way to pray and speak with Him.”
For some, yoga is seen as foreign and associated with non–Christian religions. Erin says that some of those views are valid, because of the way that yoga evolved and is practiced in many parts of the world.
“But YogaFaith is taught from a Christian perspective. I always say, call it ‘Meditation in Movement’ if you are hesitant about using the term yoga,” says Erin.
However, when teaching lessons she still insists on calling it yoga. “I don’t want anyone to be caught off guard when I ask them to get into a position like downward dog,” says Erin, referring to a pose in which the body assumes an inverted V shape, with hands and feet on the foor.
Every Wednesday morning, she posts YogaFaith sessions on Facebook, either live or through a previously taped lesson. During the height of the pandemic, there were 50 to 60 people with her every session, some from as far away as Australia.
“Today,” she says, “there are more viewers saving and bookmarking the videos to do them at their own time, such as right before bed.”
A new way to teach
Last January, Erin hosted a two–day virtual retreat for her viewers, where over 100 people registered to meet her and talk about their experiences with YogaFaith. Many of them said that they prefer Erin’s Facebook classes to going to a yoga studio for in–person lessons.
“This was something I did not consider when I was training to teach,” she admits. “There’s a whole population that would love to try yoga, but prefer to do it by themselves, with no one watching them. They saw my YogaFaith classes online as the right time to start.”
Teaching via social media had also become ingrained in Erin. When COVID– 19 restrictions eased and she was finally able to host a class in–person, she saw how different it is to teach live rather than virtually through a screen.
“With actual people in yoga positions in front of me, I had to explain things a little differently and change a few lessons around,” says Erin. “It’s been a whole new learning experience for me too, but it’s also been a lot of fun.”