Yoga works in myriad ways. Often it works intangibly in our multi-level capacity as human beings, mentally, physically, and spiritually, growing us into better people over time. It illuminates, challenges, awakens, calms, invigorates, opens, heals, sustains. Yoga clarifies and enlightens. In other ways, yoga works more concretely. We realize this when we experience immediate, observable effects after practicing specific breathing techniques or relaxation poses which bring us into better balance. We can even put our hands on the results of yoga practice when we participate in different activities like benefit classes raising support for local charities.
Yoga doesn’t always work
But there are also ways in which yoga does not work. For instance, yoga doesn’t work like magic, removing the crises or stressors from our lives at the moment of savasana. Neither, unfortunately, does it work through osmosis. We can’t slip the yoga book, video, or MP3 file under our pillow and wake up blissful. Much like prayer, simply reading about it doesn’t make its benefits manifest in our lives. Instead, the hard work of consistent practice is required.
Yoga as lens
For me, yoga has worked like a lens magnifying everything I hold it up to, whether that be the health of my body, the busyness of my mind or the mysteries of my faith. In this new kind of light I have been able to perceive my self and all aspects of my life in a new way. I started The Catholic Yogi website in 2013 as a way to communicate with my yoga students, but also as a place to dialogue about how the study of yoga has informed the rest of my life, especially my Catholic practice. The Catholic Yogi grew out of the encouragement of a dear friend who insisted I start writing about my journey as a Catholic and a Yogi of sorts, as it is, she mentions, quite a unique place to be. I think it is unique because I keep the yoga “yogic” and keep my Catholicism focused on Christ; I don’t change the Sanskrit names or the shapes of the poses when I’m praying or practicing, and I don’t call Christ Isvara when I’m on my mat or in the company of fellow yogis. However, I do pray when I practice. It seems God has blessed me with a contentment of sorts, as I am not “afraid” of the yoga because I know our God is big, and I am not timid about Christ because I know our God is big. This catholic-yoga dynamic has been a large part of my journey as a yoga teacher and as a Catholic woman.
Balancing faith and yoga practice
People ask me, “How do you balance your yoga and Catholic identities so effortlessly? They seem to be at odds.” Actually, there has been a lot of prayerful effort on my part, a lot of asking, questioning, looking, and listening. At this point in my journey I can say there is too much absence of good in the world to resist embracing the beautiful for fear of blasphemy, especially if that beautiful leads us closer to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I am a Catholic above all else. It is only that God has gifted me with yoga, blessed me with its benefits, and used it to turn my face toward Christ that I can call myself “The Catholic Yogi.” I’m reminded of a Dorothy Day quote: “You will know your vocation by the joy it brings you. You will know. You will know when it’s right.” I feel great joy in my motherhood. I feel great joy in my prayer life. I felt a great joyfulness when I started writing at Love and Be Loved. And after having my babies, when I decided to re-enter the yoga-teaching-world as “The Catholic Yogi,” I felt joyful and at ease.
Yoga as a calling
I feel that God simply wants me to help. That’s my vocation. I’m not here to do big, amazing, superhuman things. I’m just here to help people on their way, and be helped by them. That’s exactly how yoga works in my life. I would be no where without God, my family, my friends, and my yoga students. One of my favorite parts of The Catholic Yogi community is the benefit class we offer four times a year. It’s a blessing to have so many people willing to come together to help others. I also love knowing people are able to become healthy and stay healthy through their yoga practice. When I see the smiles and the happiness after class, when I bump into people in the community and hear how yoga is helping them recover from an illness or injury, reduce stress, avoid different medications, become mindful and aware, or be nicer to their families, I’m humbled to be a part of the gift. It is good to share the joy.
Amy Secrist has been practicing yoga for 16 years and has studied under renowned teachers Tim Miller and David Swenson during her training at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio. Amy is steeped in the physically demanding discipline of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, which focuses on cleansing and healing the body by linking one posture to the next through a strong and purposeful breath. While Ashtanga is the foundation of her practice, Amy explores and teaches gentle Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, workshop-style classes, and Yoga for kids.
Her approach to teaching is individualized as she addresses the needs of each student in the class. She encourages everyone to question, experiment, and take ownership of their yoga practice by deciding what works best for them. As a teacher, Amy is direct and easy-going, challenging and supportive, contemplative and practical.
Amy has also studied and practiced the art of reading and writing at The Ohio State University and The Bread Loaf School of English (at Middlebury College, Vermont). She holds a BA and MA in English with a focus in writing. She cites the two most influential classes during her studies as Critical Theory with JF Buckley and Poetry Workshop with Paul Muldoon.