The Flexibility of Faith: Holy Yoga Converts Eastern Tradition Into Christian Fitness
Story by Rachelle Reeves
Special to GCU Today Magazine
The students in Gina Tricamo’s early-morning yoga class twisted and formed their bodies into poses as their instructor recited scripture from Ezekiel and Philippians.
Contorted and stretched-out bodies sprawled across purple mats in the Sanctuary studio. The group of young people at Grand Canyon University’s Student Recreation Center resembled a traditional yoga class. But the soothing Christian music and focus on God clearly set it apart as holier than the common exercise routine.
Tricamo, a former probation officer who began teaching therapeutic yoga four years ago, said the Christian version of yoga — known as Holy Yoga — allows her to blend fitness with prayer. After seeing drug addicts, prostitutes and others turn their lives around through the Eastern meditative tradition, Tricamo knew she had found her calling. She said yoga helps people channel God. The challenge is helping students make that connection.
For some evangelical Christians, yoga’s roots in Hinduism cause them to completely avoid the practice. Some pastors have spoken out against yoga. However, practitioners on the GCU campus believe the practiced stretching and breathing help Christians focus on God’s Word.
“God wants to use His Word in every place and every situation,” Tricamo said. “And if we can bring the Word in a gentle and nurturing way to people through this practice, and that person discovers who they are, then that’s all we need to do because He truly is the author of everything.”
GCU’s Holy Yoga students said the popular Rec Center classes allow them to spend time with God and minimize the daily distractions that interfere with prayer.
|GCU Rec Center Programs|
|Holy Yoga is the only faith-based fitness program offered through GCU’s 55,000 square-foot Student Recreation Center. Other popular classes such as turbo kickboxing and Zumba draw dozens of students weekly. Classes are free and open to all GCU students. For more information about fitness programs at the Rec Center, call 602-639-7400.|
Some students have attended Rec Center yoga since their freshman year. Others said they would like to see more Holy Yoga classes offered to accommodate students, including working professionals who might not make it to campus as often. Tricamo’s classes currently draw 20 to 30 students to three weekly morning classes.
Kelsey Graner, a junior nursing student from Ohio, said Holy Yoga helped her slow down and take more time to listen to God.
“I probably would’ve never gotten into Holy Yoga, and had it help me so much, if they didn’t offer it here at GCU,” said Graner, one of the regulars in Tricamo’s classes.
“It’s really helped me in other aspects, too,” Graner said. “It’s all about breathing. Now that I’ve been doing yoga so long, I find myself doing that all the time.”