Intro: Christian exercise?

Don’t try this at home…or anyplace else. Ever. There is no such thing as Christian exercise. But some ancient Christians probably did do calisthenics.

“Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy: 4:8

PraXis is about urging Christian to practice healthy living in Body, Mind and Holy Spirit. We do this through diet, fitness and mindfulness in the Christian tradition of the spiritual athlete.

In PraXis we engage in 20-30 minutes of light exercise and then sit in 20 minutes of Christian mindfulness, otherwise known as contemplative prayer. In this post we go over the basic intent and theology of the exercise modality.  The PraXis exercise intended to do three things:

  • Keep the body vital
  • Prepare for Christian mindful prayer
  • Turn attention to God through embodied practice

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Most people are familiar with Yoga, or Asana Yoga, a series of controlled stretches and poses. Asana Yoga has the same aims as the PraXis exercise modality. There is no real equivalent to Asana Yoga in the Christian tradition.  However, calisthenics and gymnastics are ancient Western traditions of physical training that were certainly present in the Hellenized world of the earliest Christians. Really any kind of exercise appropriate to our age and fitness level will do. There is nothing wrong with Thai Chi, or Yoga. However, we steer more towards modern calisthenics and modes like pilates. Nothing personal, Yoga.

Christians have a unique relationship with the body. In our tradition, you are not a soul having a bodily experience. You are a body and soul equally. Christians believe that when we die we lose our bodies, temporarily, but we will be reunited with them someday, in a place outside time, when Heaven and Earth are finally reunited. So, we must take care of our bodies, for as Paul says, they are not our own. They belong to God. Our bodies were won for us at great price, by Christ on the Cross. So, when we care for our bodies with exercise and fasting, we are performing a kind of prayer of thanksgiving to God.

We have to remember that for most of Christian history, people were not in need of physical fitness. In the days of the early Church, work and for the most part, every task, required physical exercise: farming, making bread, repairing even the simplest tool. Every part of existence was a workout. It was rare for people to make a living while sitting in their chair 8 hours a day. 

It was only as we came into the later part of the Twentieth Century, that we find ourselves in a crisis of physical and mental health in the United States and the West.

Healthy Body, Healthy Soul

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, adults are way too sedentary these days. Let’s face it, we sit around way too much. We sit all day long at our jobs and then drive around and come home and sit in front of the TV. Adults who do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain health benefits including: prevention of chronic diseases, weight control, strength, improved sleep, stress relief and increased life expectancy.  

Adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 5 days a week. Exercises that we will promote in PraXis fall into three types, Mobility or stretching (that means you, Yoga), Strength training (we’ll promote mostly body weight exercise) and Cardio or HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).  We’ll try and show you exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

We will use the term prehab to means exercises that prepare you for exercise.  We will also do some posts for seniors and for those with limited mobility.  Exercise depends on your individual condition, one size does not fit all. Your weight, age and general health are the starting points. So be careful and remember to

  • go slowly at first
  • pay attention to your body
  • push yourself
  • rest

With anything in PraXis there may be some discomfort as you begin to push yourself into doing something new, or physically or mentally strenuous. So, as a martial arts instructor once told us, if it hurts remember this Rule of Pain and Progress:

The first time you feel it, ignore it and keep going
The second time you feel it, pay attention to it, but keep going
The third time you feel it, stop and rest

See some examples of recommended exercises HERE.

Published by Cornelius Swart

Masters Candidate, Vancouver School of Theology

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