What do you mean by Christian Wellness?
Wellness is a medical term for conditions that lead to optimal health. Wellness is distinct from acute, therapeutic, or preventative care. Wellness tends to address the less acute but more pervasive crisis of anxiety, depression, and the struggle for a healthy weight. We help well people integrate healthy evidence-based practices into their daily prayer life. The Christian part is that we incorporate Christian scripture, faith, and inspiration from the ancient form of Christian Biblical interpretation known as askesis, or spiritual striving. These ideas intersect around a Christian approach to fitness, mindfulness, and eating.
Link: Interview with Christian Wellness Guru, Father Nicholas Amato.
Link: What the Church is Getting Wrong about Wellness
Link: Crisis of health in the US and a Christian view of Wellness
What happens at these sessions?
We have a few offerings. We have weekly one-hour classes that include asana-based movement, and Centering Prayer, and Lectio Divina. We do wellness challenges that include fitness, mindfulness, and fasting components. Cornelius also offers one-on-one pastoral listening sessions.
Is this biblical?
- Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testament [Psalm 69:10-11, Daniel 1:8, Isaiah 58:6, Mark 9:29, 1 Corin. 7:5, etc].
- Contemplation, or silent prayer is a tradition from the Desert Fathers that seeks to emulate Jesus’ times of prayer in the silence of the desert [Mark 1:12-13, Luke 5:16, etc].
- The idea of Christian life as one of physical and spiritual challenge or striving was foundational for church elders and ascetics such as Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. We see it in Paul’s athletic metaphors in passages like 1 Corin. 9:24-27. The greek word for training, askesis, is where we get the word athlete and ascetic from.
Is attending PraXis like going to church?
PraXis is not a church, nor is it a substitute. It is, however, a judgement free zone where you can sharing a sacred space (within your heart) with others. It is a prayer and fellowship group that prays in the body and in silence. When we gather for a session, the Messiah is in our midst (Matt 18:20), but PraXis is just a compliment, not a replacement for normative church-going life.
Do sessions cost anything?
No, we don’t charge. You are invited to contribute, but nothing is expected.
What if I feel pain while practicing yoga/ Pilates/HITT?
- You should not feel pain during physical exercise. If you feel pain, back off, take a break, or practice the regressed options of the exercise.
- Be aware of all your physical injuries or challenges and honor them. If you have specific concerns (knee injury, lower back paint, etc) make sure you reach out to us and let us know.
- When in doubt, skip the exercise
I have health issues and I’m nervous about changing my diet or exercise. What do you recommend?
- If concerned, talk to your physician about any changes you’re planning on making. PraXis should not substitute any doctor’s advice, physical, or mental health therapy.
- If you ever feel light headed, delirious, or feel as if you might faint, back off the diet challenge.
- Remember this is a challenge, not the Gospel. Do what you can to push yourself a little, but don’t take an “all or nothing” approach. Be merciful and careful with yourself.
What is Centering Prayer, and how do I do it?
Centering Prayer is a form of silent prayer that is very similar to evidence-based mindfulness. Silent prayer sometimes called noetic or mental prayer, or pure prayer, has been practiced by Judeo-Christians for thousands of years (depending on who you ask). However, it can be very strange and challenging for the newcomer. We encourage you to follow the links below and try it out a bit before coming to a session. Several nondenominational groups promote and support Centering Prayer, including Contemplative Outreach.
Link: A Introduction to Centering Prayer
Link:What Demons? Interview with Christian Mindfulness Instructor Irene Kraegel
Link: Organizations that support Centering Prayer: Contemplative Outreach
Link: How to do Centering Prayer:The Contemplative Society
How should I prepare?
- Read the email sent out the Sunday before each PraXis session
- Good sleep the night before
- Hydrate before PraXis and keep water close during practice
- Stay open to the experience and whatever may arise for you
- Have a quiet space
- Have a working laptop, or mobile device, good lighting and strong internet connection
- Place any windows behind your laptop or mobile device
- Minimize distractions from cell phones, visitors, pets, or children
- Have a yoga mat handy or carpet for a soft place to practice yoga/ Pilates
- Wear loose fitting clothes
- Have a comfortable place to sit for contemplation or lay down on your mat if you prefer
- Have a blanket near if it helps to have around your shoulders during contemplation
- Have food prepared to eat afterward
- Try to ‘PraXis’ throughout the week until you attend your next PraXis session
Should Christians Do Yoga?
Yoga is not the only thing we do. But let’s address the issue. Yoga is a relatively new in the West. And Christianity is the world’s largest religion. So, it’s no wonder there is no consensus on this issue yet. Some are for it, and some are against it. But it’s important to remember that ancient Christians used to think that theater was a pagan practice dedicated to the gods. Eventually, the art form was parsed from the pagan context. Now, it’s ok to go to see The Phantom of the Opera without jeopardizing your soul. At PraXis, we parse out the fitness practices of yoga from what might be called yoga mysticism. The postures in yoga, or asanas, are time-tested isometric exercises. Evidence has shown them to be an easy, safe and effective way to stretch, build strength and work out the cardiorespiratory system without special equipment. That’s what we are doing. Sometimes we call this “sanctified yoga” or yoga-inspired movement. But it’s pretty much just the calisthenic form of yoga that you might find at any gym.
What do you believe?
We are not here to teach belief like a parish church. We are here to create space for the Holy Spirit, hold space for one another, and practice movement and prayer in communion with God in Christ. There is not a lot of conversation in the sessions, but it tends to follow a “Mere Christianity” framework, as laid out in C.S. Lewis’s eponymous book. Cornelius is a member of the Orthodox Church in America, and Jamie is a member of the United Church of Christ. We also draw inspiration from the era of the Great Church [the period from the Resurrection to the year 1,000 CE], from which askesis, or spiritual striving, emerged. We have had wonderful participation from people of other faiths and traditions in the past as well. The group is nonjudgmental, open, and affirming and does not support discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Is it very religious?
No, we try to be more spiritual than religious, in that there is no preaching or ritual. We do brief readings from the Scriptures [Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles mostly] and occasionally short prayers from various denominations. Mostly the focus is on bodily movement (somatic prayer) and silence (noetic prayer).
Who are you guys anyway?
Cornelius Swart is a former journalist. He has a master’s in public and pastoral leadership from the Vancouver School of Theology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a certified yoga instructor (YA, 200-hour RYT) and is in training as a personal trainer and wellness coach (NASM). He’s the husband of Jamie DeRuyter, who is the more popular of the two.
Jamie DeRuyter Swart is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She holds a master’s in counseling from the University of Wisconsin. She also has over 15 years of experience as a fitness instructor teaching capoeira.
Link: Who are we?