Whether it stems from work, the economy, school or other responsibilities, it’s safe to say that almost everyone has some sort of stress in their life.
This is one of the reasons Elena Porter has decided to start a new Christ-Centered Yoga class at Mountain Park Community Church, called “Restorative Yoga,” which began Oct. 12.
“I want to restore peoples’ spirit,” Porter said. “It’s a challenging time for this world, there’s no denying about it, and so for me, I think it’s time for total restoration, mind, body, spirit.”
Restorative yoga, she said, is more about finding rest and relaxation in yoga poses by using devices like blankets and blocks.
“The idea is to have all of these props, so that you can find rest in the postures,” Porter said. “In other yoga classes, we are working our muscles, we are stretching our muscles, we are challenging our muscles. In restorative yoga, we are getting down to the ligament level, past the muscles ... to a very, very deep stretch, but finding the rest in it.”
Diane Carideo-Oper, who has been attending yoga classes at MPCC for several months, said she enjoyed the new restorative yoga class because it helped her to release stress.
“I started taking yoga because I had stress-related health problems,” Carideo-Oper said. “I can feel it loosening up my ... nervous system. I can feel it relaxing it, because it releases your blockages and stuff.”
About 10 years ago, Porter started practicing yoga because she was also experiencing stress and difficulty in her personal life. Porter said she enjoyed the practice, but that it didn’t impact her spiritually, which is why she came up with the idea on her own while practicing in her garage to blend her religion with the teachings of yoga.
“Everything kept promising this deep spiritual connection,” Porter said. “I didn’t feel it. I felt peaceful, I felt calm, I felt amazing, but I didn’t feel spiritual and ... it just kind of dawned on me, like why don’t I combine my faith with it?”
Six years ago Porter started teaching her first Christ-Centered Yoga class at MPCC, and had two students. Now, MPCC has five yoga teachers, and offers eight classes weekly to more than 1,500 students who come from many places throughout the Valley, including Ahwatukee Foothills, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale, Porter said. Students who attend the classes vary from teenagers to seniors, such as 88-year-old Ann Dorzback, who attended Porter’s first restorative yoga class while visiting from Kentucky with her daughter and son in-law, Maggie and Bob Doehnert.
“There’s lots of stress in our lives,” said Maggie Doehnert, who has been practicing yoga at MPCC for three years. “And we found that together we can find a time and place where we can relax and be restored.”
Each class has a different theme, and Porter uses both Christian and non-Christian music, as well as passages and excerpts from the Bible, to blend yoga with the spiritual themes of each session.
Bob Doehnert, who has been attending yoga at MPCC since it started six years ago, got his wife interested in the classes, and said that they enjoy this blend of spiritual connection and exercise.
“When your mind is refreshed and aligned with God,” Maggie said, “then it transfers and enables your body to also be aligned and refreshed. It flows from the top down.”
In addition to the new restorative yoga class, MPCC also offers Gentle, Level 1, Level 1-2, Level 2, Slow Flow and Mixed Level yoga. Porter said that all classes are free and open to the public, and people of any age and gender are welcome.
“It’s not about church,” Porter said. “What I’m hoping to do within this ministry, within this program, is to bring people into a comfortable setting where they are comfortable to hear about God, and that they’re inspired by what they hear, and that there’s a shift in their heart.”
Cassidy Olson is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.