Personal Development

How an Atheist Found God in Yoga

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"I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky.   I believe that what people call God is something in all of us." "“ John Lennon

Before I started teaching private yoga sessions exclusively, I taught at a hot power yoga studio in Chicago, where I had practiced yoga for one year and completed teacher training.   While I learned a lot about yoga  asanas  (poses) and how to teach a solid 60-minute hot power class there, the studio never really felt quite like home, so I left the studio and started my own business.

Hot power yoga is taught in a heated room (usually 90+ degrees Fahrenheit) and consists of a series of intense yoga  vinyasas  (flows of yoga poses).   It is quite exhausting and focuses heavily on the physical aspects of yoga, and can even feel competitive.  As I grew as a yoga student and instructor, I started to care more about relaxation, restoration, and what I call a true yoga lifestyle.

yoga_the_god_withinWhat Is a Yoga Lifestyle?

A yoga lifestyle means living a healthy, balanced, meaningful life beyond buying pricey athletic outfits or organic pressed juices.    Like any other industry, yoga is a business with its own status symbols, trends, and judgments. I would rather read, breathe, connect, and share positive energy with others than wear the "right" tank top. Judgment and comparison are insidious, not inspirational.

When I stared teaching private yoga and found a new home studio for my practice, I discovered my breath.  Yoga encourages conscious, deep breathing, which is very relaxing and centering, but is often lost in a hot power class and students hurtle from asana to asana.   Now I integrate breathing and meditation into my sessions.   Meditation seems complicated and advanced, but it is simply clearing your mind and focusing on the breath while seated comfortably.    Now, when I teach, I can actually help my students develop body awareness and inner calm "“ a true yoga lifestyle.

Finding the God Within through Yoga

Yoga has existed for 5,000 years and incorporates wisdom and mythology from its Hindu roots, but  it is an ultimately inclusive practice that encourages practitioners to open their minds to the possibilities of life.   While I had my doubts, there  is  a spiritual component to yoga practice.   Most intriguing and revelatory about the readings for teacher training, ranging from the Yoga Sutras, the seminal ancient yoga text, to Journey into Power, a modern book about power yoga, was the unexpected emphasis on God.
My relationship with organized religion is but merely a nodding acquaintance, but  through yoga, I discovered a new way to thinking about God. There is a pervasive belief that God is in all of us and, at the same time, that we are all God: God is everywhere, in everything, in all of us.   And so yoga practice, whether physical asanas, breathing, or meditating, fosters connecting with the God in ourselves.

Seeing the world in new ways deepens a healthy lifestyle, and this unexpected but delightful spiritual component has become very meaningful to me.   As I continue to practice and teach, I become increasing amazed: yoga changed my life, my perspective, and my perception of the God within.

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About the author

Katie Chamberlain Kritikos

Katie Chamberlain Kritikos is a certified yoga instructor, PhD student, and writer living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. A former attorney with experience in solo practice and tax litigation, she writes about health, wellness, and relationships. Katie enjoys studying French and German, taking long walks with her husband, and sampling craft beer "“ when she's not writing, reading, or practicing handstands! Connect @katiekritikos and like Katydid Yoga on Facebook