I recently got the chance to speak with Jo the founder of gracexstrength, a Christian yoga practice in Australia. She has big dreams, a heart of gold, and a unique practice.
I usually like to start these conversations on a lighter note so: If you had a theme song that started this interview, what would it be?
(Jo): “It’s Your breath…in our lungs..so we pour out our praise.” What’s the name of that song again? Oh yeah, “ Great Are You Lord”. I think it’s apt we start with this song, I think we’ll soon find out why 🙂
You run a Christian yoga practice. First of all, I think that is amazing and wish we had one like yours where I live. Second, what does this look like compared to a traditional yoga studio?
(Jo): It’s interesting that you found us all the way Downunder because we flew all the way up to the U.S. to get trained by Holy Yoga. It’s founded in Phoenix, California by an anointed Leader, Brooke Boon. While you’re wishing that there are classes close to you, we wish that Christian yoga is as widespread here in Australiasia as it is in the U.S.!
At Grace x Strength, we believe in the Truth of the Gospel and meditating on the Word of God. We draw on the many medically-proven benefits that yoga brings for the mind and body through the exercises, stretching and breath work combined with meditation that is centred around Gospel truths and Biblical themes.
We encourage all our instructors to use English-names or the names of the poses in their local language to make it accessible. We also like to play Christian worship or soft calming music in the background.
Essentially, we want to create a Christ-honouring and Holy Spirit-filled environment for everyone to experience the love of Jesus on their mats.
How did the idea to open a Christ-centered yoga studio come to fruition?
(Jo): The journey to this vision first started almost 4 years ago, when I felt the calling to become trained as a yoga teacher and was led to Holy Yoga. I had just given birth to my second child and had experienced the amazing benefits of yoga during my second pregnancy. Leaving behind a 10-year successful corporate career to answer this calling was challenging but I’m so thankful that I took that leap of faith.
We don’t own a studio space at the moment (although that is still a dream). Our vision is to gather and connect people who are looking for a Christ-centered practice from all over the world with their local teachers. We do this by running a directory on our website.We have just launched our new Christian yoga channel, where people can experience Christ-centred yoga online and practice in the comfort of their own homes.” It also provides Christian yoga teachers with a platform to be God’s vessel.
So, what started out as a solo walk is now a God-breathed movement of 6 members across Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom to bring the Gospel to people through the practice of Christian yoga.
Have you faced any challenges while running a Christ-centered yoga program? Do non-believers attend?
(Jo): Sometimes I really wish I don’t need to go there, but yes there are challenges. On top of the typical challenges that most young organizations face, we attract controversy from both Believers and non-believers – Believers who’s understanding is that yoga is an Eastern Religion that conflict with the Christian faith and non-believers who don’t like the idea of mingling the message of the Gospel with anything, really.
That said, in this modern world of social media where everyone gets to have an opinion, there are also those who strongly support what we do.
We believe we are called to this mission field, and that persecution is part of it. Jesus Himself faced the worst of it. We will continue our work in the direction that God points. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
As you probably know, the practice of yoga is a hot button topic in the Christian world. Do you receive a lot of critique from other Christians? Or more support?
(Jo): We receive a fair share of both.
The basis for yoga is spiritual growth. How can yoga benefit one spiritually?
(Jo): At Grace x Strength, we believe that yoga is a neutral form – a practice that compromises of 3 core components: breathwork, meditation and physical postures and movements. It can be a spiritual practice because when you combine what God has gifted us with, our breath, our souls, our minds and our physical strength, it is truly a place where we can meet the Lord and move in His presence. (Love your Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength ~ Mark 12:30)
You guys have grown a lot since you first started in 2012! What does your company look like?
(Jo): Oh, I’m humbled by this and all for God’s glory. We are blessed with the growth that we’ve experienced perhaps more recently in the last 12 months since Alyssa, came on board to join the Founding team as the Co-Founder. Our Founding Team is now 6 in all different cities. We have 4 core values we focus on: 1. Grace 2. Strength 3. Christ-centred 4. Community and we ensure that everything we do reflects our core values.
We rely on technology for communication – Whatsapp to be specific! I’m the planner and Alyssa the creative thinker. Together we drive the team forward and get their contributions to our initiatives. Prayer life makes up the fabric of our ministry/business. We support each other through prayer and encouragement. We see each other’s faces on video conferencing at least once a month.
Recently, God created an amazing opportunity for 4 of us to be in the same place in person. That was fun! We hung out, we prayed, we did yoga, we worshipped, we ate, we laughed, we cried…so yes, trusting that God’s assignment for us is on His time and plan.
As yogis, I can imagine you live holistically healthy lifestyles. What does a day in your life look like?
(Jo): I’m a mum of two boys (9 and 4) and wife to a traveler husband and quite a traveler myself (mainly for work). Balancing the many different roles is definitely challenging. I am a natural planner and I think that has really helped me be efficient in balancing family and work life. Family is number one ministry and so that will also take priority.
Last question! Where are you headed next? Any fun projects you are working on right now that you want to share?
(Jo): Recently, we were successfully funded in a Kickstarter Pledge to raise funds to help us grow our Christian yoga channel. In today’s digital era, we want to embrace this platform and it’s healthy capabilities to spread the word of Jesus. If you enjoy a bit of yoga and love Jesus, head over to our website check it out. We are offering FREE ACCESS until 30 November 2018.
The profits we make from running this channel will enable us to extend our vision into other mission fields, such as working with organizations to survivors of abuse through the practice of yoga.
And finally, draw a deep breath …inhale love, exhale your stresses and surrender to God. Thank YOU from the team at Grace x Strength, for giving us the opportunity to share our vision with. God bless!
“Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing…Great are you Lord!”
You can find the gracexstrength team here: