Sandy Hook resident Elizabeth Adam introduced a few dozen St Rose of Lima School students to a program of stretching and strength-building postures on March 24. Called PraiseMoves, the program looks very much like yoga but uses biblical scripture to focus one’s mind instead of the chanting that accompanies most forms of the Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline.
“Our bodies are gifts from God,” Ms Adam said at the beginning of the first class Monday morning. Two of Tim Dunn’s eighth grade physical education classes, one in the late morning and the other in the early afternoon, did the introductory program.
“Whatever we do with our bodies — what we watch on TV, the music we listen to, what we choose to eat, and yes, how we exercise — matters to God,” Ms Adam said.
“Everything we do should be in a way that honors God,” she continued. “He has given us our bodies as a gift to do good works for Him, and taking care of them — exercise being part of it — is really important.”
PraiseMoves, Ms Adam told the students, “works on building muscular strength, flexibility and balance.” It was founded, she said, on the word of God in 1 Corinthians 6:19 (“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”).
A certified PraiseMoves instructor for nearly ten years, Ms Adams is also a personal trainer, health coach, and group fitness instructor.
“If someone were to take a look at this class from a physical perspective, they would see that it is similar to yoga,” she told The Newtown Bee on March 21. “You work on strengthening the body using your own body as resistance. You work on flexibility and balance, but you don’t use dumbbells or bars.
“Part of Hinduism is they bow to something like 20 million gods,” she continued. “That’s part of the religion in India. The genesis of yoga is not exercise, it’s the religion. They use their body as a way to worship their gods.”
PraiseMoves is similar, she admits. But there are distinctions, she added.
“The big difference between the two is the spiritual foundations. We are not using Hinduism as our foundation, we’re using the bible verses as a spiritual foundation. The word of God is the foundation of the class,” said Ms Adam.
PraiseMoves was founded in 2001 by Laurette Willis. A former yoga instructor, Ms Willis has said (praisemoves.com/blog) that she prayed for a Christian alternative to yoga after she began questioning the New Age lifestyle.
PraiseMoves features a series of stretching and strength-building postures. Each posture is linked to a verse of Scripture, which is focused upon while holding each posture. There are more than 140 PraiseMoves postures, including 22 based on the Hebrew alphabet. There are classes designed specifically for senior citizens, adults, children.
“This was designed as an alternate to Hindu yoga,” Ms Adam said. “One of the taglines for PraiseMoves is ‘Transform your workout into worship.’”
On Monday at St Rose, each class opened with a prayer, followed by about five minuets of low impact warm-up exercises. With music playing in the background Ms Adams, with guest and recently certified instructor Janet McGovern nearby, engaged the students.
Roughly 20 minutes of postures followed, with the women taking turns reading the scripture verses upon which each new pose was based.
The students were encouraged to repeat parts of scripture out loud if they felt comfortable in doing so. The positive affirmations, Ms Adam told them, were there because “we believe what we say, far more, than what anybody else says.”
Students then laid down on their mats for a progressive muscle relaxation series, where they tensed and relaxed specific muscle groups.
To close each class, Ms Adam and Ms McGovern placed lavender scented facecloths over each student’s face. The students were encouraged to breathe in a scent that helps most people relax, and listen to a short devotional about keeping promises. Programs closed with a short prayer, and the opportunity for questions.
The classes were conducted in the Monsignor Weiss Gathering Hall. A large curtain divided the room in half, with the eighth graders in the back of the hall and kindergarten students having their lunch in the front during the morning session. It was a loud setting for a contemplative class, but Ms Adam worked through the distractions.
“The students seemed distracted and disinterested” during the first class, she said the following morning. She was, however, “very pleased” with the second group.
Mr Dunn said his students in both classes enjoyed themselves.
“It was fantastic, the kids had a great time,” he said March 25. “The first group enjoyed it, they’re just not used to that type of activity in that setting — where they weren’t moving, with the noise behind them. The second group was wonderful.
“They really had a good time. It was all positive feedback,” he said. Some of the students had done yoga before, he said, so the postures of PraiseMoves were not completely new to them.
“Some of the others reported they were a little sore at the end of the day,” he said.
The PE teacher has been working with students to create their own workout plans, he said, using body-weight exercise. “The PraiseMoves exercises will tie in well with what they’re trying to do,” he said.
Ms Adam has been invited to return to the school to do a similar introductory program for the faculty, said Mr Dunn. After that, the school administration will decide whether they will offer PraiseMoves as an after school event for students in grades 5–8 or staff.
“I think either group would do well,” he said. “It’s just going to be which one we have time for and can get scheduled in.”
Meanwhile, Monday was a success.
“It was really good,” he said. “It really brought Christ, and God, into the workout.”