Maranatha Yoga at Greenbelt 2022

Attending a yoga class as a plus-sized, unfit and menopausal woman can be anxiety inducing at best.

But Maranatha Yoga is no ordinary class and this was no ordinary venue. Greenbelt Festival 27-29th August 2022 saw Maranatha Yoga hosting three sessions at the outdoor Grove venue. Timetabled for 2 morning slots at 10am and, a first for Greenbelt, an embodied communion at 6pm on the Sunday. Sessions were led by Maranatha Yoga teachers Pauline Steenbergen, Steve Carter and Una Bentley. I had previously encountered Maranatha Yoga via Zoom however this was my first time ‘in real life’. Maranatha Yoga differs from a usual yoga class in that it integrates Christian spirituality as we connect to our minds, bodies and spirit – whilst practising traditional yoga poses. “A typical Maranatha Yoga class begins with words of welcome to help people relax, set aside their daily worries and focus on the aims of the session. This is followed by a warm-up sequence which celebrates the wonder of our creation. Traditional yoga postures are then practised whilst reflecting on key scriptural texts or prayers, thereby familiarising us with the words and creating within us a deeper understanding of their meaning. The session finishes with a time in silent meditation and a closing prayer.” (

As I have already mentioned, I have had experience of Maranatha Yoga when I took part in their Zoom sessions I found it to be a really useful practice. The silent meditation was really helpful, if not a little challenging for someone like myself whose mind never usually switches off. Greenbelt 2022, was an opportunity for me to take part alongside others who have been regular Zoom attendees and also with folk who have never experienced it before; including those who may be a little curious or even sceptical about ‘Christian Yoga’ and how it works. 

As the first session morning began, all anxiety disappeared as men and women of all ages and sizes –  some in yoga pants, leggings and typical gym gear and others in jeans, shorts and ‘normal’ clothes, turned up. I wasn’t quite so ‘out of place’ as I imagined I might be. The outdoor venue for the Marantha Yoga sessions was so good and definitely helped to calm any anxiety of not being able to keep up or move myself into any tricky shapes should I need to. (I have weaknesses in my wrists and hips, so a lot of moves are tougher than they should be!) Sitting in a natural grove of ancient lime trees, beside a lake with a gentle waterfall and with the bonus of it being a beautiful summer morning with blue skies and a cool breeze – it was a joy to be encouraged to switch off from the busyness of the weekend, to forget about plans and timetables and all the other stuff of life that we carry with us and to focus on Christ as we repeated the Maranatha mantra slowly and purposefully. ‘Ma-ra-na-tha’ which means ‘Come Lord’ in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

As I said, for someone who struggles with movement and certain yoga poses in particular, I really needn’t have worried. I was pleased to hear the phrase ‘if you can’t do this pose, for whatever reason, then do not worry, just do whatever is safer and comfortable for you’. This made the practice very inclusive. There were several people who chose to do the whole practice seated. Others who did their own thing. Some like me, who did what we could and were all very much part of the group as much as the experienced and flexible yogis were. I chose to do as much as my body allowed and given the landscape of the grove, with its uneven ground and long grass, I surprised myself and was able to do more than I expected I would. What helped was seeing people of all shapes and sizes getting involved. You didn’t have to be an experienced yogi to get involved and there was no pressure to copy others or fit in at all. I have been made to feel like I didn’t fit in at other yoga classes. So this was a pleasant experience in more ways than one. To see 90+ people standing, kneeling, sitting, twisting, bending, lying down and moving their bodies in nature was a fantastic experience. It made me feel part of something much bigger than just a traditional yoga class. 

I was honoured to be asked to read one of my poems during the Embodied Communion. Pauline, Team Leader of Maranatha Yoga, had particularly encouraged me to share it as she felt the words would be relevant to those taking part in the Maranatha Yoga practice. The poem was spoken just after the 90+ group had received grapes and oatcakes. In the final 15 minutes of quiet contemplation, I said: 

“Allow all your perceived flaws and imperfections to remain part of you, don’t look to remove them for fear that others won’t accept you because of them, don’t worry that people won’t like you or that you aren’t perfect enough, don’t wish to be different for the sake of others… Because when other people see you, they are filled with awe and wonder, at who you are, they do not see the scars, the bruises, or the broken pieces, they marvel at your smile, your ability to laugh, even in adversity, and they love how you make them laugh, they love the way you make them feel and how easy you are to talk to, and they love you, just as you are…”

Not sure how these words would come across, yet feeling that they were very much words from God, and relevant to me personally, I shared them because I felt it may help someone else to recognise their worth through the lens of their friends and family; but more importantly, through the eyes of their Creator. I was pleasantly surprised when several people came up to me at the end to ask for the words of the poem. One man in particular said that these words had released something in him as he listened to them and meditated upon them. Another lady told me that they brought her to tears. I firmly believe that this wasn’t anything to do with my words alone but the time given to truly meditate upon them as we asked Jesus to come into our midst. His Spirit spoke to those who needed to hear Him.

This is the beauty of Maranatha Yoga UK. It takes the focus off ourselves entirely, away from our limitations, failures and lack of ability and places our minds on Christ. We are invited to allow Him to come and minister to us as we move our bodies, listen to scripture, pray and spend time meditating on Him. Embodied spirituality allows us the opportunity to live out our christian faith while remaining grounded and paying attention to our bodies. This is something Maranatha Yoga UK does so well. Little meditation tips such as tapping your fingers as you repeat the phrase ‘Ma-ra-na-tha’, or breathing in and out slowly using one nostril at a time were so helpful to concentrate more on God; allowing my anxiety to subside. It is embodied practices like these, alongside the gentle yoga movements, that I will be continuing as I journey on.

Lisa Andradez