Exercise and stretching classes are increasingly popular in North American culture, but many Christians are wary about the spiritual associations of yoga. Now Winnipeggers can attend a class where stretching, breathing, and relaxation exercise are focused on God.
Three years ago, Martine Fortin, a certified fitness instructor with 20-plus years’ experience, felt God tugging on her heart to offer an alternative. She calls it Yo-God.
“God inspired me to create a full body stretch to the New Testament,” she says. With her fitness training, Fortin knew what kinds of stretches are helpful to the body. When she sat down to create the routine, “every move came naturally,” she says. “It has to be inspiration [from God].”
At her hour-long classes, Fortin leads participants through a series of stretches named after the books of the New Testament while instrumental hymns and praise music play softly in the background. She has also created several exercises based on Bible verses “that teach while you do the routine.” Proverbs 3:5–6, for example, is the name of a pretzel-like movement, which Fortin says is a reminder that focus on God gets people through difficult and confusing times.
The once-a-week drop-in classes held at Eastview Community Church, Winnipeg, has an average attendance of 11. Some come from the host church, some from other churches in the community, and some just heard about it and want to give it a try.
Fortin, who was raised Catholic in Quebec, “kind of fell in love with God” after attending church in Winnipeg. Her children, attending German school, had followed their friends to MB churches where Fortin found a home as well.
She wants the classes to reach out to people in the community who are searching for God, but her heart is still with Quebec. Her long-term dream is to create a video of the exercise routine in French so it could be used in people’s homes in Quebec. She choose the name Yo-God because it piques curiosity, and it works in both French and English.
Fortin does not charge for the sessions but the recommended $5 donation is used to sponsor a youth in the Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation program.
“It was like a coincidence,” she said about the way all the pieces came together to develop Yo-God. Only, she doesn’t believe in coincidences: “God is laughing,” she says. “I’m sure he arranged all that stuff.”