Anne Kelley, a Seattle-based attorney, was looking for a way to engage with the stations of the cross on a deeper level when she stumbled upon the idea of incorporating yoga into the practice.
Traditionally observed on Good Friday, the stations of the cross are a series of 14 moments in the final hours of Jesus Christ's life, before his crucifixion. Every year, many Christians reflect upon the stations as a spiritual exercise.
“My inspiration was that if we used our whole body, heart and soul to focus on the Stations, we could better enter into [Jesus'] suffering and open ourselves to [a] deeper relationship with God,” Kelley said in an email to The Huffington Post.
Kelley recruited the help of yoga instructor Cynthia Simon and artist Eric Armusik to bring her project, called "Body in Prayer," to fruition. Simon helped identify the positions and movements that would best capture the spirit of the stations, while Armusik artistically represented them in a series of 14 paintings that now hang in Kelley's local Seattle parish.
The Body in Prayer series is meant to help people meditate on Jesus, said Kelley, and is not meant "to port any of the stated spiritual outputs of yoga in the transcendental or Hindu sense." Because yoga is now so popular, said Kelley, she hopes the series will provide a recognizable and "great shorthand way of getting people to move their bodies into positions that [are] relatively safe, in a repeatable, reliable way.”
On Saturday, Holy Family Church in Los Angeles will host the Body in Prayer yoga stations of the cross for the sixth year in a row, offering participants a "multi-sensory meditation" on Jesus' last day. The following day is Palm Sunday in the Christian tradition and the official start of Holy Week leading up to Easter.
"It is [Anne's] intention to draw people back into a reflection and meditation on what Jesus did for us when he suffered and died," Frank Ponnet, director of adult education at Holy Family Church, told HuffPost. "It has been a beautiful meditation to begin Holy Week.”
Scroll through to see Eric Armusik's creative depictions of the stations of the cross, inspired by the yoga movements of Body in Prayer:
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