Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Joy T. DeSensi

Committee Members

Allison D. Anders, Lars Dzikus, Rob Hardin


The yogic phenomenon in the West is multi-dimensional and threads through areas of history (DeMichelis, 2008), market trends, fitness and exercise, medicine (Guarracino, Lazo, Savino, & Edelstein, 2006); religion and spirituality (DeMichelis, 2008); and health and wellness (Iyengar, 1989). Coakley (2004) called for “more information about the connections among various religious beliefs around the world, ideas of the body, and participation in physical activities and sports” (p. 543). A dearth of literature exists concerning the connections between how Christian beliefs, the dominant religion in the United States (Pew Research Center, 2008), related to the body and physical activity participation inform other cultures’ fitness modalities. Pertinent to this study, is the debate over who should practice yoga. The purpose of this project was to explore Christian-centered yoga and specifically how teachers who ascribe to this method create meaning of their own yoga experiences and operationalize it in their classes. Purposeful sampling as well as snowball sampling methods were employed to select 10 CCY teachers. Participant observations and instructors’ archival data, websites, marketing material, training manuals, and class descriptions were used for triangulation. Based on thematic analysis, the researcher produced four major themes: (a) Gateway; (b) Dueling Dualities; (c) Embodied Spirituality; and (d) Operationalization. Ritual appropriation theory and Bourdieu’s sociological concepts were used to interpret the findings and position Christian-centered yoga inside the larger discourse on sociology, sport, recreation, yoga, spirituality, and religion. This study adds knowledge to the fields of religious studies, recreation, sport sociology and psychology, and health promotion. For vi those in the fields of spiritual and religious studies, the results of this text offer opportunities for readers to find yogic experiences within a Christian context. The excerpts from the data offered in each theme help to explore the spiritual marketplace, spaces where religion and spirituality are packaged, outwardly marketed, and consumed; in this case, the spiritual marketplace happens to be group-fitness settings. My work continues to develop typologies related to religious studies, physical activity, and modern yoga studies and augments existing scholarship by exploring how religiously affiliated corporal beliefs may influence physical activity.

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