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Anne Stenehjem’s Story
A Teacher of Vinyasa Yoga for Seven Years Finds the True Path to Eternal Life

 Seeds to Redemption, Eternal Life After Yoga

Pursuing wholeness through Vinyasa Yoga

I attended my first yoga class in 2012. To my delight, it lessened the chronic back pain I was having because of scoliosis. In fact, the pain became so unmanageable, that I had made an appointment with a Stanford surgeon to see what my options were. As it turned out, attending weekly yoga classes “cured” my back issues and I canceled the appointment. The class was Vinyasa Yoga and although it was challenging, it was fun to learn something new that was “good” for me. As my body began to transform, I was encouraged and it reinforced my resolve to continue. I was getting physically stronger and more confident in what I could accomplish. But after a while, I noticed that my focus on the physical benefits began to shift to the spiritual. There was a new sense of well-being. Without even realizing it, I was slipping into the mystical world of the occult.

Deuteronomy 11:16
Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.

It wasn’t long before the spiritual aspects of the yoga practice took over any physical benefits. I was learning to clear my mind of thoughts and be “in” my body. I was learning mantras, especially how to chant “OM,” which I later discovered is defined by Hindu scripture as being the primordial sound of creation which is in direct contrast to the biblical creation story. In hindsight, I neglected to research any of these new practices. I trusted the world. My faith in biblical things was almost non-existent. I was weak in the flesh and I willingly was led astray.

Being trained in the “Warrior II” pose. Little did Anne know that this asana is a worshipful invocation to a Hinu deity named Virabhadra. For more information see the article under “Writings” on “10 Yoga Poses that Offer Worship to Hindu Deities.”

I continued along my new path for another year before I signed on for a six-month yoga teacher certification training program. By early 2016, I was 200hrs certified and began teaching Vinyasa Yoga at the local gym. I later went on to get certified to teach pre-natal yoga. Meanwhile, my own yoga practice flourished. It was during this time that I discovered Ashtanga Yoga, a more strenuous practice that challenges and tests physical and mental strength. Cited benefits include unifying body, mind and spirit, and, a personal side bonus for me, of strengthening lower back muscles.

However, the teacher was very strict and for reasons I didn’t understand, she began to pick on me. However, I was determined to persevere despite her verbal abuse. To my relief, this teacher quit and another, very kind teacher stepped in. To my amazement, she was able to identify that I had scoliosis. After two years of practicing the primary series, I decided I had had enough, so I quit Ashtanga. [As a side note, in 2018, several female aides and students of the late Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, came forward accusing the famous yogi of sexual abuse and how he used his authority to betray their trust.] (Seeds planted)

In 2019, I decided to further my teacher education another 300 hours. But at the end of the course, I was disappointed to learn that it was short 75 hours and in order to get those additional hours, more classes and more money were required, which I did not want to do. (Seeds planted)

I was born and raised a Catholic and so was my husband. Attending mass was more of a duty than anything else. But as our family grew, we went more regularly trying to set a good example for our two young boys. However, when my youngest son (around 7 or 8) was attending classes at our Catholic church in order to be confirmed, he was expelled for behaving badly one day. Just the prior year, I had received a commemorative certificate of appreciation from the church for volunteering five years in a row. As a surprise to me, this made no difference when I begged the monsignor to reinstate my son. (Seeds planted) We had to find a new Catholic church for my son to finish his preparation to receive his confirmation. However, it wasn’t long before we stopped going to church altogether.

In March of 2020, Covid shut down gyms and yoga studios indefinitely. While my husband and youngest son continued life as they knew it from home, everything for me stopped. Weeks of isolation and hardly leaving the house took its toll on me. By July, I was depressed and had an overall feeling of hopelessness. One morning I read on the front page of our newspaper that a church nearby was open when all others were still closed. In fact, this church was defying the county by opening their doors, having weekly service without the requirement of wearing a face mask or social distancing and where singing was not banned. In an instant, I made up my mind to go and check out this courageous church. I hadn’t been to church in over a decade and for the first time, I couldn’t wait to go!

Genesis 50:20
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

As I walked through the church doors that Sunday, not only did I feel like a weight was lifted, but it was like walking out of darkness into the light. I was immediately transformed. I had an overwhelming hunger for the Gospel and received my first Bible. I was growing stronger in my faith by attending weekly services, attending women’s Bible study class, volunteering at the church, but I was still under the delusion that all this balanced out the fact that I was still involved with yoga.

Yoga’s grip over me was strong and I continued to teach, until one day in a Bible study, a woman gave me a DVD about the dangers of yoga. I watched some of it but stopped watching it halfway through. Deep down, I knew there was truth in it, but I decided to ignore it so I wouldn’t have to acknowledge my sin. To my friend’s credit, she planted a big seed. I kept pushing nagging thoughts and the DVD out of my head. Why couldn’t I be obedient? Why did I continue to teach after all the evidence was in front of me? The number one reason was that I was good at it. It wasn’t just the poses. I was a good teacher in the way I spoke and effectively communicated to the class. I’m normally a shy person, but when I got in front of a class, I was confident, articulate. Teaching was gratifying, empowering, and it defined me. Looking back, it is probable that it fed a huge void in me.

Even when Covid restrictions lessened, allowing gyms and yoga studios to reopen, the county was mandating that businesses require proof of vaccination for employees. With the help of my new church, I submitted a religious exemption to the gym I worked at. I was hopeful it would be accepted but at the same time, I rationalized that if God really didn’t want me to teach yoga, I would be terminated for violating the mandate. However, the requirement was later withdrawn, and I kept my job.

Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

However, the yoga studio that I went to for my own personal practice was a different story. On their website, they stated that proof of vaccination was required to practice there. It was later revised that if you weren’t vaccinated, you had to wear a face covering (even in the 80+ degree room). This really did not sit well with me. Where was the love, the compassion, the promise of being all-inclusive, good vibes only? What hypocrites! By then, I was really starting to see the light.

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When classes resumed at the gym, I was a different person. I saw things with a new lens and my mindset had shifted in how I wanted to teach. I no longer said certain things like, “Clear your mind.” I stopped doing certain poses. I started to play Christian instrumentals. I told myself that these changes made everything OK. What I didn’t realize that the poses alone were enough to open the door to demonic influences. Practicing yoga is practicing Hinduism. It is submitting to and glorifying their gods. All the poses are dedicated to different deities and are invocations to them. This I know now: There is only one true living God and I do not want to make Him jealous. I want my name to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I want to someday hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Covid and the pandemic were slowly chipping away at my resolve to keep teaching yoga. I was skeptical and began to question everything. What is the truth? Where can I find it? I didn’t have to look any further than my Bible. I was safe, secure and saved within its pages. The flesh was starting to lose, but God had a plan and He wasn’t giving up on me.

Psalm 139:13
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.

Deep grief and disappointment over a stillborn child

When I was a baby, I was sick and the doctor had prescribed pills for me (early 60’s). When my mother tried sticking one down my throat it got stuck and I began to turn blue. Thankfully, my dad was there, and he was able to get it back out. Another time when I was older, I fell into a friend’s swimming pool and began to drown. To this day, I will never forget that feeling of floating down. Once again, my dad came to my rescue and saved my life. You would think that these events would have brought me closer to Jesus Christ, but they did not. Growing up Catholic and going to church sporadically didn’t impress much on me. Years later, after I was married, I was given the trial of my life. I became pregnant with my first child, a girl. I carried her full term. When I went into labor, we headed to the hospital only to find out hours later that she was already gone. She was stillborn.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

After the initial shock, I was angry. I was angry at God. Why did this happen? Why me? I was in a lot of mental anguish for months. I felt so alone. Oh, how I wish I knew then what I know now. If only I prayed for the comfort and healing that only the Lamb of God can provide instead of holding on to my anger. If only I had known about the story of Job. What a faithful servant he was in the face of losing everything. But I didn’t own a Bible, and the story of Job would have to wait almost three decades.

I was eventually blessed with two sons, both are now grown. Sadly, with weak Biblical upbringing, they have departed from their faith. I love them so much and I constantly pray for their salvation and pray that one day they will receive a revelation of the great love that the Lord Jesus Christ has for them—the love that drove Him to die for all of us on a cross—and they will melt in surrender to His Lordship. Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  On the basis of that promise from God, I claim my sons for the kingdom of God and for the gift of eternal life. What a blessing it would be to all be reunited in Heaven…mother, father, sons, daughter!

As a new Christian:

I’m learning that God knows everything about me. He knew when I was born whether I would be saved or not. For most of my life, there has been a tug of war between life and death, good and evil. I’ve learned a lot about free will and how as humans, it is our nature to be wicked and sinful. After all, we are descendants of those who committed the original sin. Most of us treat Christianity like a buffet table, picking and choosing what we are and aren’t willing to sacrifice. I’m so grateful to a generous and loving God who sent his only Son to die for my sins. He paid my debt. All of it. And all He asks in return is my unwavering obedience and faith in Him. I pray that I never let Him down.

As a truth seeker:

I was listening to one of my favorite radio shows, “Understanding the Times” with Jan Markell, when I heard her make a quick comment about yoga so I emailed her for more clarification. She was kind enough to reply and sent me some resources, a couple of videos to watch. After I took in all this information, I knew I had to quit. I had been deceived and by continuing to teach, I was the one who was now deceiving. I wanted to end the cycle and be obedient. After practicing yoga for ten years and teaching a yoga class for seven years, I finally quit on 10/31/22. (Birth of a seedling)

As a Christian:

All it took was one seed, then another and another until it got me where I am today…awakened, repentant, faithful, humble… forever grateful and in debt to God because of the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m redeemed and forgiven. I pray now that God uses me so I can be a planter of seeds for others.  I’m still attending service every week and I go to weekly Bible study. I tell people that Covid changed my life but more accurately, God used Covid to change my life. I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I recited the Sinners Prayer on 7/4/20 and I was baptized with the Holy Spirit on 11/21/21. Praise be to God!

Participating in water baptism, a symbol of being buried with Christ (dying to self) and being raised to life (a new life in Christ)

Psalm 106:1
Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I urge you to make the decision to call on the name of Jesus and study the contradictions between eastern religions and Christianity. They truly are not compatible. To walk in the truth, we must separate ourselves from all deception.

The Prayer of Salvation (also known as the Sinner’s Prayer) is a prayer that is said when people sincerely seek to repent of their sin, ask God for forgiveness and state their belief in the life, death, and saving resurrection of Jesus Christ. In scripture, there is reference to a process of repentance, faith, and salvation in the book of Romans. Romans 10:9-10 says that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” These verses are part of salvation through repenting our sin and affirming our faith in Jesus.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13)

If you want to contact Anne Stenehjem, you may email her at:
a.stenehjem@comcast.net

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Written by Mike Shreve