New Documentary Explores Yogi in the Bible Belt
Summer Smith recently completed a documentary that highlights what it means to be a yoga instructor in the heart of the “Bible Belt.” The Bible Belt is a term often used to describe areas of the southern and midwestern United States where Protestant fundamentalism is widely practiced. Yoga, Smith explains, is sometimes thought by some to conflict with that path. But in fact, she says, they are compatible.
Yogi in the Bible Belt tells the story of Smith starting a yoga studio in Canton, Texas, in 2006. The classes were met with enthusiasm from most but trepidation from others.
“Unfortunately, people are misinformed about yoga, its traditions, practices and origins,” Smith says. “There seems to be a fear that yoga somehow interferes with a person’s religious practices which is completely unfounded. The truth is yoga predates religion by several thousand years. It is true that some religions later incorporated the practice into their faiths because of the proven benefits, but yoga in no way interferes with a person’s religion, it only enhances it.”
Smith talks about the benefits of meditation and the philosophy of yoga.
“Yoga itself is really a state of being,” she says. “The practice enhances faith because the cornerstone of a yogic lifestyle is centered on settling the mind. When the mind is quiet, we are more introspective and receptive. In a receptive state we are kinder and gentler to ourselves and those around us, and we cultivate a state of compassion.”
Smith explains common practices and the science and technique of yoga in a way that helps the lay person understand the practice.
“I think of my studio as a lab,” she says. “We practice postures and breathing techniques in an effort to calm our minds and get into a more receptive state. When we are open and receptive, healing begins.”
This film project sheds light on an ancient tradition and explains in simple terms the purpose behind the practice.
“My hope is that as many people as possible will see this documentary and discover that one of the greatest gifts we receive is the gift of self-discovery,” Smith says. “The philosophy and application of the yogic lifestyle has impacted me so profoundly that I wanted to share that experience. For me personally, it has been a life-altering journey back to myself.”
See the trailer at youtu.be/eVIL3fy7MVM. Smith conducts workshops where she leads a yoga stretch class, and shows the 30-minute film followed by discussion. To schedule the two-hour workshop, contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Yama Yoga Studio at yamayoga.net.