Psalms & Stretches starts with prayer and reading a bible verse. We use passages from the book of Psalms (which could be described as poetry of the bible) and focus on one short section for a series of classes, so that we can learn the words by heart. We then do a warm-up of gentle stretches and mobilisation exercises for the body before learning a sequence of movement that is set to the section of verses. This moving meditation we call a Psalm Sequence. This choreographed sequence is not only exercise but a way to pray through the Psalm and to connect with it in visceral way. By committing the verse not only to our minds but to our muscle memory also, we fully embody the words and are able to worship in a creative way that is different from anything we might do at church on a Sunday. Our class is accessible to those who are curious about faith, we let the Holy Spirit do the talking and make space for particpants to engage with their own experience.
Repetition is a key part of meditation and this is why we focus on one Psalm Sequence for several classes. In Psalms & Stretches we use the word "meditate" to mean "think deeply" and "dwell on", as it is used in the bible; Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night... (Joshua 1:8). Each time we return to the same passage we ask God to speak to us through it afresh in that moment. In a similar way, when we revisit the same movement we check-in with our bodies in real time - how does that movement feel today?
Our minds can often dwell on the past or project into the future, but our body, our physical sensations and our breath can be a powerful tool in experiencing and engaging with the present. This is also how we encorporate the idea of mindfulness in our classes; listening to our bodies and noticing our thoughts. In a Psalms & Stretches class we invite God into this moment, acknowledging Him as the higher power in our lives and looking to Him as our source of wellbeing.
Psalms & Stretches classes are slow-paced and focus on facilitating a time where participants can connect with themselves and with God. Our view on exercise is that it is nourishment for the body, not punishment or a means of earning virtue. Participants can wear whatever is comfortable that they can move freely in, and no previous dance or fitness experience is neccessary. Class is done in bare feet or you can wear socks with grip. An exercise mat is ideal but not a neccessity - as long as your floor is comfortable! In our standard mat-based class we perform a variety of seated, lying and standing exercises, with variations given for those who need options; everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace and only do what feels beneficial in that moment. Psalms & Stretches is a concept class that can be delivered in different formats, for example a chair-assisted class (a full length video can be found on our videos page). All our instructors follow our set programme but have the freedom to adapt as they are able to suit the needs of the participants in their class; we are there to serve you.
At the end of a Psalms & Stretches class we have some time for relaxation, prayer and reflection. We encourage our class members to bring a notebook to journal their experience if this is something they find useful, and to use the Psalm Sequence in their own devotional time or exercise regime, for both the physical and spiritual benefits.