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By KIM MULFORD • Courier-Post Staff • February 17, 2010

When Barbara Moeller leads her students through her Christian Lenten yoga class, she sometimes asks them to pray the word “Jesus” over and over. Sometimes, she asks them to meditate on their breathing, on knowing that God is in the breath.

 “The spirit is in the breath,” says Moeller, who teaches at the Lourdes Wellness Center in Collingswood. “Breath is sacred, holy.”

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of penitential preparation for Easter. South Jersey Christians are finding a variety of ways to focus inward, from yoga classes and prayer retreats to breakfast devotions and spirituality workshops.

In the Catholic Church, Lent is traditionally a time of self-examination, says Sister Maria Metzger, associate director of St. Pius X Spiritual Life Center in Blackwood. The center will hold a number of special programs during Lent, including a dinner series to focus on a deeper life of prayer and friendship with God.


“Lent has been a time to reform your life, to look at your life and to really see where it needs to improve,” Metzger said. “It’s almost a time when you’re getting back on track in living a good Christian life.”

In ancient times, people who had committed serious sins demonstrated their humility by dressing in ashes and sackcloth. By Easter, they would be allowed to return to the church.

Today, Lent is also a period of preparation for adults who want to be baptized and join the Catholic Church. The baptisms are held on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil service.

“There’s hope for everyone,” Metzger said. “That’s the whole idea of the ashes.”

For Moeller, Lent is an especially appropriate time for Christian yoga. The 1 1/2-hour classes fill up quickly with students who want to experience another way of praying.

Many feel “stressed out,” and desire to give God more quality time, Moeller said.

Her exercise room becomes a sacred worship space, lit by candles and twinkling lights. A portrait of Jesus sits on an altar.

She uses scripture and hymns, along with meditation and movement. Often, she asks students to recall the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness to fast and pray.

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