Last fall I went to a Faith and Fitness Retreat at Camp Timberline in Estes Park. This may be a surprise to some that know me because… fitness? But my kids go to summer camp at Timberline. It’s a beautiful place and I thought a women’s retreat in the Colorado Rockies sounded lovely.
And it was.
While there I participated in Holy Yoga classes. Our classes met in the candlelit barn, the scent of lavendar and the sound worship music in the air. It was challenging, beautiful, uplifting and relaxing all at the same time.
And I wanted to do it again.
When I got home I discovered that there was a new instructor in my area. Stephani Raabe was offering her Sanctified Yoga classes weekly in my town. After attending her classes for several months I wanted to know her story. I recently had Steph over for lunch and asked her to tell me about her journey and passion for wellness.
Steph is a wife, mother of 3, and has been a kitchen and bath designer for 16 years. Like most women she struggles to balance it all. Although she loves her job, the stress began to wear on her both physically and emotionally. Six years ago someone suggested that yoga could help her anxiety. In her journey to find balance and wellness she began attending yoga classes once a week. She knew it was something she needed to do for herself.
“I would arrive to class as a ball of stress and I would leave a refreshed and happier person – a different person. It was really working!”
Steph was raised in the church and as time went on and she became more involved in yoga she was bothered by some of the eastern religion themes and new age aspects that some of the yoga teachers brought to the classes.
“It didn’t feel right,” says Steph. She became distracted by the words and thoughts that didn’t align with her beliefs. “That’s not what the Bible says,” she kept thinking.
So she left yoga for a while and the stress returned.
For 2 years she went on with her life. During that time she began to feel a tug on her heart to become a yoga instructor.
“To me, yoga is movement of the body with an intention and focus. I wanted to focus on God.”
But insecurities, excuses, and doubt were at work.
“I just wanted to take a class. I didn’t need something else to do” she said.
She began searching out Christian yoga but didn’t find anything offered in Northern Colorado. And still she felt the tug on her heart to teach.
She remembers reading a book one day and the word sanctified jumped off the page. She looked up the word sanctified (set apart for God) and that was it. Sanctified Yoga had its start.
“That’s what I want. Yoga set apart for God” she thought to herself.
Through all her doubting and questioning she felt pushed. An organization called Holy Yoga began appearing on her Instagram feed and a studio space became available to hold classes for only $15. All the barriers to her desire began to fall away. All that was left to do was her instructor training. She enrolled in Holy Yoga’s Instructor Program; training 9 weeks at home and then attending a training retreat in Arizona.
“Am I really doing this?” she thought as she waited for her flight to Arizona.
She describes the retreat as life changing.
“I wrote Do It Afraid (which was a theme they focused on at the retreat) across the tops of my feet before my instructor final so I would have something to focus on. I was so scared but I know that Love is greater than fear.”
She got back on the plane to come home as a yoga instructor and held her first class just a couple weeks later.
Before every class she teaches Steph prays “God, this is your class. Bring women here who need it.”
This is truly a ministry. Steph offers her classes to the community for free. She wants people who need yoga, but struggle with finances, to come. And she wants people who need God, but struggle with religion, to come.
Each week she listens to music and creates a playlist for the class. She picks a subject or theme like His Strength or Freedom to focus on. Often she receives comments from participants in the class that they were encouraged and that her theme for the evening was exactly what they needed.
New things are happening in Steph’s ministry. She has recently moved out of her original community studio space and has partnered with Lighthouse Dance Studio to offer her classes for free in their beautifully renovated space. This change has allowed Steph to reach even more women in the community and is continued evidence of God’s timing.
“Through teaching yoga, God is teaching me as well. He is changing who I am.”
When I asked Steph what she sees going forward, she shared a beautiful vision of a studio/gathering place for women called The Well that would include fitness classes, a coffee shop, and a place for Bible study and prayer. It is this vision that prompted her to recently change the name of her ministry to Sanctified Wellness so that both physical and spiritual heath could be encompassed in the name.
“We all have mess in our lives and I don’t want to be a Christian who just shows up at church on Sunday. I see a community of women to be messy and real with” said Steph. “It’s a big idea, too big right now and it scares me but I try to trust in God’s promises and timing.”
Steph is a wonderful example of aligning passion, purpose and priorities and in trusting God’s timing to do so. And I’m happy to know her. Thanks Steph!