A body-and-soul retreat is about to take place in the privacy of my home. This restorative experience will be led by Pietra Fitness®, a Christ-centered wellness program, using a DVD called “Restoration”. It is a program designed for those who seek full integration of the mind, body, and soul. As Pietra Fitness explains, “We stretch and strengthen the body while combining our workout with Christian prayer and meditation based on Catholic spirituality.”
Leading up to the retreat, I move around for about an hour in the great outdoors, mowing the grass. That’s one of the many ways I enjoy connecting with God’s green earth. Back indoors, I make and begin sipping on a delicious, cold smoothie made with RAW Fit™, a high-protein powder by Garden of Life®. To that plant-based product, I add frozen fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, and blueberries), a handful of parsley, and water.
Next, it’s time to shower to clean up from the outdoors adventure. All cleaned up, I then simply sit with the remainder of my smoothie — to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) — while enjoying the sound of the rain that has joined me.
The time to retreat with Pietra Fitness arrives. I grow more excited. I lay out my exercise mat, turn on the “Restoration” DVD, and journey through a profound physical and spiritual experience that leaves my mind and spirit at peace and my body feeling toned. According to Karen, founder of Pietra Fitness, “There is something to be said about incorporating prayer with movement. It seems so natural, and I think we are attracted to it.”
Gentle Restoration Workout
“Restoration” is a gentle workout that runs for about 52 minutes long and “is appropriate for a wide range of ages and abilities,” Pietra Fitness explains. “It incorporates both floor work and standing exercises with slow transitions. The peaceful pace and movements gently promote strength, flexibility, and improved balance. The featured meditation on ‘Restoration’ reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and only in Christ can we be truly renewed.” The workout features: “stretching, strengthening, bodily prayer, Gregorian chant (as part of the audio experience), and Christian meditation,” elements that make for a restorative retreat experience.
“Restoration” begins with the instruction to set our prayer intention, followed by shifting to the knees for prayer.
The prayer begins:
“In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Within a few moments, the camera shifts from eight beautiful women, uniformly dressed and kneeling in prayer, to a beautiful cross hanging on the wall.
The prayer continues:
“Glory to You, Lord. Make my body healthy and agile, my mind sharp and clear, my heart joyful and contented, my soul faithful and loving. Let my heart, therefore, be holy, true to You, O Lord my God, so that all may know I belong to You. Have mercy on us, and be with us today as we contemplate being restored by You.”
Psalm 80:4 follows the prayer: “O Lord of hosts, restore us. If Your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.”
The women on the DVD shift to seated positions on their uniquely shaped exercise mats, which curve at one end. From my home, I join them on my standard-shaped mat. There is a sacred pause before moving our bodies. The motion of lovely-feeling stretches, designed to lengthen the body and relieve tension, begins. Karen’s soothing voice and calming instrumental music add to the experience.
The peace of God is easily felt. My love for Christ is joined with the love from the Pietra Fitness ladies. I sense their adoration for our Savior.
We rise to our knees for prayer. Karen prays: “Restore us, O God, our savior.”
Kneeling exercises come next, followed by a standing sequence.
A church bell rings — as is the case before each prayer — and “Restore us, O God, my savior,” is prayed. At one time, our arms and head extend upward. Another time, we bow our heads in prayer.
When we reach the balancing segment, Karen invites those at home to hold on to a chair or wall, if necessary. “We’re going to start really gently,” she explains. “Any little shakiness or your foot moving is your body trying to gain strength. And you’re working every little muscle and every little nerve ending in that foot, so whether your foot comes down or you lose your balance, that’s okay. It’s good to practice it,” she says.
We return to our knees and sit back onto our heels, relaxing the chest toward the lap. In preparation for the meditation, Karen prompts, “Let everything relax. Let your mind relax. Calm your mind.”
“We are living temples of the Holy Spirit, created in the image of God and designed for His glory. Yet, so often, like a crumbling cathedral, we feel the toll of time and the effects of injury, illness, unhealthy habits, bad choices, and stress. We often forget, or perhaps have never fully understood, the precious dignity and strength with which we were made. We are in dire need of restoration, but this requires immense skill and resources we simply do not have. Our great consolation comes when we realize, Christ, the Master Carpenter, is ready to get to work. We must only invite Him to do so. Christ’s strength repairs our structure, supporting us completely on His foundation of solid rock. His mercy blocks out our sin and makes us shine with renewed purity. His love is light shining through us in rays of great joy, comfort, and peace. We are the work of His hands, and through His grace, we will be restored. Scripture reveals we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with human hands, eternal in Heaven. For the Lord their God shall visit them and bring about their restoration.”
Prayer follows: “Restore us, O God, our savior.”
The Retreat Continues
We briefly rest on our front body for a strengthening exercise, followed by a counter-stretch. To our sides we go for some leg work and enjoy a delicious side-body stretch before shifting to the second side to continue our leg work. A few more exercises follow before we return to our backs for a full-body stretch and the opportunity to massage the muscles along the spine by gently rocking from side to side. There is also an invitation to work the core during a leg stretch. A relaxing spinal twist leads us into our “Quiet” pose.
“Think about if you’re holding any area tight or have any tension,” says Karen. “Just relax it out. Let your mind relax, so we can focus on our final mediation. Another meditation is then sweetly read. And as to be expected, a prayer concludes this time of restoration:
“Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to be able to come together to work on ourselves and strengthen ourselves, physically as well as spiritually….In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
From “Restoration” to “Mercy”
Now that the journaling segment of my ‘Retreat Day’ has concluded, it’s time to plan my next at-home retreat using Pietra Fitness’ Level 1 DVD called “Mercy.” Also “a retreat for the body and soul,” this DVD builds upon the exercises in “Restoration.” Come back next week to hear all about it. In the meantime, if you would like information about the four DVD workouts Pietra Fitness offers, visit www.pietrafitness.com.
May you richly feel the presence of God as you combine movement with Christian prayer and meditation!