The attractive couple on the television screen gracefully moved their bodies into the next yoga pose: arms extended, head tilted slightly back, a deep breath in. In front of the TV set, a seven-year-old girl and her mother did their best to mimic the posture. The little girl, Laurette, loved this special time with her mom.
It was 1965, and Laurette's mom, Jacquie, didn't think twice about exercising along with this yoga program that came on the TV after Jack La Lanne. She developed a passion for yoga, and began instructing free classes in her home. Laurette served as the demonstration model for her mom. The young girl relished the attention—and her family never suspected this seemingly innocent exercise would open the door to a New Age lifestyle that would affect Laurette for the next 22 years.
Now 46, Christian speaker/author Laurette Willis tells everyone she meets about the dangers of yoga. The Oklahoma resident addresses groups across the country, speaking from personal experience and her knowledge as a certified personal trainer and aerobics instructor. She's developed a prominent presence on the Internet, largely due to her new exercise program, PraiseMoves, which she calls "a Christian alternative to yoga." She shares her testimony on the website (www.PraiseMoves.com) in a pull-no-punches style, and responds to numerous e-mails—some curious, others critical of her stance on yoga. Additionally, she posts comments on the message boards of other fitness and religion websites. She's also self-published a book and video about PraiseMoves.
So what caused Laurette to become vocal about yoga? And is yoga really all that bad? Her testimony is a bold answer to both questions.
Throughout her childhood, Laurette's family regularly attended church. "If someone had asked us, we would have said we were Christians," she says. "But we never heard the message of salvation at our church." Lacking knowledge about the Christian faith, Laurette's mom found herself drawn to New Age practices, and began reading books by Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce (both claimed to have psychic abilities) and taking Laurette to an ashram, a Hindu yoga retreat.
As an adult, Laurette immersed herself in every New Age and metaphysical practice she came across: chanting, crystals, tarot cards, psychics, channeling spirits.
"I tried everything—Kabbalah, Universalism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism —because I was spiritually hungry," Laurette says. "I call the New Age movement 'Burger King' because it's like the fast-food restaurant's motto: 'Have it your way.' That's what the New Age movement tries to do, to achieve God on its terms."