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A dozen marathons later, Jackson’s relationship with running and with God continues. If she’s not listening to gospel music during those miles, she’s streaming her church’s sermons or she’s praying. And while a strong faith won’t necessarily make you healthier, nor a healthy body make you more faithful, the two are as woven together as ribbon through a braid.

“I feel like the body and the mind and the spirit are inextricably related to each other,” said Nancy Kasten, a Dallas rabbi who co-teaches a Jewish mindfulness class at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas that incorporates movement and yoga. “You can’t have a healthy one of those without the others being in balance. Taking care of ourselves, treating our body as a gift from God, making sure we take care of our bodies, put healthy stuff into them, use them for good purposes, all of that is a reflection of faith.

When Jackson is encouraging people to take care of themselves, she tells them that in the Bible, “our body is a temple. We should take care of the temple. God loves us like he loves the church, and if we are a temple, we are the church so you have to take care of yourself.”

In yoga, Fuller said, whether we can get our bodies into a certain pose isn’t the point. The point is the intention. Similarly, he said, by having the intention of “helping my body, then I feel like I’m giving something back, giving something back to myself, to God for giving me this body.”

At First United Methodist Church in Garland, Texas one of two churches where Fuller teaches, senior pastor Valarie Englert had taken yoga classes off and on for 20 years. But not until attending the preaching-focused Festival of Homiletics in Denver three years ago, where yoga classes were offered every afternoon, did she begin to grasp “the spiritual nature of it,” she said.

“We’d begin each class by taking three breaths together and sending our devotion out into the world,” she said. Similarly, in her church’s Monday sessions, “Jacob has us begin with three deep breaths together. I’m telling you, it is powerful being in a group and breathing together. It adds a whole new understanding to inspiration.”

That community aspect figures significantly in the health benefits of spirituality, said Mark Grace of Baylor Scott & White Health, where he is chief mission and ministry officer. Of all the connections to faith and health, he said, “the basic one has to do with social support, really.”

Which is why many congregations unite to go on the Daniel Diet – a fasting and vegetarian plan practiced by the Old Testament prophet who survived being in the lion’s den. Or why places of worship might offer Zumba classes or spend a few hours teaching how to cook healthily.

“There are other components in terms of encouragement and directives within all major religions towards living a healthy lifestyle,” Grace said. “We’ve seen an explosion of that in terms of Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, Buddhist approaches to health and of course Christian approaches to health.”

Because, after all, God isn’t just Christian, said Englert. “The spirit is so much wider and deeper than any faith tradition. It’s being in a community that’s seeking health and wholeness, whether in a small yoga class or in some other kind of group where people come from different faith traditions or different denominations. I think we really begin to gain more insight about how big and how broad and how wide the spirit is – beyond anything we can just claim in our own tradition.”

As a practicing Muslim, said Umer Nadir, “When you pray five times a day, those positions we get into prayer, they do stretch you out. Absolutely there’s a connection to the spirit. We believe when you get down with your head to the ground, almost in fetal position but on your knees, we believe that’s the closest you’ll get to God while you’re praying.

“That gives you a moment to focus; you get a window of ‘All right, this is where I really need to get going and to ask for what I need at this point right now,’ ” said Nadir, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It helps solidify the connection.”