I am pagan and have been practicing earth-based spirituality since 2016. Though every pagan will offer a different answer when asked what their spirituality means to them, my spiritual life is centered around reverence for the earth and honoring many of the gods of my pre-Christian ancestors (who hailed mainly from France and the British Isles). I also happen to be a yoga instructor with more than 550 hours of training and find paganism and yoga to be two deeply compatible spiritual paths.

What Does Pagan Life Look Like?

Though I was devoutly Evangelical for much of my life, around the age of 17, when I discovered I was queer, I began to feel that Christianity no longer held the truth as I experienced it. After a few years of experimentation and study, I found that earth-based spirituality reflected my preexisting understanding of life, and that the pagan spiritual tradition accepted me exactly as I was, without asking me to set aside any part of myself.

On a daily basis, my spiritual practice involves prayer to the Great Goddess, my well ancestors (those who have my best interests in mind), and my spirit guides. I also give offerings to them on special occasions (or when I’m feeling particularly grateful), often by placing a cup of fresh coffee or a bouquet of flowers on my ancestor altar.

I also commune with nature through prayer, meditation, and mindfulness. I take walks through my neighborhood and say hello to the trees, acknowledging and honoring their wisdom and how they take care of me with their shade and so skillfully turn my carbon dioxide into oxygen. Not every pagan’s day will look like mine, but reverence for nature is an almost inextricable aspect of all pagan traditions.

How I Became a Yoga Practitioner

I also practice and teach yoga. I started my yoga studies in 2018 with a 200-hour, yearlong yoga teacher training, where I gained a baseline knowledge of how to safely instruct students in the Vinyasa Flow style of yoga. Simultaneously, I started practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga (also simply known as Ashtanga yoga), which became the practice I felt best suited me. The intensity of the practice and rigorous structure complemented my type-A personality and gave me a sense of consistency and a way to measure my own progress physically and mentally. Traditionally in Ashtanga yoga, one practices the same set of poses six days a week until the instructor allows them to progress in the series.

I later gained a 50-hour certification in Yin yoga and traveled to Mysuru, India, in 2020 for a 300-hour certification in Ashtanga yoga. (While my trip was planned for January through April and I was able to complete my training, the remainder of my trip was cut short due to Covid spreading worldwide. My now-husband and I made it back to the United States just before India grounded all flights.) In the past year and a half, my personal yoga practice has been rather minimal due to a back injury and a broken foot, but as my body heals, I find myself being drawn back to the mat once more.

Why Do Yoga and Paganism Work?

While paganism and yoga may seem like rather disparate spiritual traditions, I find that they have much in common and complement one another far more smoothly than most might assume.

Polytheism as a Lens of Understanding

I am a polytheist, meaning that I believe in many gods and energies. For example, I do not believe that only the Norse or Irish gods exist; rather, I believe that all spiritual traditions hold a seed of truth and that my gods can and do coexist with those of other traditions. When I practiced at an Ashtanga yoga studio, I was tasked weekly with bathing the statue of Ganesha, a generous elephant-headed Hindu god. At home, I tended my own altar to Freyja, a Norse goddess associated with love, sensuality, and magic. Viewing my yoga practice through a polytheist lens helps me to have a better understanding of yoga’s ancient Vedic roots and encourages me to connect more deeply with the gods of my own ancestors.

Shared Ethics

Through my years of yoga training, I read a number of yogic texts, including the Yoga Sutras (which I also enjoy chanting in Sanskrit). Studying and chanting these texts helped me to form a strong ethical framework for my pagan practice. While pagan texts like Old Norse Hávamál (the teachings of the god Odin) provide strong examples for how to treat guests and how to gain wisdom, texts like the Yoga Sutras also helped me further solidify ways that I should be treating myself and others interpersonally.


Finally, both my yoga practice and my pagan spirituality encourage me to take better care of my body. My yoga practice encourages me to heal myself through compassionate movement. And my pagan practice encourages me to see myself as both earthly and divine. In Norse mythology, the first humans, Ask and Embla, were born from pieces of driftwood and imbued with life by the god Odin through his breath.

By practicing both yoga and pagan spirituality, I am encouraged to be the best version of myself: physically and emotionally strong, respectful of a variety of cultures and contexts, and deeply reverent for the earth and those beings (both human and nonhuman) who inhabit it.

About the Author

Brenna Lilly is the lead digital editor of Spirituality & Health®: A Unity Publication. She is also an herbalist, 500-hour trained yoga instructor, and green witch.

Headshot of Brenna Lilly


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