Church History
Christian Yoga

Christian Yoga

Czech Republic: Church Members

Otakar Vojkůvka and Olga Kovářová with many of the students from their Christian yoga classes

Frequently in the history of the Church, members have continued to share the gospel even in the absence of full-time missionaries. During the Communist era in Czechoslovakia, however, finding a way to do missionary work was no simple task.

On July 20, 1939, Otakar Vojkůvka, and his stepdaughter, Valeria Kudelova, were the last to be baptized in the Czechoslovak Mission before the start of World War II. In 1949 Vojkůvka was serving as the branch president in Brno when he was arrested by Communist authorities and his successful manufacturing business was confiscated. After the missionaries were banned from Czechoslovakia, Vojkůvka continued to hold regular meetings with other members in his home and to look for new ways to share the gospel. “If the missionaries are not allowed to enter the country,” he thought, “they must be born here!” During this same time, Vojkůvka developed an interest in yoga. On Sundays, Vojkůvka began to teach “Christian yoga” classes in his home. Blending traditional yoga exercises with principles found in Latter-day Saint scripture, he taught that men and women were created “that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

The meetings soon drew the attention of local authorities, and his classes were occasionally raided. “Be careful,” one government report concluded. “This man has a great influence on young people.” A curious neighbor asked Voj­kůvka why so many young people visited his home each week. “We learn to be happy,” he answered.

In the mid-1980s, Olga Kovářová was a doctoral student at Masaryk University in Brno. Kovářová, who had become interested in yoga, was introduced to Vojkůvka and his family by a classmate. From her first visit to the Vojkůvka home, Kovářová felt that there was something special about them. Vojkůvka gave Kovářová a Czech translation of the book A Skeptic Discovers Mormonism, by Timberline Wales Riggs.

Over the next several months, Vojkůvka and his family gave Kovářová other books about the Church to read and then to discuss with them. Finally, at Kovářová’s request, they gave her one of their most cherished books to read: a nearly 40-year-old copy of the Book of Mormon in Czech.

Before reading, Kovářová began to research the Church on her own. Most of what she found was negative. But compelled by what she had felt in the Vojkůvka home, she began reading anyway.

She found reading the Book of Mormon difficult. As she read, her mind swelled with new questions. “I could not read all this book,” she told them on her return visit. “I read one page and I felt questions.”

“It’s okay, Olga,” they told her. “It is good that you have questions.” Vojkůvka encouraged her to continue reading, to pray, and to discuss her questions with him.

Late one night, as Kovářová read, a joy she had never known entered her heart. A powerful conviction came to her with perfect clarity. “God lives!” she whispered aloud. “I listened to my own words,” she recalled, “and felt the reality of God in my life as his love filled my whole being.”

Nearly six months later, in the summer of 1983, Olga Kovářová was baptized in a nearby reservoir. To avoid local authorities, the ordinance occurred after dark and with only a few members attending. Shortly after her baptism, Kovářová began teaching Christian yoga classes of her own. With the Vojkůvka family’s support, she started a summer camp where young people throughout the country came to hear the message. Through these lectures, 130 people embraced the gospel and were baptized, and branches were organized in Uherské Hradiště and Jičín. “I soon realized,” Olga later observed, “that I had become one new link in the chain of women who have been significant among Latter-day Saints in Czechoslovakia.”