Last year Donna was a speaker at Bishop T.D. Jakes' God's Leading Ladies Tour, a conference designed to empower women in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives, and will once again join him on stage as a part of his MegaFest tour this summer.
Donna recently spoke to Beliefnet about the joy of working out to gospel music, the important role women play in keeping their families healthy, and the biblical message, from 1 Cor. 6: "[Y]our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God...Therefore, honor God with your body."
Have you always been so involved in physical fitness?
Yes, all my life. From the time I was five years old, I was [involved in] swimming, dancing, baton lessons, gymnastics, softball, cheerleading, and track and field. So it's been a lifestyle for me.
When did you first make the connection between fitness and spirituality?
I grew up as a Christian and I remember even in church we'd have dance recitals-it was more like praise dance-and I was a part of that.
How is your video, "Sweating in the Spirit," different from other fitness videos?
It's about using your spirit as the base of living a healthy lifestyle.
A lot of times when we're looking to lose weight or become fitter, we think that there's this magic diet or this magic machine that's going to help us accomplish that. So you'll do it and then maybe you'll fall off the wagon, and then you'll get back on, and it's this yo-yo thing going on.
But when you look at it from a spiritual point of view, you realize that there is a stronger commitment because God created our temples and He commanded us to keep them holy.
Why would you follow His lead so that you're getting spiritually stronger, you're getting mentally stronger, but then [with] the temple, you're going to be disobedient? You have to exercise your faith over your temple-honor it and take the best care of it. That comes from a different perspective than saying: Buy this and in 30 days you're going to look like me. This is a lifestyle, and your lifestyle as a Christian is to have total wellness. I just use the spirit as the foundation of helping us to become healthier.
Everyone should be aspiring to be healthy-and when you're healthy, it's from the inside out-no matter what shape, size, age, or color you are.
What is it like to work out to gospel music?
It's so inspirational and the message is so empowering that you really are in the moment. When you hear it, it just takes over you. It's a wonderful feeling.
"Sweating in the Spirit" ushers you into a kind of dance and praise with God. So you're not thinking about what happened yesterday, you're not thinking about the boss who got on your nerves, you're not thinking, How many calories am I going to burn? You are in the moment. And so it's more about an experience as opposed to just working out. And that, I believe, is why people have gravitated to it. The music has a message, it's motivating, it's empowering, and it's not different than what you would get at church.
Do you ever feel the spirit move through you while you're teaching?
When we were producing the video, there were times when I forgot I was teaching! I'd get caught up and then turn to the camera and say, "Just keep moving along. Do whatever you'd like." The producer would say to me, "Donna, would you stop making mistakes?" And then [singer] Yolanda Adams turned to the producer and said, "She's not making a mistake. That's God."
It seems as though you focus a lot on women, for example, with your God's Leading Ladies Tour. Do you have a reason for this? Do you feel like women need more guidance?
Yes, because we are the caretakers. I think we lead by example and we are heading the household-that's not to say that the husband or the significant other doesn't-but women nourish and take care of the whole family.
We are a nation of unhealthy adults producing unhealthy children...
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