Like a goodly number of women in my particular demographic, I have my certification as a yoga instructor. I was certified more than a decade ago, when the Scorpion was a far easier pose for me than it is today. While I never achieved fame and fortune as a yoga teacher, let alone perfected those advanced postures, my ambition was rather a peculiar one: I wanted to end up in the same place I had begun – more precisely, the church basement, that ground of my yogini being.
My very first class at the St. Mark’s Yoga Center was free of charge, which suited my budget nicely. By my late 20s, I had grown weary of some ailments that had plagued me since my teens, and I had hoped that yoga would bring me some relief. It did, almost immediately, and the yoga teacher there refused to believe that this was indeed my inaugural class. It turned out that I was a yoga adept. Certain characteristics that could elsewhere be liabilities – my being slightly built, for instance, and simultaneously hypermobile and overextended – made for a model Locust.
Yet the part of the yoga practice that proved my favorite was the stretch at the end, when we stopped our contorting and lay perfectly still. We rested on our backs, eyes closed, settling our bodies down into Corpse pose. At St. Mark’s, though, it was not quiet as the grave. Not at all. The choir was rehearsing overhead, groups of children traipsed in and out, and despite receiving explicit directions to the contrary, some students fell asleep and even snored – loudly. There was an older woman situated in the back whom I could routinely hear sniffling; I was convinced that she came to class to cry a while in the company of others. Who could begrudge her the privilege? Every one of us came to that class a bit broken. Our shared hope was to leave it a bit mended.
Fasting has never held much fascination for me, but then again, I don’t think much about food. Still, I understand that fasting is a key spiritual discipline that remains significant for many individuals and central in many traditions. Each year, I watch my husband suffer through Yom Kippur, which is precisely the point for observant Jews – affliction and atonement, as my father-in-law would say. I see my husband watch the hands of the clock tick toward the evening hour, and I know he is agonizing over every minute, because my husband thinks about food a lot.
For a few years now, I have shared a lovely office suite with a marvelous assortment of helping professionals, although I am the only minister in the lot. The diversity among us is impressive – we have psychiatrists, psychotherapists, couples counselors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and nutritionists practicing side by side. We hail from a variety of faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and that perennial favorite of ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’, in addition to other, increasingly popular hyphenated-hybrid categories. So I was startled one morning to open up the front door of our suite and come face to face with a huge Buddha head.
Like a considerable number of women in my demographic, I’m certified as a yoga instructor, and like a portion of them, I completed my teacher training in an actual ashram. My plan was to eventually teach classes in a church basement someplace. The first yoga classes I ever took were held in St. Mark’s for a nominal fee and having such easy access to them undoubtedly changed my life for the better. Out of gratitude and a kind of evangelical zeal, I wanted to get out the word about yoga to precisely those types who would give the Hare Krishna singers a wide berth in the airport. Continue reading
Posted in American Culture, Faith Journeys, Interfaith Encounter, Personal Development, Pilgrimage Places, Religious Heritage, Spiritual Life
Tagged Devotees, Guru, Novitiate, Sexual misconduct, Yoga
In my prior incarnation, I was an English teacher, serving as adjunct faculty in the English Department at a local university, where my colleagues were literary and imaginative and favored felines. As an esteemed professor, the former chair of the department, so succinctly stated: “We are cat people.” Shortly before starting in the English department, I had adopted a very young kitten, just weeks old, entirely gray except for a spray of white at his throat and chest. My colleague from the department observed that the tiny cat appeared at all times to be wearing his “bib and tucker,” an observation that instantly earned Tucker his name. Continue reading
In my youth, my friends held far stronger opinions than they do today. One of the most fervent and unusual debates between two of my friends centered on the otherwise benign topic of holiday cards. Who even remembers how it got started? Continue reading
The first time I stepped into a sukkah hut, I was a new student enrolled at an ecumenical divinity school across the street from a Jewish theological seminary where we could cross-register for classes. Although my school was avowedly Christian, it prided itself on graduating students who were Jewishly literate, and our neighbors across the street were often enlisted to assist us in this endeavor. They had generously served as consultants on this particular sukkah I beheld with outsized admiration. Here was a lovely little hut where we Gentiles could join in celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish festival of thanksgiving. Continue reading