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.
Wherever there is a church staff away on retreat, there is probably also a packet of personality tests waiting to be taken: an Enneagram measure, a Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, a Kiersey Bates Personality Sorter, something of that ilk. Whether it be at campsite in the woods, a retreat house in the mountains, or a great house near the shore, staff members seem to enjoy taking these. They find themselves surprised by their individual results and pleased to have prompts for genial conversations about how different we are from one another. People are usually encouraged to accept themselves on these retreats – and encouraged to accept others, as well, in the spirit of open embrace. Continue reading
When my nieces were younger, they were more devout than they are now. They’ve lost a good deal of their religious fervor in recent years. Part of that trend may just be developmental, a process of their moving through the necessary stages of spiritual development and personal maturation, including the highly skeptical one specific to adolescence. But I believe something else is also at play: Confirmation classes. Those seem to break the spirit of a lot of Catholic kids these days. Continue reading
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
Each of us needs wise counselors in our lives, and I was blessed to meet one of my wisest as a teenager. My best friend from high school and I had an awful lot in common. For instance: we both spent an inordinate amount of time in Saturday-morning detention. That time can rack up rather rapidly if you attend a girls’ academy with a zealous Dean of Discipline. Still, I wouldn’t trade our hours of cleaning the hallway baseboards with toothbrushes for anything. Our friendship was forged beside those baseboards — so thanks for the memories, Dean! 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