Back right before Thanksgiving, on November 25, I missed a post because I fell asleep. It was to be about yoga. Here it is a Monday later and now I want to share yoga Mondays with you.
I have been practicing yoga for about 25 years, more or less regularly. This holistic practice benefits not only my body, but my mind and my soul as well. I hate to miss an opportunity to practice. Everything should be easy there, but because I am lazy I find it much easier to maintain a regular practice when I am taking a regular yoga class with a teacher I like. Judi England was my first regular yoga teacher. I had taken a few classes from a few people before I met Judi, but none of them had made me want to live part or all of my life in pursuit of yoga. Judi is Kripalu trained and studied there in the “old school” days when the retreat center in Lenox, MA, was still an ashram, and not the yuppified year round summer camp that it is today.
Don’t get me wrong, Kripalu still teaches a wonderful method of practice. When I took my teacher training in 2012 in Jaguar Path (Shaman) Yoga, most of my teachers were from the Kripalu yoga school faculty. I have spent many formative days at Kripalu learning about myself and my relationship with the practice of yoga. But these days, it costs too much money to go out on a whim. I have to plan and save up if I want to spend 3 or 4 days and get some body work and some coaching. The trainings are still great, but it’s often too hard for me to get there.
So, back to yoga Mondays. Judi has been teaching at St. Vincent’s in Albany for a few years now on Monday evenings. Her Monday class is seva (“service” in Sanskrit). She gives her time to share the practice, and we student give a donation for the practice we receive. No one is turned away because they cannot pay and the money we offer is sent to Panama to St. Vincent’s sister parish there. Every year, a parishioner who has gone to Panama to bring the parish gift has come back to tell the yoga class about the experience. Judi went a couple of years ago and posted amazing pictures of her teaching yoga to the children in the jungle community. I think she was changed by her experience and we have all benefited from that.
Every Monday evening, except for holiday observances, we gather in the church sanctuary for our practice. The ceiling soars above us as we lay out our mats on the nice carpet. We are surrounded by the nice chairs, which we sometimes use for supports and props. Judi teaches from the alter, sometimes coming down into the crowd of us to give a small adjustment or demonstrate close up the posture or sequence she encourages us to do. Every practice begins and ends with the universal sound of “Om.”
A few weeks back, I was blessed with the opportunity teach on Yoga Monday. Judi was on vacation and asked me to cover. I wish I could better express the joy I had in sharing the practice in which I was trained with others. There was something so changing, sitting at the top of steps in front of the alter – 3 steps only above the class floor. From there, the sacred space of the church took on a different character. When I sat on my mat and looked straight back at the baptismal font, and in a quiet moment heard the muffled twinkle and riffle of the water moving there, I, too was changed. Sitting there explaining and then moving to demonstrate the postures of the Moon Salutation, I could see the energy of the group rising and blending into a glorious song in that holy place. I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I challenge anyone to stand in my shoes that night, witness the synchronized, flowing movement of the group in vinyasa, see the energy rise and move between them, and deny the existence of God. . .
It was such a beautiful time and space. I floated in the energy of that space for several days. One of my Jaguar Path teachers opened a door within me allowing me to access parts of my physical and emotional self that I had not know existed. Now that I have been trained, I want to help others open those doors in themselves, and I felt I was able to do that on my teaching Monday. Yoga Mondays are so valuable, so important in my life, whether I am the student or the teacher or the facilitator. These yoga Mondays are the time for transformation to happen, and I am very grateful for Judi and St. Vincent’s and my fellow students who for an hour, slipped the physical bonds that tie us to earth and touched the face of something transcendent, coming back at the end of the class changed, renewed.
The spark of the divine in me acknowledges and honors the spark of the divine in you. Namaste.
Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace.