Off the Mat and Into the Pulpit
At the end of January, 2011, I completed a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. At the end of February, 2011, I\'ll do another Yoga Teacher Training but this one is an intensive week-long 'boot camp.' I\'ve been assured that it\'s not as difficult as a real boot camp--they just use that description so that people don\'t think it\'s a yoga retreat or vacation.
I initially signed up for the teacher training because I got what I call a 'Holy Tingle'--it\'s when I see an announcement or opportunity and intuitively feel 'I\'m supposed to do that.' It didn\'t make a lot of sense to me. I had been practicing yoga for less than a year and I was still a complete beginner. I was trying to get my middle aged body into poses that were WAY beyond my comfort zone. But there was something about sticking with it that was changing me. It was forcing me to get to know myself better--my body, my psyche, my spirit. When I was faced with a difficult pose, I had options. I could choose to go into child\'s pose, I could choose to just lay on my mat and close my eyes, I could choose to take a break and get some water, or I could choose to try it.
Accepting my vocation as an Episcopal Priest was also based on the 'Holy Tingle.' At that time, it also didn\'t make a lot of sense to me. I had already been ordained in the Southern Baptist Church, was in my third year at Yale Divinity School, and had been hired to be a chapel minister for the YDS community. I wasn\'t enrolled in 'Bezerkly' (as those of us non-Episcopalians called it) and really saw the Berkeley community as exclusive and cliquish. I wasn\'t interested. I did enjoy my weekly visits to Christ Church just because it was beautiful church theater! Anglo-Catholic, lots of fancy robes, candles everywhere, incense so thick that everything looked hazy, 16 voice paid choir, and no children. The architecture was stunning. It was as close to a cathedral as I had been in. Nobody ever invited me to coffee hour or asked me if I was interested in joining the parish or finding out more about the Episcopal Church.
But a funny thing was happening. I was falling in love with the liturgy. The more I attended, the more familiar the chants became. I have always loved to sing and could memorize things quickly, so it wasn\'t long before I felt very comfortable in the service and began to wonder if I wasn\'t in one of the 'Thin Places' Marcus Borg describes. Then my mom got diagnosed with liver cancer and the only place I felt at peace was either at the 7:00 a.m. Morning Prayer service at Bezerkly or at Christ Church. Then a classmate told me I should become an Episcopal priest. I laughed. Then a professor talked to me. And it wasn\'t too long before each conversation was accompanied by the Holy Tingle.
I felt as uncomfortable telling my friends and family that I was going to seek ordination in the Episcopal Church as I did telling my family, friends, and parish that I was going to become a certified yoga teacher. And I received pretty much the same response. First people would ask 'Why?' And after I answered, they\'d say 'That makes a lot of sense. Go for it.'
I\'m not exactly sure where these two important parts of my life will intersect because they are already intertwined. From the time I was introduced to Vinyasa Yoga, I saw it as The Episcopal Church of yoga. There are over 500 kinds of yoga listed on the yoga alliance network. Vinyasa yoga focuses on linking breath to movement and is a very active kind of yoga. And it draws liberally from other traditions. Your practice is your practice. Nobody is forced to do anything. Other forms are very specific about exact body alignment. Or chanting specific mantras in Sanskrit. Vinyasa yoga is different. The teacher is basically there to guide the practice but where the yogi takes it is up to her/him.
I know that I approach life differently since I\'ve become a yoga practitioner. I look for the places where I can find flexibility. I ask myself if maybe it\'s better to go easy rather than struggle. I breathe deeply. These changes affect my family, my friends, and my parish. I will find a place to teach yoga on a regular basis but I\'m not yet sure where that will be. Because yoga isn\'t just poses. Yoga is life. Just like Christianity isn\'t just Sunday. It\'s all the time.