The average American goes to church about once a month. As a seminarian I tend to go to some sort of church function two to five times a week. I know what you are thinking—No i don’t sign autographs.
One week last year thought I went to church and I didn’t even realize it was going to happen. HDS welcomed Jacoby Ballard from Third Root Community Health Center in Brooklyn to lead a queer yoga class. I have been and on and off yoga person for years, but never has yoga felt like church…
This time was different. We started with a Check in
We started with a check in, which at first I was hesitant about. Never had I been to a yoga class in which I knew even the names of those practicing beside me.The check in wasn’t just the usual surface stuff.There was a moment of opening. People shared deeply what was going on and what they were bringing to the matt, and what the matt was brining them. This wasn’t going to be about just exercises, we were flexing our hearts too.
We practiced in a circle.
Looking towards each other—seeing each other face to face. Beginning our practice with meditation and progressing to partner yoga, Jacoby’s soft guidance, nuanced and grounded with queer sass, helped us move through the postures with our partners with relative grace.
It was in one of those awkward stretching poses that I realized ; yoga had become relational. No longer just me and my matt, I was in the middle of a community devoted to eachother’s practices, bodies, minds and souls. In practicing parter yoga you become extensions of eachothers bodies. Extensions that ebb together, flowing as one. Holding eachothers tension , and encouraging a tending stretch Isn’t that the embodiment of church?
Dwelling together, holding eachothers tension as we hope to grow and deepen ourselves.
I realized that the way I do yoga is the way many people do church. I pay my fee for each class, do my body work and leave. Other people put their twenty in the collection fee, do their spirituality, and leave.
To truly do church though, you can’t think of it as a transaction. You are not buying your spiritual development. You are investing in it, and trusting a community to invest with you.
I wonder what a Yoga would look like if we modeled it like a church?
A community that comes together to provide high quality instruction coupled with a community of deep care.
What would a yoga studio look like if they asked for yearly pledges and not weekly rates?
What if we let go of a model of Yoga based in transaction and invested in a model based in community care. A co-op yoga studio that was owned by the people it served. Even a network of studios who covenant together to provide Yoga to the outside community as their response for the gift of life?
Am I getting too out of the realm of reality? Or is this the type of thinking we need.
We don’t need churches to continue looking like they do now. We need communities that do what churches have function as in the past: places of authentic meaning making community that can never be found in any transactional event or community. Shifting to the center practicing being human together.