But one day last year 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 an on and off yoga person for years, but yoga has never 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 before 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 mat, and what the mat was bringing them. This wasn’t going to be just about 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 mat, I was in the middle of a community devoted to each other’s practices, bodies, minds and souls. In practicing parter yoga you each become an extension of the other’s body. Extensions that ebb together, flowing as one. Holding each other’s tension, and encouraging a tending stretch Isn’t that the embodiment of church?
Dwelling together, holding each other’s 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. At church, many people put their twenty in the collection plate, 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 studio would look like if we modeled it like a church?
A community that comes together to provide high quality instruction coupled with 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 transactions 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 far 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 are what churches were 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.