“What is yoga?” Someone asked me Friday (at the gym). Well…..it’s exercise at the gym. It’s a way to liberate the mind and find peace and calm. It’s what you want to make of it. I went to Catholic school for twelve years, married an Episcopalian, and now go to a Baptist church. My religious journey has followed my husband’s choice for our family’s church. We are Christians. I NEVER knew any other religions growing up. I never thought they were wrong or corrupt. I just didn’t know about them is all. When the Episcopal priest married us, he said “it’s Catholic without the guilt”. Um, OK. That’s cool I guess, but I do miss Mary and the Saints and all of the other elements of Catholicism that I grew up with. I was the May Queen in eighth grade, the girl who most emulated Mary. What an honor! I prayed on rosary beads that were my grandmothers. We prayed every day, went to church more than Sundays. It was a large part of my life. OK, so I marry an Episcopalian. It’s close they say. It’s the first other religion I am now somewhat aware of. So I go to the church for ten years. Baptize all three of our sons there. Then my husband wants to go to the Baptist church. Um, what is that? I have no idea what that means. But I go b/c I want to go to church as a family. Our boys know the other kids there from soccer and the beach and they feel comfortable there. There are many other young families. It seems contemporary with a rock band. Communion once in a while, but lots of singing. I do miss my Catholic songs. I do miss Communion every Sunday. I do miss Mary and the tabernacle and all of the things I’m used to. But I go with my family every week (if we’re in town) and I listen to the Bible.
Also, the Episcopal church has yoga programs…at the church. I never thought much of it except free yoga, that’s cool. I’ve taught it there a few times as a substitute teacher. I’ve taken my middle son to the children’s yoga program. Another friend told me about a yoga therapy at the hindu temple one evening a few years ago. I went. I do believe in yoga as a healing modality. I took my first yoga class in college. During relaxation the teacher was talking about visualizing colors. I had no idea at the time he was talking about energy centers in the body (scientifically related to nerve ganglia in the spine); I just knew that I felt realllly good! Better than the other workout classes I’ve tried (and I have tried many)! So I began to take yoga classes at my college at the time, The Pennsylvania State University. I moved to Maryland after college and would practice with yoga videos at home. I started finding it as a solace. I pursued a yoga teacher training in 2003. It took me through college, careers, graduate school, marriage, pregnancies, birth, motherhood, and twenty years after that first yoga class I am teaching to all levels at a gym and on the beach. I’ve taught at studios, parks, the wellness community and at schools also. I never thought much of it conflicting with my belief systems. Yes, I know that yoga originated in India which is mostly Hindu. However, I don’t worship Hindu gods, although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I do know the stories of the gods b/c I believe in education. I don’t think yoga is a religion. I think the yoga I studied “YogaFit” TM is for the gyms. It’s an exercise based yoga, not a Hindu religion. I love language (I teach English Literature also) and I think Namaste is a greeting just like Ciao, Aloha, Hello, Bonjour, etc. I think the translation “the light in me honors the light in you” is whatever light you believe in. For example, you can believe in “light” in a non associative way, or you can associate it with your belief system, such as Jesus is the light of the world. You can chant om, which is the sound of the universe. If you believe universal consciousness is God, or stardust, that’s YOUR belief. The entire universe resonates with a B flat. Chanting is also scientifically proven to calm the vagus nerve, so it’s beneficial to the nervous system. Like yoga is soothing to the nervous system b/c it exercises the spine which has nerves that regulate every system in the body: circulatory, nervous, digestive, endocrine, lymphatic, etc. It’s science.
Mindfulness is a form of awareness that helps relieve anxiety, as well as other conditions. Living in a state of awareness and present moment relieves anxiety and depression, b/c you’re not living in the past or future, but you’re living in the present, which is the only place where life really exists. Like the expression be here now. In my observations of western culture, we are so harried and rushed and not enjoying the moment. I think our entire society would benefit from mindfulness and meditation, consciously being in the present moment. This has been again scientifically proven to reduce things like anxiety and depression. I am very thankful for my faith to get me through hard times, but not every child has that luxury. Kids need to learn to cope with all the things in our society, like bullying and social media. Saying there is only one way in a myriad of beliefs is narrow minded. YOU can believe what you want to believe, but some kids are really alone. We need to support them as a society.
Yoga means “yoke” or union. Uniting mind, body, spirit. Unity. Peace. Namaste