Before stay-at-home orders swept the globe, on any given Tuesday in downtown San Francisco, lots of of mat-toting yogis streamed up Nob Hill in droves simply after 6 p.m. to converge at the historic Grace Cathedral, a midcentury Episcopalian church the dimensions of a soccer subject the place, in 1965, almost 5,000 folks attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon, filling the church and spilling into the streets. Inside the French Gothic colossus, golden mild from the setting solar flooded via stained glass home windows; a small group of volunteers ushered practitioners as musicians warmed up sitars, harmoniums, or harps. Yoga mats have been rolled out between pews and in walkways and corridors; those that arrived early secured coveted spots across the Cathedral’s indoor labyrinth—organized round its centrifugal spiral like a kaleidoscope. Forty-four church bells rang and reverberated from the tower on the hour; waves of seven cascading Oms washed over a sea of blissfully embodied religious seekers.
Yoga is for Everyone
In the previous 10 years, Grace Cathedral has attracted tens of hundreds of practitioners from all around the world—a rare assemblage of various racial backgrounds. “We’re pretty confident that before the pandemic, it was the largest continuous class anywhere in North America—and probably the Northern Hemisphere,” says Rev. Jude Harmon, who has overseen the cathedral’s rising mind-body choices for the previous eight years. “We recognize that yoga is more than an event, it’s a spiritual community in its own right,” he says.
see additionally Why Every Yoga Teacher & Practitioner Needs Inclusivity Training
The yoga program at Grace—referred to as Yoga on the Labyrinth—dates again to the early aughts, however the sturdy and numerous group it enjoys right now, in response to Harmon, is principally because of yoga trainer and creator of Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic, Darren Main, who’s led weekly donation-based lessons at Grace for the previous decade. When Main took over in 2009, he included universally resonant themes and programming targeted on social justice and religious development, bringing in stay musicians like Egemen Sanli and post-class visitor audio system like Shahla Ettefagh, founding father of Mother Miracle (a non-profit that addresses social points in Rishikesh), and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, director of the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan (an ashram within the Himalayas working to rehabilitate the Ganges River system). Harmon credit audio system equivalent to these with drawing massive crowds and attracting folks of Indian and Southeast Asian descent. In current years, he provides, the yoga program has seen a noticeable improve in Middle Eastern and BIPOC illustration.
By 2015, single lessons held upwards of 800 folks. In current years, they have been capped at round 600. Up till the pandemic, which compelled any yoga choices on-line, lessons adopted the customary arc (opening, warmup, sequencing, peak pose, Savasana) and averaged $3–$4 per person, which meant that academics, musicians, technical assist, and administrative workers may very well be compensated for his or her time.
Grace’s yearly fall fundraiser, Yoga for Change, attracts consciousness to the cathedral’s socioeconomically numerous preschool and gives scholarships and funding to assist youngsters and households in the neighborhood. Proceeds from Yoga for Change have funded tuition help for two-thirds of preschool college students from households in want. “One of the most important things that this program does is support immigrant families in the Bay Area who are working multiple jobs,” Harmon says.
see additionally How Restorative Yoga Can Help Heal Racial Wounding
Grace Cathedral is Episcopal, however its yoga program attracts teachings from different traditions—equivalent to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism—to assist ship the message that yoga is for everybody, which is mirrored in the neighborhood’s variety. In truth, Yoga on the Labyrinth has attracted folks from many spiritual affiliations together with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, pagans, atheists, secularists, and agnostics—and transformed yoga skeptics, together with Charles Wienbar, a wheelchair consumer with a number of sclerosis, who fell in love with the follow after he first tried yoga at Grace.
“One agnostic friend said to me many years ago, ‘When you lay your head on the floor during yoga at Grace, you feel the spirit of the world,’” remembers Anné Jude Anderson, who has attended lessons at Grace since 2012. Main is particularly in awe of the group he’s helped domesticate via the follow: “Even after 10 years, it’s still an overwhelming experience to walk into such a magnificent space and see hundreds of yoga students of every age, race, physical ability, and religious background gathered together to share yoga,” he says.
See additionally A Yoga Nidra Practice for Releasing Grief
From Inclusivity to Allyship
For almost half a century, Grace has supported San Francisco’s homeless residents. Episcopal Community Services (ECS), a number one supplier of homeless reduction within the metropolis, started as a small operation within the cathedral’s basement in 1983. The Grace and ECS collaboration has continued even throughout the pandemic via Dinner with Grace occasions that present meals for these in want.
During the San Francisco HIV/AIDS epidemic of the early 1990s, Grace provided outreach and assist to members of the LGBTQ group in search of religious solace, offering pastoral care from the church’s workers and clergy. After clergy and workers members have been misplaced to the sickness, the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel, a devoted area for members of the LGBTQ group, was erected. For the previous 30 years, the Men of Grace group has functioned as a assist group for anybody affected by HIV/AIDS.
Support like this continues via Grace’s yoga program, with post-class conversations and meetups just like the Lavender Spirit group—an area for homosexual males to collect and talk about the convergence of sexuality and spirituality. Other community-building occasions, equivalent to an annual “Spring Fling” in addition to vacation gatherings round Easter and Christmas, have supplied alternatives for yogis to combine, mingle, and share experiences. “It’s a magical community,” says Anderson, who was additionally married on the labyrinth in 2014. “The sense of acceptance and peace upon arriving to class is visceral.”
The Future of Grace
Though the cathedral stays closed to the general public, it gives myriad digital choices—from livestream sermons on the California wildfires led by Rev. Heather Erickson to live shows with the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, to digital eucharist and espresso gatherings. Grace’s yoga program, too, has tailored on-line, with weekly dharma talks led by Harmon and Main on the cathedral’s Facebook Page and audio streaming of previous Yoga on the Labyrinth lessons. “One of the biggest challenges of this difficult time in history is that the things at once grounded us—meditation groups, religious services, support groups, and yoga classes—are no longer possible,” says Main. “This makes weathering COVID-19 that much more overwhelming; I personally feel it very acutely each Tuesday night when I would normally be teaching—but I’m incredibly grateful for the online community that has developed and flourished in the void left by COVID-19.”
“I really miss being inside the space itself—I also desperately miss seeing all the people,” says Anderson. “Soaking up the beautiful architecture is part of the spiritual experience of the class—there’s just no way to recreate it at home.” Anderson has been staying linked with the Yoga on the Labyrinth group via Facebook and Instagram, she says. “When it’s safe to do so, I can’t wait to get back to it,” she says. “I’m going to be generous in the hug department!”
Experience Yoga at Grace Cathedral
During National Yoga Month this September, Grace is internet hosting a fundraiser in partnership with Yoga Journal to profit the preschool in partnership with Yoga Journal. Join this very special restorative meditation and 30-minute asana practice taught by yoga teacher Darren Main, launching on September 29, at 4 p.m. PST on Yoga Journal’s Live Be Yoga site. Musician Egeman Sanli will fill the cathedral with a magical soundscape—at as soon as entrancing, invigorating, and mystical. This shall be an expertise you’ll wish to immerse your self in once more and once more. Donations accepted in assist of The Community Preschool.
And to spotlight National Coming Out Day on October 11, Grace will supply its first livestream—and socially distanced—yoga class because the pandemic had paused this system. Stay tuned!