17 Aug Yoga on the Labyrinth – not just another yoga class
During a visit to the US I made it my mission to explore as many classes, studios, ‘athleisure’ stores and health food spots as I could, there’s so much out there it’s impossible to ignore- I was in my element.
During this trip I was lucky enough to stumble upon what was the most magical yoga class I have ever had the fortune to take part in – Yoga on the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.
The class was started by a member of the congregation almost eight years ago and was taken over by yogi Darren Main when the congregation member moved abroad. Darren has grown a beautiful concept, and what started as a modest group, to something phenomenal. Now, every Tuesday evening, Grace Cathedral sees its largest congregation of the week ascend upon the Labyrinth with up to 750 people filling every floor space.
What struck me immediately was how welcoming the space felt, cathedrals and churches can seem daunting to anyone who does not usually visit them or would not consider themselves to be religious but this is exactly why this concept is so fantastic. The cathedral opens up its doors to invite anyone of any age, ability, background or faith to join together to enjoy their own practice and asks only for a donation of what you can afford, although 10-20 dollars is the suggested donation amount.
I was welcomed by Sam, who found me a space close to the centre (I got there an hour early having heard how popular it is) and I watched the space fill up around me. Mats spanned out from the central circle on the Labyrinth, where the musicians were seated, and filled the aisle and every nook and cranny.
While the class does not have a religious focus, every class opens with a three minute reflection from a member of the clergy. This week Jude, the Director of Innovative Ministry, asked us to think about how we find strength when things fall apart. He explained that it’s something we all go through at some stage so if not now, we will one day and we need to know how to support ourselves. I got the sense that this class itself offered a means of support for many.
The class welcomes different musicians each week to guide the group through the practice from the centre of the Labyrinths, this really added to the sense of magic we felt as we moved into different poses. There is also something quite spectacular about 750 people chanting their OMs in a space with such great acoustics, and Darren leading us to a moment of contemplation in time for the church bells to ring partway through the class!
Inclusivity is key to this class, welcoming people of all abilities. Darren explained, “do what your body feels comfortable with and what it needs – if you’re breathing, you’re doing yoga.”
What made this class even more special was the warmth of the group. I spoke with Darren and Jude afterwards, “we wanted to create not just another yoga class but a space that allows the most diverse group of people to come together in a bubble of silence and have permission to do their own thing” said Darren.
“This is a space where there is no judgement, just a group of people of all different abilities coming together to express their own truth in a form of body prayer”
And what a feat it was. In Darren’s words, “being a good teacher is about being a blank canvas and handing your students the crayons to express themselves to help them create something they want.” That’s what his intention for the classes are and I’d say he has that down to a T, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this magic.
At a time when there is so much unrest, I encourage exercise practitioners and religious houses to join together and offer some much needed community exercise. While I appreciate that yoga may not be the first choice for many religious houses, there are many other options. Make the most of the space you have and open up your doors to welcome more of your community in.