Friday, July 17, 2009

Yoga Class at a Hindu Temple

A Lutheran, an atheist, and a Hindu go to a yoga class at a Hindu temple--it sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? No joke. The other night, I went to a Hindu temple with my Hindu friend and my atheist friend for a yoga class--very different from any other yoga class I've been to.

Most yoga classes I've been to have been led by New Age types: white, thin, Western New Age types who can bend their bodies into all sorts of pretzel shapes. The yoga class at the temple was led by an Indian woman with a roundish shape. The only one who could bend her body into a pretzel shape was a child, although she informed us that she couldn't really get her foot behind her head (O.K., but she could get her foot to the back of the top of her head--she's far more limber than the rest of us).

It was a good workout, yet we could all move the next day. I recognized most of the stretches and the movements from other yoga classes. But the class led by the Indian in the Hindu temple seemed much more practical and down to earth than the ones led by New Age people, more no nonsense.

At the end, we did a long meditation, where we concentrated on most parts of our body. We weren't told what to think (no energy streams, no clearing out of clogs, nothing like that), just to consider our thumbs, consider our hands, and so on.

We prayed for peace and we prayed for the ourselves and the family and friends of those of us gathered in the temple. I have conservative Christian friends who would have been deeply uncomfortable praying in a Hindu temple, with statues of foreign gods. But it felt very ecumenical to me; it's hard to imagine any objections to the prayers.

During the meditation we were told to imagine our favorite church, synagogue, mosque or temple; I haven't asked my atheist friend what she visualized at that point. I thought about the chapel at Mepkin Abbey. I'm not good at meditating, even guided meditations. My mind races and wants the whole thing to be over with. I remember one yoga class, years ago, when we lay in corpse pose, in silence, for 10 minutes. I kept looking at my watch.

Yet I am amazed at how good I feel at the end of the whole process. I feel like every fiber of my body has been stretched. I drive home with a quiet mind. I don't get angry over stupid drivers or how long it takes to get home. If only I didn't have to do an hour and a half of yoga and meditation to get to that state--or perhaps, if I did it more often and regularly, I'd make my way to that state more quickly.

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