On Yoga Ceremony & Breath Blessings
by Kiki Lovelace
I’ve always loved ritual. Growing up in my family, I loved how we had dinner together every night after school, how we had Angel Food Cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries for every birthday and how we all piled up on my parents’ bed to look at our stockings first thing every Christmas morning. Even though the prayers I learned in Catholic school didn’t much resonate with me, I loved singing with my parents at church, and the smell of incense the priests would waft around on special occasions. Flash-forward to present time, and I still love little rituals. I love my quiet morning coffee, I love practicing with my fellow Yoga Teachers on Wednesdays and Pilates Teachers on Thursdays, and I love wafting smoking herbs like sage and sweetgrass around to sweeten and purify the air I’m breathing. To my great surprise and delight, through Forrest Yoga I’ve found my own way to pray that feels authentic and true and nourishing. I pray every day now, and that’s no small thing for a recovering-Catholic Jersey girl from the ‘burbs.
When we come together to do our practice in Forrest Yoga, we don’t just call it a yoga class; we call it a yoga ceremony. This is a special time one carves out of his or her day to put down work, family obligations (and Facebook) to develop one’s Sacred Self. It’s what you’re doing every time you come to your yoga mat and take a few deep breaths, whether you realize it or not. You’re learning how to release your tensions and stress, and soothe your pains. You’re learning how to feel and deal with the reality of your body and your emotions and your shutdowns, and become more courageous and vital and alive. You’re learning how to bless yourself with your breath, just like we bless ourselves with the smoke of burning sage or sweetgrass.
In the Forrest Yoga way, a ceremony can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths upon waking and setting intent for the day; it can be doing 15 minutes of yoga to ease neck and shoulder tension during an otherwise stressful day; it can be doing a month-long or year-long Dharma Joust (like the 30 Day Challenge I recently documented on Facebook, where I did at least one thing each day to end racism in myself and my community) or it can be as all-encompassing and transformative as participating in a Teacher Training, where we start each day with an hour-long Ceremony of prayer, self-reflection and song followed by a two-hour yoga intensive.
In Forrest Yoga, this Ceremony continues to change and evolve; as it should and must to meet the needs of our people. In the current incarnation, we Set Intent, do a Smoke or Cedar Water Blessing on each participant, Call in the Four Directions, chant and meditate. It may include some Native American elements as well as chants from Sanskrit, Ancient Hebrew, Australian Aboriginal and modern traditions, among others. Because of my interest and ongoing concern with issues of race and cultural appropriation, this new, more multi-cultural style of Forrest Yoga Ceremony is very soothing to me on a lot of levels, and I’m already making it my own. As I’m always happier in co-creative relationship, I’m really excited to draw into our Ceremonies members of our incredibly inspiring community of teachers and students here at Innerstellar. The form of the Ceremony may change, but the intent is everlasting — to use the energy of the group to help each person connect to his or her Sacred Self and learn better how to Walk in Beauty, in good relation with our self, our emotions, each other, the Earth and all Her beings.
I invite you to pause and take a few breaths right now. Make a ceremony of your breath. Breathe into your tight or tender spots and feel for the energy starting to shift. Breathe in and feel the blessing of your breath. Even if you only have time today for these three to five deep breaths, drink in the medicine of what you’re doing by feeling it fully. Get fed by it! That’s what prayer and ceremony and yoga are all about – they’re real, live nourishment for your body and your brain and your Spirit.
May We All Walk in Beauty,
Join Kiki and some special guest stars from our Innerstellar community for an Equinox Yoga Ceremony on Sunday September 18th from 1-4pm – 1 hour of Forrest Yoga Ceremony followed by a strong, sweet, sweaty Forrest Yoga class focusing on bringing balance to the Hips, Neck and Shoulders.