Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

FULL: Yoga and Quakerism

Workshop Number: 
Katy Hawkins
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

We will investigate Yogic teachings and practices, and suggest what they offer Quaker practice today. We will explore each of the eight yogic limbs, partly through written reflection and discussion, but primarily through an experiential engagement with yoga's concrete social, physical, and meditative practices.

Workshop Description

This workshop will investigate yogic teachings and practices, and suggest what they offer Quakerism today. The radical intervention of the ancient Yogis into Vedic thought was the intertwining of body and spirit. We could benefit from exploring these ancient practices for how they offer  concrete, pragmatic, embodied ways to bring into lived experience the philosophies we as Quakers believe. This workshop offers a space for participants of all ages, body types, and levels of yoga experience - from beginners to advanced practitioners - to get a taste of these practices inside a Quaker context.

The sessions will touch on each of the yogic limbs:

-ethical behavior with relation to the external world

-ethical guides for relating to the self and sacred texts

-physical practices that help establish balance and equanimity in the mind

-breath control

-sense withdrawal

-meditative concentration

-meditative stability and open-ended absorption

-higher states of meditation that dissolve the boundaries between self and beyond

Each session will explore the philosophical tenets of yoga, which mirror those of Quakerism, through written reflection and group discussion. But the bulk of our time together will be devoted to engaging concrete social, physical, and meditative practices at an experiential level. We will open with a time of worship in the manner of Friends, with a query offered for contemplation. After our Waiting Worship the group will take about an hour to explore gentle, accessible work with body and breath on mats and/or chairs, centering down into one discrete yogic meditation or activity. After directed reflective writing, we will share (alternately in pairs, threesomes, and collectively) how these yogic principles inform our understanding of Quakerism,  and end with a closing circle.

The week's skeletal structure will be as follows:

Monday: Waiting Worship: memory and ease. Introduction to Asana (physical practice) and its relation to the Yamas and Niyamas (ethical precepts). Embodied Writing exercise. Group discussion of Asana's contribution to centering  down.

Tuesday: Waiting Worship: breath states. Asana practice, Introduction to Pranayama (breath work). Pencil Play: prana (life force) and spirit. Pair exercise: Breath and Mindful Communication. Writing and group reflection on how breath is linked to the Yamas and Niyamas, and how they inform our communication modes in social activism and Meeting for Worship.

Wednesday: Waiting Worship: physical sites for emotion. Asana and Pranayama Practice. Introduction to The Subtle Energy Body: marma points, chakras, vayus. "Power of the List" exercise: contentment and boundaried resources. Embodied Metta (loving kindness meditation): hands-on care. Written reflection on gross and subtle body and Quakerly commitment to the collective whole.

Thursday:  Waiting Worship: getting breathing room from the SIX senses. Asana and Pranayama Practice. Sense meditations: minding the flame, Nada Yoga, mindful eating. Haiku poetry play on the witness mind versus the citta (mental field). Sharing in groups of three and group discussion on Clearness: the relation of self-study to sense withdrawal.

Friday: Waiting Worship: mindfulness exercise grab-bag and the three meditative modes. Asana and Pranayama Practice. Exercise: Savasana and Centering Down. Groupwork: mapping meditation, spheres of knowing "East" and "West."  Setting Intentions: Walt Whitman writing. Final Discussion: Living our Faith and Practice. Index card activity. Closing circle.

Participants should bring a notebook, writing implement, and an open mind - and also feel free to bring their own yoga mats and blocks (extras will be available). All reading assignments will be distributed at the Gathering, and there will be no technical component to this workshop - laptops and cell phones discouraged.

Leader Experience

Katy's twenty years of teaching have taken her from the classroom out into the world. After several years of teaching literature, philosophy, French, and Italian at the high school and university level, she turned to mentoring new teachers. She helped design and facilitate the teacher trainings for NYU's core humanities program, and then was hired by the Dean of Students to run a mentoring program for all new graduate teachers across disciplines. She trained foreign language teachers both at Dartmouth and Baruch College. But the last five years of teaching have taken her more into yoga studios, businesses, and community centers, teaching yogic philosophy and practice. She teaches primarily in the Philadelphia area, and is the leader for yoga and meditation at Pendle Hill.