Last weekend, I attended an Advent yoga class. When I began my yoga practice decades ago, I wouldn’t have expected to find such a thing. I can’t say for sure how I landed at the class this year, but it may have had something to do with reminiscing about childhood traditions—something my husband and I have been doing lately.
As a child, I remember Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas) as a still, hopeful time. We had a tradition my friends probably didn’t know about as they carried on with the usual hustling and bustling in December. I’m not saying we didn’t do any hustling or bustling. But it’s not what I remember.
Our holiday tradition included lighting Advent candles each evening. My dad would read from a booklet especially for the season, and we kids would put a bit of straw in the manager for Baby Jesus. The straw was supposed to represent good deeds we’d done that day.
Advent is a time when Christians prepare for the birth of an extraordinary human being—the type of being we yogis aspire to be. He embodied our goal: union with the divine.
Twelve years ago, I had an opportunity to go on a yoga retreat at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts. The retreat leader was Tom Ryan, a Catholic priest. I was curious, as I am now, how my Catholic roots and yoga might connect. And I sought, as I do now, to experience what lies at the heart of all spiritual traditions.
Advent Yoga and The Path to Enlightenment
When I learned Father Tom was offering an Advent yoga class on Zoom, I signed up. I suppose it was serendipitous, given I’d been thinking about those childhood Advents.
So, what exactly is an Advent yoga class? It’s a yoga class with an Advent theme, of course. Just as a Navratri yoga class would focus on the strength, wealth, and wisdom of the Hindu goddesses, an Advent yoga class is a reflection on what it means for humanity when God enters the world as one of us. Sit with that for a moment without attachment or aversion to dogma. Just consider the idea and its implications.
For Christians, Jesus opened a new path to enlightenment (though they didn’t use that word). He taught his followers a way to do what yogis and all spiritual seekers desire. (What religion has done with those teachings is a different topic.)
Yoga, as we know, means yoke. And its purpose is union with the divine. That’s what Christ—who came in person on the first Christmas—is about.
Sequencing an Advent Yoga Class
Yoga is not a religion, but it can deepen anyone’s faith. It can also connect people of different faiths. The Advent yoga class Father Tom taught started with a reflection—a dharma talk—on what Advent is. It’s a season of preparing to celebrate God taking form in the person of Jesus. It’s also a time of hope, as Christ told his followers he would return.
But perhaps most importantly, it’s a time to recognize that God is already here, within each of us.
With that insight, we moved to our meditation in motion—the postures. As you may know, Jesus was often called the Prince of Peace. So, Father Tom selected The Prayer of Saint Francis as the background music for the practice.
After the postures, we did a mantra meditation. In traditional yoga classes, Sanskrit mantras are typical, but we often use English translations. For our Advent yoga class, the mantra Father Tom offered—”Jesus, Abba, Holy, Spirit”—was intended to connect us with the idea that an ineffable God became one of us to show us that we can become one with God.
Yoga and Jesus’ Mission
Yoga teaches us to walk with God.
A Hindu swami, Swami Sarvapriyananda, gave one of the best Christmas talks I’ve heard on the teachings of Jesus. You can listen to it here. I mention it only to highlight that connection among traditions I mentioned earlier. It’s all yoga.
So on Christmas, I think you can say, we celebrate the birth of a yogi.
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!