My Inner Light


Alison Saar, Sapphire, 1985
Photo taken @ San Jose Museum of Art, December 2006.
At the recommendation of my doctor, I took a pre-natal yoga class offered through my medical provider. It’s called Whole Birth Yoga. The main focus of the class was doing yoga poses and learning how to focus and breathe through the discomfort while also developing flexibility.
While I liked doing the flexibility, focus, and breathing parts of the class, I did not like the sharing and spiritual aspects of the class. The first hour or so was spent doing sharing time. Also known as “connecting our inner lights.” I do not like to spend my time listening to other women gripe about their husbands and in-laws, especially in a setting where the only approved response to a woman’s griping is to offer her support and “send her positive energy.” I got bad looks when one girl was freaking out crying about how her mother-in-law insisted on being in the labor room with her when she didn’t want her to be. I said, “Why don’t you just tell her no?” *bad looks* Was I inappropriate? It just seems to me that a support group where people just share and don’t find solutions is kind of pointless.
The other part I hated was the chanting. Here are some of the things we were to chant while holding our hands over our hearts:
My inner light
is connected to your inner light
and our inner light
is connected to all the women before us
who have shared in child birth.

My inner light
honors your inner light.

The divine light inside of me
honors the divine light inside of you.

We’d always end our chanting time by saying “Namaste“.
I had a difficult time doing the chanting/spiritual part of the class, probably because I simply don’t believe in this type of spirituality. So, I simply didn’t do it. I would just stay on my mat quietly and close my eyes or look down. One day the instructor asked me why I didn’t participate in the chants and I told her that I was there for the flexibility/breathing/focus aspects of the class. She then told me that with the philosophy of whole birth yoga I needed to also “cleanse my spirit” and “recognize and honor the spirits that have gone before me” in order to get the full experience.
I interrupted her and said, “I have different spiritual beliefs that I choose to honor and would prefer to just remain silent during those portions of the class.” She tried to bring up another point and I had to be firm, “Again I choose not to particpate in this part of the class. With all respect, I don’t want to discuss this any further.”
I don’t know if I handled it well or not. I just wondered how this would be different if I had tried to preach Christianity within the context of a course offered through my medical provider.
Can I find a non-spiritual yoga class? Do they exist?