Yom Kippur Yogi

Going the “wrong” way might just be what you need.

One grey Yom Kippur morning in September 2007, I awoke early to walk with Mark to our synagogue in Rockville Centre and then I would go on my way to visit a neighbors’ mother who had recently suffered a series of strokes and was in a nursing home right nearby.

Mark and I came from two distinct Jewish backgrounds, his was traditional he had gone to Hebrew School and became a Bar Mitzvah his parents kept kosher. He knew how things worked.

My family was the opposite no formal Jewish education. However,
Mark once said to me about Yom Kippur. “Even the most un-Jewish Jew knows about this day.” True that.

In the simplest of terms Yom Kippur is a high holy and most solemn day of atonement. It is connected to the Days of Awe known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. During this time of reflection Jews pray to God, looking inward to see what things might need to change On Yom Kippur, even the simplest of acts including eating and drinking , looking in the mirror are not done. We fast. We pray. We ask for forgiveness for our sins and to be given another chance to begin anew to be inscribed in the book of life. At the end of this most solemn day we eat, we share a blessed meal with family and loved ones. Everyone is so glad we made it and gratefully we eat with gusto.

On this particular Yom Kippur morning, I walked Mark the 1.7 miles to Temple B’nai Sholom in Rockville Centre and then left him at the front door. I would be back later to be with him. Right then I was a woman on a mission to visit a person who, not very long after my visit, passed on. The nursing care center was just a block or two away. “You are a wandering Jew, on Yom Kippur. You should be in the “shul” atoning for your sins.” Instead I chose first to go see a person who needed a visit and I hoped I would be forgiven for not going into the synagogue right then.

I turned in what I thought was the right direction to go on my short journey to see Margaret. Somehow I turned wrong and instead of the nursing home, I found myself in front of St. Mark’s Church on Hempstead Avenue in Rockville Centre. On the lawn facing me was a large rectangular purple and golden carved wooden sign that read, “Divine Yoga”, with a phone number.

I had been a yoga practitioner for at least 25 years by then and was looking for a new place to practice.

It was Mark who first suggested that I go find my yoga when we lived Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1980’s. Back then there wasn’t a yoga studio on every street corner. I had to search around to find a class.
I found yoga to be a bit annoying at first, the strange breathing, weird sounds, the chanting Sanskrit, and worse, looking at someone’s bottom in gray sweatpants almost sent me running for the exits. This was pre-Lululemon yoga wear.

Instead I kept looking for my yoga and eventually found Yoga Zone on the east side of Manhattan across town from my office on 54th street. It was an a oasis of calm a respite from my hectic job.

Living on the south shore of Long Island has it benefits, close to beautiful beaches and 35 minutes into Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad. One big drawback was that in 1989 when we moved to Rockville Centre from Brooklyn, yoga studios on the south shore were non-existent. I either practiced in the city or had to travel to Glen Head on the north shore where there was another Yoga Zone studio.

When Yoga Zone closed in Glen Head closed I was bereft. I tried Bikram yoga a kind of yoga known as hot yoga, that has 26 sequential poses done in a 102 degree room. A Bikram yoga studio opened in town and, at first I was glad it was there even though it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but, It wasn’t for me, I got bored with the same 26 poses over and over. The sweat and steam made my hair frizz and it caused a skin issue that was dreadful and that I won’t go into detail about here.

So there I stood on that gray Yom Kippur morning in 2007. How odd I thought, “I have never noticed this sign before and I know I have been past St. Mark’s church many times. “

Mark would say to me that things come into view that were always there but went unnoticed or “the teacher can teach when the student is ready to learn.” It was my moment to find Divine Yoga.

As I stood there facing St. Mark’s church a soft but soon steady rain started to fall. Although I love walking in the rain, I did not have an umbrella and my first thought was, “Ooooh- nooo my hair is going to frizz.“ The curly-haired girls lament.

I spotted a door facing me on the north side of the church, not the main sanctuary door in the front, but another entrance visible from my vantage point… I sprinted toward the door hoping it would be open, I was eager to get out of the rain. It was Yom Kippur and if my hair got ruined I was going to have to live with it until after sundown.

When I pushed the large, heavy wood door, it opened and I was standing in a small vestibule: stairs facing me going up and stairs to my right going down with a mahogany banister

To my left there was a bulletin board decorated in the same colors as the sign on the lawn of the church. Emblazoned with purple and gold letters, the bulletin board was artfully designed with a golden container fastened to the board with the Divine Yoga schedules. I took one down. There was a full schedule of classes including one I had heard of but never tried before: Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

‘Kundalini yoga?’ Something I wanted to try though I knew not what it was and I was on the lookout looking for a shift in my yoga practice, I wanted something more, was it possible that Kundalini yoga was it?

At the time I did not know it but when I opened that door I found something deep that I sought but had not found.

My walk in the rain led me to a community of friends that would be more important to me than I could have possibly ever imagined at the time. Mark had always encouraged, no pushed me to have more of my own friends not just “our friends” but ones that are mine.

I did not know on that rainy Yom Kippur day in September 2007 when I found Divine Yoga that Mark’s life and mine was soon going to be turned upside down.

I found friends who would be there for me and for Mark in an as yet unknown future crisis.

All because I took a “wrong” turn.

1016797_504130553017465_798832616_n

Divine Yogis with Mark, me Arlene Lucas, Joan Kremen

Divine Yogis with Mark, me Arlene Lucas, Joan Kremen