Houston’s yoga devotionals meld body and spirit
When Houston Baha’is began offering a weekly devotional gathering that incorporates practices of yoga, it wasn’t just to give neighbors a way to enjoy fellowship and exercise.
They saw it, says Jing Chen, a local Baha’i, as a way to weave a pattern of community life in which the transformative powers of the Divine Word permeate all gatherings.
Their hope was to enable participants to “experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Baha’is everywhere,” she says.
Blending yoga and prayer is only one approach to conducting devotional gatherings and is not preferred over other approaches, but it had been used at times over the years in devotionals hosted by Baha’is across Harris County.
These gatherings all combined simple breathing and yoga exercise with readings — either before or after the yoga routine — of the words of Baha’u’llah, Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, and the Bab, His Herald.
In essence, says Chen, they allowed participants to “physically embody the transformative powers of the Divine Word during the gathering.”
Building on the success of those occasional gatherings, organizers put together the regular yoga devotional at the Houston Baha’i Center, advertised widely as free and open to the public.
The gathering has been held since May 2018, with Melanie and Kamran Mouzoon as facilitators. Attendance ranges from three to 20 people.
“Through the connection of a local Baha’i member, the yoga series is led by trained yoga teachers from the greater community,” notes Chen.
Sometimes, the teachers lead the devotional portion. Other times, Baha’is from around Harris County do. “Regardless,” she says, “spiritual conversation has remained an essential component of the gathering.”
As conversations and understanding of the Faith deepen, Chen says, organizers hope that “the gathering blossoms into a setting where worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of all its participants.”
The hope as well, she says, is that “these friends of the Faith feel increasingly comfortable to take on individual community-building responsibilities.”
In short, “to become integrated into the building blocks of the Divine Civilization, whether or not they elect to become official members of the Baha’i Faith.”