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Deeper Learning Series: Yoga and Ritual

Merriam-Webster says that a ritual is “a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way.”

This definition may invoke images of incense, chanting, and bearded priests. But while “ritual” is steeped indevotional and obsessive stereotypes, it’s not as far from home as we may think.

In every basketball game, Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts beneath his team shorts. Every morning at 8:30 sharp, Stephen King sits at his desk to embark on a 1000-word quota.

Indeed, ritual is “a universal feature of human social existence: just as one cannot envision a society without language…one would be equally hard-pressed to imagine a society without ritual,” states cultural anthropologist Kevin Carrico.

This sounds familiar. Thoughtful repetition works, especially when energy is brought to it. It’s never more apparent than in the yoga practice where we take it up in many different ways.

Maybe you rise at 5am to salute the sun, or meditate every night before you go to bed, or recite a specific mantra when meditating. Regardless, habitual patterns like these hone our attention and fuel our tapas. And everyone has a different perspective.

On Tuesday, November 18, five noted yogis and teachers will share their perspectives on Ritual in Yoga at Eddiie Stern's Broome Street Temple . This marks YogaCity NYC’s eighth Deeper Learning Series discussion.The panel will include Swami Asokananda, Elena Brower, Michael Bühler-Rose, Andrew Sugarman, and Sarah Tomlinson. The discussion is free, but seating is limited, so pre-registration is requested so we can get a head count and set up the chairs.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how ritual is perceived by the group,” Tomlinson said. “It’s an interesting question: who decides how an experience goes from the mundane to the spiritual through something defined as a ‘ritual?’”

“I associate ritual with some religious activity repeated with regularity…[and] I’m not a religious person,” Sugarman said. But if ritual builds attention “there may be traces of ritual in my life because of repeated activities that elevate my attention.”

Come find out. We’ll see you at the altar. And afterwards, join us for a chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa.

--Michael Laskaris

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