“Finding yoga has truly changed my life and the way I pray and spend time with God, and Ignatian Yoga was what opened this spiritual avenue for myself that I didn’t know was possible. No matter how hectic life and school got, I knew that I could always find peace and experience God while on the mat, and I can’t even begin to tell you how incredible it was for me. I feel like I’ve grown closer to God and more in touch with myself and the world around me through yoga and I would have never gotten to where I am without Ignatian yoga!” – Kaylee K. (Fordham College Rose Hill Student – Class of 2019)
As someone who is in love with love, I am passionate about both yoga and Ignatian spirituality. Who would have thought that combining these great loves of mine: practice of yoga and Ignatian Spirituality would be such a natural fit and such a big hit on a college campus? The words quoted above are from a 21 year old student at Fordham, who is beginning to integrate her practice of yoga with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The Spiritual Exercises are at the heart of every Jesuit apostolate, ministry, and school. I have been a campus minister at Fordham for over 17 years, and for over 12 of these years, I have offered the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises to our faculty, staff and graduate students. I continue to fall more deeply in love with the practical and insightful wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I often have spoken at information sessions about the Spiritual Exercises and have described the graces, outcomes and benefits on participating in the 8 month Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL) Retreat as a path of deepening our relationship with God through interior freedom, awareness and movement. I have been a certified yoga instructor for the past several years leading Ignatian Yoga sessions in our chapel and on many retreats that are offered by Fordham’s Campus Ministry department. This practice of Ignatian Yoga is about interior freedom, awareness and movement. It is my hope that the people who participate in Ignatian Yoga will begin to connect what they practice in these sessions and will be led closer to God.
As a 21st century campus minister called by vocation to accompany students who are immersed in their studies that will lead them to become the future leaders of our world, it is imperative to allow the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality to permeate throughout their experience at a Jesuit institution. Connecting faith with the call to justice and reconciliation is daunting and somewhat counter-intuitive and counter-cultural to what the world suggests as measures of success: riches, honor and pride. At its core, Ignatian Spirituality is about consistently teaching the Gospel values embodied by Jesus of Nazareth and to connect to this truth by providing programming and core values that we are foundationally created by a God that brought us from love, by love, and to love. The Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality which infuses every aspect of life at Fordham University moves our students to become humans who are committed to create a more just world and to impact social structures in our world for the common good of all citizens, particularly the poor and the disenfranchised. My experience over the past several years, is that the world’s brokenness and pain is crying out for healing, and our students thirst for opportunities to connect with the God of their understanding to find meaning deep in their lives through GOD (G.ood O.rderly D.irection) as well as through stillness and calm. Yoga is a practice that helps embody individuals and helps them deeply connect to their interior lives, where they begin to remove the distractions and obstacles that consume them. Finding the stillness and getting closer to God can help individuals find a path that will lead them to true success, which is following faith, hope and love. It is difficult for young adults (or anyone for that matter) to find stillness in a dizzying world filled with constant blasts of information through class work, social media, polarizing political times in an extremely competitive and consumeristic world. In one on one spiritual direction sessions or in leader training sessions, I will often ask students if their head, heart and feet are in the same place. Often times, the answer is no. People have to work hard at being in alignment and in balance, and Ignatian Spirituality and yoga are two practices that can help bring alignment and balance.
I got involved with the inception of Ignatian Yoga, as one of the founders and current leaders, Bobby Karle, SJ, studied at Fordham several years ago and began to hold weekly yoga sessions that were invitations to the students to connect praying with their bodies through the integration of physical movement and Ignatian prayer and contemplation. This popular program led me to continue what Bobby has started at Fordham by getting yoga teacher certified. I have participated on the leadership teams on two Ignatian Yoga Retreats over the last year and am delighted to be part of the Ignatian Yoga Advisory Board, which is group of individuals from across the country who will continue to come together to discern over the coming years how to formalize certification and trainings for Ignatian Yoga, offer retreats, as well as make it accessible and available to as many people as possible. What also truly excites me is that this enterprise is being led by a collaboration of Jesuits and lay people, who are committed to leading souls to deepen their relationship with God, through the life of Jesus Christ, by integrating the art and practice of yoga with Ignatian Spirituality. This model of leadership is a model that our Church is desperately in need of at this point in human history. One additional thing that excites me about Ignatian Yoga, is that in the coming months, I will begin to co-author a book on Ignatian Yoga Nidra, along with Carolyn Swabek, another of the Ignatian Yoga Leadership Team, which will integrate the Spiritual Exercises and deep restorative yoga practice. It is my hope and prayer that the love that people experience on the mat and by experiencing Ignatian Spirituality, will lead them to deepen their relationship with God, deepen their faith, lead them to deepen their understanding and experience of Ignatian Spirituality and that this compassionate awareness will begin to permeate their lives off of the mat, and out into the world, for them to become authentic men and women for others. I offer this up for the Greater Glory of God. And for someone who is so in love with love, I love that I get to share with others both great loves of my life, yoga and Ignatian Spirituality! – AMDG!