By Karolina Zachor
“No religion. Just yoga. We promise.” That is the slogan for Yoga Church, a new program hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Bordentown, and the church is set on keeping that promise.
What does Yoga Church look like? The program, launched on Sept. 10, does not deviate from its slogan.
“The name ‘Yoga Church’ is an intentional misnomer,” says Pastor William Stell with a smile. “I think the most religious thing about the class will be that we’re going to collect donations with our standard offering plates.”
Yoga Church is actually weekly yoga classes held on Sunday evenings for people of all ages and skill levels. The program is a response to several concerns regarding yoga in general, says Stell and instructor Laura Di Panfilo.
The first is the dearth of yoga classes available on weekends. Another worry has been the recent but steady rise of price per class at individual studios. The intimidation that surrounds yoga can put off many people from joining, as they may worry that their bodies are not in shape enough for classes, which is very far from the truth, says Di Panfilo.
Yoga Church hopes to address all these concerns and provide affordable classes that are held at a convenient time and that are welcoming and enjoyable for both beginners and experts.
Classes are taught by Di Panfilo, a certified yoga instructor who is currently studying at Princeton Theological Seminary and has taught both there and at other local studios. She will be teaching vinyasa yoga, which is known for its fluidity and motion, as opposed to other types of yoga where the focus is on balancing in one pose for an extended amount of time. She explains she prefers teaching at the seminary and at Yoga Church more than in traditional studios.
“It’s been really fun to see the ways that yoga can build community and help people interact with each other,” Di Panfilo says. She’s thrilled that Yoga Church will allow yoga to be more accessible to others.
“If you don’t really know what you’re doing, it’s hard to justify $20 a class, which is the going rate around here for a yoga class,” Di Panfilo says, “So it’s really fun to be able to offer classes in a more affordable way and at a more introductory level.”
There is no set payment for Yoga Church classes—they are donation-based. After the instructor is paid, proceeds will go to various national and international organizations with which the Presbyterian Church of U.S.A. already has affiliations, such as programs working for access to clean water in Zambia or gun violence education across the United States.
“It’s not going to be, ‘Here’s this bible distribution project.’ It’ll be stuff that pretty much anyone can get on board with, regardless of their religious affiliation,” Stell says.
“The whole intent is to make sure everyone knows that there’s no actual religious component. We’re not going to open in prayer,” Stell continues. “But for many people, yoga is a spiritual practice, in addition to a bodily practice, so we have every intention of allowing participants to bring their own spirituality, whatever that looks like, to each class.”
Yoga Church is held on Sundays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Fellowship Hall, located in the basement of First Presbyterian Church at 420 Farnsworth Ave. Classes are donation-based. Bring your own mat or towel.