San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral Fosters Inclusivity and Healing Through Yoga

Before stay-at-home orders swept the globe, on any given Tuesday in downtown San Francisco, hundreds of mat-toting yogis streamed up Nob Hill in droves just after 6 p.m. to converge at the historic Grace Cathedral, a midcentury Episcopalian church the size of a football field where, in 1965, nearly 5,000 people attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon, filling the church and spilling into the streets. Inside the French Gothic colossus, golden light from the setting sun flooded through stained glass windows; a small team of volunteers ushered practitioners as musicians warmed up sitars, harmoniums, or harps. Yoga mats were rolled out between pews and in walkways and corridors; those who arrived early secured coveted spots around the Cathedral’s indoor labyrinth—arranged around its centrifugal spiral like a kaleidoscope. Forty-four church bells rang and reverberated from the tower on the hour; waves of seven cascading Oms washed over a sea of blissfully embodied spiritual seekers.

Yoga is for Everyone

In the past 10 years, Grace Cathedral has attracted tens of thousands of practitioners from all over the world—an extraordinary assemblage of different racial backgrounds. “We’re pretty confident that before the pandemic, it was the largest continuous class anywhere in North America—and probably the Northern Hemisphere,” says Rev. Jude Harmon, who has overseen the cathedral’s growing mind-body offerings for the past eight years. “We recognize that yoga is more than an event, it’s a spiritual community in its own right,” he says.

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