As Yoga on the Labyrinth at the iconic Grace Cathedral church nears its seventh year of namastes, we visited with yogi Darren Main to learn more about the world-renowned practice and the community it has created. This is the one time it's totally acceptable to fall asleep in church!
"Typically five hundred is a small night, we average closer to six or seven hundred most evenings," an exceptionally humble Darren Main explains. Every Tuesday, Darren, along with volunteers and musicians, lead an evening yoga and meditation practice in the most unusual and accepting of venues, a church.
"Don't go to church—didn't then, don't now," Darren laughs, thinking back to when he took over the gig nearly seven years ago from a friend who was a member of the congregation. "Yoga in a Cathedral, at first it seemed like a novelty and then it got popular, really popular," Darren recalls, "It's a great place to have a wonderful, powerful, moving experience regardless of your beliefs or faith."
The views alone, with concrete arches and towering stain glass windows, are reason enough to try Yoga on the Labyrinth at least once, but it's clear from the hundreds of mats layered throughout the abbey that it's not just a notch on locals' bucket lists or a tourist attraction— it's a community. In addition to the unique space, Darren places a strong emphasis on diverse music so regulars can experience a variety of sounds each week from didgeridoos and harps to singing bowls and chanting. I was lucky enough to have musicians Sam Jackson on singing bowls and Gabriel Gold on vocals and the Halo to accompany my first experience at the Labyrinth Tuesday night. Melodic and ambient tones in an understatement.
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The evening started with a dedication to "resilience," something everyone can relate to. Darren then led us through a meditation followed by a series of sun salutations. He jokes that class is "gentle but not easy," as we transitioned into a series of warrior and plank poses. With melodic music echoing through the vaulted ceilings, you loose a sense of time, but Darren doesn't as he guides everyone into child's pose just as the church bells ring at 7pm (enter goose bumps). Working through some final restorative poses, class ended with the final Oms and Darren's soothing voice bringing back anyone who may have dozed off.
What started as a novelty is so much more than a great Instagram post. As a first timer, arrive early and be open minded. Come again and you'll likely make friends.
// Yoga on the Labyrinth is held at Grace Cathedral (1100 California Street) Tuesday nights from 6:15–7:30pm. It is donation based with a recommendation of $10–$20 per class; cash or credit cards are both accepted, labyrinthyoga.com
- Bring your own yoga mat, there are limited mats available to rent onsite, first come first serve
- Dress in layers as the cathedral can be chilly.
- Arrive early if you want a spot near the Labyrinth itself.