Yoga At NCC: Congregational Church Offering Options For Spiritual Health

Published: May 20, 2019 at 07:00 am


The Reverend Kristen Provost Switzer has been practicing yoga for about three years.

The minister of youth and mission at Newtown Congregational Church (NCC), she is among those who are happy to see regular offerings at the West Street church.

“Yoga is a spiritual practice, not necessarily a Christian practice,” the Rev Provost Switzer said recently. “If relaxing your mind and body sounds like your thing, I say just come check it out. Yoga is a spiritual practice that is good for everyone.”

The Joy of Yoga Nidra is offered on Wednesday evenings, an end-of-workday Vinyasa session is presented Thursday evenings, and a Saturday morning Hatha session is also available. Men and women of all ages are welcome at all three, which are offered year-round.


Joy Of Yoga Nidra

According to instructor Joy Hoffman, Yoga Nidra is “a powerful and elegant ancient tool of aligning and resting the body, mind and spirit.”

The practice, also known as sleep yoga, “allows the central nervous system to rest deeply while your mind drops naturally through brain wave patterns to quiet the mind and restore the body,” she said.

Yoga Nidra, or YN, is taught through visualization and guided imagery. There are no poses.

Scientifically based, the practice “has been proven to reduce stress, which creates disease and inflammation,” said Ms Hoffman. “YN reduces inflammation and restores balance for a variety of symptoms: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular, sleep insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. YN breaks our negative thought patterns and creates awareness to make positive choices in our lives every minute of each day.

One hour of YN, says Ms Hoffman, equals three to four hours of deep sleep.

Ms Hoffman has been teaching in Newtown for the past six years.

Those planning to attend “The Joy of Yoga Nidra” should arrive with a yoga mat, one bolster, two blankets, and one eye pillow or washcloth.

Reservations can be made and additional information is available by contacting Ms Hoffman at


Yoga For Kids

In addition to the weekly classes for adults, Ms Hoffman incorporates yoga into “The Joy of Art,” another weekly offering at NCC.

Children grades K-5 are invited to join Ms Hoffman on Wednesdays at the church for 75-minute programs that incorporate arts and crafts, painting, photography and age-appropriate yoga.

The Joy of Art begins each week at 4:15 pm. Like the Yoga Nidra classes, donations are accepted and registration is requested.


‘Gentle Yoga’

Meredith Hettler was trained in Vinyasa, which she likes to call “gentle yoga.”

She leads classes on Thursdays at 6:45 pm.

“My class is gentle, really very easygoing, a class for anyone, old or new to yoga,” she recently told The Newtown Bee. “Gentle and easy is how I describe it.”

Ms Hettler has been teaching at NCC for nearly two years; she has been teaching yoga since 2011. She has led classes “all over the place,” from yoga studios and gyms to YMCAs, in schools, libraries, “almost anywhere you can think of,” she said.

Students should bring a yoga mat with them to one of her classes is a yoga mat.

“A lot of people will bring blankets or towels for props, for support of their knees, or a cushion,” she said. A warm sweatshirt is suggested for the closing portion of the class, when meditation is done. Additional items such as a yoga block or strap are welcome, but not necessary, she said.

All ages are welcome, and there is a suggested donation of $5 per class.


Saturday Morning Hatha

In the light-filled space of NCC’s Great Room, Lucy Gainsback and Louise Mango alternate teaching Hatha yoga on Saturday mornings.

“This one is like a flow, a balanced effort in ease,” explained Ms Gainsback, who has been teaching yoga for four years. “So you’re balancing the work with keeping the mind peaceful and keeping the breath steady.”

The class she shares with Ms Mango has been meeting for nearly four years. While more complexity has been added for those who have been joining them for most or all of that time, Ms Gainsback assures newcomers that “we modify the class too, so if you are beginning, you can start with the basics.

A supply of yoga mats and props are available for those who would like to use them or do not have their own, said Ms Gainsback.

“You don’t really need to bring anything,” she said. “Just dress comfortably.”

Most students practice with bare feet, she mentioned.

As with Ms Hettler, Ms Gainsback and Ms Mango tend to see students in the 40s to 60s age range.

Donations that are collected each weekend are forwarded to Kevin’s Community Center.

Ms Gainsback said the yoga classes within the setting of a house of worship can lead to an “enhancement of your own faith.”


The physical practice — “which is only one limb of the whole yoga philosophy,” she pointed out — is often tied in with an aspect of the philosophy.

“The philosophy of yoga includes truthfulness, avoiding aversion, self-study, and non-attachment,” she said. “These things that we practice in yoga, and the philosophy of yoga, can coincide easily with whatever faith you follow. In fact, it can often strengthen your own faith.”

For additional information about any of the yoga classes, or to be added to the update/cancellation e-mail blasts, contact Newtown Congregational Church at 203-426-3141.

For the full version of this story, please see the May 17, 2019 print edition of The Newtown Bee


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