Author: Jessica Roy
I love myself.
I am beautiful.
It was an unseasonably chilly night for June in Los Angeles. About three dozen people, mostly women in their 20s and 30s, were spending their Friday evening lying on yoga mats on the back patio of a shop a few blocks from Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the Paramount Pictures lot. Attendees had been invited to bring whatever they needed to make the space cozy: Blankets. Pillows. Crystals.
I am powerful.
Ana Lilia was leading them in affirmations, closing out a 90-minute breathwork session celebrating the summer solstice.
I am a bright light.
I am ready to be seen.
Most days, Lilia works with individual clients. In the evenings, she teaches classes or puts on events, such as the solstice gathering. She first got into breathwork four years ago and started taking classes to become a teacher six months later. If you’ve never done it before, it’s a mix of breathing exercises and guided meditations meant to relax you and help connect with your thoughts — a cross between the last 10 minutes of a yoga class and a therapy session that takes place entirely in your head.
A spiritual shift
She's one of a growing number of young people — largely millennials, though the trend extends to younger Gen Xers, now cresting 40, and down to Gen Z, the oldest of whom are freshly minted college grads — who have turned away from traditional organized religion and are embracing more spiritual beliefs and practices like tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing and crystals.
And no, they don’t particularly care if you think it’s “woo-woo” or weird. Most millennials claim to not take any of it too seriously themselves. They dabble, they find what they like, they take what works for them and leave the rest. Evoking consternation from buttoned-up outsiders is far from a drawback — it’s a fringe benefit.
“I know this work is weird,” Lilia said of her breathwork practice. “But it makes me feel better and that's why I keep doing it.”
The cause behind the spiritual shift is a combination of factors. In more than a dozen interviews for this story with people ranging in age from 18 to their early 40s, a common theme emerged: They were raised with one set of religious beliefs — Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist — but as they became adults, they felt that faith didn’t completely represent who they were or what they believed.
Millennials increasingly identify as “nones” when asked about their religious affiliation, according to a 2017 Pew survey: They are atheist or agnostic, or say they are “spiritual but not religious.”
But yes-or-no survey questions don’t tell the whole story, says Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC. Just about every society throughout human history has developed traditions and practices. That's not a coincidence, she said: “People are inherently religious or spiritual.”
Read More: Here