Spring was in the air at the Everybody Eats 2.0: Cultivating Food Democracy conference Feb. 23.
Even though the snow was still on the ground, inside Trinity Church, the buzz of life and growth and energy was everywhere.
The conference drew about 350 attendees from around the state of Michigan and featured 40 panel discussions and exhibitors, according to coordinators.
Just B Yoga presented about our community garden.
We got to share our story about a corner of Lansing using yoga and gardening as a way to build connection with one another, appreciation for fresh food, educating youth about where food comes from and healthy eating choices and creating a healthy connection with dirt and caring for the earth.
Whether it is efforts from MSU’s various agriculture programs and departments, to the Ingham County Land Bank, to the Allen Neighborhood Center Youth Service Corps and the Lansing Garden Project.
But we also got to learn about ways gardening and growing are helping Flint and Detroit and other communities around Michigan. Greening to help transform. Greening to help nourish. Greening to help rebuild.
It felt wonderful to be a part of expanding the conversation about food democracy into non-food and non-gardening conversations.
For example, in Flint, there’s a garden maintained and grown by King Karate, a karate dojo. They not only have two massive hoop houses with solar panels, but they sell at two farmers markets expanding to teaching youth the business side of agriculture.
Our connection to earth and dirt and food is deeper than that literal expression. What we eat and what we have access to impacts how we interact with each other around the table, in our neighborhoods and at the store. What we eat and where we get our food impacts our overall health. What we eat impacts our family traditions and how we perceive one another. What grows around us impacts our mood and the image of our community.
There was a recent blog post that’s made a big splash on the internet, “Modern Yoga Will Not Form a Real Culture Until Every Studio Can Also Double As A Soup Kitchen.”
Isn’t that a beautiful sentiment?
And can we conceive of a new vision for yoga studios that includes growing food as well as serving food to our neighbors?
What are we teaching in our yoga classes?
Are we only teaching yoga poses? Engaging abs? How to stand on your hands?
We have an opportunity and an obligation to extend our yoga practice beyond the physical body’s ability. What are we helping our students connect with and on what levels? How are we demonstrating and living our yoga beyond our mats?
Yoga has grown exponentially in the United States since the 1960s. It’s more widely accepted and has so many forms and styles in practically every city. We have studios and centers and retreats. We have clothing lines and accessories beyond the imagination of any ancient gurus in India. We have texts and books and movies.
What’s the next horizon for yoga in our society? Where’s the innovation? How are we serving a need? Are we ready to take it to the next level? Isn’t it time to go beyond skin deep?
I think we are. Yoga in service of our communities.
Yoga studios as community centers, garden projects, soup kitchens, clothing closets, career training centers, small business incubators?
Did any of these ideas make you wonder? Make you cringe? Why?
Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho
If you feel bound or stuck, you are bound or stuck. If you feel free, you are free.
We want to plant seeds that will continue to grow and nourish our community, our sangha in long-lasting ways.
We were the only yoga studio at the conference this year.
We were there with a karate dojo from Flint.
Who’s joining us next year?