Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy Candea, director of Yoga Impact and the International Yoga Therapy Institute.
She had heard of the work Just B Yoga does with accessibility and inclusion and wanted me to share the concept with her teacher trainees in New Jersey via web cam. (see video below)
It was a privilege and a joy to share with a new generation of yoga instructors about the concept of community-based yoga, why teaching intergenerationally is important and the responsibility we have toward social action and social justice.
This year it was a surprise and professional honor to be invited to speak at Nancy’s first-ever “Calm Steps to Vibrant Action: Yoga, Spirituality, Trauma and Social Justice Summit” in Arizona this summer.
The summit is gathering yogis, healing arts professionals, mental health professionals and particularly those from marginalized communities to join in the discussion of the importance of healing and spiritual activism. Check out this impressive list of presenters.
I am thrilled to be a part of the conversation about the intersection of yoga and healing arts with key social justice issues of our time: racism, classism, sexism, ageism… all systems of oppression and inequality.
This summit and preparing for it have me reflecting on the journey I embarked upon after leaving journalism to pursue teaching full time nearly 6 years ago. I had no clear vision. I had a passion. I had a compelling passion to do something, not just write about it. And I’ve had an equal passion to embody and practice what I was studying, teaching and talking about.
I didn’t want my talk to be cheap.
I didn’t want my practice to be skin deep – literally.
I had no idea the path would wind its way from a physical and mental health tool to community organizing and social action and justice. I sought training to serve everyday bodies in the community; kids, teens and special needs yoga to addiction recovery and trauma. Like crumbs in the forest I followed.
Now it is as though I am approaching the meadow atop a mountain at the edge of the forest and can see a wider more vast view. It’s stunning and overwhelming to see the depth of the work before us.
When we move the issues in our tissues our deepest wounds are revealed – from the physical to the mental to the spiritual.
When we take yoga and other healing modalities to marginalized communities, those wounds are deep and complex beyond a single event or memory.
Complex traumas including sexual predation, physical violence, discrimination, cultural extermination and generational subjugation.
As we heal the physical body and then the mental spaces around those wounds we have no choice but to continue the healing on a broader level. That involves seeing how the wounds are continuing to be inflicted upon others. That requires a level of involvement in the systems of injustice in order to call out what’s broken and unjust. That requires the deepest levels of our practice – speaking up and voicing, the courage to bear witness and challenge and the wisdom to hold space amidst conflict, hostility and possible violence with compassion, forgiveness and love.
So yes, there should be an intersection of yoga with the #MeToo movement.
Yes, there’s a natural intersection of yoga with Black Lives Matter.
Indeed there’s a natural intersection with Standing Rock and all of the front lines of theft and colonialism our indigenous brothers and sisters continue to hold.
There is an intersection with our Dreamers and LGBTQ rights.
There are also intersections of our yoga practice with the right to clean and affordable water and air, ending food deserts, access to healthcare and yes… prison reform.
These are dire times due to the depth of pain and damage being done.
These are also exciting times due to the powerful potential we all have to see each other, bear witness and hold safe space for one another to heal individually and socially.
Calm steps to vibrant action indeed.
We are all one