The yoga Malcolm taught

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, patience creates unity.”

– El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), May 19, 1925-Feb. 21, 1965

Many of you have heard me talk about walking by my mom’s bedroom  as a child and seeing her in salamba sarvangasana – shoulder stand posture. I was about 6 or 7. She invited me to join her practice when I asked what she was doing.

On her bookshelf, alongside her copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” (Paramhansa Yogananda) was a copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (written in collaboration with Alex Haley).

Yoga and Malcolm are deeply connected in my being. I don’t know many who would see Malcolm as a yogi. But his life’s transformation was a testament to the practice of uniting experience with spirit.

Many folks have a peripheral familiarity with the name Malcolm X. They recall photos of a scowling face, maybe a man with a gun. They may say he supported black militancy and violence. They may say he hated white people.

But that would be a shallow and inaccurate representation of this man, this guru, this spirit.

How many of us have the bravery to live our life’s convictions and faith beyond the doors of our temples, churches and synogogues particularly when walking the talk could get you killed?

Once Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam he was fervently Muslim. His dress, manner, diet, actions….he lived his faith. He also grew into his faith.

Who among us can say they’ve had the courage to publicly share major shifts in philosophy and voice?

As Malcolm learned more about Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation, and that he wasn’t who he thought he was Malcolm shifted his position as truths were made known to him. He departed the Nation of Islam, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Malcolm evolved from a militant voice of retaliatory violence to one of deep faith and respect for all mankind. He embraced that growth publicly. He didn’t hide his newfound approach to civil rights and human rights. He shared what was going on inside him.

“Why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.”

Malcolm X “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”

What an amazing human and spiritual journey.

We can all draw upon his life’s example for strength and flexibility. Our failures and errors don’t have to be obstructions or barriers. It’s those difficulties on and off our mat that allow us to practice our yoga.

Where is the union in our spirit when we’re angry, hurt, victimized? When we see new light and absorb new truths do we accept them with joy or fight? Do we embrace loving kindness in this transformation?

I am in a constant state of becoming. This is a phrase, a statement of being I also learned from my mother and the examples of sages, gurus and spirits like Malcolm.

Happy birthday Malcolm.



“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, patience creates unity.”


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