The first day of yoga teacher training for my latest group of trainees was on Jan. 21, the day of the Women’s March; the day after the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.
At first I thought I would hold the day of training and everyone could catch up on what transpired later. But midday I thought to put it up for a vote for the trainees to decide if they wanted to go to the march or not.
Social action and spiritual activism are a cornerstone of the Just B Yoga mission and the teacher training. We would just move that module up to Day 1.
We stayed for about two hours and then made our way back to the studio to discuss the eight limbs of the tree of yoga and the ethical principles of yamas and niyamas.
What did this march have to do with yoga and learning to teach yoga?
We cannot shut the world out. Yoga is not about shutting out and creating an isolated haven. It’s about connecting, immersing and joining.
Social Action of/in/through Yoga
Yoga + Social Activism = Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches
The Lesson of Discomfort, Yoga and Activism
My small group of yoga teachers to be soaked up the mud-soaked environment of chanting “Yes we can” amidst signs of pro-choice, transgender rights, against sexual assault and more. We pushed our way as deep as we could into the throng of 20,000+ at the Michigan state capitol. We talked with others gathered there of all ages and identities. We saw each other face-to-face as a greater community.
Yoga wakes us up to our senses and our body. Yoga wakes us up to breath. It awakens our mind and our spirit.
We become awake to our inner selves and the world around us.
Currently the world around us presents us with fear for unknown levels of oppression, injustice and hatred.
It is not enough to be awake.
It’s not enough.
Now that you are shaking to your core what now? Now that you can see it and feel it and connect with it, now what?
You can react rashly and without direction.
You can bemoan, “How did we get here?”
And we can blame and point to all of the missteps that got us where we are.
Or we can start to act.
And that takes thought and intention.
It also takes time and attention.
Now that your spine is reverberating and your eyes are open wide, do not close them.
Closing them would be closing yourself to the community that needs you.
You are not awake to the atrocities or the possibility of some horrific world you don’t want to be a part of.
You are awake to your duty and responsibilities.
What are those?
We must act with intention and discipline.
We must act with truth and sincerity.
We must act.
The storied American Dream is not some fantastical Disney happy ending.
It’s a job. It’s work.
It takes our time and attention.
So where did you spend your time today?
When we all look back at the last 24 hours and those before that and those that are to come where was our time spent toward the cause of freedom and equality and justice?
Yes, we are all busy.
Yes, we have families and lives and we must seek balance so we don’t drain ourselves.
But be honest with yourself – where did you place your time and attention toward:
- Educating yourself on the issues that are important to you?
Holding your public officials accountable for doing their jobs for the benefit of all of us?
Getting to know your community and be a part of it? That’s your next door neighbors, the person in line at the grocery store, the person standing at the bust stop. It’s not just the people in your inner circles.
This doesn’t mean you have to go to marches and protests. Find the way to engage that suits you but check yourselves and be sure you are ENGAGED. Write. Speak. Read. Discuss. Question. Share. Disagree. Listen.
Give yourself and your community the gift of your attention.
That is our community of people. Not buildings. Not economic development. Not shopping. Not the internet. Not movies.
Where did you put your attention and time today?
Make it count for you, your family, for me and mine. For those to come.
That’s what they inherit.
Those are the seeds we plant.
We are still in this experiment, this very young experiment called the United States of America. How are you actively engaged in the outcome of this experiment?
This is our yoga in our actions off the mat. Our movements and breath on the mat help keep us awake and ready for the work we must do together.