Yoga is Social Justice


"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of

the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away

by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory

were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own

were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved

in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

- John Donne



I began jotting down notes in fury in 2020 for this blog post. I held back to really ponder, reflect, sit with with subject. And, then time just flew with raising my daughter, and welcoming the arrival of my second daughter. It's a topic that is still near and dear in my heart, as it will always be.


I'm dedicated to my devotion to social justice. I was attracted to the university (Seattle University) I attended for it's social justice lens and education, I was attracted to 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle in 2012 because of their social justice and inclusivity lean on workshops and education, and I continue to be attracted to teachers that are trauma informed and lead the way for access, justice, and awareness.


One of my most beloved practices is practicing metta meditation or Loving-Kindness Mindfulness. The goal of this specific form of meditation is to cultivate kindness to ALL beings, yourself and others. This is social justice.


Traditionally you start with yourself:

May I be happy.

May I be safe.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease.


and then you grow the practice thinking of others:

May you be happy.

May you be safe.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.


I think in the yoga and wellness community there tends to be the ways of spiritual bypass and toxic positivity. Spiritual bypass is when the feelings of anger come up yet folks look for ways to shut down and go back to the bliss feeling. They side step the uncomfortable vs sitting with the uncomfortable. Which isn't the point of Yoga nor meditation. It's not to have an empty mind or to be blissed out all the time, it's to be aware. To be aware of our humanness. Toxic positivity is similar, dismissing negative emotions with responses of constantly looking for the silver lining, and always look on the bright side. There are times in life things just suck. And, again, being present to those feelings, and what OTHERS are feeling, they are heard in more healthy and empathic capacity. "Good vibes only" is a form of toxic positivity. This mindset blocks the balance of the light and dark in life.


I leave you with these powerful quotes on social justice topics and more resources to explore for your own growth and reflection.


"We must skillfully take collective and radical action to creat a world that allows all of us to breathe, be, live, be seen, and validated."- M.C. Johnson pg 21 of Skill in Action.


"The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita's subject is the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious". (Gandhi, E. Easwaran, pg 15 of the translation of The Bhagavad Gita)


"But the current usage is often traced back to the self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde, who wrote in an essay published in her 1988 book, “A Burst of Light,” that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care has long had political undertones, primarily pertaining to activist burnout, said Yashna Padamsee, who works for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and has written about the term. “Audre Lorde’s quote refers back to an act of preservation and act of survival for people at the margins,” Ms. Padamsee said. “Self-care is an act of shoring up and resourcing ourselves to bring a stronger self to the movement. That’s the school of thought I come from.”" (1)


Not talking often enough about these realities in a safer space like yoga is a disservice to the consciousness of the nation. (3)


Social Justice is based on the concept of human rights in which all humans have, as their birthright, the freedom to realize themselves. Yet we live in a world with so much social injustice, an injustice to which we, often unknowingly, contribute. (4)


Skill in Action is heavily influenced by the Bhagavad Gita an ancient yogic text that calls us to live into our dharma and duty even when many distractions entice us to move off our our path.  Skill in Action calls people and communities to take action and to not become complicit by becoming complacent. It asks that we take the powerful practice of yoga and use it to create a world that makes space for all, that values all and that speaks truth to power. (5)(6)


Articles:

Topic of "Selfcare"

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/10/fashion/post-election-anxiety-self-care.html


https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-politics-of-selfcare


Cultural Appropriation

https://www.susannabarkataki.com/post/what-is-the-difference-between-cultural-appropriation-and-cultural-appreciation


Social Justice

2. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/is-yoga-dead-an-interview-with-yoga-is-dead-podcast-co-creators-jesal-parikh-and-tejal-patel


https://www.sarahjoyyoga.com/yogasocialjustice.html


3. https://www.self.com/story/yoga-social-justice


4. https://www.dayafoundation.org/yoga-social-justice.html


5. https://www.adelineyoga.com/event/yoga-social-justice/


https://medium.com/@dviyer/mapping-our-social-change-roles-in-times-of-crisis-8bbe71a8ab01


https://yogainternational.com/article/view/gandhi-and-the-gita-the-making-of-a-hero


Books:

  • Deepak Chropra's "7 Laws of Success"

  • Pema Chodron's "When Life Falls Apart"

  • Michelle Johnson's "Skill in Action"(6)

  • https://www.michellecjohnson.com/skill-in-action-book

  • The Bhagavad Gita - many translations - my copy is by Eknath Easwaran

  • "Yoga for a World Out of Balance" by Michael Stone


Teachers Who Have Influenced Me:

Seane Corne

Michelle C. Johnson

Hien Hong


My path as a Yoga and Pilates Practitioner:

  1. Access to Sliding Scale (these sessions are not meant for just affluent white women)

  2. Continue to be a voice in social justice dialogues (silence is privilege, the dialogue can be in families not just on a social media bull horn)

  3. Donation based classes for access and giving (win, win)

  4. Never stop learning and continue to evolve

  5. Trauma Informed Teaching Lens


Ganesha (above) is known as the remover of obstacles.

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