April Theme of the month – yoga as activism
The state of the world has been pressing on me more than usual this past month. In fact, I would go as far to say it’s causing me anxiety even when i’m sleeping and dreaming about moving to a commune in the mountains somewhere.
Let’s face it, we are most certainly deep into Kali Yuga…climate change, Brexit, Trump and the awful events in Christchurch followed by such an out pouring of racism that I felt scared for the world my son is inheriting.
And I have talked about this before, in fact not so long ago in this blog post but this month we are once again going to revisit the idea of yoga as activism. Because yoga, at is very roots, is activism.
In some of the most ancient and sacred texts, we are reminded that our duty, out of gratitude for this life we have been given is to make the world a better place.
In the Gita and the Upanishads we are told that this includes ACTION. That karma is the ‘next right action’. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna in no uncertain terms that his dharma is to help others through selfless service and to make the world a better place through his own actions. In other words, choosing not to act is just that, a choice and will create karmas as a result.
Tantric philosophy is all about living and being a active part of our communities, that we can be spiritual and a homeowner/work/mother/father/lover etc, that’s all part of the package but that package also includes, once again, giving back to the world and to the people in it who may not be able to help themselves.
I would ask, how could we possibly claim to be spiritual if we aren’t doing that?
The first of the yoga sutras tells us that NOW is the time for yoga and the first sutra of book two TAPAS SVADHAYA ISHVARA PRANIDHANA KRIYA YOGA – be passionate and commit, look at yourself, devote all of your efforts but just get on with it (my translation).
I was reminded of an online debate I had many moons ago with quite a senior teacher in Australia who told me that students came to class wanting a nice stretch and workout, maybe to sweat, they didn’t need to listen to the teacher spouting philosophy at them…and as I said in my polite response. I TOTALLY disagree. Yoga is not exercise, the poses and shapes we make open our bodies and energy channels so that we can spiritually wake up. The aim, the only aim, of the yoga poses originally was to prepare the body to physically be able to sit in meditation for a sustained period of time. Now of course, I’m a big lover of the physical aspect of yoga, it’s why most of us arrive at the practice, because it makes our bodies feel good but I do believe that as teachers we need to be sharing more than just the physical.
I didn’t train to be a yoga teacher in order to just teach fitness classes. Yoga is a lifestyle and to be a true yogi means to constantly look at ourselves and check in with how we are living and how we can progress on our path. Teachers and students alike. I’m not ahead of anyone on the yoga path, I’m walking right beside you sharing what I know and learning what you know. Hopefully together we can use that knowledge to improve our world. I’m not here to help you achieve a cute butt (although we will be doing some butt work in class this week! haha)
So in class this month you may hear your teachers sharing some inspiration from our sacred texts, or maybe they will be discussing a cause that they are passionate about, sharing environmental tips in class and on their social media channels and I’d love for you to join in the conversation too. What can we all do to make this world a better place for future generations?
Here is an article I wrote a few years ago for Elephant Journal on politics in the yoga space – https://www.elephantjournal.com/…/is-there-space-for-polit…/
And here is what Jivamukti has to say about activism – https://jivamuktiyoga.com/activism/
And a wonderful article from Yoga International – https://yogainternational.com/…/yoga-and-activism-why-i-can…
Let’s get passionate!