September 24, 2020

The Civics of Yoga: This is our Duty as Practitioners.



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You probably think this article is going to be about the boom in Zoom yoga classes, or the “temporary” collapse/rebirth of the wellness industry, or maybe, as the title suggests, about Marcus Aurelius.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, I want to talk to you about how we, as yoga practitioners, need to be prepared during the challenging times we face today and those that lie ahead. I want to share with you why, more than ever before, yoga has to encapsulate the rights and duties we follow as citizens. Now, more than ever, we must be involved and engaged and advocate for a better future. Hence, the importance of the civics of yoga.

I want to ignite in you your civic duty as yoga practitioners to stand up, show up, mobilize, and lead our communities in much-needed integration, change, healing, and equality in every corner of the world.

For the first time in contemporary yoga, we, the yogis, are out there in the wilderness, unfettered by protocols, associations, and affiliations.

We are witnessing the old ways collapsing. We are building a new world with each step forward, and, if we pay attention, we can tap into the storm for renewal raging around us. As aggressive as it might seem, this powerful forward movement is necessary for us to shed our skins and be open and ready for the next embodiment of who we really are.

To some extent, each of us is on our own; yet, collectively, we are experiencing the yoking quality that’s been promised for centuries.

We are experiencing a renaissance of the innocence that got our attention when we took our first class or read our first yoga book. I can’t stop thinking about Enigma’s 1996 song, “Return to Innocence”: “Don’t be afraid to be weak. Don’t be too proud to be strong. Just look into your heart, my friend. That will be the return to yourself. The return to innocence.”

Looking at the state of affairs in the world, we see eruptions of change happening on so many different levels. Whoever wrote the script for 2020 will definitely win an obscene number of Oscars.

But we, the yogis, are being called to action. That is crystal clear to me.

We’re being called to practice beyond the four corners of our mat. There is an obvious need out there for many to find comfort, solace, a place that feels familiar, a space within each of us that has not been robbed of its purity, and that is what the practice promises. More than ever, we are the keepers of sanity. The hope that many lack. The pillars that sustain our disintegrating communities. A voice of reason amid the confusion.

We are being called upon to be communicators.

The world is starving for some sort of equilibrium. Yoga has always had the ability to center students and teachers alike. We have a gift in our hands, the gift of alleviating stress through our words, deeds, and the teachings of yoga. We can lead by example. We can take the torch of change, of what it really means to be immersed in the community and advocate for important needs. We can be the translators of the complex laws and intrinsic power plays we see in our politics, and we can uplift our communities by teaching that we, the people, have the power to decide what our future looks like. And that feeling of empowerment and upliftment can and must begin with the work we do ourselves, on a mat, on a cushion, or sitting on the ashes of what once was normal.

We are being called upon to hold ourselves accountable.

By living a life of introspection and equanimity, with an understanding of the events at large and the history of yoga, we can rewrite our yoga constitution. We must ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and instead build something that has never been seen before. Something that includes everyone. We must ignite a new vision with a sincere and honest heart. Together, we can forge a new path ahead. We can put together the broken pieces, choosing the ones that are useful, and letting the rest go. We can move forward without leaving anyone behind.

We are being called upon to choose which side of history we want to be on.

We are being given a unique opportunity to take action. We have been given the gifts of yoga, and we have to make a decision. We can let this practice be a self-regulating tool used within our own four walls or we can open the gates and let it show the world that there is indeed a way forward. That there is indeed hope. That there is indeed rebirth.

We are being called upon to go out and inspire the world to keep spinning. We are being asked to recognize our privileges, our duties, and our responsibilities and put them out into the world for the good of all. We are being called upon to embody the civics of yoga.

Are you ready?


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