One of the outstanding struggles I have with my traditional faith community are the beliefs held about homosexuality and the way those beliefs manifest in attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. In my yoga journey I have been grateful and relieved to find a community that is open and embracing and that has the priority and practice of extending compassion instead of judgement.
But I forget that even the ancient teachings of yoga are stuck in the quagmire of patriarchal and hetero-normative cultures and traditions, which is why when Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal, tweeted this comment he received on his blog yesterday, I was caught (way) off guard:
Yoga calls for the regulation of the senses, above all the tongue and the genitals. The genitals are to be used in the ultimate sense for procreation. Homosexual sex has nothing to do with this whatsoever.
A yogi seeks their love in the absolute. Not in so called “love affairs” of this world. There are so many reasons why homosexual activity is rejected by true yogis that it is hard to know where to begin.
As we look for unity in a diverse and pluralistic society, common ground might be found in uncommon places. In this case, nearly ever sacred tradition has to choose how it will wade through these pervasive attitudes of patriarchy and prejudice that are often collected in sacred texts and ancient teachings.
How do we stay true to what is sacred in our faith or tradition without compromising compassion and community?
In our search for guides and teachers we need to be savvy students and ask questions and pose challenges to the teachings and teachers we encounter. We can do this without disrespect but with a curiosity and openness to the way that traditions unavoidable shift and flex in an evolving human landscape.
Have you encountered discrimination in your yoga community?
It can be scary to admit that the tradition or faith you practice is not perfect and immutable in its original form. The practice of yoga asana can be applied as a technology to any faith because in it we practice agility in the context of structure. We know the proper alignment, but we simultaneously embrace flexibility that allows us to be true to the present moment.
Ideally, our yoga practice should prepare us to be open and flexible in other areas of our life beyond the yoga mat. For me it is a reminder that if other sacred traditions are not perfect, neither is yoga. But in each context I can be a representative of compassion, which is the other practice that ties all faiths and practices together.