Who is afraid to get political?

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand the last few weeks, you’ve heard about #Occupywallstreet. Last I checked, there are currently Occupy events in over 1400 cities across the globe, and in approximately 400 cities in 48 states across America.

The movement has not gone unnoticed by the yoga community either — Michael Franti, Seane Corn, Russell Simmons, Elena Brower, and even Deepak Chopra have all taken time to offer their support to the protestors. My social media feeds have been absolutely swarmed with pictures, comments, and videos from the burgeoning protest movement. There’s no getting away from it. Something’s brewing.

Credit: J.T. Liss Photography

As the hype builds, many are voicing deep concerns about how and whether the yoga community should be involved. Does our practice compel us to go out and support men and women calling for satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence) in our world, or is it too divisive for yogis to get involved? When Contributing Editor Carol Horton asked our readers last week what they thought about the intermingling of yoga and politics, commenter Dave shared a sentiment I’m hearing a lot of lately:

I think it is very dangerous for yogis to publicly align with one political view over another… yoga should be equally available to all and not selectively offered to a few… it is a slippery slope for a yogi to “pick sides”.

My parents took me to my first protest when I was five years old. It was a gay rights march in Austin, Texas, and I remember my mother saving the little sign she’d hung around my neck (like a noose, I sometimes muse) as a proud memento for years after. It read, “It’s my parents who are gay. Please don’t hate me.” As the daughter of two lesbians, I feel like I was forced into politics from the moment of conception.

For years, I resented my mother for putting me in such a position. What if I didn’t want to be a gay rights advocate? What if I wanted to walk the safe route, not take sides in the debate, stay out of the line of fire? I didn’t want to be political, but I wasn’t really given a choice. In some ways, I think that’s the position yogis find themselves in now. We are being political, even when we don’t want to be.

machine
Creative Commons License photo credit: J. TegnerudCredit: OccupyDallas

As participants in modern day society, each and every one of us are cogs in a larger sociopolitical machine. We pay our taxes, earn an income, depend on people and corporations alike to meet our basic needs. We vote with with our dollars. No matter how spiritual you claim to be, if you’re reading this you’re not one of the cave-dwelling yogis of ancient days. We are IN the world. The question isn’t whether we “get political,” but rather how we choose to do so. Let me ask you something:

How would you react if you saw the owner of your yoga studio charging darker-skinned people higher drop-in rates than lighter-skinned people?

How about if you learned the studio was dumping toxic waste into its “filtered” drinking water? Would you think, “Oh, well, not my place. I’m a yogi, I don’t want to be divisive.” Give me a break. I don’t know too many yogis that would sit idly by in unbiased awareness. So why is it somehow “unyogic” for yoga teachers to speak up when the same type of injustice happens outside our safe little studios?

Credit: J.T. Liss Photography 

My mother used to tell me a funny bedtime story when I was young; not funny “ha-ha,” but funny for just how unconventional I realize it was looking back on it now:

“First they came for the black people,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t black.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the gay people,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t gay.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

After a little Googling, I discovered this “bedtime story” was my mother’s adaptation of a famous saying about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the Nazis’ purging of their chosen targets. The anecdote, I think, taught me at a young age the importance of standing with and for the disempowered. And more importantly, its context reminded me that choosing not to act is just as political and consequential as the alternative.

I am not suggesting that the present circumstances in any way compare to those of the Holocaust. But I do think we’re bearing witness to a revolutionary moment in our world, and we’re getting political whether we choose to engage with #OccupyWallStreet directly or not. Yes, revolutionary is a strong word. But I use it because the word revolution implies a complete turn-around, a pivotal moment that harkens monumental change. #Occupywallstreet follows closely on the heels of the Arab Spring, and if you ask me these movements are only the tip of the iceberg.

The economic downturn that sparked #OccupyWallStreet is the symptom of a much larger crisis we’re all going to be forced to confront in coming years. The bubble is only just beginning to deflate. Our monetary system is completely disconnected from our earthly resources (which we’re rapidly depleting). Skyrocketing prices (hello, peak oil!), food famines (and overpopulation!), and natural disasters (and climate change!) will disproportionately affect less affluent populations first. It’s no wonder people are protesting around the world.

Credit: © Asmaa Waguih / Reuters

Last night, as I was putting finishing touches on this article, I queried my friends on Facebook what they thought it means to “get political.” One person answered, “politics is how we treat each other collectively… to be politically responsible means to seek a balance of power that recognizes the agency of all concerned.”  That is a definition of political responsibility I think the yoga world could afford to embrace. Conscious political action does not mean we become divisive. To get consciously political is to recognize our interdependence with one another, and to act (or not act) accordingly in every aspect of our lives.

Perhaps getting political means calling for the corporate executives to be held accountable for their actions, while recognizing that we too bear responsibility — for buying into their materialistic pipe dream to begin with. Maybe for yogis getting political means offering a meditation or asana practice to the Occupiers, as a means to embody the sentiments they’re calling for in the world. Heck, I’d love to see a few yoga teachers volunteer to offer yoga at the stock exchange. The Wallstreeters could probably benefit from the practice even more than the protestors!

 

Teaching yoga at the JFK Memorial with OccupyDallas

Photos Credit: David Sunshine

So, can yogis get political without being divisive? I think so. Nearly twenty years after my first protest, I’ve realized that my mother (unintentionally) taught me to live my yoga from the get go. I’m not afraid to get political. My practice is recognize that my entire life is political and to consciously act to create a better world for us all.

I’d like to pose a challenge to Yoga Modern readers. Let’s create a a new model of what it means to get consciously political. Tell me your definition in under five sentences, and I’ll post the responses in a future article.

Editor’s Note: This article is the opinion of the author. YogaModern.com supports people speaking their truth, but does not endorse any specific political viewpoint or ideology.  

Posted by:

- who has written 43 posts on Yoga Modern.

Chelsea Roff is a writer by day and yoga teacher by night, a weaver of words as well as of asanas. She is Managing Editor at YogaModern.com, and her writing has been featured by Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal, Wanderlust Festival and the Hanuman Festival. Chelsea is passionate about using online media to inspire action that serves a greater cause -- whether it be the expansion of knowledge, support of our global community, or improvement of planetary and personal health. She travels the country teaching yoga in the most non-traditional of spaces, from cocktail parties to public protests to centers for at-risk youth. In Dallas, Chelsea helped start a yoga service organization that brings yoga classes to people in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, and prisons. Chelsea currently lives in Santa Monica, CA, where she can be found cartwheeling across the beach, hiking in the mountains, and practicing yoga poses on her little pink scooter.

38 Responses

  • yoga-adan says:

    "Conscious political action does not mean we become divisive or choose one side over another. To get consciously political is to recognize our interdependence with one another, and to act (or not act) accordingly in every aspect of our lives" –

    and as per "what it means to get consciously political" – five sentences, sorry didn't make it to "under" 5 ;-)

    first i need to define "consciously" and "political" for me :

    consciously means as of-aware as i can be at any moment (which varies depending on the flow of the flow in my life in and around me ;-) )

    political means rules that govern my interactions with my the world around, the environment, and creatures human and not

    consciously relates to essence and spirituality and me specifically; political means things human and mundane and inter-relatedness with others

    conscious political action is an act that blends the two elements in varying degrees depending on need, necessity, and preference

    • Chelsea says:

      I really like that definition, Adan. It may be longer than 5 sentences, but it's succinct and to the point. I am interested in your definition of "political" though… It seems a little broad, "human and mundane" interactions with my world". I found it curious when I queried my Facebook friends about what getting political meant to to them, not one of them mentioned government. Does being consciously political require we are active participants in the way government is run in our country? Are we being consciously political if we choose not to vote?

      • yoga-adan says:

        thanks chelsea ;-)

        yes, i do think "not voting" is a political statement, it should tell a "caring" government that its constituents aren't caring! which could be good or bad ;-)

        i think ultimately, political is the rules and means and ways we deal with dealing with each other and our world (environment, etc)

        one thing i've done too much of, is think of political as only being big government

        much of our laws are evidently progressions of common law as it developed among peers "back in the day" ;-)

        two or three of us in the neighborhood, deciding to pool our recyclables in one rotating container, is political; competing indian tribes (in a true scarcity situation) agreeing to rotate use of a hunting ground (w/little to no option for vegetarianism) is political

        our agreeing to post readable non-riot inciting non-injurous comments to each other on blogs and websites, and continuing a democratic tradition still developing, is political

        the desiring of the application of the death penalty by a victim's family, while a third party group is on principle against it, is political

        and so on ;-)

        it's interesting that your fb friends didn't mention government when thinking of what getting political meant to them – at it's core, maybe because politics begins with the individual, and the relationship seen with "their" world

        either way, it's fun, useful, and, i think, necessary and a good thing, that all this discussion is not only going on, but possible in our (even if relatively) free society

  • Carol Horton says:

    I think that it's disingenuous to claim that you can become politically active without in some sense choosing sides. True, as yogis, we recognize our interconnectedness, and there are no sides. As citizens, however, we need to recognize the reality of social divisions and power imbalances, and the necessity of choosing which movements, candidates, ideas, and policies to support. Which means choosing sides.

    Particularly what's going on in the world today (which is well expressed in this post), I think that we should commit to being yogis AND citizens. Otherwise yoga can easily become a way of hiding out from the world; even a cop out or evasion of social responsibility.

    Personally, I have no problem choosing sides when it comes to Occupy Wall Street: I'm for it. And yes, that means that I'm against policies such as opposing tax increases for the wealthy, deregulating the environment, gutting Medicare, ending public education, and so on.

    If you refuse to recognize that supporting OWS is taking sides in an unfolding social conflict, you're fooling yourself. That doesn't mean hating or dehumanizing your opponents, but it does mean recognizing that you disagree on very important issues and are willing to fight for your position.

    Did Gandi choose sides? Martin Luther King? Jesus? Arjuna? Yes. They all chose sides. With love.

    • dsunshine says:

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    • yoga-adan says:

      i'll play devil's advocate carol –

      is choosing the side of "love" fighting? as most people understand "fighting" ?

      is a flat tax not an out from the either/or raise-their-taxes-not-mine continous argument (and which would provide a psychological integrity to every working person in the country, ie, we all contribute as per what we make) ?

      where is the call to end lobbyists that control (as it appears to be) our elected representatives and environmental and drug agencies? and thus force responsibility on the majority of people to be aware and conscious and participatory?

      did jesus really choose sides? or see both sides? all sides? all people?

      the same with martin luther – was he an advocate for fighting? or for justice and freedom and love, for ALL of us?

      is the perennial necessity for the majority of people to "wake up" and be conscious, reason enough to choose one of two sides, and not find the third and fourth and fifth et al common grounds possible to choose from?

      but i think you are most right, why has jesus and martin luther endured? my feeling? because they did choose, but they chose love

      i know for me, thinking into the grey areas has been one of my most challenging calls in life (i was very quick to blame when i was much younger ;-) ), and i think the things you bring up carol, and the opportunity we all have in today's communications-level world, is, to paraphrase dickens, the best of times (yet) in what may well be, the worst of times (potentially)

      • Carol Horton says:

        I think that it's possible to "fight" nonviolently, and that that's what MLK was doing. And, he believed he was fighting for all, and acting out of love. But of course many disagreed – and often violently. These seem to me simply facts.

        There may be more than two sides to any issue – but there are sides, and there will be divisions. I would hope that a practice like yoga would help us to develop the discipline necessary to engage in divisive issues without getting pulled into demonizing opponents. It's possible to be on the opposing sides of important issues without hating each other – and that's clearly needed right now in a big way.

        It's also true however that this impetus can come from many other places – there are whole centers dedicated to training people in nonviolent communication, for example. The yoga world seems to be so conflict averse that it idealizes political disengagement in a way that I don't agree with at all. However, the service model seems to be more palatable, and that's certainly very worthwhile and needed too.

        Perhaps the more spiritually attuned models of political engagement will need to come from elsewhere – e.g., socially engaged Buddhists, Catholic Workers, progressive Protestants all have such traditions. I do hope that something like that becomes a stronger cultural force, because I feel that we need it. It doesn't seem like it will come from yoga, though.

        • dsunshine says:

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    • harikirtana says:

      I'm in complete agreement with you, Carol. Traditional yoga wisdom texts encourage us, as yogis, to use our intelligence, our power of critical thinking, to ascertain the difference between what is real (spiritual, permanent, unchanging) and what is illusory (material, fleeting, incorrect perception) and wholeheartedly reject material conceptions that perpetuate illusion in favor of yogic conceptions that liberate us from illusion. A socio-economic system that is unfair, cruel, and unsustainable can only exist as a function of illusion whereas a system that supports equal opportunity, compassion, and sustainability is a system that reflects and supports yogic values. If we perceive the Tea Party / Wall Street ethos as inherently antithetical to the values of yoga then obviously yogis should vigorously oppose it. "Armed with yoga, stand and fight" (BG 4.42).

    • Chelsea says:

      Really good point, Carol. Touche. I think I was dancing around my point there, sort of trying to soften the blow instead of stating what I really mean. You're right. In many cases active citizenship does require we take a side, but I think we can do so without being divisive. And I don't think taking a side always has to be so absolute.

      For myself, I agree with many of the sentiments being expressed by the OccupyWallstreet crowd, but I see a lot of shortsightedness in the discourse, and I'm not sure I've completely "taken a side" as of yet. The notion that we have to come down on one side or the other, in a black and white sort of way, eliminates the possibility that there is some grayness in between. The OWS crowd seems very quick to point the fingers at the big-bad-corporate executives, but far too unwilling to turn the light back on themselves. Take this message from the statement Keith Olbermann read last week:

      "“They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

      They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

      They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

      They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.”

      I am all for taking a stand against government corruption, workplace discrimination, environmental degradation, etc… but I disagree that the onus is all on Wallstreet. We — the 99% — had a hand in this too. They didn’t just take people's houses, individuals asked for loans for homes that really never should have been purchased in the first place. They didn't just poison our food supply… we have perpetuated ugliness of our food system by demanding cheaper, faster, and more convenient products. That's not to say this is "all our own fault" or suggest that these issues aren't incredibly complex, with underlying sociopolitical dynamics at play. But if we're going to find a solution, there need to be accountability on all sides.

      I am more than willing to take sides on principles and ethics (equality, non-violence, truth, etc), and I think that's what the great historical figures you mentioned did. It wasn't "I'm for the Indians," it was "I'm for Truth."

      One question I think the yoga community might be apt to discuss is whether we all stand together on certain ethical principles (e.g. the yamas and niyamas) and if so, just how open to interpretation the application of those principles is for hot-button political issues like abortion or the death penalty. It's an interesting question, and one I don't yet have the answer to myself. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

      • yoga-adan says:

        "if we're going to find a solution, there need to be accountability on all sides" –

        finally, in one sentence, just took a bit of work ;-) thank you much!

        • Carol Horton says:

          If you're basically in agreement with the movement, but have differences with rhetoric like Olberman's, that strikes me as an excellent reason to get involved.

  • Andy says:

    I sympathize with the Wall St. protesters, and tend to lean left politically. I'm not feeling this "movement" though. Sure, I do lament the extreme lurch righward of this country, where a democratic president/senate and congress can't get through much more than middle of the road, republican-lite legislation.

    But I don't really see why a simple adjustment to the progressive tax code w/ the intent of fixing the historically bad income inequality requires such hysterical hoopla and comparisons to the true struggles of Ghandi and MLK.

    And it truly gives me douche-shivers to see people raising their expensive yoga mats in some sort of fight the power gesture. Ew.

    • dsunshine says:

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  • IfeTogun says:

    I'm more inclined to focus on the motive behind becoming political. If you truly feel moved to speak up against something, no matter what side of the matter you fall on, then that's being "consciously political"–assuming, of course, that you are knowledgable about both side of the issue. However, if you act simply because you THINK it's what you're suppose do (as in "I'm a yogi therefore…), I see very little value in that. In fact, I'd be willing to bet you'd do more damage than good.

    • Chelsea says:

      Absolutely, Ife. What I'm seeing a lot of is "The people are yogis, therefore they shouldn't get political." I think it goes either way. It's completely disingenuous (and ineffective, I think) to take a political stand simply because it seems like the yogic thing to do. I wouldn't encourage yogis go pick up a sign at their nearest Occupy camp simply because it seems like the right thing to do. It's similar to the problems you've pointed out before with service ("I'm going to feed the poor because it will make me a good person"). Acting from a place of authenticity is essential. If one doesn't feel compelled to get involved with OWS, by all means don't. It's Joseph Campbell again…. "Follow your bliss."

      • IfeTogun says:

        Hear, hear! : )

        • Carol Horton says:

          I agree that it's wrong to suggest that yoga practitioners "should" be political. I don't think that it's wrong, however, to say that ALL citizens in a democracy have a responsibility to try their best to stay informed about relevant political issues, make the most intelligent choices they can, and get involved as circumstances permit. That may not mean supporting OWS – but it should mean something. Yoga should not be an excuse for tuning out, disengaging, and not thinking. It may feel more "blissful" to have your head in the sand – calling that "yoga" doesn't make it cool IMHO.

          • IfeTogun says:

            Carol, I think we're saying the same thing. Never said anything about tuning out or disengaging or sticking heads in sand. But if an issue doesn't move you, why would you fake it? That, to me, is far worse than sticking your head in the sand–it's phony. We don't all have to stand up at the same time for the same thing, as long as we stand up for what we TRULY believe in, whatever that might be.

  • roseanne says:

    I love the idea of yogis being political without getting divisive. If anyone should be able to do that, it's the yoga community. But, although my personal vision of yoga includes left-leaning political engagement and social responsibility, I have to understand and respect that not every yoga practitioner sees their practice in the same light. I also can't assume that another yogi's politics lean to the left (although i have to admit that i can't comprehend how somebody could embrace both yogic and right-wing values – but i'm open to being convinced!). As you point out, Chelsea, "getting political" means different things to different people.

    I completely support the OWS movement, I love watching how it's unfolding, and I think it's amazing that Seane Corn stepped up and had a presence there. But I'm not comfortable with her and Off the Mat's presence being representative of the "yoga community" ~ the community is undefined, diverse, with multiple views. They are simply one faction of the community, as loose and broad is it may be. I love your suggestion for the yoga community to discuss where it stands on ethical principles, as informed by the yamas/niyamas, and I think that might be a good entry point for social engagement.

    I gravitate towards politically engaged yoga and teachers who are willing to take a stand on politics (and who have an intellectual, thoughtful bent). I would love to see more engagement within the whole community, but I can also understand why people want to keep their practice and politics separate. Many people do yoga simply for health and stress reduction; politics are stressful, discussion can be heartbreaking and frustrating.

    These are just some of my random, incoherent thoughts on this great, provocative post. Basically, I support politicized yoga, I want to celebrate the practitioners who have to courage to integrate their practice and politics, but I'm wary of insisting that yogis "should" be political, I don't want to feel disappointed that more of the community doesn't see things the way I do. What I'd love to see within the community is openness, tolerance and listening, so the different views and positions don't necessarily have to be divisive.

    • Chelsea says:

      Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, Roseanne– I didn't find them incoherent whatsoever! I agree that OTM's presence at OWS (how bout those acronyms?) shouldn't be representative of the yoga community in general… but I think if it's coming off that way, it's because we're making it so. As you point out, the people who practice yoga around the world are incredibly diverse… and I'd love to see a presence at just as diverse of forums (and that does't necessarily mean teaching asana or talking about yoga). A self-identified "conservative libertarian" on Elephant Journal responded to my article asking why Seane Corn hadn't gone to a Tea Party rally to help those protestors "find their voice"…. My response was, "Why haven't you?" If OTM is being presented as the face of yoga in politics, it's because they're the ones out there getting engaged and then talking about it.

      And finally, I agree that we don't need to get into a space of saying yogis "should" be political. Because I think that "should" completely misses the point… we are ALL political, whether we want to be or not. I think we take political action every time we buy groceries (I think of my dollars like votes), and it's just a matter of us bringing awareness to the political consequences of our choices. If we "should" be doing anything, perhaps it's just be thinking about it. Nothing divisive about that. :)

      Thanks again for sharing your reflections here, Roseanne. I love your blog and really value your presence in this community.

  • Alfonso says:

    wow, a slippery slope indeed! I mean apart from the VERY complex issues at hand (laws, regs, accounting standards, politics, etc, etc) and each individuals opinions and thoughts on the subject that are most likely brought about by their life experiences, education, race/sex, community/government and on and on…we’re now bringing yoga/spirituality principles into the fold! continued…

  • Alfonso says:

    To me that doesn’t seem appropriate! I’m not sure it’s even your question as we can all have opinions and beliefs and as a yoga practitioner or even as a yogi/spiritual leader you can and probably should back them. But applying yoga principles and beliefs to this cause is all wrong, at least based on my very basic and humble knowledge of what the Goal of yoga really is!
    So applying them to causes such as this is very hard for me to understand! And believe me I’m not looking to debate this as the facts and theory can be twisted in any which way, but I wanted to respond because what is going on does kind of annoy me! It’s not the cause “occupy wall street” that annoys me though, it’s seeing and hearing organizations like OTM and different yogin making comments and using words like “the yoga community”! So again by all means go out and be heard, express your own thoughts and opinions to create change! But do it without bringing the ancient practice of yoga into it! Now let me go meditate on these samskras that have me annoyed!

    • Chelsea says:

      I'm not quite clear what you're saying here, Alfonso. What exactly do you find problematic about "bringing the ancient practice of yoga" to bear when evaluating modern day situations? If this practice was supposed to stay bound to the pages of holy books… well why practice at all? Reading your comment makes me think of Gandhi; what if he had decided that what he read in the Bhagavad Gita didn't need to be "twisted" or applied to the circumstances he was facing in India? Certainly, the economic issues are complex, but since when can yoga not be applied in complex situations? I feel confused. Maybe you can help clarify…

  • Alfonso says:

    Can I ask questions to clarify my point? I think that will lead you to my point the fastest? If so, what is your goal with your yoga practice?

  • prettyhumanbeings says:

    Ever since I listened to the interview with Eric Greitens (in my article "The Way of the Warrior") I have thought deeply about the relationship between compassion and violence. I have considered that even when we do not incite violence, there is always some kind of causality when we assert our values. As Greitens said, “To be a real warrior means that you develop your strength in order to be of service to others.” But to serve others often means fighting against the powers that oppress.
    As long as we are living in the world as active citizens, we will not be perfect yogis. Our voices will cause division no matter how careful we are and our truth will hurt others no matter how gently we speak it. There is only so much that we have control over and at some point we have to trust our own intentions, take responsibility for our shadows and then act with the integrity of citizens who care about our communities.
    I want so so badly to believe you that conscious political actions does not mean we have to be divisive, but I think that the bottom line is that it's not entirely up to us. The very nature of relationship means that not only will we give, but others will receive. Often times others will receive us as divisive regardless of our intentions and I don't believe that should keep us from speaking and acting in truth.
    I am really grateful this discussion is happening here on yoga modern and I am grateful for your voice and experience. Thanks for the vulnerability.

  • MUHD says:

    I have also been thinking about the intersection of yoga and OWS, and politics altogether. I am so relieved to find a conversation here. I felt compelled in my classes last week to bring in elements of the protests and yoga activism. But what to say exactly brought up many of the issues being discussed here. I had to bring it back to the body. It is tempting in this day and age to not feel fully. To find ways of distracting yourself from having to really feel the often disheartening character of this time. We see it on the mat all the time, when we don't want to feel whatever it is that is keeping us from the pose we aspire. Or in a relationship. Or within ourselves. We protect ourselves from what is painful and daunting. It is this aversion to go into the dark. But where does courage come from if not fear? Where does strength come from if not realizing our weakness? Where does empowerment come from if not from confronting injustice? (Not to be too dramatic). Where does a good solution come from if not total honesty for the problem? To be a yogi and an activist, maybe shouldn't be such a decision, but a authentic, fearless response to a strong feeling. Rather than thinking with our very intelligent and intellectual brain, we, as yogis, need to deeply feel, to sink into the reality of what is going on, recognize how it makes us feel, and allow the response to that feeling to move you. This is the fluidity of yoga, yoga as a healing art. The world needs healing, for sure. The body, the heart, the spirit, even the breath have all the strength and power to make incredible transformation, yet there is also respect for all other expressions/experiences of maya. Yes it is devisive, but not without respect, compassion and peace for whomever may be on an opposing side. We can't be controlling over what the yogi stands for, but we can encourage everyone to deeply feel, get out of denial and ACT accordingly. Realize and respond. Breath in and breath out. Feel (deeply) and express. The body suffers when this rhythm is disassembled.
    I love the discussion here and truly appreciate the space to disagree and evolve the conversation.

  • LivingSatNam says:

    "At the risk of sounding ridiculous,
    let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love" Ernesto Che Guevara, Thank You so much Chelsea

  • MUHD says:

    I have also been thinking about the intersection of yoga and OWS, and politics altogether. I am so relieved to find a conversation here. I felt compelled in my classes last week to bring in elements of the protests and yoga activism. But what to say exactly brought up many of the issues being discussed here. I had to bring it back to the body. It is tempting in this day and age to not feel fully. To find ways of distracting yourself from having to really feel the often disheartening character of this time. We see it on the mat all the time, when we don't want to feel whatever it is that is keeping us from the pose we aspire. Or in a relationship. Or within ourselves. We protect ourselves from what is painful and daunting. It is this aversion to go into the dark. But where does courage come from if not fear? Where does strength come from if not realizing our weakness? Where does empowerment come from if not from confronting injustice? (Not to be too dramatic). Where does a good solution come from if not total honesty for the problem? To be a yogi and an activist, maybe shouldn't be such a decision, but a authentic, fearless response to a strong feeling. Rather than thinking with our very intelligent and intellectual brain, we, as yogis, need to deeply feel, to sink into the reality of what is going on, recognize how it makes us feel, and allow the response to that feeling to move you. This is the fluidity of yoga, yoga as a healing art. The world needs healing, for sure. The body, the heart, the spirit, even the breath have all the strength and power to make incredible transformation, yet there is also respect for all other expressions/experiences of maya. Yes it is devisive, but not without respect, compassion and peace for whomever may be on an opposing side. We can't be controlling over what the yogi stands for, but we can encourage everyone to deeply feel, get out of denial and ACT accordingly. Realize and respond. Breath in and breath out. Feel (deeply) and express. The body suffers when this rhythm is disassembled.

  • deAnna says:

    Very good article, Chelsea! My teacher, Sharon Gannon, speaks about the relationship between yoga and politics extensively. You might enjoy some of her writing in the Focus of the Month archives on the Jivamukti website. It's good to ask these questions. They influence my writing a lot too. They lead to deeper understanding of ourselves and our purpose. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna essentially tells Arjuna to fight or be labeled a coward. He said the issue lies in motivation. Where is the action coming from? Service and compassion or fear and greed, for example. It's one of the great yogic paradoxes. To act or not to act and why? It's personal choice. Keep writing.