I have no answers to contribute to the current state of affairs in our country and on the planet. I can only go deep into the shadow of my own psyche where impulses exist to be fearful, to loudly proclaim my own righteousness, to externalize the challenges so they all present themselves as outside of me rather than own my own complicity to the chaos and heaviness. Here in my own psyche, these can all be found.
Our culture celebrates and worships hyper individuality. The “self made” person is lauded above all else. Much of Religion focuses exclusively on the personal path of salvation. Yoga and meditation practice can resemble naval gazing without either of these communities being regularly engaged with the outside world but seen as a refuge from it.
So, for me the direction is to create a refuge, but not so I can keep with the status quo and remain focused on myself, but so I can authentically create sanctuary for myself and be in alignment with how to create that space where the possibility for healing and transformation can exist for others. Inviting the practice to be a refuge and to create a process for remembering who we are and how we are all connected.
I teach these as tools for survival in jail, shelter, rehab, mental institutions. We have to be able to catch glimpses of ourselves as human beings that have an intact identity and an inherent worth that is not contingent about external validation or acceptance and to be able to think, speak, act and live from this awareness, choosing skillful action. So, yoga to me is never about perfecting a form. Looking a certain way. Doing things perfectly right. That approach will never serve people who have forgotten who they are. Who need to do the work from the inside out. I need to do my own work this way. I am in the constant process of discovering and unpacking my own needs for external validation. The myriad ways I have been socialized to believe things about money, scarcity, abundance, physical appearance, aging, what is appropriate for a woman in her 50’s to wear, to do, to be.
In the ethics of yoga, one of the niyamas, santosha, referred to as contentment has always challenged me especially teaching in the settings I teach. It has felt uncomfortable and privileged for me to teach this idea of being in this very moment and allowing it to be as it is when systems of oppression have created in some measure, the current circumstances for the women I teach.
Doing the anti oppression work I have been doing for the last several years with Off the Mat, Yoga Service, Yoga and Body Image Coalition, Roots Deeper Than Whitness, SURJ founder Chris Crass and his partner Jardana Peacock, rev angel kyodo williams and more. I have come to a different understanding of santosha. This has unfolded as valuing yourself as an inherently whole human being holding within you the full potential of your Self regardless of how culture views you. Showing up loving yourself and what you love without apology. Grounding, Connecting and Opening you heart and Taking. Up. Space. Dancing, singing, sharing, celebrating, mourning, supporting and loving in this space where there are others.
So this is my vision, it continues to unfold in the various settings I have community partnerships sharing the practice and tools for wellness with people who otherwise do not have access. Thanks to an inspiring class from Pranidhi Varshney this morning, I am beginning to see the vision emerging in the home studio. She is modeling the idea of yoga as a community rather than a transactional, commercial wellness industry.
I am going to be shifting my language to replicate more of this model. I started offering all my classes here as donation based and am changing that language to more reflect the Yama of Asteya to be contribution rather than donation. It may seem like semantics but inviting people to make the contribution they are able can also include things other than money. It can be a trade for a service. It can certainly mean baked goods. I have the absolute trust that living in this abundance, creating this community here where people can show up not needing to be perfect, creating generous space for each other, allowing vulnerability, inviting curiosity and the willingness to your own work in the shadow and the light so we can co create this world where all beings have access to essential resources including tools of wellness, can freely and safely navigate in their environment and seek to live in peace.
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