Like so many, over the past month I’ve thrown myself into anti-racist work, in books and workshops directly related to yoga and outside of yoga. I’ve been considering how this work dovetails with yoga and how it doesn’t as I incorporate it into my life.
Anti-racism and yoga are not the same thing; however you can’t truly practice yoga and not do the work of dismantling racism. I’m not saying anything new here. But I felt for myself that this was important to clarify and share.
I am not a teacher of anti-racism. I am a teacher of yoga. And I am a human dedicated to dismantling racism.
The Purpose of Anti-Racism Work
Anti-racism work is messy, uncomfortable work. It is work of unlearning ways of being we’ve been socialized into. It is the work of waking up to how we’ve impacted others, how we’ve been complicit in structural racism. I find for myself as I read books like Me and White Supremacy and White Fragility, I have to make myself pause and sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come up, sometimes for days, rather than rush through or run from it.
This sitting with the uncomfortable without reacting in old, unconscious ways is what I learned from my yoga practice.
Anti-racism work is work we do to dismantle racism and for collective healing.
The Purpose of Yoga
We come to yoga for many reasons, but it’s often because there is some kind of pain in our life. We are stressed or our body hurts or our heart hurts. It is a yearning for feeling more at ease in our life.
Yoga is a practice to return to our innate wholeness, a place of harmony between mind, body and spirit. A return to that field of consciousness where we are connected to every other living being and everything in this world. Our practice of yoga is a practice of becoming conscious of our thoughts, words and actions and how these things impact ourselves and others. It is at times uncomfortable, but we learn to sit with the uncomfortable. We learn that we are not these thoughts or words or actions – that we are something bigger than the mind. And at the same time, we are known by our words and actions. They matter. It’s not an either/or. On the deepest level within, we are one, and we experience the world differently.
How They Relate
Our yoga practice can be the foundation for anti-racism work. To truly practice yoga requires us to consider the experiences of others and remember our connection. Everything in this world is intertwined. Because of this, our thoughts and actions affect others. And if others are hurting, we are affected. We can consider it through the idea of Karma. Karma is not a curse on our past actions, rather an acknowledgement that everything we do has an effect. If we are harming others, it affects us in seen and unseen ways. If we investigate the effect of systematic racism, we discover that it impacts all of society in destructive ways.
Our yoga practice is for our benefit and for the benefit of the world, because we are part of the world and it is part of us. Our practice is to connect to the deepest part of ourselves that is beyond time and it is to connect back out into the world in this time.
I have so much to learn about systematic racism and my own role. To my BIPOC students and friends, I welcome your perspective on this and your experience in yoga and my classes. I welcome your feedback when I misstep. I understand there are ways racism is expressed that I don’t see because of my background.
As I was writing this, the other thing that came through to me is the subject of yoga and cultural exploitation, which is another blog post. I’ll keep sharing.
I welcome your feedback and perspectives. This isn’t work that can or should be done in a bubble.