If you haven’t heard, the Huffington Post and yoga activism organization Off The Mat collaborated last week to bring yoga, meditation, massages and healthy eats to the Republican National Convention in a space they called the Oasis (which, it should be noted, was also open to the public; if you could get past security, of course). Since then, the internets have been swirling with responses ranging from the casual eyeroll to frustration and outright disgust.
Part of this had to do with suspicion that these volunteers were not paid, much like how HuffPo writers are not paid (turns out a $40k donation was made to OTM for their time. Though the jury’s still out on the masseuses). But most of the criticism came from within the yoga community where throw-your-hands-up-in-disgust asana was the position of choice. Did OTM jump off the mat too far?
Via It’s All Yoga, Baby:
The only thing more embarrassing than Clint Eastwood’s rambling and incoherent speech was the Huffington Oasis, an Off The Mat, Into The World collaboration with the Huffington Post. The Oasis offered up massages, yoga classes, organic food and smoothies for RNC delegates and media.
Another Canadian yoga blogger (yes, it’s noted neither are American) echoes the sentiment.
However, I have no illusions that a few days offering yoga or meditation or organic food is going to spark a revolution. Create the kind of systemic change this country, this world really is in need of. Suggesting that such an offering is anything other than a short term soothing balm is to trivialize practice. To trivialize what takes decades to bring about in individuals committed to the practice. What OTM and Huffington Post are doing is basically offering some pampering to people who are already being pampered. Because they are needed in order to make the circus look real and legitimate.
The way I see it, if you are going to do activism, go for the systemic roots. And if you are going to do service, find people who are actually in need. Lord knows that’s really not a difficult task. How OTM and Huffington managed to bungle both is an understandable consequence of unexamined, privileged narratives, but still a little surprising in magnitude all the same.
Arianna Huffington published an article (on her own site, natch) where she provides an explanation of the Oasis and, almost in defense, suggests parallels between relieving stress and relieving poverty. “Chronic stress becomes the mechanism by which poverty can actually cause destructive changes in brain development,” she posits. And so this Oasis set up at the conventions (it will be at the Democratic National Convention this week, too) is somehow a link to stress relief in policymakers and therefore improved public policy and reduced poverty by showing how lower stress is better for everyone. Uh, it’s a stretch, but we see where she might be going.
The public health benefits of stress reduction are so obvious that it is a shame prevention was not a more significant part of health care reform.
And as for the quest for the ever-elusive goal of bipartisanship, it has to begin with seeing the humanity of the other side. And it’s hard to see another’s humanity if we don’t feel connected to our own.
Here’s a video of Arianna Huffington, Seane Corn and OTM’s executive director Kerri Kelly talking about the mission of The Oasis.
The Oasis team have already touched down in Charlotte, NC for the DNC this week. Seane Corn dispatches from her facebook page:
Just met Nancy Pelosi. She told me that she believed that yoga and meditation were preventative practices in our health care and that we should invest in our health by utilizing these modalities. I love her. x
Those of you familiar with Seane Corn, who have ever taken a class with her, have heard her quick-talking, yogevangelizing stump speeches, have seen her down at Occupy Wall Street, know that she is not just a yoga teacher, but an orator and a pseudo-politician, in the sense that she wishes to affect policy without actually having to assume the position, so to speak. Somehow that is both respectable and annoying.
Giving the benefit of the doubt, we’re willing to bet that being at these political conventions is Seane’s idea of getting close to politics, and possibly forging relationships and/or attempting recon in order to achieve OTM’s mission of using “the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.” Perhaps yoga at political conventions doesn’t shout grassroots, though no one can deny OTM has been trying that route for years. Maybe they’ve resorted to nuzzling up to bigger dogs with deeper pockets. Or perhaps she, and OTM have jumped the mat and missed the point entirely.
In the spirit of democracy (!) we’d love to hear what you have to say.
OTM’s involvement in the Oasis is visionary. not because it’s free and clear of questions, diceyness and truly valid pushback, but because that was obvious all along and they — no, we — did it anyway. we chose, and choose, to not be shouted down by our community, but to listen to what the concerns are and step outside the box anyway. it’s fierce and we need fierce right about now because we’re in a shitstorm no matter what side of the aisle you’re looking from. we need fierce on all of our behalves, though, not just for half of us or 52% or 270 electoral votes. because when it’s all over, we have to live with each other.
will that happen in 1 yoga class presented by a lefty do-gooder yogi, sponsored by a conservative-turned-progressive-hell-on-wheels of a woman? maybe not. (though something pretty unlikely happened four years ago.) but if someone’s got the answer, bring it on. i’ll get off my yoga mat, meditation cushion and soapbox and get behind it.
let’s have a dialogue, good people. with our fierce convictions and in respectful opposition, let’s find a better way than we have been because pendulum-swinging back and forth isn’t working for anyone but those that thrive off of our loss of hope that we’ll get anywhere at all.
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- Because They Got High: Yogis Roll and Smoke ‘Intention Joints’ at Yoga Festival
- Huffington Post Makes Headlines for Free Yoga ‘Oasis’ at RNC
- Do Your Yoga and Politics Mix? Off the Mat Wants to Know (Take the Survey)