Oh, politics. Though we practice finding balance in yoga, we still can’t escape them! Should we? The Huffington Post and Off The Mat thought it a good idea to have the two collide.
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.
UPDATE: Here’s a portion of a comment left at ITYB from Angel Kyodo Williams who is anchoring http://mindfulvotes.org, a sister campaign to OTM’s http://yogavotes.org:
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.
- Taking it to the Streets: How to Bring Yoga to At-Risk Youth
- What’s Your Yoga Style? [Infographic]
- 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)
Naive, and self-agrrandizing, to characterize what OTM did as “fierce.” It was a stupid move. You can’t have a conversation with party-conservatives; they lie, they insult, and the war-monger. What few intellectuals were left among them are running screaming in horror. Corne can do whatever she wants. But it’s ridiculous to assume that making people feel good promote ethics, morality or conscience. Plenty of men on both sides of the aisle make lots of use of “happy ending” massage parlors, prostitutes, mistresses, and so on. Corne And Huffington made asses of themselves, just as Eastwood did.
Agreed! There is nothing fierce about presenting the spa lifestyle for free to people who most likely are already participating in it. If not they can certainly afford it.
Is it really a lack of foot rubs or plank positions that explains someone like Rush Limbaugh?
So, Yoga is only for certain people and not all people?
Keep up the judgement!
HM and ilk: You’re a judgmental lot, aren’t you? I’m a yoga instructor, a registered Republican, an avid financial supporter of numerous charities in my area. I DO NOT live a spa lifestyle, own a jet or lie, cheat and steal. Hell, I haven’t even had vacation in over 14 months. I live in an African American neighborhood and drive a used car. I own and operate a business, employ people and pay my taxes. Am I a piece of s**t who doesn’t deserve yoga? To all of you judgmental liberals casting stones, I have this to say to you: NamasteMoFos
Good for Sean Corne. I have a respect for her knowing she is making the attempt to reach out and bring yoga to ALL PEOPLE.
If yoga is presented and respected then it should not matter what the backdrop is. We always are encouraging more people to try yoga and then see if yoga if for them. We have to encourage everyone to try yoga and see if it is an experience they want to repeat. Yoga is for everyone but everyone is not for yoga.
This is why I do a yoga-pilates fusion practice, sequenced myself. Yoga is NOT for me, except when it is.
I live it off the mat – sorry to say – in the patience I extend to people where I work … don’t have the time and money for noblesse oblige junkets to impoverished lands …
But, hey, when a P.R. dossier is being put together, the everyday does not count … except when it can …
For the record, although sometimes I’d love to be Canadian, I am in fact American. I live in Minnesota.
Also, with Kyodo Williams call for fierceness and dialogue across difference, it would be visionary if they took this to the halls of Congress and had a continual presence during the next legislative session. As I wrote in my post, the conventions are so devoid of substance that it’s very difficult for me to take this effort seriously. However, something like a Congressional Yoga and Meditation project – that I could take seriously.
Yes, but the Twin Cities are as close to Canadian as you can get in the U.S., I think 🙂
Particularly with the fairly generous public health insurance options.
But Canadians are rumored to be friendlier than Minnesotans …
The thing that makes me most uncomfortable is the fact that these people take themselves way, way too seriously. Okay, so that’s how it looks from my point of view.
” 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. ”
That’s it in a nutshell. This is a political event. Everyone there represents someone or something. Who made OTM the representative of Yoga in American?? Then, while recognizing that there is a larger community, OTM pats itself on the back for ignoring the concerns of that community which it further acknowledges that it heard.
I’m no poster child for the 8 values of yoga, and certainly I’ve got my “Go, me!” moments, but self-aggrandizement is not yoga.
If they want to do it, go ahead. However, they should not pretend they’re doing it for the greater good of yoga, or anything other than the real mission: become pals with people in power. They’re lobbyists, thru and thru, offering a service in place of money to those they seek to influence.
Why not spend that $40K on offering free classes in places where there are no politically influential people?
I have no problem offering classes to the powerful. But, they pay for them. Free services to people in government? If I want to offer a class to the cops at my local station, that’s just me. I only represent myself. However, OTM is an organization and it’s different. Or do corporations become the same as people when they espouse values we like?
There’s nothing cool or admirable about this. I like the idea of providing service to people with whom I disagree. But OTM does not represent me and in this context, they ostensibly make the case that they do. Uncool.
I’m with you on that!
I saw Seane back in May for a class she taught in upstate NY. She had mentioned toward the end that OTM was going to both the RNC and DNC; I think this was perhaps as a way of avoiding political bias and trying to encourage a dialogue on both sides–especially the Republican side of things. We would almost expect yoga at a more leftwing event like the DNC, but by bringing it to the RNC, I think the goal was, in a sense, to spread the message of compassion and service that OTM encourages. (The studio I go to is a big donor to the SEVA challenge each year, so I get to hear a lot about how the organization helps others.)
To be honest, when I heard about this back in May, I thought it sounded pretty ridiculous. I don’t know how successful they were at either convention since I wasn’t there; I imagine it being really awkward at the RNC, but that could be my own bias speaking here since I can’t exactly picture them being a receptive crowd. However, I think they had potential here to educate others at both events on what OTM is and the good that they do. Yes, both events catered to those who are likely already getting free stuff, but I’d say the day was a success if anybody from either party decided to do a bit of digging and learn about Seane’s organization. Maybe, just maybe, if they were interested, they could look at how supporting something like OTM could blend into their politics–or even get them to reconsider where they stand on certain issues.
Or maybe that’s being too idealistic. I’m not sure. I do think that trying to bridge some gaps in the current “Us vs. Them” mentality that seems to be overtaking our political discourse seems like a step in the right direction, but it will take some time to figure out how much of a step that was.
TL; DR: I like the intent behind OTM’s actions, but I’m not sure if they executed it well enough.
I’ve thought both that Corne’s OTM activism impulses are generally good and that she takes herself a bit too seriously. This problem seems rife among the traveler-yoga-superstar set — they seem to live in a cucoon of airplaines, airports, and hotel rooms, convention center conferences and festivals. A little “go out among the people” happens, but not as much as their oh-so-pious-and-spiritual-and-hopeful-but-strong-gazing-off-into-the-distance-with-determination headshots might imply.
This smacks of festival. I don’t think that bringing the festival to the convention is doing anybody any favors.
Even McD’s seems to be getting the message :
And yet, there are still some Bendy-People-Yogi-Wannabees out there, still foolishly trying to hold on to their Mat AND their Meat !
Why not? Yoga is a form of exercise, and meat protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. I do yoga and then have a 20 oz steak. I’m not Hindu (and I’m guessing you aren’t either) so who gives a fuck.
India McDonald’s Lamb Burgers are pretty seriously delicious, though.
Thanks for standing up and driving home my point. You are no Yogi, you are just a Bendy-Person, who regularly violates the Yogic principle of Ahimsa.
Am I a Hindu ? I think I’m getting there.
I take your comment to mean that you don’t violate ahimsa? If you think so, I believe your understanding of ahimsa is too simplistic. Either way, the Yogic discipline is about showing people the path, not trying to guilt or judge them into conforming to your notion of what is and is not yoga. That approach, my friend, is himsa…
In Sanskrit, Ahimsa = ” Non-Violence “.
Now, there is NO such thing as cruelty-free-meat. ALL meat is born of death and violence.
Therefore, of needs, Ahimsa = being Vegetarian. And Yogis are required to adhere to the Yogic Principle of Ahimsa. Therefore, Yogis are required to be vegetarian. And, there’s no wriggle-room on any of that – that’s not just “MY notion”, it’s what Patanjali himself laid out.
It’s not violence to throw the flag on a foul, but it IS violence to cut up animals, when the vegetarian options are so readily available.
I don’t recall saying that there is such a thing as “cruelty-free-meat” (unless the farmer waits till they die of natural causes, but I imagine that’s not too common). However, you evaded my question: do you practice ahimsa perfectly? Again, if you say yes, then your definition is too narrow; if you say no, then you can do to have some patience and compassion for others (to do otherwise is to do them violence).
Next, Patanjali is *one* figure within yoga and his word is not the infallible final word on what is or is not yoga (are you importing Christian principles of scriptural infallibility into the yogic tradition?). My particular yoga practice is significantly more Buddhist than Hindi, which is also contrary to Patanjali’s understanding of yoga (e.g., the Buddhist notion of non-self/anatman is quite different than Patanjali’s approach): am I, just for that reason, then just another “bendy-person” who’s not practicing “real” yoga because my practice differs from Patanjali’s understanding of the practice?
The issue here isn’t that vegetarianism is a natural extension of ahimsa, but that you are requiring of everyone that they be a perfect yogi in that respect before they can rightly accept the term “yogi”. Yoga, much like Buddhism, has adapted and changed as it has related to different cultures and it is a blanket term that covers a wide range of intentions and practices. The *only* issue is whether someone is gaining something from their practice *in accordance with their current state*: not everyone is in a place to accept and practice yoga as a spiritual discipline, but they can gain much from its stress-reducing effect that increases the gentleness and compassion in the world. That is something to be celebrated, not denigrated because they are just becoming a “bendy-person”. I regularly teach meditation to interested students, however I don’t approach it in terms of enlightenment or Buddha nature because not everyone is ready for that teaching, so I teach it more in terms of stress reduction and simply delving more completely into the present moment. Some would say that that is “Buddhist lite”, but I say it is skillful means by teaching in accordance with the student’s particular interested and capacity.
Yoga is all-Hindu. Patanjali is generally considered the ultimate authority on Yoga.
For some reason, there is a fallacious tendency in Western minds to associate all Eastern wisdom with Buddhism and with China !
Of course, Buddhism is itself an offshoot of Hinduism, Buddhism having been founded by the Hindu prince Siddhartha Gautama.
It is an obfuscation to dismiss Patanjali’s yamas and niyamas as just one perspective. Yoga, Jain, Buddhist thought, the 6 classical schools, all influenced each other. The philosophy may be different but the practices are very similar.
Many people like to say “this is my definition and it is just as good as yours” but this is obfuscation and pushing ignorance, practicing what Patanjali called moha of vitarka. Vegetarian life is integral to ahimsa and the exceptions are just that: exceptions. Those who only practice certain aspects of yoga are doing just that: practicing certain aspects. They are not practicing yoga, and are not yogins, but practicing certain aspects of yoga (Patanjali is very clear that anyone can take on the yamas and niyamas as a vow). It is only out of greed that we attach labels unnecessarily, and we don’t have to ignore our differences or be lazy or with our explanations just to set aside an attitude of us versus them.
What historical evolution are you talking about? Ahimsa has been, and is a constant thread in yoga, from well before Patanjali to the present. Perhaps you are talking about a qualified ahimsa, like a fisherman who kills fish but otherwise doesn’t kill. This is not ahimsa, it is a collection of recognized excuses and exceptions and to present it otherwise is an obfuscation.
Taking a wholistic approach to oneself must be done to really begin yoga and so I concur with you on the necessity of applying the yamas and niyamas to all levels. By starting with diet and other material practices, such as cleaning up the house, space is created for consciousness to reveal itself. Cluttering up your body with food that burdens the body, there is no space. To this end a sattvic diet is required for yoga, not a vegetarian or vegan diet, though it includes both. Everybody will have a different diet to help bring balance, but eating animals is far and away the exception and always with the understanding that it is temporary and to be set aside when not absolutely necessary. I have seen this in some yoga practitioners who eat fish once or twice a month (at most).
Vegetarian is an easy way to start cultivating sattvic living. Your suggestion that addressing inner processes first is not so much putting the cart before the horse as it is making the horse walk backwards to push the cart forwards. There is progress made but it is slow and unnecessarily so. By acting sensibly, you make space and can see these inner processes to address them appropriately. Having to wonder which way you are looking is not acting sensibly, it is purposefully acting as a hypocrite.
Obfuscation of any sort hinders this space. In other words, sattva, not rajas, not tamas.
Additionally, you say “Hindi” throughout when you mean “Hindu”. Hindi is a language, a younger cousin of Sanskrit and both find ancestry in the Vedic language. There are many languages in India as well as religious practice and thought all of which overlap. It is very misleading to confuse Hindi and Hindu.
Hindu is a problematic term as you point out. It is akin to saying Indiaism but excluding Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and tribal religion. It is a term of convenience, and is sadly used as weapon for nationalism.
That is exactly what I’ve been saying ( but perhaps, less politely than you 🙂 !
Those who, in their ignorance, try to hold on to their Mat AND their MEAT are in violation of the Yogic Principle of Ahimsa. Such people are, not Yogis, but merely Carnivorous-Bendy-Persons ( CBPs ).
Underlying the Mat-AND-Meat behavior is the not-so-noble-desire to derive the physical-health-benefits of doing Hatha-Yoga-Asanas, while still ignoring the exhorations of Yoga to eschew Himsa-laden-meat – the selfish desire to benefit from the 5000-year-old Hindu Science of Yoga, without doing one’s bit towards treading lightly on Mother Earth.
It is NOT Himsa to throw the flag on such foul-plays !
Hello Chris, thank you! I concur with you that ahimsa extends to how we treat the planet. I do feel the need to add some words about tone and temperance. While you may not have meant it in this way, to me your “CPB” reads like name calling, a way of fence-building and reenforcing identities are both of which push against the principle of aparigraha. There is a balance between satya and being a jerk (himsic) just as there is a balance between compassion and seeing past lack of virtue (karuna and upeksha). Patanjali gives weight to vairagya (not just vi-raga) for just this reason, so that in our continuing practice we can stay on the “path” without over-steping.
I am glad that people benefit from the practice even without taking any dedication, though their practice would be most effective with it. Many practices are not taught publicly for just this reason. The path Patanjali describes seems very difficult. But in our enthusiasm let us not alienate. Instead let us act so the value and use of the path can be seen, rather than the people who struggle to stay on it (like myself). The best way to do this is simply staying on it, constantly. This will obviously benefit our own practice too.
I’m afraid that I do tend to dish it out to folks who do indeed get it, but act like they don’t get it.
I feel that some people, who may have been doing Yoga even for some years, react with bewilderment and annoyance to any mention of the underlying link between Yoga and vegetarianism, simply, because their own Yoga-Studios and Yoga-instructors “forgot” to ever mention this rather important piece of information.
While the Hatha-Yoga-Asanas, and the meditation-exercises do indeed help to awaken a person and lead him/her towards the Higher-Path, participation, of any sort, in the inherently-Himsa-laden-Meat-chain, even if done out of ignorance of the Principle of Ahimsa, only serves as a detour away from the Higher-Path.
It therefore behooves any responsible Yoga-Instructor to make a “full-disclosure” to the students, in the very first Yoga-class itself, about the inviolable link between Yoga and vegetarianism.
Their is a cultural component to vegetarianism as well. The Dalai Lama is a most non-harming individual on the planet, and a meat eater. I know he is not a hindu yogi etc. but just wanna point out that highly evolved spiritual good people come in different forms w/different cultural habits. and I am still forever amazed how casually used is the term yogi.
Never did understand how the Dalai Lama could get down with being non-vegetarian and all !
Maybe, Richard Gere can explain it for us !
Yoga’s genesis is Hindi, but to say that it is “all-Hindu” is to ignore its development over the centuries, particularly in the last couple of hundred of years. It’s like claiming that Christianity is “all-Jewish”: a movement’s history and the emergence of various sects and approaches should not so easily be dismissed, even if you want to claim some purity or superiority in your particular approach.
I did not conflate yoga with Buddhism, but simply said that my approach is Buddhist in nature, not Hindi in nature. Futhermore, Buddhism emerged from a pre-Hindi/Vedic religious culture, so to call it “an offshoot of Hinduism” is inaccurate. Either way, as I said, there are significant differences between the two which influences how I approach my yoga practice in distinction with how other more Hindi-based teachers do theirs. Is my approach, then, any less authentic or less “yogic” because I do not share the Hindi religious belief that yoga is about union with the Divine Atman? Is the Eastern foundation of my practice sufficiently close that I’m not to be relegated to the CPB category or must I be a Patanjali adherent to even remotely be able to take the term “yogi”? These are all important questions and my guess is that you are significantly more restrictive in your defining than I am…
“It is NOT Himsa to throw the flag on such foul-plays !”
No, but *how* one does so can be himsa… For example, you are very quick to criticize the CPBs of the world, but when the Dali Lama is mentioned, you all of a sudden take a significantly smoother edge. There are cogent reasons why the Dali Lama eats meat that are more in line with a deeper understanding of ahimsa than the outer trappings of vegetarianism (see my response to Susan below). It is not necessarily with the principle that I have issues (though I would make what I see as incredibly important distinctions in the nuances of ahimsa; again, see my response below), but with the combative and judgmental tone. One can and should make important distinctions, but the basis should be compassion for the effects of the difference on the suffering of the other, not whether one adheres to some rule. One can follow rules without changing the workings of their minds, but one cannot change the workings of their minds without changing their behavior.
I am not dismissing Patanjali, I’m merely pointing out that yoga, like every other tradition that has ever existed, has gone through various permutations as it has been taken up in various cultures that do not share a Hindi understanding of the world. Yes, one should definitely show respect for yoga’s historical background, but it is likewise important to show respect for its historical evolution, even if you disagree with it.
It is undeniable that there are points of similarity between the various Eastern religions, but there are also significant differences between their practices (even between the various schools of Buddhism). The atheistic ground of Buddhism is itself a significant basis for many differences in both philosophy and practice. The Mahayana Buddhist basic motivation is cultivating selfless compassion, whereas the yogic motivation is union with the Divine (yes, with a resultant increase in compassion). This has non-negligible influence on the practices done, their particular order, and an understanding of what the “end goal” is and when it has been reached.
With that said, my point in relation to ahimsa is that, practically, it usually needs to be taken up incrementally. Its application is way beyond the mere outer trappings of vegetarianism and extends to short circuiting our deeper notions of self-hatred, judgmentalism, etc. Put in other words, one can practice vegetarianism with a deeper himsa-based motivation: like when one feels a need to judge others (or oneself) for not being vegetarian, for becoming proud and haughty because one is vegetarian, by taking a coarse and negative view of others because they eat meat, etc. The inner principles of ahimsa are significantly more important than the outer trapping of what one eats. Again, this is not to discount the principle of vegetarianism, but merely to point out that, in the hierarchy of ahimsa, it is secondary (though it will naturally be a result of) its psychological underpinnings. If one practices yoga and becomes kinder and more compassionate to oneself and others as a result, that is of infinitely more worth than if that doesn’t change but they become vegetarian. It is because of this that I don’t see the non-aggressive peddling of vegetarianism in non-Hindi teacher settings as a bad thing, or a rejection of yogic principles.
You say :
” Futhermore, Buddhism emerged from a pre-Hindi/Vedic religious culture, so to call it “an offshoot of Hinduism” is inaccurate.”
The Buddha was born as the Hindu Prince Siddhartha Gautama. He lived the first half of his life as a Hindu Prince. He would go on to attain Enlightenment, become the Buddha, and gather a large number of adherents, who would then go on to call themselves Buddhists.
Buddhism and Jainism are both offshoots of Hinduism, and are very much akin to and in harmony with Hinduism. There is no quarrel between Hinduism and Buddhism or Jainism or Sikhism.
The ugliness and the Massacres began only when the two primitive Semitic Cults each went on their own bloodthirsty “Harvest of Souls” campaigns ( Islamic Jihad, Christian Crusaders, Catholic Conquistadors & Inquisitions), attacking the adherents of the peaceful, Eastern religions, in order to “save their souls”.
HuffPo writers are paid; they are employees. HuffPo bloggers are not paid; they are under no obligation to write or do anything. Volunteers are… volunteers.
Maybe Corn wasn’t on some secret mission for the “good guys” but just trying to open tightly shut doors. Maybe she was testing how sunk into ahimsa she is, trying to diffuse all hostility. Maybe yoga isn’t political or social at all, but something that happens only at a personal level. Most likely: you’ve neither stopped pursuing the results nor assembled the vrttis, and expect someone to do it for you.
I’d really like to believe that OTM was just practicing what we preach in yoga, to reserve judgement and reach out to everyone regardless of external identity.
Well said Lisa.
Ahimsa, the antidote for judgment.
This is a flawed understanding of ahimsa. It’s not about no judgement; it’s about non-violence. People have a similar view of compassion, whereas compassion without wisdom can actually be violent because it holds people back from facing reality and awakening to their true selves. I am all for yoga and meditation being offered to anyone across political affiliations or whatever divide. But this idea feels. like a waste of precious time and resources. As I said in my blog comments section – offer a simple yoga program during the next Congress session. Where real decisions are being made, and where the stress and suffering is heavy as well.
I don’t care if it’s the rnc or the dnc it’s all fine, spread the love, promote the great white hope project go for it. but you don’t represent yoga for me and don’t presume to speak for me. That’s the concern I have about this.
talking to OTM, sorry if that isn’t clear
First up, I’ve been involved with OTM for several years as a senior leader. However, that hasn’t stopped me from taking a (constructively) critical view of OTM programs, including the Global Seva Project. One of the things I appreciate about the organisation is the openness within the senior leadership team to constructive, open dialogue about what works, what doesn’t, and how each program and initiative matches with yogic values and the core purpose of this organisation. I also really appreciate OTM’s willingness to experiment, to extend and expand the definition of yoga, and of ‘activism’.
I’m not sure I completely understand the criticism of this activity. Is it the presence at the Republican Party convention which is problematic? Would it have been okay if it were the Green Party? Or the Democratic Party convention?
Is it the presence at a political event? Is the objection that yoga has no place in the arena of politics? Even when the presence of yoga is presented in a non-partisan manner?
Or is the criticism that the focus should always be on people who are at the ‘bottom’ of the political hierachy? People who are disenfranchised? Can both be important?
I’m not entirely sure I’ve understood the concern, and I’d like to because I am interested in this debate and want to be able to engage in a constructive way.
Can someone explain for me the main concerns about OTM’s activity at the conventions?
My criticisms have to do with the fluff that is political conventions. In the comments section of my blog I said – offer a simple yoga program during the next Congress session. Where real decisions are being made, and where the stress and suffering is heavy as well. I am interested in something sustained, that respects the practice and isn’t just a feel good for people in powerful positions.
And then people throw up their hands and wonder “Why does everyone think Yoga is only for rich white people when it’s for everyone!” This entire scheme scam whatever is nonsense. Seane may be well intentioned, but Off The Mat is a joke and is completely incapable of making anything resembling a structural change.
Yoga is not compatible with bourgeois liberal democracy. Sorry. It crashes head on with any sort of statecraft. If Yoga has any affiliation with any sort of government, it’s ruthlessly enforced Monarchy. I suspect this is primarily due to the context in which it arose and poor interpretations/the religious-ification of ascetic practices that crept into what we understand as the house holder tradition.
I’m a member of the gym that was transformed into the Oasis in Charlotte and I got to visit the Oasis this week. When I was there, I didn’t see any dignitaries (besides Arianna Huffington), but I did see a lot of exhausted-looking reporters, staffers and delegates who were clearly enjoying the free water, snacks, massages, couches, AC and, yes, yoga. I attended one of the yoga classes and there were several people in the class who had never done yoga before.
I, frankly, think this whole “controversy” is much ado about nothing. It’s creating a false conflict between two groups that don’t really exist and it’s ignoring the very real fact that there are thousands of people at this convention who are working really hard, far from home and staying in whatever hotel their employer could afford (and unless you’re Anderson Cooper, it isn’t the Ritz). As for the issue of the volunteers… Well, no one made them come to Charlotte or go to Tampa. Likewise, there are hundreds of volunteers from countless other organizations who gave of their time and their own money to come to the conventions and advance their causes. I don’t see how this is any different.
Personally, as a yoga enthusiast and Charlottean, I was excited and proud to share the city and gym I love with people who so clearly needed a moment away from craziness.
much ado indeed.
My perspective, simple though it is: yoga is life and life, insofar as it involves relating with other people, is political. This is in the old-school (i.e. Aristotelian) sense: the polis, the city or community, the brute fact of having to relate to the Other (with all the compromising, collaboration, and inhibiting that that implies). As such, yoga and its principles (including asana) belongs in every facet of our existence.
The only concern should be how it is implemented and how it exemplifies yogic principles. Naturally, though, this must occur within the confines of the intent: is it just for health or stress reduction (not a bad thing, by any means) or is it for union with the Divine? As long as the intent is clear, it can then be judged in terms of its implementation: dies its implementation cohere with its aim? As far as I can tell, no one here (except Sam) was there and can judge on that factor. As such, any judgment in relation to motive is *entirely* speculative and all fears about implementation, while perhaps warranted, are likewise speculative.
As for the other “issue” mentioned, all people need what yoga can provide, whether physical or spiritual, and to restrict others access because they are “them” (or, as it sounds, our simplistic and over-generalized notion of “them”) is a prime example of himsa.
What was the purpose of providing yoga to the two conventions? Why?
Politicians are accountable (ultimately) to the people who vote for them. If they suck bad enough, we can vote in someone else next time. I like their mission, but if OTM is going to play in the halls of government, who are they accountable to?
Wow- I’m surprised at everyone’s animosity toward Seane Corn & OTM here. While I understand that it’s difficult to think that people who are different from your typical yogi might benefit from the yoga practice, the benefits of yoga are not limited to only people who already lead a yogic lifestyle.What were you like before you started practicing yoga? Didn’t yoga change your relationship with yourself and the world for the better? Doesn’t yoga help you to make decisions from a more clear-headed space? I really don’t get the need to bash OTM and Seane for their efforts to bring yoga into the political conversation- as voters and citizens of the US, the decisions of politicians effect us…and even if you don’t buy that, what harm could it do? Yoga is supposed to bring us into a space where petty identifiers like “politician” or “republican” don’t exist…so it seems very hypocritical for yogis to say this whole idea is just a moot point.
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