by Sara Kleinsmith
In the wake of the recent domestic terrorism attack in Charlottesville, many are wondering what can be done to fight oppression and hate. Oppression and systemic racism have long had a strong hold on our nation, but with the circus that is the current presidency, blatant racism is on the rise. White supremacist groups are marching in the streets and threatening violence to all that oppose them. It can be difficult as a yoga student or teacher to know what to do in these instances when you want to stay Zen but also want to punch Nazis. Here are 10 things you can do now to resist hate and fight oppression.
1) Teach or attend a yoga class for a cause. Host a class to benefit the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, or attend a class that is giving back to a cause you believe in. It will feel good to give your money and energy in support.
2) Call your senators and representatives at (202)-224-3121. Many of you may already do this. Great job! Don’t stop. If you’re not already doing so, so much of this battle is fought on the phones and through emails. Contact your representative and let them know what you think. Attend town halls if you’re able. Resistbot can make it that much easier if you feel too busy to call.
3) Champion yoga teachers of Color. The typical image of the yoga teacher is that of a slender white woman. Yoga Journal covers have perpetuated this for years and it’s well beyond time for change. People of Color need to know they have a place at the yoga table, as teachers AND as students. Attend classes taught by People of Color. Hold space. If nothing else…LISTEN.
4) Confront and correct. As yogis, we tend to be people pleasers and empaths because we are also peace-seekers. It’s time to have those hard holiday conversations with Aunt Mary or Grandpa Bob. It’s time to confront the offensive language and correct the ill-informed “alternative facts.” It’s not going to be easy. And this holiday season is going to be rough for a lot of Americans. But remember the words of Krishna to Arjuna as he cowered at the idea of fighting with his family. “Give up such petty weakness and arise.”
5) Read (or re-read) The Bhagavad Gita. Time to get back into the swing of knowing the Lord in all their greatness (if that’s your thing). The Bhagavad Gita gives us the courage to stand up to our foes, be they actual or proverbial, and to remind ourselves that all things are transient and small, compared to the oneness we all are, beneath illusion.
6) Attend marches and protests. If you feel safe doing so, go. Be out there with the people and speak your mind. Take up space. And most importantly, encourage peace. Yogis are supposed experts at this, after all. Go and be an example for peaceful protest.
7) Practice. If stress about the atrocities abounding in our world is getting you down, return to your practice. This can mean on your mat in a class, or simply breathing. Practice self-care. Get a massage. Talk to a friend or therapist. Rest to avoid burnout. We need you, friend.
8) Read about the history of yoga. There is a lot of talk about appropriation versus appreciation in the world of 21st-century Western yoga. Read about the origins of yoga. Read about India and yoga before it came to the west and was popularized by movie stars. Engage in conversations, if you’re able, with someone from India about what yoga means to them. Listen. Learn.
9) Avoid trolls and triggers. Y’all know what those comments sections are like. They are where benevolence goes to die a slow death, covered in fast food barbecue sauce. Choose your battles wisely. Also, avoid the pitfalls of being accused of being “non-yogic” or a member of the “intolerant left.” People use these words on you because they KNOW you want to be a good, tolerant person, and they will throw that super power in your face as kryptonite. Speak your mind with love and strength. Don’t back down.
10) Use inclusive language when teaching or promoting yoga. Not only when it comes to diversity, but also politics. Remember some people in your yoga classes may have voted differently than you did. They might hold completely opposing beliefs. Yoga class is the time to promote self-study and embodiment. Try to be authentic without singling out people of differing beliefs. Yoga is the place to include ALL, if you’re able. Save the strong convictions for your calls to representatives.
Sara Kleinsmith is a nasty woman, mom, yoga teacher, writer, and anatomy geek in Austin, Texas. She’s written for Scary Mommy, Yogi Times, Elite Daily, Elephant Journal, and Thought Catalog. She is thrilled to be added to the list of voices for YogaDork. To learn more about her work go to www.sarakleinsmith.com.
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