Yoga has given me a good strong awareness of body and mind. I tend to be aware of what state I’m in, mentally and emotionally. And even if I can’t always change it, I know how to work to try and change it and find some sort of balance.
But yoga postures and breathing techniques can only do so much. The real work of yoga happens outside of yoga studios. If we’re defining ‘yoga’ as being ‘union of body and mind’, then the most yogic people I know don’t even practise asanas or meditation. They are activists, out in the world, making change happen. They connect the views in their head with the actions of their body. They work against fear and oppression to forge communities based on love, co-operation and trust – in other words, they work to dismantle this capitalist patriarchal 3D-advertisement we find ourselves living in.
I’m lucky to know lots of inspiring activists. People who have woken up to the deep inequalities in our society to the point where they can no longer accept the what is ‘normal’ to be normal anymore. They feel the inequality so acutely that they make it their mission to fight for balance in their communities, in their countries. Often they completely forget to balance or nurture themselves, and put all their energy into outward change.
But inward and outward change need to happen in conjunction, otherwise both will fail. I can work to dismantle the patriarchy that surrounds me but if I don’t also work on dismantling my internalized misogyny then what’s the point? Likewise I can do yoga and meditation to bring about inner relaxation and calm, but if I go home after class and have the same fight with my partner that I’ve been having for two years – then what’s the real change?
Society doesn’t exist outside of us. Social change happens in both directions. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes I forget.
I used to think that I was a very compassionate person, until I realised that I was only compassionate towards the people I thought deserved it.
The great thing about yoga is that it makes you more aware, but the terrible thing about yoga is that it makes you more aware. What a punchline. All this time I thought I’d been doing yoga to try and make me feel better, but it turns out I can’t feel better if other people aren’t feeling better too? What is this racket, I want my money back.
I struggle to stay present and open towards people I disagree with. My knee-jerk reaction to disengage from someone as soon as I know they hold a different view to me has been honed to a fine degree. I’ve mostly just accepted this as a matter of course because, well, I’m right, and they’re wrong, and that’s that, and I’ll just stay in my echo chamber over here, it’s quite comfortable actually and the acoustics are very good, maybe I’ll get out the guitar.
Bit by bit I am catching myself at the moment of shut-down. The moment where I think, this is too difficult, this is too hard, I don’t want to have to cross this chasm between you and me.
It seems to me now that the most important work I could do, yoga-wise, or every-which-way-wise, would be to open up to the people in my life that most make me want to shut down.
I’m failing at this. Try, fail. Try, fail. Fail again. Try again. Fail better. But I’m trying.