Prefer to see the video before you read? Scroll to the video box below. New to yoga? Please take a couple of minutes to read this first.
Change happens, but it comes gradually.
It took human culture 400 years to transition from feudalism to capitalism. People can fear a tyrant for decades until one day they don’t, jubilantly toppling the dictatorship that reigned over them for so long. Lynching was outlawed in the US only in 1952, nearly a century after slavery ended in that country (at least on paper; slavery is unfortunately alive and well in all corners of the globe). I live in the Netherlands, where it’s taboo to address the nation’s brutal history with colonialism and the slave trade. Yet the Rijksmuseum, home to works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, will crash through some of that silence when it launches an exhibition on slavery in 2020. Most government leaders are no longer in denial about the need to protect our precious climate, and science is catching up with ancient wisdom where the interconnectedness of life is concerned. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an org that works to ban nuclear weapons, recognizing that it’s time for humanity to stop its wars of mass destruction. Our patriarchal society is finally, in 2017, listening to and hearing women’s voices on sexism and sexual assault (#MeToo).
Change has happened, and it continues to happen.
As a brown-skinned woman, I can speak my mind about injustices without the fear of losing life and limb (though I still might have to worry about losing a job). Being a heterosexual westerner, I can choose whom I love and whether marriage suits me. I can vote, I can run businesses. I could, if I wanted to, run for political office. These freedoms didn’t sprout up with the grass; they’re the results of courageous efforts taken by countless people before us. The change work we do now is probably not for ourselves—it might not take hold for another generation (or longer). But we hold the baton of progress now, and how we run with it matters.
The purpose of yoga, as I see it, is to keep us going strong—by slowing down to undo the violence of rapidity, softening our rigidity towards difference, attending to our layers of pain so we don’t perpetuate hurt in the world (if we can’t gently address the stresses and tensions in our own bodies, how are we supposed to do it out there?).
It’s of course impossible to cover the vastness of our humanity in a 60-min yoga session, but in this video we’ll at least poke that surface. As the weeks go on, we’ll touch upon our everyday realities—because if we don’t do that, the physical practice of yoga won’t be relevant: yoga is about engaging whatever needs transforming, from our own thought processes and physical wellbeing to our interpersonal relationships and societal wellbeing.
I see yoga as a conversation, so I found it a bit awkward to guide a session without other people being in the same room. What I offer here is not a polished performance but a slice of my imperfect and camera-shy self.
I’d very much appreciate hearing from you and learning what brings you to yoga. If after your practice you feel moved to share an experience or ask a question, leave a note in the comments area below or email me.
Consider bookending this week’s video with:
What Brings Me to Yoga: the story behind my yoga teaching and practice
Your Three Feet of Influence: Sharon Salzberg’s wise thoughts on creating harmony around us
And now for the video: