Yoga & Civil Unrest
Yoga and the current state of unrest.
By: Brain Serven, Yoga Revolt @YogaRevolt
It’s time that we yogis take a hard look at ourselves. With little effort and reflection, it’s easy to recognize that the ability to learn, study and devote time to betterment through yoga is a pronounced privilege. The vast majority of people in this world, you know, the ones we all crave to convert to yogis, don’t have the means or the time to devote to self-care, self-improvement and enlightenment. It was no surprise that when Covid-19 began to infect our country-folk that our haven-like yoga studios and centers were closed and deemed as non-essential. While most people in the world are struggling to survive, a statistic proposes that the average yogi spends over $60,000 in their lifetime on yoga classes, accessories and trainings. So, what do we collectively have to offer the world in light of all the time we’ve spent reaping the benefits of this lifestyle?
At the onset of the global pandemic we minded our distance and through social media placated the suffering masses with inspirational quotes and words of love, peace and hope. But these flimsy platitudes did nothing to quell the fears and shake the reality of the cataclysmic change of life as we know it. What else could we do? What did our trainings amount to? Will the pose that fixes my back impact the pain of loss?
And now, how has yoga educated us to manage the emotions arising from civil unrest and injustice? As our sisters and brothers justly react to systematic and vile treatment by government supported officers, supposedly sworn to serve and protect – where do we stand? Does our attachment to simpler days when everything was sheltered from us compel us to avert our gazes and wait for it all to blow past, or do we cultivate the courage to stand and demand radical structural change? I mean, really, when you so proudly envisioned yourself to be a #peacewarrior while doing your poses, what were you imagining you’d stand against?
Now is the time to observe the true purpose of yoga concepts, disciplined practice and devotion to a higher purpose. Our sisters and brothers need us.
So, what does yoga teach us and how does it relate to the current state of unrest?
Non-Violence During Civil Unrest
The concept of Non-violence extends far beyond the simplistic definition of ‘not harming oneself or another’. We all must accept responsibility for the perpetuation of a militaristic system that devalues the lives of so many citizens. Emboldened with the support and power of an arbitrary system of often outdated and biased laws so-called civil servants act without accountability for their actions. Our silence and complacency, because we’ve not directly suffered the targeting and abuse by the system, is what allows the system to continue to operate. It’s evident that we cannot move forward in good conscience without stepping out of our comfort zones.
True Yogis stand up, step in, guard, protect and defend fellow humans, animals and the planet. Living a yogic lifestyle doesn’t mean we interrupt our feelings and squash them down with mantras and meditation, so that we can continue living in some blissful fantasy. It’s OK to be outraged, to be offended, disturbed and distressed. The transmutation of these potent emotions into action and real change is far more yogic than ritualistically willing these stresses to ‘melt into the floor’ in relaxation.
We must condemn the perpetrators of violence regardless of their political standing, social standing or positions of power. Violence is violence. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot truly live in accordance with non-violence when we allow the ongoing abuse and murder of innocent and defenseless people.
The pursuit of truth has become increasingly challenging over the decades. Misinformation and propaganda have been a tactic used by people in positions of power to instigate unrest or to morally or economically enslave the masses since the dawn of so-called civilization. Intelligent people, despite knowing that the media bends the truth, still often buy into the narrative. With lines drawn, we gravitate toward the media sources who morph the details of events into the preset molds we want to be shown. But is what we’re being served truth? And what about our own personal sharing and linking of rumors, propaganda, misinformation and lies? Are we not as culpable for spreading false truths as the creators? No doubt media platforms are primarily in pursuit of the dollar over truth. So, we must be weary, discerning and persistent in our efforts to peer through the fog, the façade and illusion. Instead of being reactionary and sharing unchecked and sensational stories we should pause, even observe silence in pursuit of allowing the truth to find its voice.
In our privileged lives as yogis, most of us (if not all of us) have never had to really worry about having enough. Sure, at stages in life or during life-changing events we’ve had to conserve or reevaluate our spending, but when Covid-19 began choking the life from our sisters and brothers worldwide, what did we do? How did we yogis measure up when our cozy lives were suddenly shaken by scarcity of essential products? How many yogis reading this can visualize their own hording of hygiene products, cleansers, sanitizer and other goods procured not out of need, but out of selfishness and greed.
As concerned citizens vie to raise awareness through the protest of police brutality and the blatant and systematic prejudice against minorities – we see other opportunistic, self-centered and self-serving groups stealing, appropriating and co-opting the ‘spot-light’ from the initiating protesters. Their message is being drowned out by instigators of violence and profiteering. But do we yogis play an adjunct roll in this, even inadvertently? Are we contributing to stealing the message of protest by using the events to further profess and push our own political or social agendas? Do we spread rumors and sensational images, anecdotes and hashtags to implant ourselves into something important, even though the vast majority of us are living through this without choking on tear gas or nursing baton bruises, but through the comfort of our homes? It’s important that we as a community recognize our innate flaws, degrees of ignorance and correct our own behaviors in solidarity with our struggling sisters and brothers.
What to do then?
We must stand with and defend our sisters and brothers and have faith in their ideas, leadership and efforts. We are not their saviors – we are their supporters. We show support by condemning any person, law, corporation or system that continues to single out, suppress and oppress their humanity. We need to listen to their needs and not pretend we know better. We need to help end the violence acted upon our sisters and brothers because that’s the wisdom our yoga ancestors passed down to us. We need to interrupt, disregard and nullify lies and propaganda. We need to shift our focus and awareness from singular and self-centered accumulation and greed and see how we can help support others. We need to remove our self-centered egos from the historic events because it’s not about us.
So now the question is, how can you, as a yogi, break your idleness and demonstrate solidarity with those in need?