|Words by Heather Evans|
When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
- Audre Lorde
Yoga: To yoke. Union.
Activism: Action to invoke social change.
“Yoga activism” has become de rigueur in yoga communities as of late and is a trend we should all be on board with! I love that so many companies, studios, schools, teachers, and students are uniting their passion for our planet both on and off the mat!
Yoga activism is the process of creating community centred around healing through movement, breath work, mediation and social change. For example, a yoga teacher might use yoga to create outreach programs in communities that might not otherwise have access. Another example might be a gathering of those who practice yoga to meditate and raise money for a specific cause.
Becoming an activist requires us to examine ourselves and do some deep personal work. Yoga can give you the insights you need through asana, meditation, and pranayama - all things that encourage you to connect to your body, soul, breath, and mind. In turn, by connecting there, we have the ability to tap into our passion, turning that into fuel for activism.
I would suggest that in order to begin this work of self-examination, we must first ask ourselves some questions! We must constantly examine our places of privilege and experiences in order to better understand how we can create positive and lasting social change.
The next time you come to your mat, I encourage you to take a moment in meditation and consider one, some, or all of the following questions. As you consider these questions, notice how your body and breath respond. Does your breath become faster or more shallow? Deeper and longer? Do you perhaps feel tension, anxiety, or excited? Maybe you feel calm, peace, or something else entirely. Notice your responses and simply observe them without judgement.
- What lights me up? What gives my life meaning and doesn’t run out?
- Where are my spaces of privilege? In other words, what don’t I consciously have to think about in my daily life (my gender or sexual orientation, my race or religion, the amount of money in my bank account, my personal safety, physical accessibility, and so on).
- How do I listen? How do I react when someone has a different opinion from my own?
- What am I willing to give up in order to support justice and well-being for others and for our planet? What am I not willing to give up?
- What spaces currently exist where I can explore my area of activism or passion (clubs, networks, online spaces)?
- What is holding me back from becoming involved - internally and/or externally?
- What gives me strength? What things inspire me? Who motivates me?
Yoga can support our activism by allowing us the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual space to connect with ourselves and to examine those things that light our fires. It also provides us with self-care methods as we evolve into ever-more aware activists. By taking care of ourselves, we empower ourselves to be there in better ways for others and for those causes about which we care deeply.
Join Heather at Prairie Love Festival September 12 + 13th at Fort Whyte Alive to practice yoga + activism in unison in her inspired workshop Yoga + Activism = Social Change.
Heather Evans, MS, RYT-200 is the Founder of and Motivation Maven at Journeys on the Mat. She is a passionate teacher who is inspired by everyday moments of bravery and is fiercely dedicated to social justice and equality. In her classes, there is a deep emphasis on breath, playfulness, and personal empowerment. Her mission is to break boundaries and connect people to the moment and their deeper selves in shared spaces of inspiration and support.