I am outraged. You are outraged. We are outraged. At the injustice. At the ongoing violence. At the disregard for human life. At the privilege that exists for some because of the color of their skin. Of the danger that lurks for others because of the color of their skin. Outrage at the violence caused by fear. But heartened that shining our light will illuminate a path toward peace, justice and unconditional love.
B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in his seminal book, "Light on Yoga:"
Without firm foundations a house cannot stand. Without the practice of the principles of yama and niyama, which lay down the firm foundations for building character, there cannot be an integrated personality. Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.
Ahimsa, the first yama of the five ethical principles that describe how to live the yogic path while interacting with the outside world, means non-harming / non-violence. "Himsa" means killing or violence in Sanskrit, while "A" means not. This first principle guides us to understand that if we can see ourselves in every other living being, we can understand the divine light we all share, the spark of life, the incredible sharing of this experience we have on Earth.
"Violence arises out of fear, weakness ignorance or restlessness. To curb it what is most needed is freedom from fear," Iyengar writes.
Back to the outrage. Perhaps being in utter despair, disbelief, sadness or anger is not prescribed as part of the yoga practice, but as humans and householder yogis, we do experience this range of emotional reaction. It is what we do with that emotion that allows us to stay in our practice. With hope, we watch and observe, we arrive at a place of detached awareness about our feelings. We also can take action.
My teacher, Janet Stone, says again and again that we are of this world, and as yogis we must be active participants in the society in which we live. To sit on our yoga mats expecting to be released from our suffering through our practice is not good enough. We must take this practice off our mats and do good work in the world.
For me, this is as easy as it is difficult. I don't know always how to show up in action. I can often be too cerebral or too timid to take meaningful steps toward creating more peace, harmony and justice in the world. But I always carry it in my heart.
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery, which is thankfully causing outrage across all my media channels and many personal channels, is a moment in which we as yogis can take action. As Revolutionary Instructor Courtney Rohan writes in her latest blog post, "The action required after the words and our followthrough make all the difference. We can say whatever we want, but action, shakti energy, is what takes a word and shifts and shakes out a bud."
Yoga has become a very white space in the Western world. Though this ancient practice originated in India and was practiced by brown people, still is to this day, but as white people have come to find solace in this healing practice it has become somewhat hostile to non-white teachers and practitioners. There is a decolonization movement underway working to honor the roots of yoga and build education around cultural appropriation and the simplification of the practice over time. To talk about race in a yoga space is somewhat taboo, somewhat dangerous. But it needs to happen.
If we are truly to embrace the yamas and niyamas, the guiding principles that begin with ahimsa, we must be open to not just conversing about our privilege, our relationship with the practice and how we use this practice to bring about compassion, love and justice for all beings in this world. We do not live in a bubble. We can change ourselves. We can change the world.
We are dedicating all classes Monday, May 11 to Black Lives Matter in the name of Ahmaud Arbery. Revolution Yoga will donate $3 for every student who attends class that day, and students can match that with a $3 or more donation send to Venmo or PayPal.
In gratitude and continual love and appreciation,