As I sit here after my morning meditation, I am contemplating how I, as a devoted yogini of almost 2 decades, can right the imbalances that we as humanity face. Everywhere we look, whether it’s social media, the news or even our own backyards, we are confronted daily with political, social, economic and environmental crisis. So, what is my role? Is it possible for my words, thoughts and deeds to bring balance during these times of mass humanitarian crisis? And, if so, how?
What Can Yoga Offer to Assist the Global Challenges of this Era?
We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for
I don't know.
— W. H. Auden
Long before yoga emerged as one of six Hindu darshanas, and even longer before the word “yuj” was entered into the Rig Veda, civilizations have experienced strife, starvation and inequalities.
The United Nations recognized the widespread appeal of yoga as a powerful way of life and proclaimed on December 11, 2014 that June 21 is the International Day of Yoga.
This highlights the role of yoga in connecting people and bringing the world together. “The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga”. (UN website)
People practice yoga for many reasons. They want to get flexible and fit; they want to lose weight; they want to cope with life better; they want to relax; or they may want to be spiritually enlightened. So, yoga is not a goal on its own; it is a tool. And, for me, yoga is also a tool for nothing less than world peace.
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating this. That’s what you’ll find below: weaving threads of contemplation into an “in-the-moment” tapestry of understanding. I offer this as a discussion and not as absolute.
In a time when we face many challenges — climate change and environmental destruction, political upheaval and war, social inequity, poverty and discrimination etc. — what can or should a yogi do?
Prana and Apana — those of us who explore our world from the mat have likely become well versed in this Vedic equivalent of Yin and Yang. The ebb and flow which keeps our goal of “perfect” equilibrium always just a touch elusive... As an acupuncturist, I have years of studies supporting the theory that “perfect” balance is not maintainable.
Since the advent of the universe, mankind has always been interested in the commencement and conclusion of the world as well as in human nature. Their endeavors have been directed toward discovering the conceptual mystery of creation with the help of different rational and philosophical ideologies along with various religious doctrines.
Yoga may be perceived, at first glance, as simply a physical exercise class. However, more importantly, the practice of yoga creates space in the mind as well as the body and acts as a catalyst to finding an innate feeling of interconnectedness and belonging, or what I like to call “oneness”, and a realization of purpose.
Become who you are.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
When I saw the theme for the newsletter, I was excited and I could not wait to sit down to write a short article. Once in front of my computer, I just stared at my blank page. Suddenly, I did not know how to approach the topic.
The first thing that came to my mind was Karma Yoga. It seemed the most natural link between yoga and being involved in the world.
How can we inspire change in humanity?
Begin by inspiring yourself. Take a sober look at all areas of your life and make a choice to clear away what no longer serves and re-calibrate yourself towards what does. Set boundaries and open your heart where needed. We must take inventory of our lives periodically to till the soil and make way for our fresh seeds of intention.
I frequently espoused the many benefits of yoga — how it could improve your posture, your health, your life — to anyone who would listen. But as much as I tried to convince others to make the choice to turn to yoga to heal their own body pains, few listened, and even fewer joined me which frustrated me as I just wanted to help.
How does yoga help in times of challenge? One way to look at this question is to look within ourselves. A healthy individual contributes to a healthy community. Healthy communities contribute to healthy countries and so on. My yoga practice contributes to my health and well-being so I can assist others on their journey.
As we become aware of our personal imbalances, we also discover how to transform them into healthier, happier ways of being in the world. It is these positive outward expressions that energetically influence and transform the behaviour of those around us. One cannot exude health and happiness without equally infecting the planet.
Don’t do yoga, be yoga.
These are the words I’ve heard again and again from my mentors. Yoga isn’t just a physical method meant for transcendence. It is a state of being that can benefit not only yourself, but those around you as well. Being yoga is the framework to lift the spirit of the planet.
Through the many imbalances — dark/light, yin/yang, cold/hot, good/bad — there comes balance for, without each of these, one would not know the other. I would not know dark if I didn't have light and I wouldn't know cold if I didn't know hot. Yoga helps us reconcile these imbalances.
One of my students often becomes deeply emotional about the state of the world. It affects her to the point of tears in class sessions and conversations. She has expressed a sense of helplessness, feeling as though she is unable to effectively contribute toward remedying the many dire issues that permeate our planet at this time.
She’s not alone.
Yoga has been practiced for over 5000 years and has begun growing immensely all around the world over the last few decades. It has become a modern art form that is practiced to benefit everyone in different ways. As a yoga teacher myself, I get many inquiries about yoga to help both physical and mental problems such as weight loss, anxiety, depression etc... Yoga can help mental healing and physical healing, but it’s not something that can be done in one sitting.
Today’s world has been designed for the consumer. For better or for worse, profit seems to be more important than human life or any life form for that matter. Many of us have tried to find the balance within society. But it can be difficult to find discipline in a world that brands everything. And I confess,
yoga is no exception.
Our world is changing on a daily basis. We live inside a body that is shifting and changing all the time. We’ve lived inside youthful bodies and experienced changes with age. Our constant shifts naturally bring about new cycles
More and more people seem to be adding yoga to their daily routine. What is it about yoga that our society finds intriguing, to begin with and, often, more and more satisfying as the practice of this ancient Hindu spiritual discipline finds its way into the mind, body, and spirit of the new practitioner?
Each yoga class, whether you are a teacher or student, can shift your
energy, vibration and demeanour. Your individual yoga practice aids your healing and connects you with the infinite source within.
Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.
— B.K.S Iyengar
I believe the true essence of yoga is to benefit all and to do this we need to keep an open mind and open heart. This openness extends further than just on our mat — it extends to our family, our work and our community.
The next question is: how do we do this?
The fear of death as well as guilt are the two core problems that humanity faces. These feelings make us insecure and uncomfortable and result in stress and anxiety.