Yoga Part Of Activism?

Should Yoga Be a Part of Activism?

By Natalie Forrest CYA-E-RYTGOLD

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.

The answer depends on the practitioner. This is crucial. Yoga is unique; it doesn’t tell us what to do or think but rather offers us tools, techniques and direction in cultivating insight and eventually presence. To me, this is a sacred aspect of the practice. To me, this is the only thing that should be part of Yoga.

But let’s delve deeper into why activism exists. Activism has arisen because something is broken in our community; there’s a lack of integrity (when I use the word integrity here, I am referencing the original meaning of the word: wholeness*). Activism is the acknowledgment and the actions of trying to bring a whole-ness back to our community.

(To me,) The most integral thing we can do in our personal practice is to contemplate and move ever in the direction of understanding things more fully. To do this we must hold our Truths lightly: we must strive to see them (or perhaps more accurately, see our understanding of them), as growing, evolving dynamic interactions with integrity and not as something static, unbreakable, and unyielding. This is part of our own integrity as practitioners of yoga: to be able to look within and be curious about what’s going on with our mind stuff. You know, the stuff…our assumptions, expectations, beliefs, (mis)understandings about ourselves and others, life, snippets of incomplete or unclear stories that rattle around; all those potentially unnecessary and unidentified mental and emotional things that are taking up space within us, that fill us up within in an encroaching, imposing way. That’s the heart of a yoga practice, those are the things we need to be curious about and question for ever greater clarity and understanding.

Within the insight of experience and a long-term practice, we can start to see bigger patterns within ourselves and our society. We must nurture and grow the skills to be able to be in conflict with ourselves or others and be able to navigate it with compassion, connection, and a true desire to understand the other (or ourselves). The mirror of this is at the heart of activism, a true desire to understand and be understood.

I’d like to circle back to the word “community” for a moment. This word gets thrown around a lot, and its meaning has become a bit like a wind chime; hollow and dangling (off the edges of our mouths) but it sure sounds beautiful**. As our practices grow and our awareness settles into that which is more innate, the layers of our mind dissolve. Peeled back, and accepted, we start to experience Yoga: the oneness (or rather, non-duality) which organically arises in our experiences. With that oneness comes a deeper understanding of connection, of community, and it’s not an easy understanding. Because we are all part of something larger than ourselves, a wholeness that goes beyond just ourselves, we are all in community.

It’s the deep realization that we can, and do, affect each other.

This deep responsibility is both heavy and uplifting as we have to be willing to acknowledge and see the trespasses that we as individuals, and as a larger society, have made against other members of our community. This is a hard reckoning for those who are still entangled in and identified with the mind stuff.

Yoga asks us to come from a place of compassion and connection; not because we fear unearthly consequences but because we have felt the deep responsibility of being a part of the same wholeness — of being in community.

So, in the depths of this understanding and contemplation of wholeness, oneness and unity, if after contemplation one has had the patience to allow the mud of the mind to settle and the “right” action has arisen, and that action is activism, well, therein lies the answer!


* an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting

** this is a simile for demonstrative purposes only; I mean no disrespect to wind chimes, nor do I mean to present wind chimes as superficial. I adore wind chimes, but it was handy comparison.

Natalie Forrest

Natalie Forrest