This blog post provides an example of yoga contributing to social change, starting with the individual. It goes on to discuss how yoga may contribute to social change, with an invitation for yoga instructors in Calgary to consider a trauma-sensitive approach to their teaching to flood survivors and responders.
Increasingly, examples of yoga supporting those recovering from trauma and suffering from mental health challenges are being seen in the media. This is a recent video and article – Yoga Helps Mentally Ill Improve Their Lives – published within Voice of America. It opens a small window into an example of creating change amongst those who can’t, won’t, and don’t access yoga studio’s for a number of reasons (more on that in another blog!). In addition, the video exemplifies shifts and changes available for someone, anyone, who practices yoga. It exemplifies that a yoga class does not need to take place in the serenity and beauty of a studio for people to feel an impact. The class does not need to involve a vigorous physical practice, nor does it require fashion conscious Lulu Lemon patrons. Instead the practice invites yoga students into their reality, to explore what it feels like to acknowledge their breath, to be present within their body and notice how it moves – to meet themselves exactly where they are.
One person at a time, yoga invites people into a journey of curiosity, inquiry, and compassion – perhaps asking people for the first time to consider compassion for their body. One by one people are invited to explore what it is to be and feel alive, perhaps a foreign experience. One by one people are changing and shape-shifting themselves on a deep subtle level – something words cannot sometimes articulate.
This, I believe, is a root towards social change – yoga is simply an available gateway.
The Voice of America article is one small example of how the yoga gateway contributes to social change…and many other examples contributing to social are small until the different threads entering through the gateway of change begin to weave into a common fabric. The change demonstrated in the video – an individual shifting pain and anger, another choosing a healthier lifestyle – offers insight into experiences of connection.
The root catalyst and cause for change is through relationship because – being human means having a need for connection.
Connection begins with ourselves – the intimate and subtle acknowledgement of relating to the experience within ones body. Michael Stone (2009) writes, “when we see the shadow of our actions, we can get motivated to change our habits. Non-violence is the essence of such change” (p. 64). This quote can be viewed within an individual’s experience of change, in addition to expanding the quote’s perspective outwards, it reflects on society’s actions upon the natural biosphere. The interrelated health of an individual directly correlates with the health of the planet – and many people are arguing that internal, in addition to external non-violence will contribute social and environmental change on this planet. In his article “Ahimsa Can Save The Planet’, Pankaj Jain (2012) states,
The West must now emerge as a new ecological leader, with Gandhi [non-violence] as the foundation of its lifestyle…There cannot be and should not be a separate “war on terrorism,” “war on climate change,” “war on drugs,” “war on corruption,” “war on obesity” and so on. All aspects of modern life—our physical, mental, and spiritual health, the environment, the global security and international peace, social justice, and so on—will get a great boost if we first become nonviolent in our most basic activit[ies]. (p. 36)
Our most basic activities rely on simple choices and perspectives – what we eat, how we care for ourselves, what we consume or do not consume etc – and a mind and heart that feels clear and calm supports perspective surrounding those most basic activities.
My experience living, learning, and teaching trauma-sensitive yoga over the past several months affirms the complex integrated web of health and well being between an individual, community, and the planet. In recent weeks Calgary has experienced a shock wave of water delivered by the planet that has disturbed stability, health, and well being amongst individuals and the community. This brings me to an invitation for readers to consider and share amongst community – I am returning to Calgary at the end of July. I intend to initiate opportunities for people such as those within the video to access experiences of yoga, to offer trauma-sensitive yoga training workshops for yoga teachers and those interested, and to pursue dialog and action that invites healing to both people and the planet.
The gateway for trauma-sensitive yoga in Calgary is open after being traumatized by the impacts from Mother Nature’s response to climate change.
Change is the most constant thing in life.
From afar, I have seen many yoga studio’s in Calgary and the Bow Valley extend their generosity to victims and responders to the flood, aiming to support recovery and healing from this tragedy. I would like to contribute to these actions by inviting yoga instructors to participate in an one-day trauma-sensitive yoga workshop at the end of August. My intention is to support yoga instructors extend their generosity in a way that best supports those who are recovering from this traumatic flood experience.
Further details regarding specific date and location will follow shortly.
Stone, M. (2009). Yoga for a world out of balance. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications.
Jain, P. (2012). Ahimsa can save the planet. Hinduism Today. p. 36.