by Marcela Xavier
We recently hosted a potluck and phone bank in support of the Bernie Sanders campaign. As expected we received some inquiries on why a yoga studio would be supporting any one candidate’s campaign or even getting involved in politics in general. Some even said the mix of the two is “just a bad idea”.
I thought long and hard about this before I chose to mix yoga and politics. I’m not here to tell you I’m right in making this choice, I just want to share with you some of the reasons that brought me to my decision.
1. Our mission:
From the very beginning the mission of our studio was to move away from the usual exclusive, must wear fancy yoga clothes, be of a certain age and income bracket, practice of yoga, to a more mindful and inclusive practice. A practice that welcomes all and provides a safe space for families in the community to come together and explore a practice of self-awareness that can, in return, lead to an awareness of the self as it relates to others. Our hope is to nourish a community that reaches out just as much as it reaches in.
2. Yoga as action:
We seem to have the word “yoga” mixed up with “asana”. Yoga as a physical practice is Asana, but only one limb. To equate yoga with asana reduces the breadth and depth of yoga tradition. I see yoga as an everyday life practice. If I can’t use the lessons learned through yoga practice (meditation, asana and pranayama included) into my everyday life, yoga becomes stale, self-centered and just another facet of the individualistic culture we live in. “Living yoga” is a practice that acts consciously and pragmatically for the good of all beings and measures its growth and evolution by its capacity for kindness, empathy and social participation.
3. Speaking up:
As a small business we must speak up and make sure our needs are being heard. To voice our opinions by supporting the community that supports us. A large part of our community has voiced their support for Bernie Sanders. Big corporations take a stand in politics every day by lobbying and making substantial donations to guarantee their interests. We might not have the same influence or money but we must do what we can to participate in the political discourse.
4. The message:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard a candidate running for President say the things I’m hearing from Bernie Sanders. Issues of wealth inequality, combating climate change and saving the planet, fighting capitalism and its destructive force, his stance on racial justice, education and war, to name a few. But Bernie also speaks of love, kindness, dignity and respect for all. He speaks of our collective suffering and how your suffering is his suffering. He speaks about every religion in this world filtering down to treating others as you would like others to treat you. He believes that everyone on this planet, in some way or another, impacts everyone else. And that is what makes us human. For me, what he is saying goes way beyond politics. And as a small business owner, as a woman, as an active member of my community, and as a yoga practitioner I stand by those same ideas.
This is an extremely important time. Climate change experts say that the next 4 years of U.S. leadership could potentially make decisions that will affect the whole of humanity. The U.S. is the second biggest polluter in the world after China. We need to change the paradigm, be an example and take charge in reducing the effects of climate change on our planet. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has a nearly perfect track record on issues of climate change and the environment. We can’t waste this opportunity.
I could sit silently, with my open heart radiating light, and my clean hands in prayer position in the center of my chest. OR… I can choose to speak up for what I believe in, let those feelings in my heart inspire me to action, get my hands dirty and reach them out to my fellow neighbors. Because WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
We’ve gone up in flames before…. But now we are truly BERNING UP!