Yoga + politics: a good match?

It’s All Yoga, Baby has named “The Protester” 2011 yogi of the year.

So how do you feel about yogis being involved in politics? Yoga has been part of the Occupy movement from the start, mostly in the form of yoga classes for the Occupiers.

Some prominent yogis have gotten involved, while many have stayed out of it completely.

Is yoga political? I say clearly, yes, if you understand that yoga is a philosophy and not just exercise. Patanjali’s yamas are one of the eight limbs of yoga, asanas being another. Yes, yoga is actually so much more than asanas.

The yamas are the first of the eight limbs, guidelines for ethical social conduct, or moral principles that initiate the practice of yoga. They are: nonviolence, nonlying, nonstealing, non-sexual excess, and nonpossessiveness. In other words, kindness, honesty, trustworthiness, responsible relating, and nonattachment.

It’s hard to understand how any yogi following the yamas could fail to  clearly see their connection to the issues of the Occupy movement.

Some of you know me personally, and some of you only know me through this blog. I write about wellness, not about politics so much, although I did visit Occupy Austin earlier this year and blogged about it.

I am a yogi. I’ve been one for a long time. I practice yoga because it helps me be whole in body, mind, heart, and spirit. I teach yoga because I want to share its goodness. I study yoga because it is good, and it pleases me to grow. I am more awake because of yoga.

Another way of saying I am awake is to say I occupy myself. I live in the world. I am an activist. I sign petitions. I send letters. I vote. I donate. I want to make a difference for the better, and for sure, I can’t if I do nothing, so I do something.

I’m not that public about it. If you’re my Facebook friend or Twitter follower, you probably see a little more of my activism. There is more to me than being an activist, for sure, but heck, I like peace. I like justice. I like freedom. I like goodness. And I will work for them.

I understand the power of the 99% slogan in protesting corruption, heartlessness, inequity, greed. I also believe we are all part of the 100%. Yoga is about union, yoking, bringing together. Attacking people creates hardness and resistance, just like forcing the body into a pose it’s not ready for is a recipe for injury. Instead, think of the prep work and the softening and melting that allow changes to occur on the mat.

This can happen in the world.

I’m so proud of Occupy for adhering to nonviolence, showing and telling the truths about the occupiers’ lives, and confronting behaviors of stealing, irresponsibility, and greed, both within the movement and in the larger society. This is yoga!

I like respectful dissent, thoughtful protest, free speech, freedom of assembly, clarity. I’d love it if the Occupy movement could get the voters of this country focused on getting money out of politics, i.e., campaign finance reform would be one really meaningful, revolutionary change to focus on. In my opinion, accomplishing that would be taking the people’s power back from those who would subvert democracy out of greed. They know not what they do, and they can change.

I wonder if they ever wonder what their grandchildren will think of them, when today is history.

This activist yogi advocates occupying your body, your mind, your heart, and your spirit. Occupy yourself, live in the world, follow the yamas, and change it for the better.