Yoga and Action – Beginning to Bridge the Gap

This blog was written by Emma as a reflection on the Sacred Justice Workshop from last weekend, and thoughts on where to go next as a community.

Leena and I have long contemplated the intersection of yoga and world issues. We have asked ourselves, how can spiritual practice be an integral part of working towards a more beautiful and inclusive world? How can it support and sustain us in growing our awareness and understanding, and how can it energize us towards action? And how might we view outward action as necessary and integral to spiritual practice?

Leena and I both considered ourselves “activists” in high school and university. We met on the first day of frosh week and quickly became friends. We wore our politics on our sleeves at that time, sporting t-shirts and buttons printed with political opinions and environmental commitments. We were vocal on issues of feminism, environmentalism, consumerism, climate change and globalization. We had both participated in various activist groups in high school and we continued to explore social justice issues in different ways through our degrees – Leena in the field of Cultural Anthropology, and me in the Independent Studies Program.

Global awareness and social justice issues continue to be important to us, and we have evolved and changed a lot as individuals in the way that we think about and interact with these issues. As stewards of the Queen Street Yoga Community we are aware of wanting to include these issues in a community conversation, and also wanting to ensure that the conversation feels inviting, nourishing and energizing. To this end we decided to offer some different lenses or approaches for the community to try on, different ways to engage with and think about social justice issues. This was one of the reasons for inviting Andi and Kandace from Community Yoga Vancouver to share their approach.

Andi and Kandace have experience with an approach that focuses on the awareness and naming of different forms of oppression and privilege. In this approach there is an emphasis placed on acknowledging and naming these forms of oppression, how they overlap or intersect and how we as individuals experience and participate in them. This was a large component of the workshop – naming and discussing forms of power, oppression, privilege, intersectionality (where different forms of oppression and privilege overlap) and where we have seen these and experienced them in our own lives. We touched briefly on allyship (read more about that here) and solidarity. The workshop concluded with some yoga and meditation, and a short discussion about how the practice of yoga can help us stay present to these issues and keep us motivated to continue thinking about and working on them.

What has stayed with me most strongly from the workshop on Saturday was the experience of the introductory circle. As people shared what had brought them to the workshop, what they were hoping to think and learn about, and what some of their backgrounds were, I felt present to the breadth of knowledge and experience that was being brought to the circle. The appetite for the conversation was strong – sixteen people choosing to dive into these ideas on a Saturday afternoon in July! I experienced a sense of coming together as a community to start a conversation, to experiment with different ways of thinking about and through some of the issues. I look forward to having this conversation develop over time, through the format of  Queen Street Conversations and possible other forms or workshops.

It feels like we are still at the very beginning of discovering what kind of community we are and what kinds of resources and connections can come out of these kinds of conversations. We are excited for Queen Street Yoga to continue to be a hub where this thinking and learning together can happen. We look forward to hosting more spaces where we can connect more deeply; both  as fellow humans sharing this complex world and practitioners of yoga contemplating the range of human experience.

-Emma

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