Yoga as Refuge and Resistance

A few weeks ago, Leena and I went to a climate change support group. The event alternated between conversations in pairs and as a whole group. We talked about our love and appreciation of nature and our pain and worry at seeing the climate crisis evolve. We ended by envisioning new actions we could take, as individuals and as communities. 

I thought I would leave the group feeling sad and overwhelmed, but instead I left energized and upbeat. I felt relieved to be sitting in a room of people talking about the crisis, rather than avoiding it. 

And it brought Leena and I back to wondering what the practice of yoga can be at this time. If there can be a place for yoga to be a part of the change we want to see, rather than carrying on like it’s business as usual. 

Yoga is a business, and Queen Street Yoga exists within capitalism. Yoga can be viewed as a tool of capitalism, a way to keep the cogs in the machine going. Yoga can help reduce stress in the workforce so everyone can keep consuming and the machine of big business can continue, unchecked. 

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A Climate Change Collage

Emma shared this post about climate change and yoga teaching on her own blog yesterday morning. We’ve reposted it here to share it with the wider QSY community. 

In the past few months I have been re-inspired (particularly by this article) to set the tone of my yoga classes to include the awareness of rapid climate destabilization (aka climate change) as a present reality and backdrop to the “personal” or “internal” practice of yoga. I have also started to (subtly, slowly) introduce issues of race/racism and gender/sexism into the space of my asana classes. I hope to become more skilled at grappling with these pieces in my own life, as well as making them familiar vocabulary/reference points in my classes. I feel a bit clumsy at the moment, almost like I am learning to teach all over again.  These pieces (grappling with the reality of climate change, naming and responding to systems of oppression) feel closest right now to my spiritual core, so it makes sense that I am sharing them as part of my practice. I appreciate and acknowledge the work of others that continue to inspire and inform me in this arena (some of these others include Christi-an Slomka, Michael Stone and Matthew Remski). It is also such a gift to work side by side every day with Leena Miller Cressman, who values these pieces with the same fervour as I do, and together we are bringing these pieces to life at our studio.

So, last night in one of my classes at Queen Street Yoga I shared a passage, a poem and a question. I called it “A Climate Change Collage”. In my recent reading and searching for insight about the decline of the ecological world, I felt as if a conversation was emerging between the different pieces I was reading and collecting. I cobbled them together and read them to my class to frame our practice for the night. The passage was by Martin Keogh, from the introduction to a book of essays called “Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World“. The poem was by The Reverend Victoria Safford, and I had heard it read aloud by Parker Palmer during a recent podcast produced by On Being. And the question was from an interview between EcoBuddhism.org and Joanna Macy, which a mentor had shared with me earlier in the week.

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