5 Things Yoga Taught Me About Activism

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Photo by Jessamyn Stanley, who is an AMAZING yogi breaking body image stereotypes with every asana, and what she’s doing is NOT easy, y’all.

We’re talking about self-care here at Bread and Roses.

Part of my self-care routine is exercise–some regular yoga at the very least. Now, if I played basketball I probably could be writing a similar article about that. But yoga’s the thing that does it for me, so here you go.

What you will find that once you get an activism-art-self-care loop going, each will inform the other. Listening to your body, teaches you about activism. Emotional energy from activism feeds your physicality. This are the thoughts that occurred to me while on my mat last week.

5 Things Yoga Taught me About Activism

  1. It’s Ok to wobble. It ain’t easy being graceful. Sometimes even when you’re being strong you shake. So if you stumble over your words calling your Senator, or your voice shakes that first time you ask a question in a town hall meeting, it’s all good. It’s part of the practice, and everyone does it. Which leads to…
  2. Everyone falls. You hear me? Everyone. Balance isn’t easy. It’s the process of finding the balance–which by the way is usually the result of two opposing forces, not from lack of effort–that is the goal. You’re gonna drop out of it. You’re going to overdo it. You’ll wipe yourself out. Laugh at yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, try to figure out where you went wrong, and get back in the game.
  3. Sit with the discomfort. Listen to your body. What’s it telling you? Does something make you uncomfortable? Now, this isn’t a reason to get out of that uncomfortable pose. No, you notice it. You pay attention to the discomfort. You see what it has to teach you about yourself. And once you’re done, you’ll find that the part that felt the discomfort now feels freer than the part that never got any attention at all. So, if you’ve got a friend that called you out on your blithe white-priviledge, you forgot to plan childcare and half the moms in your group didn’t show, you said something wrong to someone somewhere. Sit with it. See what you have to learn. Stretch and get stronger.
  4. Sometimes slower is better. Sure, any teacher can whip you through a series of Sun Salutations. But the teacher who will take you through those poses reeeeaaaaal slow just to make sure you’re getting it right? Oh, it’s fricckin’ painful. It’s also the best way to get stronger. In activism, we so often want to jump to action, to defeating the bad legislation, getting results. But it’s better when we take the time to make sure our movement is truly intersectional, really getting everyone on the bus. That takes trust to do it right. And trust takes time. And we’re stronger when we’re done.
  5. Rest is Good. Every pose has another, counterbalancing one to bend you body back the other direction and take a rest. Every yoga practice ends with 2-3 minutes of just laying on your mat. And damnitall, isn’t it hard for an activist to just.sit.still for whole 3 minutes??  Wicked tough, but welcome. We all need rest. We all need time to just be, to feel what has changed in ourselves, to clear our minds for the next thing.

Take your breaks. Drink your water. Wobble. Go slow. Sit with the discomfort. Namaste, warriors.

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