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.
This post is by one of our wellness practitioners, Natasha Allain.
As complex beings we process information through multiple lenses: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. So, what happens when we use multiple lenses to process at the same time, for example when we practice yoga and meditation? Here we can apply what we learn through action, such as yoga, and kinesthetically condition our muscles and our mental thought roads to spaces of resilience.
Below I have paired resilient building lessons with 5 familiar Hatha Yoga postures. Now, this isn’t just any yoga practice. With each pose you can contemplate and explore an aspect of resilience. Through intentional postures, breath, and contemplation, resilience researchers state that it is possible to rewire our brains and guide our bodies towards more resilient responses and behaviours.
We’ve all done it. Declared a new path forward (“No more facebook, I am going to read a book instead!”) only to find ourselves, hours later, back in the habit. Scrolling, barely present, and regretting it later.
It’s not your fault. There are literally millions of dollars being poured into making smartphone apps, television shows, and sugary/salty foods addictive. It’s big business. Manipulating human habits is an enormous business.
We are a small business. We want to make space for people to connect with their bodies, examine the habits of their mind and movement, and learn to care for themselves in our overly busy world.
It’s hard to compete with big business. And we don’t really want to. We are not interested in manipulating people into yoga and meditation. We refuse to do it. Many marketing strategies suggesting that to grow your business, you need to create a problem for people, and tell them how you are going to solve it. (We recently saw a website for meditation that wanted you to click on “10 ways you are messing up your mindfulness practice”. Yuck.)
I was feeling worked up, and they were feeling impatient with me. So their shortcut to harmony was to tell me to “relax!”
You can imagine how that went.
I didn’t lash out at them, but I did feel hurt. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but I had real feelings about the situation. And being told to relax was a quick dismissal of my feelings, rather than an acknowledgement of them.
I have this same thought about the phrase “Love your body,” which is a phrase I don’t really use, especially not when I am teaching yoga. I don’t think it’s bad, I just think it’s on the same end of the spectrum as “relax.” It is an instruction that, while well-intentioned, might miss the point. Telling someone (even yourself) to “love your body” may not acknowledge the real and complex experience that you have with your body. That it might be hard to love your body when you feel that the world has been telling you it’s ugly, dysfunctional, or bad your whole life. It might be hard to love your body if your body is the site of trauma. It might be hard to love your body if your body is in pain a lot of the time, or experiences anxiety or depression.
What I wish my friend had asked me (instead of telling me to relax) was simply “What’s going on?” Taking a moment to acknowledge my feelings might have made a huge difference in how I was able to be present.