Friday, December 16, 2016

Yoga Practice in Turbulent Times

As the chaos of our world situation continues to reveal itself this season, many of us are struggling to understand our role in the events now unfolding.  As yoga practitioners, we may also be seeking to understand how a spiritual practice can aid us as we move forward.  For some, it is tempting to retreat to an inner landscape, where we have worked to gain some measure of control or peace.  Others may turn away from internal practice altogether in order to focus on action.  While the best strategy for moving forward in a changing world will be different for each of us, I suspect, as with most things in life, the answer for many of us will lie somewhere in the middle ground.

A yoga practice invites us into that middle place by helping us to see and make sense of the varied, sometimes paradoxical, aspects of embodied existence. By working with mindfulness and integration, we may have moments of knowing or feeling our essence, our connection to source or other beings, or whatever we might define as our "true self". We may experience moments of balance, strength, or clarity as we explore our individual identities through action on the mat. Insights or struggles around challenges in the external world could arise. Ideally, a yoga practice will serve as a bridge between the inner and outer experience, helping us to remember our responsibility to others when delving into internal terrain AND our essence or interconnection when engaging in action. In this convergence, true aim may arise and help lead us to appropriate action.

So, while a practice in yoga isn't going to create change in and of itself, it can, when practiced with these intentions in mind, support us by:

- Encouraging an internal balance that helps develop the clarity to know what we'd like to accomplish and the strength and resolve to actually do so.  (Self-care is still important!)

- Helping to develop skill in non-reactivity, allowing us time to assess before we respond.

- Fostering a sense of compassion for all beings through practicing non-judging awareness.

- Encouraging self-honesty and a willingness to both see what is taking place and acknowledge our role in it - a necessary act for those interested in understanding the impacts of privilege and complacency.

-  Building a greater capacity to bear witness as individuals and to foster a sense of shared awareness in community - an important skill in this "post-truth" era.

Yoga is a tool that can be used toward any end.  It will be up to each of us to determine what that end will be and what other skills we may need to develop in order to navigate this particular moment in time.  It is my greatest hope that our practice in this community will support us all in bringing into action whatever we most wish to offer to the world and to each other.
In peace,
~Kate Pousont Scarborough, E-RYT 500, 
Director Shelburne Falls Yoga

(illustration by Gayle Kabaker)

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