The Call of Yoga in Troubling Times

Astro-yogis, I have a confession: sometimes I see the news updates flashing across my phone, and I feel numb.

As a member of the yoga community, I’m acutely aware that this numbness is precisely why yogis are often criticized in troubling times.

To some, it seems like we live in a delusional space, talking about peace and bliss when our nation is torn apart by gun violence. And perhaps you yourself are wondering: how can I be thinking about creating calm—perhaps just sitting there in meditation or just standing there in tadasana (mountain pose) while it’s clear that SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING.

And of course, you’re not wrong to wonder that.

In the sort of yoga I practice (and likely you do too, if you’re in the United States and a yogi), the yoga practitioner is called to acknowledge reality as it is.

This means we acknowledge the flaws and gifts within us, as well as the flaws and gifts outside ourselves. And this can seem fine (if still challenging) when the flaws we face are palatable: overcoming issues with perfectionism, finding balance, giving ourselves permission to fail. And of course, these palatable flaws are important for us to address.

But, in my experience, the task of acknowledging things as they are grows more challenging when we have to acknowledge the completely unpalatable, choking-hazard flaws in our reality.

Those flaws are the great tragedies of our time: gun violence, abuse, war. Because although we likely aren’t the ones directly enacting these things, we still live in a world where these tragedies are reality. 

And for me, this space of acknowledgement is where the numbness sets in. I see the pain in the world, and in my body around my heart, I begin to feel the huge amount of sorrow and anger, to feel the sense of fear and helplessness. The temptation in these moments is to turn off, tune out, hide: go numb. Perhaps you’ve felt this way too, at one moment or another.

But yogis know that the key is to see the whole reality. And so we breathe through it, invite the numbness to fade, invite the feelings to meet our breath.

The gifts of life are still there, even amid the tragedies. And just as you use your yoga practice to integrate discomfort and growth with relaxation, you’re called to integrate the entire nature of reality so that we can take action to create lasting impact for the better.

Any small action helps; any amount of processing and healing can be the first step that we as a nation make toward healing and the prevention of future tragedies. It begins with acknowledgement; the refusal to give into numbness; and the dedication to tie our breath to our actions.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of the recent Florida shooting. From this place of acknowledgement, let's take actions that prevent this sort of tragedy in the future.