I want to start this blog post with language about what an amazing and also incredibly difficult time it is to be alive, about how all over the world imperialist, colonizing chickens are coming home to roost, to say something clever and arresting, but I've got nothing.
Or rather: I have this post about how easily racism moves in the communities of the majority culture; and I have this post and this post on what white allies can do to understand and work toward eradicating systems and laws that have oppression and destruction of others, their homes, families and properties built into them; and I have Netflix reruns; and laughter; and Rose Hydrosol and kombucha and a partner who will hold me and make me giggle and engage with me around experiences that are difficult.
And I have yoga: a (near and far, digital and in-person) community that I love deeply and challenge continually; a philosophy that I wrestle with even as I am astonished by its beauty and profundity; a spiritual tradition that echoes in my heart; and a physical practice that doesn't desert me, even when all I can do is lie face-down on my mat and struggle to draw breath.
Last few weeks, I've thought a lot about what kinds of platforms we have to engage what happens in our world: what we say and don't say about tragedy, about racism, about violence, about injustice; what lives in us, what we are able to shed, what we are continually burdened by. On Thursday when I went to work, I didn't know what to do with myself. At work, I realized that the one platform that I had, that I could use pretty quickly, is the space I create as a yoga teacher.
So I built a sequence. It isn't gentle, but it isn't the hardest, most vigorous practice you've ever seen either. It starts on the floor, because when you are so charged, so traumatized by the senseless destruction of life by those tasked with the protection and service of others, or by faceless strangers with automatic weapons, you need to remember that gravity is something you can count on, that the floor is still under your feet. It focused on the breath, on cultivating deep inhales--which was hard for me to do for days last week--and smooth exhales. I encouraged a brief pause at the top of inhale, to build resources for when you feel you're being emptied by things around you. Grounding standing postures, heart-opening back bends, and lots of chanting after savasana.
I called it, Yoga for When the System is Trying to Destroy You. Aggressive language perhaps, I said to students, but also not entirely inaccurate for what we're seeing go on in our culture, in our country. It won't feel that different, and for some of us who don't feel any different, it may not change much for you at all. But for those of us who are feeling triggered or troubled, I've built us a practice that will help us deal with what we're feeling, create a covenant of witnessing one another's practice, and return to life a better version of ourselves so that we may manifest better in our world.
It was a departure for me. I'm not often a teacher who does much talking at the beginning of class. I like to, but I don't always have a little sermon, or idea that I want to convey at the top of the class, and the students didn't come to hear me, anyway, they came to practice. But this time, I was different, I was changed. My black skin felt heavier in the room. To pretend otherwise would have felt dishonest for me, and I told them so.
After cass a student came to me and thanked me for speaking up. She said that the anger and sadness and confusion had been on hear heart all week, and if it wasn't on the hearts and minds of others she engaged with, there wasn't really much for them to talk about.
The sun keeps shining, the earth keeps spinning, and all around us, innocents and civilians are being killed because of ignorance and fear. The work that I do every day is colored by this strange dichotomy: it sucks right now, it just does, and yet there are so many things to be grateful for, to laugh about. I'm angry a lot (surprise, surprise), but not so angry that I can't still find a little joy or humor, even as I hold the rage and the pain, my own and others'. I think this is an important skill; but I do wish the world didn't give me quite so many opportunities to practice.
I'm happy to create a yoga space that isn't so much a break from the struggles and sadnesses of our lives, but an opportunity to look plainly at them, even to name them, and practice holding them in a space that feels safe, feels big enough for that work. May all of us have these spaces, that make room for all of us to come as we are, grieve if we are grieving, to breathe deeply and to practice staying present with the sensations of our day-to-day.