how can we truly be surprised that “yoga”, as it has been packaged and sold in the West has not made much of difference in the way things work or rather don’t work in America, at least within the confines of the “system“? Yoga is still very much a white person’s extra curricular endeavor in America. Or something that occasionally happens at The White House. Or something people do on Comcast ON-DEMAND. All this yoga, and we’re not getting to the root of the problem, which is the healing of our collective relationship to Mother Earth.
Holistic healing is still very much a luxury in this country, with a few exceptions. It costs a lot of money to choose natural, homeopathic healing and food in this country, which is part of why everything is upside down and backwards. The easiest way to be healthy is to live simply and in accordance with the principals of Nature.
Those are the words of Holly Westergren, who used to run the wild ride of a blog Namaste, Bitches. I had something of a love/hate relationship with her blog, mostly because I could never decide whether she was cutting through the bullshit, or simply being a different flavor of yoga snob. Regardless, I love the flavor of her offering above, although I also found myself wanting to write a response to it as well.
Let's start with the first sentence. For most of its history, yoga was the practice of an elite few. The major teachings were kept secret, and the masses were kept away. In all the reading I have done, I have yet to find anything close to a social change ethic, or guidelines for a just society, in the teachings. While sutras in the Buddhist Pali Canon regularly talk of social relations, community structures, and the like, yoga teachings are primarily - from what I have seen - focused on individuals.
In that sense, it makes a lot of sense that "yoga has not made much of a difference" in the oppressive structures of American society. It hasn't really in India either, despite several thousand years of existence there. This doesn't dismiss the impact yoga has had on the lives of countless individuals. That can't be taken away from anyone. But yoga as a catalyst for social change hasn't been a very common theme.
"All this yoga, and we’re not getting to the root of the problem, which is the healing of our collective relationship to Mother Earth." Right. Exactly. In fact, I would argue that the Earth has been cut out of the vast majority of our religious and spiritual practices. Or has been added in like a condiment through fluffy songs, naive appeals, and heady rhetoric.
The thing is, how can those of us in the Global North countries heal that deep disconnection with the planet when we have done next to everything to separate our physical selves from it? Urban dwellers walking on concrete, driving cars, living in houses with every last crack closed off, doing our spiritual practices in pristine spaces equally closed off? Given how our economy has become structured, the bulk of rural dwellers aren't that much better off. Driving long distances into sealed off workplaces and then returning home near or after dark, only to wake up and do it all again the next day.
I'm not terribly impressed with the ecology inside of cars. Or modern buildings.
Lately, I have had fantasies of taking jackhammers to sidewalks, streets, and paved over inner city parks. Efficiency and profit are terrible mistresses, but frankly we've given ourselves over to them, forgetting our vows to the one we have been married to all along.
As a child, I remember playing in the lilac bushes that surrounded the yard of our house. Drinking in the aroma every spring; taking refugee in the canopy every summer. That was the love that ushers forth from interdependence.
It's always there, but so often we don't see it, feel it, at all. It's as if all those yoga postures and rounds of meditation haven't broken down the damn of disassociation. There are cracks all over the place though, to the point where perhaps I will witness the flood in my lifetime.
We can't, and really shouldn't want, to go back in time to what romantically might be called "simpler times." But we must bring forward the wisdom of those days, to the point where it doesn't matter if someone is doing yoga, or Zen, or praying to God.
Getting to the root really is about roots. And soil. And stones. And water.