Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yoga and the Political Season

The angle of the sun and the cooler nights are a reliable indicator that autumn is upon us. And every four years, the arrival of autumn hearkens the arrival of something more than cooler weather – it announces the arrival of the US presidential elections.

When you live in a town like Madison, WI, politics are an inescapable part of daily life. Whether you’re liberal or conservative (or somewhere in between) it seems like everybody has an opinion – and quite often, a strongly held opinion!

Each election cycle, I’m reminded how individual members of the yoga community often make assumptions about the other members of the community. Because we share an interest in yoga, we may assume we share other beliefs and interests, too. Sometimes that may be the case, though quite often, it’s a sort of wishful thinking or projection.

Sharing an interest in yoga may predict elements of behavior, but the vastness of the human experience virtually guarantees that the person on the mat next to us contains multitudes. Unfortunately, I often find members of the yoga community assuming that other members of the community share the same outlook and political beliefs.

When we assume that other people think and believe what we do, we miss an opportunity to stretch our minds. Like an unstretched muscle may retract into stuckness, the unchallenged mind often retracts into rigidity. While we may point fingers to the “other” at the suggestion of mental rigidity, I think it happens on both sides of the political aisle. There is likely to be some wisdom embedded within the various viewpoints, and being able to recognize the wisdom of the “other” can build community more effectively than self-selecting into self-reinforcing groups.

As we enter into another election year, I’m hoping the community of practitioners at Mound Street Yoga Center can keep in mind the diversity of our community. I believe each of us hopes these practices can help us live happier and healthier lives, with less dis-ease and distress. Since it’s likely we’re looking for the same benefits in our yoga, it seems possible that similar motives drive our political beliefs and choices.

As the election season heats up, if we find ourselves inspired to express political opinions within the yoga studio, can we:
  • Express our opinions without insulting or degrading other viewpoints?
  • Listen when we hear other viewpoints?
  • Open our hearts to consider that the “other” likely believes their way is a path to cultivate more happiness and/or healthiness, too?
With these three ideas in mind, perhaps we can come away from this election cycle stronger and healthier. And with the electorate split virtually 50/50, anything that promotes unity and community seems well worth the effort.




Donna said...

I just hope that one day, all people in all groups and in the entire world will be able to ask themselves the same question before starting a discussion about politics.

Yoga Articles said...

Yoga and Politics are very different type of article. You have written nice about politics and Yoga . . keep writing this type of article . .

Mark Stewart said...
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Ro Hanus said...

Hi Scott! I'm strangely up at 2:00 AM and somehow synchronistically ran across the blog you wrote in 2012, way back at the beginning of the presidential campaign. You aptly addressed the true outcome of this election back then! May we learn to live within a community, and a world, that doesn't assume who others are, what they believe or how they live their lives.
There must be several yoga poses that would support us in this opening. Got any asanas in particular?

Scott Anderson said...

Asana for the current political climate? My recent classes have been focusing on returning to the body, and the importance of embodiment in calming the mind and cultivating resilience.

For asana, I'd focus on feeling your feet on the floor (including all your toes) and relaxing your tailbone. As you start to relax, focus on techniques that build strength.