One of my friends and fellow yoga teachers Jamal Hutchinson started an Instagram awareness challenge called "30 Days of Justice for Black Men" in response to the police violence against black communities with the recent killing of the Stephon Clark. I joined in on the challenge to help spread awareness to blackness, especially in respects to the practice of yoga and mindfulness. Through the practice of yoga, I have found deeper strength and foundation in my blackness and my sense of self-love. I hope that sharing these posts with you will offer you ideas to consider how our physical asana practice represents itself off of our mat and into our daily lives. I hope that, regardless of your race, this can provide you with an opportunity to practice compassion and empathy for your fellow humans, and perhaps move you to some sort of action for the good of the community.
Day 4: Respect your roots
Yoga Pose: Tree pose (Vrksasana)
Today on April 4th, we find the intersection of 2 amazing black humans: poet Maya Angelou was born, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Today is a truly a day of significant for the roots of us black folks in America. Maya Angelou was one of my idols as a young adult and still today. Her poetry inspired me to read, to write & to become a writer. Maya Angelou inspired me to perform my poetry (all though I haven't done that in a while now) and she inspired me to speak with certain elegance and grace, much like my mom (my mom was also a fan of Maya Angelou & would read her poetry to me when I was little) .
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was killed for his Steadfast determination to uplift the souls of us black folks in America. He was, and still is, a beacon of strength, courage & commitment to live and speak your Truth to Power. He is not only a shining example of the human mind-body-soul for black folks, but for all people of all backgrounds.
Here in tree pose, I connect to the earth and sway gently from side to side like a young tree in the breeze. I remember the history of my people, and slavery is not the defining experience of who I am and what I am capable of achieving. While I have to dig deeper than others to find my roots, they are still there, like a thick strong taproot that you can't yank out of the earth. I am a living expression of the richness and beauty of the African experience.
Day 5: What does it mean to be free?
Yoga Pose: Dancer Pose (natarajasana)
To be free means to live in peaceful harmony with nature and with your fellow humans. To be free means to not experience suffering by the hands of others or your yourself. To be free means to have the ability to live your Dharma.
Black people, we aren't always "free" in this country. As long as we have to speak out against the institutional violence toward our youths, the bigotry toward our success, the racism toward our skin, or the shaming of our hair, we will not be free to live our Dharma.
Compassion and loving kindness is the path to freedom. Regardless of race, we can all make an effort to practice more compassion toward ourselves & each other.
May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be at ease, my I be free from suffering.
May You be happy, may you be healthy, may you be at ease, my You be free from suffering.
May We be happy, may We be healthy, may We be at ease, my We be free from suffering.
Dancer's pose reminds me to be graceful, stand tall, and dance to the comic beat of life! Dancer's pose reminds me that we're all learning life's dance together, and through being compassionate and kind we can all exist in peace, even through the chaos. Dancer's pose reminds me to live with my heart open, to stay rooted & determined in my Truth but to be flexible to sudden change or things not going as planned.
Day 6 How will you protest injustice?
Yoga Pose Easy Sit Pose (sukhasana)
When I was a young person I was full of fire. I still am today, but I've learned to temper my fire into a transformative forge as oppose to an uncontrolled rage. When I was young, I protested, I offended, I rioted (only once) & I listened to angry music. When I was young, I was a card-carrying member of the local Socialist Worker's party chapter on my college campus. When I was young, I thought I was doing all I could to protest against racial & gender injustice & government, but I don't think I truly understood what I was fighting for or against, as much as I was satisfying the anger that lived inside of me.
These days, my protest is more of an inward journey of radical self-love, compassion & loving kindness. Through healing myself, I can be better at holding space for my community to experience the transformative & healing capacity of radical self-love. Living my life according to the 8-limb path of Raja Astanga Yoga to the best of my ability & teaching others how to do the same; that is my protest. Continuing to speak Truth to Power through internally dismantling the illusions that have been impressed on me & teaching others to do the same; that is my protest. Learning to be more compassionate, honest, loving & kind; that is my protest. There's this Huggy Bear album & it's called "Weaponry Listens to Love." I used to listen to it every day. I haven't listened to it in a while, but the album title is & will always be a relevant statement.
Easy seated pose reminds me to sit down & shut up for a second. It reminds me to respond instead of react. It reminds me to listen instead of speak. It reminds me to observe internal awareness & experience instead of seeking external stimuli & sensation.
The hasta mudras I am using are the trident mudra "trisula" to destroy the kleshas of Ego, attachment, aversion & fear. The kleshas keep us bound to the illusion of reality & prevent us from perceiving clearly. Prayer mudra "Anjali" is a gesture of gratitude to myself, my community & the Divine.