What is Yoga Without A Little Social Justice?
Injustice is real! That’s right! I’m saying it. Injustice is real and the commitments of those who believe in the phrase, “all we need is love”, must shift to recognize the truth and realness of injustice. As a teacher educator committed to teaching principles of social justice at the university level and a yoga practitioner, I hold firm to the idea that social justice is a much needed integration into each and every yogis practice. I recognize how strong the connections between the two are and how many of us are missing the chance to engage in social justice principles as we practice or teach. This post is the first of a few related to understanding social justice and how it applies to our yoga practice.
First – Embodied Learning
The special sauce of yoga is the mind/body connection, and honestly it’s a huge part of social justice learning as well! The study of both yoga and social justice takes into consideration embodied learning. Our bodies are texts. We are walking sets of information, or books rather, that can be read and impressed upon. Our bodies allow for how we engage in particular spaces in our lives and how others engage with us. Our lived experiences and what has been taught to us shape our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, daily interactions, etc – and how our bodies are read. Meaning, our bodies, rather understandings of our bodies, are socially constructed.
What Does this Have to Do With Social Justice?
Our understandings of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, family structure, etc. are all social constructed in some way. Sure, there are historical, political, cultural dynamics that play into each, but we have all been conditioned or socialized to understand presentations of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, family structure, etc. in a particular way. The commitments of social justice require us to unpack our socialized understandings in order to see real change or shifts in all social justice movements. It requires our mind/body connections to begin recognizing what we hold onto must be unlearned, challenged, critique so our engagements with each other can be happen more honestly and eventually lead to only needing love. But, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, we cannot truly love if we do not understand, unpacking our social constructions leads us towards understanding.
Embodied Learning and Your Yoga Practice
Our yoga practice shouldn’t be disconnected from social structures that we consciously and unconsciously walk around with on a daily basis. Our yoga practice should be an invitation to ourselves – to our bodies – to work through those social structures; to understand them on and off of our mats. The physical practice of yoga can be seen as a means of literally unlearning through our bodies, why things are the way they are. The physical practice invites us to connect to how our bodies are read and the bodies of others. The practice of yoga invites us to be more mindful and awake to the social constructions we carry around and exhibit through our bodies. Our ability to understand must first begin with understanding the social constructions we hold onto that limit us all, we can begin this work on our mats.
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