Dharma or Exercise: Why Do You Practice Yoga?

Dianne Bondy
Dharma or Exercise: Why Do You Practice Yoga?

A follower on my Facebook page recently sent me a message explaining that she was no longer a fan of me or my work. It seemed to her that my recent posts were only supporting people of colour in yoga and she was overtly upset about my public support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

She went on to post the statement #AllLivesMatter on my public Facebook page as way of retaliation. I found her offense to the support I was displaying, for my own life and culture, to be so strange and foreign to my own understanding of what it means to be in community.

On Racism, Mindfulness, and Yoga

I got emotional. Initially I was sad, but quickly it dissolved into anger. I encouraged the individual to stop following both my work and myself.

I no longer have the time or the energy to deal with individuals who fail to understand racism in North America and the importance of socially-conscious movements such as the #BlackLivesMatter and the #SayHerName movements.

More than this perpetuated ignorance in general, I am especially disappointed when these criticisms come from people who claim to practice mindfulness and yoga. I think what bothered me most about her criticism was her arrogance and ignorance about the world at large.

I am woman of colour who has faced discrimination, prejudice and outright racism most of my life. I am well aware of the fact that racism is sometimes so subtle that the people participating in it have no idea what they are doing, or how their words and actions impact our collective psyche.

We call this subtle racism, “microaggressions.”

Mindfulness and Recognizing Inequalities

If you are truly practicing yoga and are committed to a practice of mindfulness, than you simply cannot deny the inequalities existing in the world around you.

It is impossible not to see that we, as a people of colour, are fighting for our humanity.~Dianne Bondy

We just want the same rights to justice and opportunities that the dominant culture has enjoyment for centuries. If you are living a life of awareness, you must see what is happening in the world, and if you are truly practicing ahimsa, than you should feel impelled to stop the violence in our own backyards.

I asked the offended Facebook follower why she was so bothered by the #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackGirlsDoYoga and #BlackGirlsRockYoga movements. I wanted to understand how and why she felt these statements diminished her and her practice.

"Lifting Oppression"

I wanted to make it clear that these movements didn’t mean that white people were excluded, but rather to bring to awareness the fact that the dominant culture already has everything.

I wanted to remind her what is lacking from our lives, such as: equal representation both on and off the mat, countless opportunities and a celebration of innovations both in history and present day, are not lacking for white people in the same was as they are for people of colour.

The world was made and meant for white Americans. As people of colour, we are simply asking to be seen and heard as well. My social statements and the statements of many other people of colour, will never take anything away from the dominate culture, and our public movements are not designed to threaten the dissolution of white culture.

Why can’t opportunities, representation and respect be shared? What might happen to dominate culture if sharing did become a priority? What if I told you it would mean freedom for us all?

What if I told you the world would be a better place if we actually succeeded in creating equality and equity of all people?~Dianne Bondy

For people of colour, and people who are deemed different, exotic or “less than,” these movements offer us a platform from which we can be heard, seen and hopefully, understood. In the face of the surmounting injustice of our “modern” times, we are aiming to change the power differential. This is called “lifting oppression.”

What does it mean to live a life of awareness?

Does it mean that you use your yoga practice to educate yourself and others, to see the world as it really is (discernment), and to reshape consciousness? Or do you use your yoga, or more specifically asana, to make yourself fit — to fit in with the latest fitness craze, to be ‘cool’ or as an avenue for fame and fortune?

If the second scenario describes your yoga practice, you won’t find what you are looking for in the long term, because honestly, this is not what yoga is all about.

So, I ask you again, why do you practice yoga? If you're practicing yoga and #BlackLivesMatter movements offend you, I would like to know why.

When people share their stories of struggle and redemption and you are somehow offended by their experiences, I encourage you to ask yourself why. After all, isn’t explore discomfort through compassionate self-study the quintessential component of our yoga practice?

It is time to share the stage. It is time for self-study.

It is time for us to put any last differences aside in order to work together for the betterment of all mankind. I encourage you to meditate on this final question: Why are you so afraid of the truth?

Could it be because the truth may reveal that you are not who you thought you were? If so, it is okay - you have the time and the power to change. But first, you have to want it.

You have to believe and you have to be fearless. Creating lasting change, lifting oppression and liberating all people from suffering, can only be accomplished if we work together. There is no 'us' or 'them'...there is only we.