Yoga every damn day + Positive vibes only = Peace and light. That’s the promise right?
Instead we’ve got an international pandemic, a reckoning for racial justice, and we can’t see the light through the smoke of wildfires and conspiracy theories.
Are we practicing yoga right?
That’s the question we’re asking at our annual conference inviting difficult conversations about yoga. Last year we gathered to talk about sexual assault and silence in yoga communities. This year’s theme is Practice & Praxis. How could we use or adapt our daily practice to encourage the changes we want to see in praxis?
What’s the difference between practice and praxis?
In our minds, practice is the regular routine of asana, meditation, mantra, pranayama, or other activities that encourage self-awareness. Praxis is how you apply that self-awareness to your life.
Changes in your life, or in praxis, occur almost like side effects. When we’re practicing breathing more deeply, or sensing the ground through the soles of our feet during our routine, we’re not planning on smiling at our neighbours more, or becoming more curious about our partner’s frustrating habits. These changes in our behaviour may just happen.
Unfortunately, these wonderful changes have not erased violence from the world. Mental health challenges, racial discrimination, addictions, poverty, and loneliness are still here too.
C’mon. You might be thinking. That’s expecting a bit much from a yoga practice.
Maybe. AND there are still BIPOC people, and LGBTQ folks, and people in larger and differently abled bodies who don’t feel welcome and safe in yoga spaces! For many, the cost of classes, internet access, and gear is inaccessible. Surely it’s not expecting too much for the yoga community to ensure the practice is accessible for everyone.
So the question becomes: Could we adapt our practice so that it improves our real world in praxis?
Our five-member steering committee settled on four themes to explore around practice and praxis. And since this year’s conference will necessarily be online, we’ve decided to spread it over four Saturdays, with four fabulous keynote speakers, plus panels and workshops. Attend one or all.
October 17 – Yoga and Anti-Oppression Work
Yoga isn’t an artifact. It has evolved since ancient times to guide practitioners in how to live a righteous and contented life. What guidance in the ancient texts can help us navigate anti-oppression work? How do current social movements require yoga practices to evolve?
Keynote speaker Tahia Ahmed writes:
Malcolm X said, “justice by any means necessary”. Can yoga be a means to justice? How would our yoga practice and collective appropriation of yoga need to fundamentally change? Can we disentangle yoga from its own oppressive past and present in order to find the thread of liberation that our communities so desperately need to hold on to? These are some of the questions that will be explored in this keynote about justice, yoga, and today’s social movements.
October 24 – Mental Wellness and Community
With yoga’s focus on the internal experience, it seems to be especially suited to supporting mental wellness. But many Yoga Outreach students report that the most supportive aspect is the camaraderie that arises in practicing together. How can we develop yoga more fully as a community support?
Our keynote speaker for mental wellness will be Taraneh Erfan King. She writes:
Grief is a universal experience. Sometimes we feel it on a personal level, sometimes we feel it on a community level, or even on a global family level. We may be grieving the loss of a life, the loss of a relationship, the loss of connection to self, others or the planet… Whatever the circumstances or details, grief is inevitable, natural and unavoidable. So how do we process our grief? How can we heal within and from our grief? How can we love more as a result of our grief? How can we awaken through our grief?”
October 31 – Yoga and Indigenous Resilience
Many First Nations’ spiritual practices involve grounding and connection to the earth. In fact, some speakers and writers say that these land-based practices are the source of Indigenous resilience through the violence of colonialism. Does yoga, and the yoga community, have a role in continued resilience?
Keynote speaker Jessica Barudin will weave stories, Kwakwaka’wakw values, and research to describe Indigenous contemplative and meditative practices.
In what ways is healing intergenerational and historical trauma and strengthening community wellness made possible through yoga and ceremony?
She will speak to her experiences of co-creating trauma-informed curricula with First Nations womxn and the early impressions of her doctoral project “(Re)Connecting through women’s teachings, language and movement: Culturally-adapted yoga for First Nations Womxn and Girls”.
November 7 – Self-care and Activism
Self-care is usually thought of as relaxing for an individual. But could we re-conceive of activism in a way that isn’t so depleting? How could those with more privilege take on more burden for creating community care? How is yoga best able to contribute to anti-oppression work?
Keynote speaker Michelle C Johnson will focus on the importance of centring self and collective care as we work to dismantle systems of oppression.
What are some strategies for prioritizing care for ourselves and others as part of our social change work? If we do not centre a culture of care as we make social change, we will inevitably replicate the systems we are trying to disrupt and dismantle.
Yoga isn’t practice versus praxis
It’s practice fueling praxis, and praxis informing practice. We know that our regular discipline of practicing brings benefits. Now we need to see if practicing differently could influence the types of benefits. Our keynote speakers and panelists will bring plenty of ideas for resetting the compass of our rituals toward social justice. We’d love to hear about what you’ve tried in your own practice, or in teaching others, to create more fairness and community.
If you’ve got questions and answers to share, join us October 17, 24, 31 and/or November 7th, 2020.