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There aren’t many topics that wreak havoc on our sanity more than the language of politics, especially in our present-day. “What a time to be alive!”… half the population beams with excitement, while the remaining fifty percent unenthusiastically groan “Argh, what a time to be alive.”
No matter which side you stand on, a beautiful shift of energy has begun to happen. Even as everyone seems to be awake, talking, and listening, they are also stressing, and arguing. With relentless voices from both sides of the aisle, it appears the prescription to reduce stress, anxiety, and anger has never been more desirable. Say hello to yoga.
Yes, it’s true. Yoga and politics are actually quite intimately connected. Underneath the physical component, this ancient Indian practice can offer us a lot of teachings for those willing to listen. When we practice traditional yoga from the inside out, big things happen. Ask any yogi and they will admit that yoga changes you. Here are a few powerful lessons that we can learn from yoga during this uneasy political environment.
While many people head to their local yoga studio for an intense workout, traditional yoga has a lot more to do with the internal work than the physical practice. A practicing yogi follows a moralistic compass, which embodies the act of non-violence, or ahimsa. This route instructs us to act in kindness to others and ourselves, when it comes to emotional, physical, and mental events. It is easy to create violence by forming judgment, anger, and irritation when speaking to those who have a difference in political opinion. But this is exactly why we need yoga and Ahisma.
The easiest way to battle irritating conversations, Facebook posts, or tweets is by adopting the Buddhist principle of compassion. Learn to react non-violently by replacing the moody feelings with loving kindness and acceptance. Yoga, just like politics, is a great outlet for individual perspectives. Compassion and tolerance are the key ingredients in Ahimsa.
Another behavioral route we can undergo to ease political discomfort is the act of truthfulness or Satya. This Yama, or yogi principle, is all about living and speaking in our truth. When we can achieve this, it helps to create respect, honor, and integrity for all we come in contact with. One way that we can use Satya, in our day-to-day activities, is when we think about the term 'fact checking'. We hear and read about it all the time in the political press but we can learn to use this system for ourselves when writing, responding and verbalizing our thoughts as they relate to the political sphere. Digestible conversations will become more accessible when you come from a place of truth.
We step foot in a yoga class to physically challenge our bodies and sweat out some stress. But yoga is about a whole lot more than just the physical aspect. I am always telling my students in my online yoga teacher training course that they aren't just teaching the asanas, they are teaching the entire yogi lifestyle.
This spans far beyond the balancing positions on the mat and can be true for balancing your thoughts, your actions, and your habits. We can learn to also approach politics in balance. Just like you wouldn't want to spend 90 minutes every single day in an intense Ashtanga yoga class (or I sure hope not!), you probably don't want to spend all of your time and energy immersed in this tense political mayhem...though it certainly pulls you in. Not sure if you've lost your balance in life?
Take a quick look at your daily habits. How often are you speaking, reading, or listening to your favorite (or maybe least favorite) conservative or liberal talk show host? How many times a day do you scroll past some inflammatory news piece, whether you wanted to or not? The topic of politics almost seems unavoidable as it emerges everywhere we look, from sporting events to television shows, Thanksgiving dinner, social media, and more. We can learn to moderate our time spent in all of these activities.
Opt outside, read a book (a non-political one), or play with your kids. Create a balance between work, yoga, and political to give yourself a happier lifestyle.
We hear our yoga teacher instruct us to breathe over and over again in yoga class. We can choose to foster this easily translatable concept whenever we feel a wave of stress, angst, or frustration coming over us. Maybe anxiety rises as the votes are coming in on the midterm election, or we’ve found ourselves reading the latest opposing conservative or twitter storm.
When it gets to be completely overwhelming, as it inevitably does, close your eyes, and fill your body completely with fresh oxygen. Just breathe.
5. Be Present
Yoga is a workout as well as a work-in, which is meant to be spent experiencing the present moment. The asanas provide us with a physical focal point that helps ground us in the now. We can harness this skill in our daily lives by learning to remain present when feelings of anxiety about the past and fear about the present bubble up in our mind. Rather than following down the rabbit hole of those dark thoughts and emotions, try to bring it all back to the present moment, the only moment that really matters.
The word yoga literally means to yoke because it helps unite our breath with our body. Can we as yogi's pave the way for a more calmer environment? We absolutely can and should instill confidence in our peers, colleagues, and neighbors that yoga can help us maneuver the turmoil, confusion, and division.