Is your personal political? Yoga in the Age of Trump

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In 2010 I wrote a post entitled “in review, the personal is still political.”

My piece — STILL one of my most read posts thank you very much — was about the then and still hot topic of nudity in Yoga when Judith Lasater wrote to Yoga Journal about nakedness in Toesox ads.  Yawn if you must but it’s still a hot topic if you follow the YWS (young-white-skinny) Instagram yogalebrities.

Now America has President Trump, the most uniquely unqualified president this country has ever had.

I was in India last year when he was elected and after the results I was physically ill for three days.  I knew it wasn’t Delhi Belly.  But I had to suck it up because I had a yoga retreat to teach and we were going through the rupee crisis (PM Modi declared 500 and 1000 rupee notes worthless) at the same time so I had to keep my shit together for my students.  At least there was an American couple at the resort who were also as depressed and disgusted as I was and we commiserated and drank a lot together, wishing we didn’t have to go back to a Trumpian America.

There hasn’t been one day since 45 was elected that hasn’t been a nightmare.  He can’t go one day without tweeting or saying something incredibly nonsensical, racist, or war mongering.  NOT.  ONE.  DAY.

Travel bans.
Transgender ban in the military.
Muslims.
Building the Wall.
Mexicans who are bad hombres and rapists.
Destroying Affordable Care Act.
Women’s reproductive rights.
Charlottesville’s “fine people” neo-Nazis.
Colin Kaepernick and taking a knee.
Right to free speech.
Misogyny.
Racism.
Collusion with Russia.
Threatening North Korea with fire and fury.

MUELLER, CAN YOU JUST HURRY THE FUCK UP?!

But I digress.

What got me thinking more about all of this was the brouhaha white tears over the “take a knee” politics over the weekend and my watching the Ken Burns’ PBS special on the Vietnam War on TV right now.  Especially since I haven’t been told “America, love it or leave it” since I demonstrated against the Vietnam War.  Told on Facebook.  By white people.  Only back in the day I was told, “America, love it or leave it, hippie slut bitch.”

I grew up during the 1960s.  I was in high school from 1968-1972, when the war was at its worst and the US was also bombing Cambodia and Laos (unbeknownst to Americans at that time.)  Watching the show I remembered how I became so politicized in 1968 at such a young age, only 14.

OK, I wasn’t a typical 14 year old, whatever “typical” means to you.  I always felt different.  In 6th grade I read on a college level.  I read the Encyclopedia Britannica (yes, really) by the time I was 10.  I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up.  On my last day in the 8th grade the teacher asked us what we were going to do during our summer before going to high school.  I told her I was running away to live in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  I ran away, but it wasn’t at 14.

I wanted to know about everything like yesterday.  I was aware that there was something out there bigger than my little spot in the all white southwest side piece of Chicago where I grew up.  For one thing, there were race issues in Chicago.

News did not come from Facebook or from 140 character tweets.  There were no accusations about fake news.  You believed the newscasters because they were middle of the road.  Hearing the American troop and enemy death counts and watching the war’s gore daily on the news (which would never happen now) affected me.  In 1968 both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.  After Dr. King was assassinated Chicago had its riots just like other cities did — “they burned down the west side!”  Then there was the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 that was termed a police riot.   I was too young to hit the streets but I watched the Chicago police bust open hippie heads and drag limp bodies down the street to throw into paddy wagons.  I thought, those hippies look like me, that could be me if I was out there.

Then there was Kent State in 1970.  I was a sophomore in high school.  Still a hippie, still hanging with older students and listening to their perspectives, aware of what was going on in the world.  How could one not be?  Or not care?  Those dead college students, if I was old enough, it could have been me.

Those were the two political turning points in my young life that politicized, indeed, radicalized, me.  Then I moved out when I was 18 and never looked back.  Demonstrated and protested as much as I could.

The Chicago 7 trial,  the Vietnam war, the first Earth Day, women’s liberation marches, the failed Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive rights in the 1970s pre-Roe v. Wade, marching for farm workers, I was in the thick of it.

Because of all that I lived through I believe America in the Age of Trump is as divided now as it was back then.  I see many who are culturally clueless (i.e., living in a bubble and living in fear) despite how vastly different information is spread compared to 50 years ago.  I still believe in the hippie idea that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  But that’s me.

Is your personal political?  I ask because a Facebook friend, a yoga teacher in Belgium, posed this question yesterday:

“This is a simple inquiry, based on what I have seen over the last few days coming from the US.

A lot of yoga teachers have reacted in their own ways about taking a knee, being supportive of the athletes and sharing pictures and articles, or in their own look-at-me ways, but ok.

And I am wondering, sincerely: where is Yoga Alliance? I mean, this is an organization that has been so vocal and present, with such good marketing that they have managed to have people believe that Yoga Alliance is the end-all-be-all of yoga organizations. … Should they say something?

I know I know, yoga is not a sport, and Yoga Alliance is currently “celebrating diversity in yoga”, soooo… should they stick to it and “stay on their lane” or rise to the occasion?”

Is being a Yogi and being political mutually exclusive?  Is Yoga political?

In India right now it is and I believe not in a good way.  It’s the reason I never got behind the hoopla of International Yoga Day.  I don’t believe that it’s all good when something like this can happen.

I suggest that western yoga peeps read up on Prime Minister Modi and Hindutva right wing politics.   Or spend more time in India than at a foo-foo two week yoga retreat or month long teacher training protected from reality before jumping on the It’s All Good Namaste bandwagon.  Salman Rushdie has said that Modi makes Trump look like an amateur.  Modi is a devoted yogi.  In India now one is forced to stand for the Indian national anthem when played before movies start in theaters.  If you don’t stand you can be arrested.

India is a democracy as America claims to be (actually founded as a Republic but I won’t split hairs.)   I guess people don’t understand that if you’re forced to stand to show “patriotism,” that’s a dictatorship.  Like North Korea.

In this old protester’s opinion, Yoga Alliance can stay out of it.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what YA has to say about anything other than yoga.  YA is a registry for yoga teachers, nothing more, nothing less.  They don’t need to get political.  They do nothing for me.

Because WE need to get political, individually, now.  Well, if you give a shit.  If you’re exhausted by what’s going on, I don’t blame you.  I am some days.  But being colorblind is not a virtue.  

I believe that the one good thing that has happened since the election is that the closet racists have come out of the rotten woodwork.  Trump made them find their cojones.  Of course Obama was hung in effigy for 8 years but now it’s Trump’s America where he tweets more about his disgust for African-American football players exercising their First Amendment rights than his outrage over neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

Mind blown by the racism and ignorance I’ve read in comments made by the friends of a FB friend and not getting shut down by him.  One (self-proclaimed proud white) man said that white privilege is a false narrative and that the US is the most non-discriminatory country in the world.  Let that sink in and then multiply that opinion by millions.  MILLIONS.

FUCK.  THAT.  SHIT.

Maybe on the individual level not every Trump voter is an overt racist.  But they were more than fine with voting for one.  That’s like going to a Klan rally and not burning the cross but they sure as hell brought the matches and stood by and watched it burn.

So….

Fuck Right Speech.

Fuck the “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand” (sounds like a good thing but it’s not) that is a “marketing strategy that leverages social status and white privilege to create authority over other women.”

And fuck spiritual white women who don’t take a stand on white supremacy.

Layla Saad:  “Many so-called leaders in the online business world tell us that their work is about changing the world, leading revolutions and transforming people’s lives. And yet… in the face of racism and injustice they say next to nothing or simply re-share someone else’s inspirational meme.”

Preach, woman.

Because this time, the revolution WILL be televised.

It has to be.

“Being “nice” is not a Buddhist practice.  Being kind is.  It doesn’t always mean telling people what they are comfortable hearing.  For example, acknowledging the structural depth of white privilege and supremacy in America and elsewhere is not comfortable.  But if our society has a future, overcoming white supremacy is a practice we need to lean into immediately.” – Ethan Nichtern

 

“WHITE LADIES FINDING THEMSELVES SISTERHOODS”

white women
original upload by White Ibiza — irony, much?

“I would like to imagine other options, other ways of being, other ways of understanding identities, other ways of being together, even as we come apart.

Especially, in my world, where women gather.

In sisterhoods — to explore spirituality, creativity, personal development.

Our sisterhoods need to evolve.

They’re so often a slurry of cultural appropriation, spiritual bypassing, neoliberalism, multilevel marketing, and random woo punctuated by various signals of authority, virtue and performative vulnerability from their leaders.

And to quote Queen Latifah, they’re whiter than a Wilco concert.

I know; I’ve been in them, and have profited off of them. In lots of ways, I still do.

We can do better.

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(Pretty done seeing us white women using the word “tribe” for a lot of reasons. Like, people who buy our shit are not a “tribe.” A NEWSLETTER LIST IS NOT A TRIBE. See also: NamaSLAY, Spiritual Gangster, Unicorn Thug, Gypset and other terms that are co-opted by white people from POC to sell lifestyle products.)

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The inherent racism, classism + other -isms of LOA and The Secret, and other “mindset” and “manifesting abundance” programs are rarely thoroughly confronted.

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Can we give things up so that we begin to enter into a better relationship with each other? What might that look like? Our dreamcatchers, our dreadlocks, our trappings of the new age flattened without dimension or context by Whiteness and by capitalism, which really can’t be separated from each other? Can we wonder why we love to put on face paint and feathers to show our affinity for Standing Rock but don’t say shit about Black Lives Matter?”

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WOW.

A friend had posted this piece by Rachael Rice on her Facebook page and I was blown away.  You can read the entire piece here.  I immediately sent Rice a friend request because damn, I had to know this woman who wrote what I’ve been thinking for a very long time.  I wrote about the lack of diversity in the New Age Yoga World long before it was on the radar screen of some popular yoga bloggers.  Ahem.

This is sure to piss off a kombucha drinking white New Age yoga woman somewhere.  Holding up a mirror to white privilege usually does that (“I’m not racist, I have a black friend!”)

I invite you to read Rice’s entire piece and her links and video before you get your Lulus in a bunch and get all offended and ranty.

I’m not going to unload a shit pile of judgment on outdoor yoga fests where many who attend are dreadlocked white people.  You know which fests those are.  As an introvert and loner, those mega fests ain’t my thang.  I’m a lone wolf.  If you feel the need to bond for three days with like-minded people, go for it.  Just don’t call it a fucking TRIBE.

Before learning definitively I am Native American and Mexican (I was lied to about my ethnicity but that’s another story), seeing white people wear headdresses as a fashion statement or burning sage (“spiritual Lysol” for white women as a Native friend calls it), made me very itchy.  I couldn’t tell you why but it pissed me off.  I just knew it was wrong.  Finding out I was Native explained it.  “Blood memory” a Native friend told me.

Don’t get me started about white people calling themselves “shamans.”  Absolutely a white person can study with an indigenous person and learn the ancient ways.  But not everything belongs to you – some things have to be earned the hard way, through sweat and blood and tears.  And you don’t become a shaman in a weekend workshop at a yoga studio or New Age store.

Rice also writes about giving up her making of dreamcatchers:

“This is my announcement that I will no longer be making dreamcatchers.  It is no longer congruent with my ethics as an artist to profit from this type of work. Really, it never has been. I’ve never felt 100% comfortable appropriating and selling a white girl version of the indigenous craft even though I took measures to give back, to educate, to honor the people I learned from.”

I also invite you to read that entire piece because dreamcatchers are a BIG THANG in the New Age World.

As I said, this post is sure to piss off someone.  But these are things that need to be said and explored.  If this post makes you angry or defensive maybe that tells you something.  Learn from it.

As Pema Chodron said, we need our buttons pushed if we want to get woke and stay woke (paraphrased.)  That’s what a good teacher does.

But it’s easier to sleep walk.  I love being the troublemaker.  😉