Now More than Ever: Yoga as a Peace Practice
By Jana Long, Executive Director, Black Yoga Teachers Alliance, Inc.
The popularity of Yoga in these technocratic times is not by chance. It seems the more we disengage with human contact, the more our violent and abusive tendencies emerge and we find ourselves accepting new standards of incivility that are now pervasive in our society.
Technology has closed the information gap to reveal events in real time as they happen in the global community. Sadly, there are people on the planet who have embraced a “death wish” based in fear and hatred of others, predicated on false perceptions of power and driven by insatiable greed. Many social scientists conclude that violence is germane to man’s nature. If that is true, then we are the lowest form of beast on the planet because even the animals of the forests, jungles, water, and air have justification for their acts of violence. Humanity has entered the Dark Ages of the 21st century, but like the previous cycle, a time of enlightenment will follow.
Yoga as a Peace Practice (YPP) was created as an activist movement, with a curriculum designed to cultivate resilience through contemplative practice in individuals, families, and communities impacted by violence. YPP began in 2017 as the first national initiative of the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance (BYTA) to address the police gun violence against unarmed black people and to seek ways to heal the complex and historical trauma experienced by people of color, specifically African Americans. However, violence touches us all, and we recognize the need for Yoga as a Peace Practice in all communities. It is a practice that should be taught and shared by all peoples with long histories and experiences of managing both microaggressions and extreme forms of hatred and violence.
YPP is a flexible curriculum designed to support Yoga teachers and practitioners in facilitating an exploration of Yoga philosophy from its arcane to its modern-day application. It offers a unique and contemporary understanding and implementation of contemplative practice based on the niyamas (personal observances) by incorporating culturally relevant themes with the use of accessible language. Restorative Yoga and gentle asana (postures) practices, pranayama (breath techniques), expressive arts, and sharing circles are used to support open communications and personal engagement.
The YPP initiative is most effective when offered in small groups where sharing feels safe and the free flow of personal expression is valued and encouraged. Each of us has the power to impact others and the responsibility to move humanity from violence to peace.
Yoga reminds us of the paradox of our existence—that our lives are a mere flash in time, symbolized by the dash between dates on gravestones all over the world. Yet the potential inherent in that flash, like the pause between the inhalation and exhalation, can have great impact on the continuation of life on the planet. We are at the same time important and insignificant, and our thoughts, actions, and deeds can either support or diminish life. Contemplative practice reveals this micro and macro cosmic connection to existence. When we attune to higher vibrations, we unleash the potential to reach higher states of consciousness to help us broaden our perceptions and tap into the creative force that dwells within. This creative potential will atrophy if we don’t use it, and we are beginning to see the results around us. Yoga as a Peace Practice shines the spotlight on how we treat each other as a human family. The training is open to anyone and everyone seeking inner peace and a more equitable and peaceful world.