In light of the recent Orlando tragedy that affected so many we at Kodawari Studios are taking a moment to not only offer condolences but some thoughts. There have been many other shootings both stateside and globally and we are aware of all of them. Yet Orlando is so close to our home in Tampa that we here seem to have felt the rumble of discord and the sadness of loss a bit more.
This latest shooting has seemed to open a conversation more on gun control, religion, mental illness, social responsibility, and lgbt rights. Therefore, there is a lot to be said on all of these topics but we will attempt to address it within the confines of what we strive to do in the studio and within yoga. What are we doing in yoga, what is the purpose, why are we here? There are obviously asanas, or postures, that guide the practice of yoga. If someone were to peek into any yoga class, they would observe a group of people moving; looking something like exercise. We are in fact moving our bodies and the possibility of an increased heart rate and sweating is most likely. However, what guides the practice is our breath. What can we say about breathing that someone doesn’t already know; we all need oxygen. The subtle yet incredibly strong breath moves us, guides us, slows us, energizes us, and connects us. Have you ever tried to hold your breath during class or anything for that matter? It makes the moment that much more difficult and longer. Conscious deep breathing allows us to sit longer in a posture and work through it . . . or not.
What is the point of all of this? So we are doing a posture and breathing, what does that have to do with life or the shooting? Yogis are often seen to the outside world as tree hugging hippies. Assuming that the perception is not just because it’s inferred we wear patchouli but because we are after a peace within ourselves and the outside world. The breath and postures and yoga books and yoga pants and special water bottles and matcha are the outer accoutrements of the peace and possible fitness level that many yogis are after. There is a community of like-minded people anytime you create a group; people tend to congregate where they feel understood and have similar goals. In yoga communities these goals tend to be peace oriented and yogis are often attracted to yoga either during a short term or long term stressful period. Basically we begin yoga when we realize that whatever we’re doing in our lives isn’t working towards the goals of happiness.
Let’s take the example of the student who joins yoga for the first time due to a painful back injury. An attorney has tried every therapy suggested to them and nothing seems to be working. They’ve heard about this weird thing called yoga from a friend and is hesitant to go but works up the nerve. After the first class they feel a little better, maybe they can sit at their desk for a few hours longer, and decide to return. They go once a week for the next year and have zero back pain at the end of the year. They couldn’t have imagined that this was possible, don’t really understand it but want to continue. They’ve also noticed they’ve been sleeping better and don’t get sick as often. They never read a yoga book and don’t attend the fancy seminars with the famous yoga instructors but they stay with the yoga for the next five years. Over this time, they learn things about themselves that they weren’t aware of before. Maybe they listen better, have more patience with their kids, eat healthier food, let the little old lady in the grocery line go ahead of them. They still don’t wear a turban, drink matcha tea, wear fancy yoga pants, or sit on a mountaintop meditating. However, somewhere along the way during their five years of practice they’ve ingested yoga. The premise of being present in their bodies is all they needed to make these changes that nobody ever told them to do.
All of the breathing and moving and consciousness are tools to be used to take what you do on the mat into the world; there is an internal and external process that occurs. What is the point you ask? The consciousness that we create can seep into your life and the lives of others. So the breath can be used in times of strife in order to stop yourself from continuing the battle. Make no mistake, we do not claim that breathing could have stopped any of the tragedies referred to above. However, WE can continue to take the practice of yoga into the world one person at a time. Every person that we come into contact with and every word that we speak has an effect and a domino effect. The effects we are attempting to create are peace and world peace.
Caveat: This was written directly after the Orlando, Florida shooting but does no negate the other shootings, police brutality, France, Turkey or any other world issue that we are all a part of. We send peace and love to all.