This question has rolled around in my mind practically ever since I began my practice. I started my journey as an academic, became a practitioner as a survival mechanism and form of self care, and became a student/yoga service facilitator as an answer to the continuous questioning of what the F*CK is my purpose here in this life.
There are times when I have no doubt in my mind that tapping into the river of love that provides the current with which all life flows is the only thing. Ishvara Pranidhana, literally, the only thing. All questions of "enough-ness" subside. But when I step out of my role as a facilitator and into the present reality of this world... Is that enough? I align myself with what some would call radical beliefs and "politics" and what others would call compassion. I had a past (all too brief) which some would call radical action and others would call compassionate action. (I am being kind and gentle here, I am sure others have far more unfriendly names).
The yoga world is moving out of a wave of exclusion, privilege and elitism. This recent wave that we're moving away from is the well-to-do fit-as-shit white female being popularized through media and other exclusionary acts as the yoga ideal. We've got a wealth of asana oriented studios that kick people out for not being able to perform ridiculously advanced postures and do not create space for the other mouth-wateringly whole being satiating aspects of yoga.
That being said, all of yoga has its place. I believe, as someone who participates fully in the world of yoga service, we are coming out from under this wave. It is radically important that we acknowledge our mistakes as communities of people practicing yoga, both past and present. Yoga service trainings do not always discuss oppression, diversity, patriarchy and the current state of systems within which we will work. This is something that we must shine our flashlights of awareness on, and something that is being built upon in yoga service communities across the globe.
And yet, with all of the questioning that goes on in my mind, I must remind myself that radical means going to the root. For me Love is the underlying foundation, it is the red thread, the connection of all connections. If I am fortunate enough to tap into the "yoga", to be and breathe yoga, to gracefully AND ungracefully practice being loving, peaceful, and compassionate... Is there more?
Can we use the tools that yoga illuminates for us to reignite this fire in others? Not just in those who participate in the classes, but for those who work in the institutions we work in, live in the spaces that we live in, for those we interact with on a day to day basis, our families and friends.
Can we use these tools to HAVE THE HARD CONVERSATIONS, to push through veils of ignorance and question belief systems that dehumanize whole communities, devalue life, and cling to separateness in a non-dualistic world?
Through a process of disidentification with our egos and a realignment with truth, can we throw away the fear (begotten by pride) that holds us back from questioning those things that simply do not feel right for ourselves and for others? Can we use self study to examine our perspective/gaze/privilege and to unpack our backpacks?
I was asked at a workshop led by Jacoby and Lisa at the yoga service conference, "On whose shoulders do you stand to be here?" I stand on the shoulders of my students who are detained and incarcerated. I recognize this so that one day I too can hold them up.
Yoga service presents a piece of a very large, complex and beautiful puzzle of resistance. It is not the end all be all. In some senses, yoga service is not enough, but it is a beginning within each of us to build the resilience, the courage, the determination, and the awareness to break down the walls that have been built to divide.
I've come to a point where I realize that maybe I've been asking myself the wrong question. Maybe it's my karma that has led me to question "What is enough…?" Maybe the question could be “Do I love what I'm doing?”
Do you love what you're doing? And if love is the root of all things, then love itself is radical. We can change the world not by any particular act, or job, or thing we do or say... But instead we can change the world by being love. By being love to ourselves, being love to each other. This could mean we lead yoga classes, we're architects, we're artists, customer service reps, this can be anything where we can be ourselves and feel whole and fulfilled and recognized.
Yoga service is not enough, we need a world full of diverse communities and paths, full of sit-ins shut-it-downs and city wide protests, full of voters and legislators, educators and advocates, people within and without the system fighting for change. We need to view these acts as inseparable from yoga itself and view life and all of its loving expressions as part of the flow. The call has been made, we are waking up. Yoga service is not enough for everyone, but in recognizing my space in the world, in observing brahmacharya and striving to make myself no smaller and no larger than I am... Yoga service is enough for me... For now.
About the Author
Brianne first began studying yoga and mindfulness at Temple University through an undergraduate degree in Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy. Her deep love for philosophy and commitment to radical social justice brought her to pursue yoga teacher training so that she could build a life of connection and service. Since completing her 200 hour certification, she has focused primarily on continuing education in trauma sensitivity for youth and adults, yoga service and activism, and is a trained facilitator in the Inside Out: Prison Exchange Program Methodology out of Temple University. Yoga service has been a catalyst for her own personal growth and transformation and she is ever grateful for the opportunity to connect with and learn from each individual who comes to yoga!