The involvement of yoga practitioners in the #Occupy movement has been somewhat controversial to date. There are people that say yoga can't be political because it's about accepting everyone and everything—that yoga should not be divisive. On the other side of the conversation are those who believe that yoga is about action, involvement, and awareness, and for those reasons, it is inextricably linked to politics and government.
The beauty of the #Occupy movements is that, at it’s heart, it’s not about political groups or parties. It is a movement of people giving voice to imbalances and injustices that are reaching a critical mass. The US Census Bureau reported that the number of Americans living below the official poverty line—46.2 million people—is the highest number recorded in the 52 years since the bureau began publishing figures. 22% of children live in poverty—the highest percentage since 1993. And unemployment rates are still the highest that they’ve been since the Great Depression. Meanwhile corporate profits as a percentage of the economy are at an all time high. Something is wrong. And something needs to change.
Yoga is a practice of moving toward wholeness by making the unconscious conscious and distinguishing illusion from truth. That process can be painful at times as we confront our past traumas, our inner demons, and even our beauty. We try to practice in a way that moves us toward more balance, sustainability and peace of body, mind, and spirit. Ancient yogis renounced the world and their bodies. Modern yogis, we believe, must strive for an embodied spirituality, which includes the world around.
Our collective “Body” is out of balance right now. Millions of people are suffering and spiraling into more poverty and despair. The #Occupy movement is like the pain of an overstrained muscle, seeking attention so that the healing process can be initiated. The pain doesn’t know what the solution is. It is simply speaking its truth.
As yogis and conscious activists we cannot ignore this staggering inequality. As yogis we are taught not to retreat from discomfort but to face it with compassion and without reactivity. This why we are inviting yogis to Occupy Los Angeles on November 1st. At Off the Mat, Into the World, our goal is to embody our beliefs in all that we do, and making a stand for equality is at the heart of yoga.
By getting involved in the #Occupy movement, Off the Mat is making a stand for justice and equality. But we’re also standing for Oneness. For us, the #Occupy movement can absolutely be a movement toward wholeness. We have a vision of a world that is about the 100%. It’s a world that is inclusive, where each of us cares about the well being of all of our fellow creatures. Where we don’t step on others to rise up, but rather hold each other up in support. Where we stand for fierce truth telling and self-expression. It’s a world in which we embrace community, conscious action, and a deep understanding that we are all connected and therefore our individual well-being depends on the well-being of all others. At Off the Mat, we stand for unity. And we stand for love. Tomorrow, we’ll stand up for both.
I hope you'll join us at tomorrow’s event:
LA Yoga Leaders to Join Occupy LA
Tuesday, November 1 · 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Los Angeles City Hall
City Hall 200 N. Spring St. @ the South Steps (on the 1st Street side)
Los Angeles, CA
Here’s the Facbook event page for more details
Hala Khouri has been teaching the movement arts since she was 16. Earning a B.A. In Psychology from Columbia University and a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, she is also a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, focusing on trauma's impact on the body and mind. Hala has taught yoga and the movement arts to a wide variety of people, ranging from schizophrenics and at-risk youth to mommies and rock stars. She is a founder of the yoga and activist organization Off the Mat, Into the World.