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Yoga Speaks for Itself
Natasha Rizopoulos

This is a confusing time as a teacher if you are, as I am, someone who is quite private, doesn’t have a social media life, and rarely brings the personal into the classroom.  My feeling is that the Yoga speaks for itself and my job is to get out of the way and be the conduit.

That said, the world has felt incalculably different since November 8th.  I taught Master Class the next day and it was inconceivable to not in some way address what had happened.  I opened class by saying that I was speaking for myself (on some level trying to suggest that I wasn’t assuming that everyone in the room felt the way that I did, though I would say on that day at least 99 % of the class did) and that I was devastated and in a state of shock.  I didn’t mention Trump by name, but there could not have been any uncertainty about what I was so deeply saddened by.  I said quite a bit more – I don’t remember exactly what, except that I ended by saying that my husband had written his children that morning and said that he knew they were feeling stunned and afraid and overwhelmed by what had happened, and that they needed to consider that those exact feelings of fear and alienation were what had led so many people to vote the way they did.  And that as people who are blessed to part of a Yoga community, we could perhaps hold on to those shared feelings, if not the choice they produced, as a way of remaining part of a larger community, even with those whose votes were unthinkable to us. 

Since that day, I haven’t spoken to my classes as a group about my feelings, though I have had many conversations with students in the room before or after class.  I have worn my Nasty Woman T shirt to teach.  It’s hard to imagine anyone being in any doubt about where I stand, but the conversation is not part of my asana teaching.  For me that feels right.  In the same way that students who come to class have a right to expect the class that is described on the schedule, they have a right to expect me to teach asana rather than share my political beliefs during designated class times.

That said, I do feel there is value in Down Under as a studio using the philosophy and ideas of Yoga to ask the important questions about who we are and how we carry ourselves in the world.  Asana is one limb of a larger system that can and should help people find their best selves and wrestle with who they are on the planet.   As individuals and as a community we do not exist in a vacuum.  It is important to me, however, that our public presence does not simply add to the polarization or lapse into easy opinions, that posts are driven and guided by what we can offer that is uniquely of our lineage.  We are teachers, and teachers need to aspire to teach everyone.