Friday, June 24, 2011

My Street Yoga Experience

Last weekend I was fortunate to attend a 3 day training through Street Yoga. It was so wonderful to be with people who want to share their own healing with the walking wounded. I met yoga studio owners who thought nothing of donating their space to help the traumatized. I met social workers who understood a side of life that most of us ignore: the foster child system, the sexually abused, teenage girls in juvenile homes, homeless teenagers, angry runaways--there are over 7 million homeless children in our country.  What happens when people ignore such critical statistics?

I'm hoping to work with a coalition of like-minded teachers who will bring yoga to all who need it, regardless of cost or location. Some of the trainees were already working in centers with mixed groups of impoverished children with learning disabilities. One said that she was a trauma survivor, determined to make sure that others did not have to suffer as she did. Another worked with parents and children in the Philadelphia public schools, hoping to use yoga to glue the family fabric. One worked in the legal system, and knew the precise fate of teenagers imprisoned for petty crime--such incarceration gave them a PhD. in criminal behavior. Our yoga cohort knows the world is a mess and plan to do their part to make it better.

I needed this training to heal myself from a lot of anger and frustration. Lately, all I've seen is naked ambition,  backbiting, and self-promotion at the expense of truth. It's all about me, me, me--my career, my work, my name, my connections, my power, my prestige. I've seen good people maligned and others in fear for their jobs.  I've seen injustice and hardened hearts where compassion and forgiveness could have solved so much of this ugliness. I began to think that the world was filled with selfish people who thought nothing of destroying others to get their way.

The Street Yoga training reminded me that love is stronger than fear. When we see the suffering of others, we can do one of three things: ignore it, blame the victims or try to do something to help. The devastation in Joplin, Missouri showed the world that people will rise up to help their neighbors. It's great to see people accept the mantle of responsibility for their neighbor in a crisis. But what about our daily lives? Who are we hurting with our words? Who are we blaming for things out of our control? What are we doing each day to solve the absence of love in the world? Just like evil begins with a thought, goodness can grow with actions that represent a clear mind that rejects fear and selfishness. I challenge myself to do what is right, not what is easy.  It may sound like a cliche, but the world will never tire from a caring heart.


  1. "When we see the suffering of others, we can do one of three things: ignore it, blame the victims or try to do something to help."
    Fourth thing: feel bad and talk about it. Does that help?
    I can't do the first, sometimes do the second, and am either very lazy about the third or it might be beyond my abilities.

  2. Yes, it helps as it is acknowledging it as a problem. I don't know which is worse: blaming the victim or ignoring it. Either way, the survivors lose.

  3. I would say that blaming the victim is a way of ignoring the issue.

    Sounds like yoga might be a method by which one could parry counterviolence (the tendency to enact violence in response to violence--especially problematic in that most counterviolence is misplaced, i.e., enacted upon another person because the original perpetrator is either unavailable or too powerful to attack).

    While I share SJ's cynicism to some degree, I have to admit that you're doing something, it's positive, has great potential, and can't do any harm. I would hope that you'd have success expanding your efforts.

  4. Yoga has done wonders in neglected communities. Some of these groups work in prisons, domestic abuse shelters--you name all the places most people don't want to go and committed yoga instructors are there. You have to be trained for this: I'm attending another in July through yoga activist. There are words you can't say, postures you need to avoid and gestures that are emotionally threatening.

    I agree: blaming the victim ignores the problem subversively.

  5. The other night I heard a comic, I believe his name is Louie C.K. Anyway, his routine involved talking to one of his children about avarice and he said something that struck me. Something I will probably always remember. "The only time you look inside your neighbor's walls is to see if they have enough, not to see if they have more than you."

  6. I heard a comedian the other night say something really profound. I believe his name was Louis C.K. Anyway, the skit was telling his daughter no to be jealous of their neighbor and his comment was, "You only look inside you neighbor's walls to see if they have enough, not to see if they have more than you."

  7. Wonderful~~! To me, blaming victims is not a real option at all. Glass houses, there but for the grace of God . . . Either excercise compassion, or a sort of Buddhist detachment or both. -- "Erik's Choice"

  8. Hey buddies. I keep saying I'll write another blog, but it turns into an email instead. In a way, compassion is a kind of detachment as it shows a distance from the ego-mind.

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