On Thursday, George Floyd’s life was commemorated in a memorial service. Throughout the week, protests have been held in every state across the country, as Americans from all walks of life come together to rally against not only George Floyd’s murder – but also against America’s longstanding history of oppressing Black people.
The racial and political climate we’re now in lands on top of the economic and healthcare crisis brought on by Coronavirus. As such, it’s impossible to not feel the heaviness in the air. And if you try to forget, I promise social media will remind you!
In times like this, wellness can start to feel, well, trivial. And that’s why I want to remind you that it’s needed now more than ever.
When I was eight years old, I was spending the day with my big brother and we were walking out of the supermarket when three police officers tackled my brother and pinned him to the ground. I was terrified because everything happened so fast. I didn’t understand why they had them on the ground or why so much force was needed. My heart was beating out of my chest and I tried to help him but was firmly shoved out of the way. I started to cry, yelling, ““Stop it! You’re hurting him!” I felt helpless. Even though he was smashed onto the ground, he comforted me. “I’m okay Koya, I’m okay,” he said.
I don’t remember much after that. They let us go once they realized it wasn’t him. Everything was a blur for the rest of the day. I don’t remember him saying anything. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember talking much for a while. I didn’t know how much pain was still in my heart surrounding this incident until I saw George Floyd pinned to the ground. I’m still processing the pain by first acknowledging how disgusted I am with our corrupt police system and government. My yoga practice is helping me process.
A daily yoga practice – including asana, breathwork and meditation – isn’t just good for your physical body. These self-care practices offer a way to further promote social justice by processing the pain, hurt and toxic emotions inside that linger after a traumatic event. Here’s how to practice
Connection to Spirit
The country is more divided than ever. And when you’re on one side, it’s almost impossible to see the light of the other: You’re a Republican or you believe in socialism. You’re a vegan or you eat animals. You support black and brown people or you’re a racist. Because of our desire to point out the flaws in the other side’s argument, we begin to decrease people to merely the sum of their beliefs. And if your belief doesn’t align with mine, I want nothing to do with you.
Yoga isn’t a religion. It isn’t a political party. It’s a practice that connects you to Spirit. Spirit is bigger than our beliefs. Spirit, Love, God, Higher Power, the Universe… no matter what you call it, it is the positive energy that flows through all of us and unites us. Through a continued commitment to yoga, you realize your physical body is not who you are; your spiritual self, or soul, is. And you start to see that deeper Spirit-level soul in every person you come across, even if they haven’t yet noticed it in themselves. This doesn’t excuse the hard work of reform: of educating on inequalities or of tackling institutionalized injustices – but it can sometimes grant you the will to do the work. I’m reading Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad to gain a better understanding of what we’ve been born into and sharing the work with my loved ones. I would love for you to join me. You can pick up the audiobook here.
Breathwork Creates Breakthroughs
One specific practice within yoga that has helped me heal trauma is breathwork. I think of breathwork as specific breathing techniques employed to clear negative energy. This conscious control of breathing can help you work through blocked emotions and heal most types of trauma and repressed emotions. Breathwork usually requires someone who is certified or experienced within the field of breathwork to lead you through the exercises, which tend to be more intensive than what you may do at the beginning of your typical yoga class with pranayama breathing.
Instead, a person led through breathwork typically ends up with a more “intense” experience. Crying, sobbing or screaming are all on the table, but trust me – it’s worth it to process the emotions inside. Breathwork helps clear trauma from the body – enabling people to quiet their mind and hear from Spirit. This self-work allows you to enter social justice conversations from a place of love, not fear.
Meditation Creates Mental Clarity
A regular meditation practice is life changing. I’ve found that in the quiet and stillness, my soul speaks volumes about the way I need to flow in the world, how I should move, and where I need to go. The more you go within, the more you see the direction of your heart and the more you’re guided. Meditation allows you to slow down and provides mental clarity around what is really needed to create lasting change. Whether you’re in need of the right words to say to tackle a tough conversation on social injustice or have been struggling to figure out how to lead your organization through an internal Diversity and inclusion issue – I encourage you to go within to work things out.
If meditation is new to you, I recommend practicing for five to ten minutes each day. Don’t get frustrated if you have a hard time sitting in a calm position for that length of time. It’s totally normal to be antsy. It will take some time for you to get used to being in complete silence and not let thoughts rule your brain. Be patient and keep with it. You can start with my Meditation for Beginners Album.
As Audre Lorde says, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” These yogi practices of connecting to spirit, breathwork and meditation allow you to pour into yourself, and that inner work – has an outward result. Yoga helps create a better place for all of us to live in.