St. Valentine was one bad-ass guy. He went behind the back of the Roman government to wed soldiers, who were forbidden by law to marry, to their sweethearts. For this he was imprisoned and executed. Today, this story seems quaint (except the execution part), but we can still learn lessons from Valentine’s bravery.
For many of us yoga starts as an exercise program. It offers a unique way to move and stretch the body in a dynamic and engaging way. It helps build strength and flexibility. Some people lose weight, or gain muscle. It also comes with the promise of a calm mind. These things make the practice attractive to the masses.
In my experience, as I became more engaged with the physical practice and heard my teachers spout this or that sutra over and over, I started to feel like there might be more to this yoga thing. My breath started to become more interesting, I noticed in moments off the mat and learned that a shift in depth could change my state of being. I longed to dive deeper into the philosophy of the practice. I was hooked. I enrolled in teacher training.
Yoga does not subscribe to a religious or political philosophy. It is a philosophy of its own that can be paired with religion or politics. It offers a lens with which to view our lives, our relationships, our souls. When I made the connection to the practice, it was difficult not to let it seep off the mat into the rest of my life.
Yoga in an of its self is not activism. But it does create activists. It is impossible to feel a deep connection with oneself and not want to share that, not believe that the same is possible for every other human being. We are not all born with the same capabilities, talents, circumstances. Being able to connect with my core, my true authentic self, even if it was only for a moment in a perfectly present triangle, showed me the truth of who we all are. We are not the same, but we are all of the same cloth. We are all pure in our center. Some of us just have more scars than others.
The physical aspect of yoga helps us practice bravery and strength. We learn how much we are capable of when we tap into the intelligence of our body. It also helps us surrender and be flexible. It teaches us to breath into tight spaces and allow for the time it takes to create space. Both aspects are necessary for activism. Courage is needed to step out and speak up for our beliefs, but we need to know when to step back and allow for others to take the lead, or at least allow for our body to rest.
St. Valentine was able to stand up for what he believed. We are in a time where it is more crucial than ever that we stop just examining our beliefs and take action. It is time to protect that which we believe in, stand up, make calls, march, speak up. The hardest part of yoga is stepping onto the mat. Life is the same. We have to show up. We can make a difference.