Ask the Teacher, Yoga

Ask the Teacher: Are you a peacenik, an activist, neither, or both? Why?

In myriad conversations with yoga teachers, I continue to learn the power of individual action, and what it represents during the sea change of local, national, and world issues. But this power can be subtle, and to respect an individual is to respect his or her course of action, or even non-action.

I’m not afraid to rise up in defense of others, honoring the Gaelic meaning of my first name: “warrior” and “more powerful.”

However, knowing the energy that entails, I require the balance of keeping the peace, preferably in a safe, fuzzy place.

So we asked our teachers:

“Are you a peacenik, an activist, neither, or both? Why?”

Verna Bennett
{BE} Studio, Sioux City

I’m both a peacenik and an activist. My soul resounds “Yes” to peace, resolution of conflict without fighting and bloodshed, open-minded people agreeing to disagree, and working together for solutions. Live and let live—and all the gooey, rasa, nectar that life can bring to us on a daily basis. We were created to love and that’s what resonates in my heart!

I’m also strongly passionate about social justice issues — how we treat people, animals, the earth we live on. In these trying times, we all need to come together with one voice to support those around us who aren’t treated fairly, be it due to race, religion, sex, and other circumstances. We all need to think more about the earth we live on, and bring awareness to the ways we can keep our world safe and sustainable.

Kali Judd
Power Life Yoga, Des Moines

Personally, I believe in order to be a peacenik you also need to be an activist. One of my favorite quotes is from Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” As a yogi I practice ahimsa, or nonviolence. I do so through my personal actions towards others, and also by standing up to violent actors in the name of peace. You cannot practice one without the other.

Kate Connell Potts
Private Yoga Teacher, Iowa City

I’m an ally and activist for social and political change in our country. In the past, I was careful not to use yoga teaching as a stage for sharing my passion for activism. But as my platform has grown, so to has my responsibility to ensure my influence is used positively. My intention is to promote equality, build a safe and welcoming physical and digital space, and share insights and resources that ultimately aim at unification — the essence of yoga! The yoga community is filled with facets of such activism and it’s inspiring to see a rise in efforts focused on inclusivity, in particular.

June Burns
Ames Racquet and Fitness Center, Ames

I’ve played both the peacenik and activist roles at different times in my life. I’ve felt pulled to one or the other depending on the historical circumstances, my age, personal development, and my perception of a situation. During asana practice with my teacher, Mathew Koder, I’m working with the qualities of both passivity and activity to use them as tools for whatever a situation demands. I lean a lot towards activism based on my convictions about social justice, and my desire for everyone to be treated fairly. As the sage Sadhguru reminds us, more important than being either an activist or a peacenik is choosing to let your life experiences “wound you or make you wise.”

This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Spring 2017 issue.


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