The Yoga Community Must Shelve Both Idealism and Politeness to Loudly and Publicly Endorse Obama. Right Now. Who’s In?

Via yoga 2.0 lab
on Nov 1, 2012
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by Matthew Remski

Approaching the eve of this critical election, I’ve been bothered by two political stances within the yoga demographic. One is etheric to the point of dissociation: “Whatever change we desire will only come through a change in consciousness.” The other is flaccid and polite to the point of meaninglessness: “Yogis can use the political process to express their values, off the mat.”

Here’s the problem: neither are adequately muscular to the task of preventing a hateful, mendacious plutocrat who evades taxes to tithe to a racist jabberwocky church from seizing the reins of power. My question to the yoga community at large is: why have we not seen a single prominent teacher or yoga organization formally and publicly endorse the Obama-Biden ticket? Do we not want to get our hands too dirty? Are we too busy pretending It’s All Good? Are we even a community at all?


The etheric-dissociative posture

The first stance – the etheric-dissociative – was called out recently by Derek Beres in a critique of a Marianne Williamson’s pseudo-political tweet: “No matter who wins the election, we need a collective leap in consciousness in order to take our country and our world in the direction of peace and love.” Williamson isn’t a yoga person per se, but according to my Facebook feed, she ranks high amongst many yogis’ oft-quoted sources of inspiration, along with the catatonic Eckhart Tolle and the insanely prolific Rumi. Beres does a great job in taking down her vague, apolitical, high-ground cop-out, and demanding that she and other prominent voices stop obscuring the real with the ideal, and show a little pragmatic leadership with regard to what we can do with the votes we have.

I’m afraid Beres wasted a little digital ink on his critique, because Williamson is not actually speaking politically at all. She is appropriating the language of a “political moment” to advance her brand of holier-than-thou dissociation that only people blind to their privilege can afford. Simply replace the phrase “wins the election” with any other verbal clause, and my point is clear:

“No matter who guides our foreign policy, we need a collective leap in consciousness…”

“No matter who wins American Idol, we need a collective leap in consciousness…”

“No matter who controls our food supply, we need a collective leap in consciousness…”

“No matter who walks the dog, we need a collective leap in consciousness…”

Williamson has but one Course-in-Miracles-inflected song, and she’ll sing it in the same key before and after November 6th. There is no room for history when you’re high on the power of now. Her job is not to rally political consciousness, but to maintain her constituents’ dissociation through the emotional onslaught of a very dirty campaign in an increasingly desperate political landscape. Her job is distinctly anti-political, and she’s doing it quite well. Douglas Brooks indirectly describes how she rolls in his recent critique of the nivrtti posture in spirituality:

In contemporary yoga such voices of nivrtti often resort to two strategies of criticism meant to proffer the superiority of taking a “higher” and “spiritual” path that contrasts with the conflicting views and uncertainties of a mundane human reality.  The two strategies are covertly (or not) coupled with certain logic of superiority.  It goes like this: any effort to express views that might be contentious, disputed, or cause conflict are deemed (1) the work of the “lower” features of an Ego—n.b., the capital “E” works a certain magic meant to express the authority of the claim that Ego=culprit in the equation that affirms (2) silence in the role of our better angel for “spiritual” accomplishment.  So, it is implied, to become silent and so serene beyond measurable response is set apart as the higher path of a “true” yogin.  The “spiritual” then becomes the apolitical.  But even a little more candor reveals that this apolitical spiritual path—revered as superior is more an effort to keep one’s politics private, to silence the process of a more honest conversation precisely because it could complicate or challenge relationships.  The next bit of legerdemain is to assert that this unifying view of the “true” nature of reality not only transcends any contentions but also manages to render everyone’s individual opinions equally true so that there is no need to have the challenging conversations in the open.  Just go inside and everything will be better.


The flaccid-polite posture

Off the Mat, Into the World has set itself up as a 501(c)3 non-profit, which means it cannot engage in political speech. This is an effective structure for fundraising, and for broadcasting the non-denominational brand of yogic self-regulation and empathy-building tools to the broadest audience. But it also creates a kind of hamstrung speech that wastes a lot of time in stating the obvious and avoiding the necessary conflict of the day. This is painfully clear in OTM’s affiliate programme, YogaVotes, which duplicates the efforts of other non-partisan voting-drive initiatives, like the League of Women Voters, which themselves court a predominantly progressive demographic, but can never call a spade a spade. Watching the intelligent and strong representatives of YogaVotes contort themselves around their deep internal desire to bury Romney under a thousand gallons of Kali’s flaming bile makes me squirm. (Please correct me, YV-ers if this is my projection.)

Do we really need, as YogaVotes claims on its homepage, to “awaken a new demographic of mindful voters—sparking higher voter turnout among the 20 million Americans who practice yoga”? Is yoga culture some ninth-grade classroom sleeping through Civics? Not from what I’ve seen. The vast majority of studio owners and practitioners I know are firmly progressive in their politics. And while progressivism does not translate into votes for Obama without a lot of kicking and screaming, it does translate into a strategic voting stance against regressive chaos. So why, I ask, with our sentiments and our privileged economic status and all of us hanging around the studio water cooler after class worried about reversals in health care coverage and women’s rights and environmental hooliganism, is the most visible political arm of yoga culture this toothless display of bendy niceness?

Be Scofield has done a great job of pointing out how there is nothing inherently progressive about mindfulness culture, and that OTM has accomplished its strongest branding success (providing quickie asana-snacks at both Republican and Democrat conventions) precisely by playing on the political neutrality of transcendent practices. He goes further to show that practicing yoga doesn’t necessarily make one progressive, citing the fact that corporate structures from Goldman Sachs to the U.S. military are using yoga to improve imperial efficiency. And of course we know that yoga culture itself is dotted by some very loud-mouthed libertarians like Lululemon owner Chip Wilson, who spouts as much Ayn Rand nonsense as Paul Ryan does, but whose power, thankfully, is limited to no-chafe gusset-design. Oops – and hiring conditions in his Chinese factories.

I don’t have a survey, but anecdotally it feels like Wilson and Republican flunkies who enjoy backbends are a small and self-absorbed minority in contemporary yoga. I’d say about 20%. Scofield may be right that yoga doesn’t make you a good person, but I’m willing to bet that there are far more genuinely good people than narcissist plutocrats practicing yoga. So I think we can stand a lot more than breathless requests to actually vote. That bar is way too low for what we’re capable of. We need our own Yoga Super PAC, so we can throw the fire with the best of them. The times call for a lot more Arjuna; a lot less Patanjali.


The Editorials of Yoga Culture are Blog Posts: Endorse Now

There is no broader organizing structure for contemporary yoga culture than the blogosphere. Popular yoga blogs have upwards of 50K regular readers each. While it would be great to hear that prominent teachers (let’s say: everyone on the faculty list for the next Yoga Journal Conference) were all actively endorsing an Anyone-but-Romney position, this would hold less democratic sway than if bloggers endorsed in the same way that the print newspapers do.

Here’s my suggested platform, which I think makes sense for the majority of the yoga demographic:

— Given that Mitt Romney’s discernible platform stands to set socio-economic justice, women’s rights, ecological stewardship, scientific research and foreign relations back by several generations, and

— Given that much more of his platform is actually indiscernible due to his pathological lying and opportunism, and

— Given that he is an ordained operative in an exclusionary religious institution rife with the anti-rationalism, anti-environmentalism, and magical thinking that is anathema to the culture of yogic inquiry:

— Incumbent President Obama remains the better and at least known choice, and should be passionately supported by yoga practitioners.

Simple, no? Anyone disagree? I know: I apologize to third-party advocates. Obama is not a perfect choice, given his mediocre record on human rights, upholding international law, and environmental progress. But the immediate legislative impact of a Romney administration is a far heavier price to pay than the ground we lose in reshaping the electoral landscape. Remember Nader, 2000, Florida. It’s not worth it.

I call on all yoga news outlets, magazines, blogs and bloggers, including those who publish and post to this site, to use your soapboxes in these last days to do what we haven’t been brave enough to do so far, caught as we have been between transcendent and politeness reflexes: weave our politics and practice into a bright braid of passion:

1.    Please reply below if you intend to endorse.

2.    Endorse Obama on your blog or online publication. Two sentences would do it.

3.    Provide the link to your endorsement in a follow-up comment to this post.

Make one post, between now and Monday. One brief but firm endorsement for the obvious choice. One single gesture that will mark the beginning of a shift in yoga culture towards greater courage, participation, and the dirty work of integrity.


Matthew Remski is an author, yoga teacher, ayurvedic therapist and educator, co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto, and a new papa. He is a co-contributor to 21st Century Yoga. His new “remix” translation of Patanjali  –threads of yoga– is going to print right now. Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body:The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, says of the book: “I don’t know of any reading of the yoga sutras as wildly creative, as impassioned and as earnest as this. it engages Patanjali and the reader in an urgent, electrified conversation that weaves philosophy, symbolist poetry, psychoanalysis and cultural history. There’s a kind of delight and freshness in this book that is very rare in writing on yoga, and especially rare in writing on the yoga sutras. This is a Patanjali for postmoderns, less a translation than a startlingly relevant report on our current condition, through the prism of this ancient text.” Please check out Matthew’s site for more writings on Ayurveda and Yoga.




About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.


179 Responses to “The Yoga Community Must Shelve Both Idealism and Politeness to Loudly and Publicly Endorse Obama. Right Now. Who’s In?”

  1. Maybe because the 'yoga community' is NOT a homogenous entity. There may be union but there is no ONE. I'm glad because I cannot support either candidate. I'd hate for the 'yoga community' to try to further try to alienate yogis by dictating a singular belief system. ANY belief system let alone a political one.

    I find this politicizing of yoga to be disrespectful and divisive. There are so many places in the world to find those characteristics. Need yoga be just another one of them?

    • matthew says:

      Thank you, downdogandcats. Question: Are you going to vote?

      Further: endorsing Obama is as far as can be away from "dictating a singular belief system." It's just damage control.

      Further: the call doesn't politicize yoga, but insists that practitioners of yoga realize that we live in a politicized world, and stop trying to run away from this fact.

      • Truth says:

        The world would be better under Romney, because Romney wouldn't be able to get away with the things Obama has. Like Kill List, going to war without congressional authority, bailing out the banks, creating record income disparity.

  2. I am not decided if I am going to vote. If I do, I am writing in a candidate. I was a registered Democrat for 25 years before I quit the party in 2008. I was an OBSESSED politico who was a rabid liberal and passionately defended and furthered the cause. In spite of that fact, I managed to have many very good conservative friends who I listened to objectively and dispassionately. When I started to see that we, the Democrats, were becoming what we professed to hate did I realize I had no business in the party any longer. That meant supporting a candidate who would keep perpetuating war, further the Patriot Act, and do things which, if it was the other party, we'd never in a million years accept let alone support or apologize for. The truth is both candidates are different sides of the same dysfunctional coin. One that is not worthy of something so valuable as my trust, faith, and support.

    I certainly don't want yoga trying to speak as a unified voice for one candidate on my behalf. How dare they try to pigeon pose, er, hole me like that. There is no one political party in yoga any more than there is one race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or age.

    • matthew says:

      I understand the third-party passion and the grave disappointment in the Democratic party, which I share, having campaigned hard in 2000 and beyond. There is no political party that will represent all of the concerns of the community of practitioners. But there is a very grave decision to be made on Tuesday, and only one clear pragmatic choice. Call it pigeon-holing out of sad necessity. Your write-in candidate will not stop Romney, and a Romney administration is a global disaster.

      • Truth says:

        You are stuck in fear mode. Romney admin will be same as Obama on foreign policy. Obama has been foreign disaster because of his economic policy of print print print.

        • FREE says:

          Exactly who's "TRUTH" are you trying to get out there Truth? You think you know the "TRUTH"? Your 'TRUTH" is NOT my TRUTH thank you very much!

    • @AhimsaYogi says:

      "both candidates are different sides of the same dysfunctional coin."
      I respect each person's right to their own opinion, but a statement like this feels like a bit of a cop-out to me whenever I hear it.
      Yes there are similarities between all the less-than-perfect politicians and players engaged in the political game. The likenesses are easy to point out. Dissatisfaction is easy to justify.
      However we do not decide to vote or not vote based on samenesses, we vote based on the differences. And the differences are significant enough to make it more than worthwhile to get out and do one's civic duty.

    • nunh says:

      Well said. Agreed.

  3. Philip says:

    @Downdogandcats. Nice photo. Politics are based on peoples moral values of what is right and wrong. For example…Mitt Romney roof racked his own dog and then put his luggage inside. He then drove nearly 4 hours with his family dog Seamus strapped to the roof. Making a moral decision on who the yoga community would/should support is not as alienating as you propose. Not as much drama as you make it out to be. Moral values….are divisive. Being irresponsible and apathetic about what matters in the real world is a bigger, more dangerous problem than anything you might do on your yoga mat.

    • Truth says:

      The dog lived!!!! Romney has never ordered the extra-judicial killing of an american citizen. Obama has a kill list. Google it. Reported in the New York Times. Read stanford's Living Under Drones. Obama signed the NDAA authorizing indefinite detention. Do you know how serious it is that a citizen can be detained indefinably? Bush didn't do this, Obama did.

      • paul says:

        More accurately, Bush started this renewed expansion of the secret state, Obama continued it. The Obama administration has also persecuted more whistle blowers than any president.

        • Truth says:

          Yes, yes, yes. So can a yogi look past that and still vote Obama?

          • paul says:

            I wouldn't presume to think for the "yogi" but I see only gestures from Obama when it comes to ahimsa, satya, etc, so to me, I don't think so.

  4. Matt, I've endorsed Obama, in spoken and written word. I am not afraid to express my feelings about anything though I am cautious on the means of expression. There's much opportunity for miscommunication.

    I don't do this because I'm a yoga teacher but because I'm a person, not because my students are a captured audience but because we are sharing an experience together.

    Though my profile is not what it once was, even in the day I had no fear to express my heart to edges of the room. Why? Because I felt innocent. I had no agenda or desire to manipulate. I feared no enemies because I made none. It was easy. Perhaps there is too much second guessing that goes on as to how one is perceived now. Perhaps we are all tired and self conscious and mistrusting.

  5. carolhortonbooks says:

    It's telling that it took a Canadian to write this post.

    I'm traveling to Wisconsin this weekend to canvass for Obama along with three other friends – two of whom are yoga teachers. But, I'm not hopeful about "the yoga community" in general getting politically engaged enough to even endorse a candidate.

    And, even if some do, at least the online voices that I've seen are much more passionate about hating both of our major parties equally than anything else. There seems to be a vocal libertarian contingent in particular. I feel there is an enormous and problematic lack of pragmatism there, but prefer it to the "since we're all one, it's not spiritual or yogic to take a political position" mush that otherwise predominates.

    From what I've seen, it's sad but true that simply telling people to vote is considered edgy and political (and perhaps overly so, in some circles) . . . I had always thought that was the taken-for-granted starting point (of course I'm going to vote in an important presidential election! Really, it should not even be an issue). But clearly, in the American yoga community, that does not seem to be the case.

    Finally, you missed Be's statistic that equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats practice yoga in the US today – raising the suspicion that the reluctance to take a stand may have more to do with marketing considerations than anything else.

  6. Asking a yogi to endorse a political party would be like asking the Dalai Lama to endorse a political party.

    • matthew says:

      There are few leaders as politically intelligent and pragmatic as Tenzin Gyatso. I think you've made the opposite point to the point you intended.

      Again, my proposal does not request a statement of identity, but an act of pragmatism.

    • yogijulian says:

      hold on, so: a) yogis are on the same level in some way as the dalai lama and b) the dalai lama for some reason shouldn't endorse a candidate?


    • I think the problem with mixing yoga and politics is that yoga is about authenticity (well, maybe not the mainstream rock star kind) while politics is anything but. In order to support a politician or a party you have to buy into some serious outright lies about who they are but, worse, who the other party is. Neither is as good or as evil as the other and yet politics would have you believe one side is Godly with the other is Satan. The reason yoga and politics do not and will not ever mix is because politics are inherently dishonest and inauthentic. Yoga, in it's truest form, is neither.

      • matthew says:

        Downdogandcats. Yoga and politics are disciplines, and yogis and politicians are people. We're talking about the latter here, just to clarify.

        Yoga and politics may not mix very well, but yogis (people) whose lives are impacted by what politicians (people) do had best get their hands dirty.

        • As a recovered political junkie, I can tell you that I care about the issues, have knowledge where each candidate stands, know what each party represents. I cared about the issues LONG before I stepped foot on a yoga mat. Likewise, I'll practice yoga long after the hoopla and hype of the election and the media motivation of new and/or young voters has subsided. I do not need yoga to be an informed and involved citizen and I don't need to be an informed citizen to be a dedicated yogi. Matter of fact, I prefer the separation because one is about letting go of judgment, attachment, and control and the other is all about gaining and keeping all of those things.

          • matthew says:

            It sounds like you became exhausted by politics, and rightly so, and have looked towards yoga as a refuge. I'm glad that works for you: it may be exactly what you need right now.

            But on the whole, presenting yoga practice as some kind of hallowed escape from political concern does not make for good or sustainable citizenship within our community. If you've had to take a break, that's understandable. But it's not fair to claim that those who continue to join practice with politics are somehow being "divisive". We're just trying to bring our internal world and external worlds into closer harmony.

            Nobody lives in two different worlds: yogaworld and politicsworld. There's just the world.

          • Vision_Quest2 says:

            Just see how far being "yogic" gets you when you can't afford health insurance in this country and need it ….

          • Ah, but we do live in different worlds. People routinely do not blend politics, religion, sex, and other topics with their employment and in other places where there have been respected BOUNDARIES for such. It is hard enough to find a gifted yoga teacher who is not regurgitating terminology and philosophy they don't really understand let alone live by. Hard enough to find a class that is well taught, varied, inclusive and interesting. I really don't look forward to the day when I am lectured in a class about who to vote for or given information about a candidate which can be found anywhere outside a yoga studio four walls.

          • @AhimsaYogi says:

            Does one really need to "lecture" to share their position? Their viewpoint? Their reasoning for it?
            I don't want a politics lecture in my classes either, but I do want a real person, who has a real life, a favourite ice cream flavour, a history of mischief in their teenage years, and yes, a thoughtful position on the state of the world today, and where we can use our voices to make a difference.

          • matthew says:

            I value boundaries in many contexts, including reading comprehension.

            If you look again, you might see that I in no way advocated in-class lectures. I called specifically to the nodes of communication in the yoga world — bloggers and magazines — to up their game in the field of civic duty, and work towards representing a culture that participates rather than evades.

          • Slippery slope, slippery slope. I think if individual teachers want to be politically and socially active on their personal time then more power to them. Likewise, I choose to do both on my personal time. But to call out teachers who want to keep long standing boundaries in place and request that they use their position in ways which benefit a particular party or politician, which YogaVotes CLEARLY does, is just lame. Politics, like religion, is a deeply personal matter. A matter which is best left with each person, yogi, yoga teacher to choose.

          • matthew says:

            It sounds like splitting yourself and professionalizing your practice has given you some relief. For me, yoga is not a job with a public aspect distinct from my "personal time".

            Let me ask you this: we're so far speaking of boundaries with regard to candidate endorsements. Would it be equally unappealing to you for practitioners in mentorship positions to take public and activist stances on issues in the hopes of influencing their constituents? As in Jivamukti and veganism? As in Aadil Palkivala and shielding Indian agriculture from Monsanto?

            How thick do you want this boundary to be? Should a studio owner not have an aggressive ecological policy?

            Or how about Krishnamacharya being a supporter of the RSS in his day?

          • Before I answer that, you live in Canada. Are you an American citizen or naturalized citizen and still registered to vote here?

          • matthew says:

            Sorry — just saw this. Dual citizen, born in MI of a Canadian mother. Registered in WI.

          • Sorry4yourdog says:


            Obama fighting against Monsanto? Hardly.

            As for Krishnamacharya, he tended to the RSS like a father to a child. It would reason that he could wholeheartedly endorse the RSS because he knew him personally, unlike the yoga community and ANY candidate.

            I also don't think the words smug and instructor should be in the same sentence, but in your case I'll make the exception. You sometimes end your posts with attacks on the other person's intelligence by demeaning them. Not nice.

          • matthew says:

            Sorry: who did I demean? How?

          • Sorry4yourdog says:

            How do politics figure into Kaivalya? Samadhi?

          • matthew says:

            There's a verse in the Bhagavad Gita — can't remember where — in which I believe Krishna says that residing in a well-governed place is a prerequisite for meditation. That's what comes to mind for me.

          • Sorry4yourdog says:

            Well governed country or well governed, orderly life?

            I would like to point out the fact that people experience samadhi or the absolute/brahman/etc. regardless of the political climate, and that their political views don't really impact their relationship with samadhi. It seems to me that to be involved in politics might pull you away from the practice due to increased passion in the mind. It's hard to make time to absorb oneself when one is absorbed in something other than the self.

            <–not enlightened yet, just an opinion.

  7. matthew says:

    Road trip with Carol! Thanks for weighing in. I did miss Be's stat. Or I ignored it, since it seems crazy to me from my Canadian perch.

  8. paul says:

    If you've seen the godhead, or take Krishna's advice to heart, you won't be listening to this article's fear mongering anyways, you'll be voting your varna. Patanjali says "cultivate the opposite," so no need to shelve idealism, just don't support fear. Jill Stein is the far better candidate than Obama, who is not mediocre but an enthusiast and non-apologist when it comes to drones, endless detention, extra judicial killing, corporate welfare, industrial agriculture etc.

    • matthew says:

      Dear Paul: please show me the Godhead. I'd like to know how a vote for the excellent, excellent Jill Stein is going to help prevent Romney and crew from rewriting the meaning of rape, shredding what's left of the social net, and cranking up the drills. What is the most pragmatic choice here, today, given current polling, that will "cultivate the opposite?"

      By the way: for those of you who need a translation, Paul's "voting your varna" means "voting your caste", which, given our present class stratification, is a rather awkward reference to make.

      • paul says:

        You brought up Arjuna in this article, I just clarified what that means. If I've seen the godhead, I've forgotton, and if I knew to show you I would.

        A vote for Stein is a vote for peace, not an endorsement of Romney. She will not be to blame for the Democrats poor messaging (more a way to avoid hypocrisy to my view; Romney is the one talking about poverty), or their lack of leadership (bipartisan, bad bills that Republicans either help write then vote as a block against, if not walk away entierly), nor is Nader to blame for Gore's lockbox, Clinton's absent stumping, or one of the worst rulings by our Supreme Court. Had Obama been the candidate the 2008 campaign presented, he would be the pragmatic choice, pro-war but a leader for peace and transparency. But instead of being the leader, he has always been the lesser, fighting so hard for the middle ground that the middle moves rightward, and when he thinks a position or policy would effect this election, he uses that as the excuse for his inaction or capitulation (Russia, Israel, record prececution of whistleblowers, healthcare, the keystone pipeline, etc). He is not a pragmatic choice for peace.

        Democrats use "pragmatism" to excuse their every rightward voting, and this has only worked to push them to the Republican position. The use of pragmatism for fear mongering only makes fear, and is itself a policy of fear. This may also be contributing to the rightwardness of the Democrats.

        • matthew says:

          Romney is talking about poverty? Please. Only when he's denigrating the 47%.

          A vote for Stein is a vote for peace in an alternate reality in which Romney can't win because you spoiled your vote (if you're in a swing state). Otherwise it is a vote for an ideal, which becomes the enemy of the good.

          I'm with you in your catalogue of grievances, and worry as much as you do about the rightward tack of every institution, the Democrats included.

          But it comes down to this. Would you risk a Romney presidency over a vote for Stein? That's what Arjuna faces. The pragmatism of breaking some laws (killing his brethren, or ideals) to preserve at least some of the greater good.

          • paul says:

            Yes, I would vote for Stein in a swing state, and if the only choice is a vote for two candidates whose policies favor big banks and bully capitalism, I do not vote for either just as I would not vote for a dictator- it reenforces the legitimacy of a brutal system.

            I will not vote for fear, be it Romney or Obama, or other "pragmatists" without conscience. If Krishna says to me to man-up and be a warrior and vote for war, because I am a warrior maybe I would vote for war. But Krishna doesn't say, "everybody has to vote for the warrior," he says to surrender to him, and for me, for voting, that means not endorsing brutes.

            Using fear for fear produces fear. This "pragmatism" is what allows Romney to speak about poverty as if he honestly wants to remove it, while Obama and the Democrats slink by and treat it as the "p" word. Republicans have taken another tactic, treating "pragmatism as the "p" word, and showing consistent gains despite the electorate shifting generally leftward. The US is increasingly becoming a plutocracy because of these "pragmatic" political moves, maybe hype-ocracy describes the present situation better, fitting for the clown show of much of main stream politics and financial policy, and a good place for this sort of fear based pragmatism to thrive. This is not some dharmic field with a righteous war, but a bunch of nonsense and imagined otherness where the force of fear, "pragmatic" and otherwise, dominates. The identity politics alone are a good reason to stay away from endorsements if you're a teacher, especially the fear based "pragmatism" which helps reenforce the with-us-or-against-us that has come to dominate the hype-o-sphere.

            I am pragmatic when it comes to some sort of parity of good stuff to bad stuff (poisonous, but also healthful), but when its bad stuff or worse stuff (hurts you quickly, hurts you quicker), especially when there is good stuff around, then no. If I believed in the fear approach you endorse here, I'd be working for Romney, as he is likely to be so bad an actual progressive might stand a chance in 2016.

            If it's ok to approve brutality on the ballot, why would it be not ok to be brutal elsewhere?

          • mariavlong says:

            I admire Jill Stein. I carry responsibility for having voted for Ralph Nader and contributing to the pox that infected my already vulnerable country for 8 years. As a mother of a young woman I cannot afford to make the purist choice again.

          • paul says:

            No one who voted for Nader bears responsibility for Gore's loss. Gore ran a poor campaign, won, and then the court stamped Bush the winner, in a state governed by his brother- neither Nader nor his supporters bear any blame for that.

            I vote on merits, not the demerits of another. If you find merits in Obama that's one thing, but voting for fear only validates and entrenches that candidates positions. After he won, Obama said that he'd have to be pushed by his supporters, and that's true, but it didn't happen. Summers was in, Van Jones was out, all to a whimper in the main stream press.

            Polling that doesn't rely on cold call phone calls show across the board that Obama will win, as all polls did until the first debate. I still think he's a shoe-in but that's another story.

          • matthew says:

            Okay Paul, if he's a shoe-in to you, I understand more where you're coming from. Except this "voting for fear" business. What's the metaphysics? Sounds more like "law of attraction" than viveka to me.

          • paul says:

            He is a likely shoe in according to polls and gamblers, not me.

            I did not vote Stein as protest. Obama doesn't have my values, and Stein does. Who is going to push peace, not Obama, not Romney, but maybe Stein. If Obama has your values in enough quantity, then vote for him on those merits. But according to you, yoga bloggers should have a platform that endorses Obama for being the not-Romeny you know, while Romney is a pathological bad man who will send the country in a tailspin. In other words, be scared of Romney, and remembering this fear, vote this fear, vote Obama.

          • Scott Smith Miller says:

            Now Matthew (parental tone intended)
            don't be such an opportunist. Paul's "shoe-in" comment does not tell us "where he's coming from." He has made it completely clear that he would vote for Stein regardless of the numbers. You are obviously losing the debate here and reaching for ways to discredit Paul's opinion. Equating his arguments with what's in "The Secret" shows desperation on your part. So I'm actually starting to see where you're coming from here. "Fear mongering" is apt.

          • matthew says:

            "Understand MORE where you're coming from" is what I wrote, since it implies to me that he doesn't feel the Romney surge as much as I do.

            I actually really value Paul's opinion. I just find it high-road and unrealistic to the context of Tuesday. I didn't enter a debate to win or lose, but to at least have a debate about yoga culture and political speech. But really, what we're arguing about now would be at home on any progressive blog at this point.

            For my part, I'm happy that we're at least arguing, using the language of the tradition that has given us so much.

          • Scott Smith Miller says:

            Agreed, Matthew (with less of a parental tone)

          • matthew says:

            Paul: your eloquent and tortured argument cannot answer the question: What is better — a Romney administration or an Obama administration?

            That's the vox populi pragmatism at stake, not the political opportunism you complain of: please don't conflate the two. Doing so holds out some hope that there will not be an election on Tuesday with consequences. No moral high ground will help your neighbours when R appoints the next Supreme Court justice who will reinforce the personhood of corporations or strip women of their rights.

            Jill Stein is good stuff, but she's not meaningfully available to the task at hand. Let's play the long ball game without completely trashing the next four years.

            Lastly: the accusation of fear-mongering. What is fear-mongering about proposing the best option in a bleak time?

          • paul says:

            "Eloquent and tortured", better than "flacid-polite" I guess. Is this where I revel in you faking American? yay maybe.

            Reading your article and comments, you are not saying Obama is good, but that Romney would bring some horrible doom, the quick bleed vs. the slow bleed Obama has brought. You are saying vote for fear, the fear of Romney. That is fear mongering, well founded or not. Yet Romney is just a more efficient Obama.

            They both answer to corporate interests, not human interests (there is a Summers but no Van Jones). They both have the same foreign policy. They both support the Fed. They're both vague (Obama less so) on an economic plan. Both play the noise machine that passes for political commentary. Waiting for the Obama miracle is as much of a fantasy now as it was in 2008; the change you can believe in is no change at all. Now it's the equally senseless "winning the future," and yet you say such nonsense deserves a yoga practitioner's enthusiastic support, because of fears.

            The pragmatic game you are pushing only serves the rightward trend, because the people on the right don't support what they don't support. There will never be a leftward trend if all there is is "pragmatic" – its a nasty line and the more I'm seeing it the worse it gets. The longer it stays the more likely the Republicans are to go further and further to the right. The more "credible" Republicans stayed out of this race, waiting for 2016, where there will be a real challenger to the US's liberties- that's a fear fact!

          • matthew says:

            I was born in Michigan, Paul, and have lived stateside for half my life in states both red and blue.

            Are you suggesting: vote for the "more efficient Obama?" Nobody's waiting for a miracle, except perhaps you, by suggesting that spoiling your ballot on Tuesday will serve a leftward trend.

            And now you really have to elaborate on your last sentence.

          • paul says:

            I already voted, for Jill Stein! Woo hoo! Are you voting? Spoiling my ballot means voting against my interests, which would be voting for Obama, for instance. You have an abundance of yogier than thou bullying alongside the "pragmatic" lines about voting for a bad candidate, yet I am the one "spoiling" because in the twisted hyped up world, a vote not for the bad candidate is a vote for the worse candidate.

            I live in a very safely Obama state, and I've no illusions about the insignificance of my votes especially at the national level. But I still think my vorte matters.

            If you saw the very poor showing in the 2 years of Republicans running for president, you'd have to see it as set up for 2016, when far more competent and "credible" Republicans will run.

          • matthew says:

            What's bullying? Writing an endorsement piece and defending it?

            I voted by absentee to Wisconsin, straight Democrat ticket. Arguing third-party high ground from a blue state is simplistic. Would I rather vote Green than against the Scott Walkers of the world? Yes. Would I rather vote Stein instead of Obama? Yes. But I care about people's health care before 2016, among a host of other immediate and palpable humanitarian concerns.

          • paul says:

            You did not write an endorsement piece but an anti-Romney piece. You wrote to tell yoga bloggers to endorse Obama because that's the yoga thing to do, because Romney is bad.

            In several places of the commentaries you use "yoga terms" to try and further your arguemnt, while at the same time rejecting much of the "yoga world" because it doesn't fit your own understandings- it's yogier than thou bullying, where if it's not the Remski take, it's not yoga, and a those who aren't are a bad person to boot. To you I become a spoiler and magical thinker, practically leading girls to the alley, hanger in hand.

            Patanjali says that even mildly endorsing another's harmful act, whatever the reason, is an act supporting ignorance, but this doesn't fit your narrative of what yoga ought to be, so you'd throw it out, and instead have everyone vote by svadharma, the one you've decided everyone has, one that not to sharing is keeping "yoga culture" in the dark ages.

          • Scott Smith Miller says:

            This was really great commenting on your part, Paul. I agree with everything you've written. If I'm not giving you too much credit, I think I can tell you that and still count on you being absolutely cool with the information that I will be voting for Obama. Well, maybe not "absolutely." Maybe just cool. That's because you're not a bully. Your understanding of these issues bespeak of an extremely wise person. I think I can also count on that compliment not going to your head.

          • paul says:

            Thanks and lets hope so.. Most of my friends are voting for Obama, when I've told them I'm voting for Stein they say, "Yes, we know your voting for Stein." 🙂

          • matthew says:

            Paul, your powers of projection are truly amazing. Rejecting the yoga world? Why would bother writing, organizing festivals and fundraisers? Have I defined yoga anywhere, in any way? Have I called anyone (except Romney and his enablers) a "bad person"?

            "Spoiling" is a reasonable description of one side of the third-party conundrum. "Magical thinking" is what we've accused each other of.

            I don't reject 2.34. I just think it's not black-and-white. But can you correct the grammar of your last phrase so that I can understand it?

            I really think you should write your own post. Do you really want to spend more time refuting my position? There's not that much more to say, but I do think your position would be better heard in the positive mode.

          • paul says:

            If we're into "mutual accusation" then certainly your psychological evaluations put you as the better projectionist.

            The only "spoiling" is the kind of pragmatism that keeps universal healthcare not just off the table but shut out of the room, 3rd party candidates shut out of national "debates" (and too the erosion of what a "presidential debate" is), and keeps people habituated to voting more and more against their own interests.

            Yes, I should've written an article to begin with, on non-corrosive pragmatism, maybe though.

          • matthew says:

            "Non-corrosive pragmatism." Good. I'd like to see that.

          • Truth says:

            Bush appointed Roberts to supreme, voted for Obamacare. You are a partisan. You give the same lines as Obama truth team. Yoga is suppose to be about seeing things from multiple view points. Vidya. Do you not see Obama as he really is? Don't just go negative on Romney and tell me that's a reason to vote Obama. Don't promote an anti Romney platform as being representative of the yoga community.

          • matthew says:

            I'll repeat myself one more time. Obama is flawed, Romney is worse. I refuse to make perfection the enemy of the good. Yoga is absolutely about multiple views. And multiple methods for various times. Tuesday, it's pragmatism time. "Yoga is skill in action" — BG — we are both interpreting Krishna here according to our own lights.

  9. Jeff says:

    Kino MacGregor is openly endorsing Obama, it's all over her facebook feed. Just a heads up.

  10. yogijulian says:


  11. Chetana Panwar says:

    I agree with you that putting forward issues of inequality, social justice, food security etc. is very important, and certainly there is much in yoga philosophy that encourages us to champion 'rita' and 'dharma' – justice and right order. Therefore, it would be within the mandate of our 'profession' to do so. That said, for the reasons mentioned above (that yogis seem to come at what 'right order' is from different perspectives, thought I'd guess there are a lot of liberal democrats. I don't know if we ever could, or should, attempt block voting like the teacher's union often encourages. Individuals can certainly group together to forward their concerns and their position. It sounds like that is what you are proposing here, and I agree – we should continue to find ways to take active steps towards wider social and global justice. The united church I attend has a social justice committee, and I plan to get involved in it, as a member of that community, and as a yoga teacher (though that is not a yoga platform per se). We are beings with multiple aspects to our lives, and can find venues for action in various places.

    As you've often mentioned, there is lack of unity in the yoga community, and that leaves us in the predicament of having no regulatory body, no firm standards, no ombudsperson, and often no recourse in the face of gross ethical breeches (as we've seen recently and not infrequently in the past). I wonder if being a regulated profession would be a benefit to us in being able to become more organized, and to be able to face some of these issues as a required professional body with a democratically elected leadership through which we could better deal with issues, and make suggestions to the membership on such 'championing' initiatives.

    The recent election reminds me that I was in India during the last American election and we spoke of it often in class and in the lunch room. A few of us left the ashram and went to a neighbouring hotel to watch it on TV, and as a facilitator there, I gave a speech of elation (for me and many of the residents) at the election of Obama. Jai!!

  12. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Sure, I'm in.

    But whoever you vote for, know that your vote is one more step against the other candidates getting in.

    Just Vote! It's your right.

    If you think you're undecided, make up your mind and vote!

    Prove the pollsters wrong!!!!

  13. Truth says:

    Shameful. You supposed yogis are openly endorsing a president who's gone beyond Bush era foreign policy. Obama has a kill list. Look it up in NYT. Obama has a new disposition matrix. NDAA. Do you not care about indefinite detention??? Why endorse either of them?

    Obama went to war in Libya without congressional authority. How'd that work out for ambassador Stevens? Proxy war in Syria. Arming rebels all over the middle east. Are you people crazy?

    • matthew says:

      Truth, you've got excellent facts. We're all traumatized by the chaos of militarized late capitalism. We'd all like to just throw up our hands.

      But I'd like you to meet my friend, Hard Choice. Do you have a better option on Tuesday? Stay at home?

      • Truth says:

        Yes vote 3rd party. If you live in swing state, do what you think is best. Yogis should give informed endorsements. I'd have more respect if you listed Obama's facts I just posted, then say I'm still going to vote for him because I think Romney will be worse. That I could respect. I just can't stand this bullshit that Obama is a saint. If it was true, this election wouldn't be close. It's close because the real Obama, compared to the 2008 Obama, is pretty shocking to independents.

        • matthew says:

          What post are you reading, Truth? I didn't canonize Obama. In fact I didn't glorify his record at all, and briefly alluded to his failings. I spend most of the post discussing the yoga community's strained, if not dysfunctional, relationship to political speech.

          • Truth says:

            I'm not convinced. You make some gestures to progressives and 3rd party, but this idea that Romney would be regressive is just partisan bullshit. He was progressive gov. He panders to regressives same way Obama pandered to progressives. Either way, they both pretty much do the same as prez.

            Oh, and your precious supreme court appointee argument. Bush's John Roberts voted for obamacare. The enlightened endorsement would be vote 3rd party or Obama in swing state.

          • matthew says:

            You might be right on your last point. But "Either way, they both pretty much do the same as prez"? Are you viewing parallel universes in which they are dual presidents of 2 Americas? Is that in Vibhuti Pada?

          • Truth says:

            No, but here's a little secret on yoga powers: They were give to students as a practice to deal with attachment issues.

          • Timmy_Robins says:

            Or just to become indifferent fools.

          • matthew says:

            Now you're just making stuff up. Given? By whom? Source, please.

  14. Rupa says:

    I really enjoyed this article. For years, while living in a yoga ashram, I didn’t vote, considering mantra meditation to be the far more powerful way to effect change in the world, within and without. I still do. But now I also vote, considering it to be my solemn, albeit more worldly, duty. You're right to acknowledge that one of only two major candidates WILL win this election, and while neither is ideal, a vote for Obama is a vote against the alternative: a global disaster resulting from thinly-veiled, right-wing extremism.

    Your other point, that leaders within the yoga community by and large shrink from political discourse –and certainly from taking a political stand– in the spirit of etheric disassociation or politeness is sadly accurate. How ironic that we as a community should be more influenced by the fear of losing followers or customers than by the risky association of Paramatma and “the dirty work of integrity.”

    Thank you for stepping out and for inspiring others to do the same. I will endorse.

  15. […] today, Matthew Remski posted an article on elephant journal, challenging yoga media, which includes bloggers such as myself, to “loudly and […]

  16. roseanne says:

    i'm in! just posted my response to this amazing call to action:

  17. Truth says:

    Matthew Remski is now the most dangerous man in yoga.

    Shouldn't yoga be about Religious tolerance? I can't believe Mr. yoga 2.0 would list mormonism as a point to support Obama.

    Can you prove this, "Given that Mitt Romney’s discernible platform stands to set socio-economic justice, women’s rights, ecological stewardship, scientific research and foreign relations back by several generations,?

    I'm pretty sure socio-economic justice was set back a few generations when Obama bailed out the banks and his DOJ never prosecuted one person for causing the financial crisis. How far did women's rights go back under Bush? If you'r brown in this country, both parties are pretty abysmal on women's rights. Scientific research and foreign relations? Do you smoke crack? Extra-judicial assassination is policy under Obama. Bush never assassinated an american citizen. Bush had to get congressional authority before Iraq/Afghanistan war. Obama just authorized Libya force. Scientific research was much better funded under Bush, because economy was better. Science research has been cut the last 4 years.

    So if you think Romney will be so bad, prove it. No matter who is prez, the banks and corps run the show. Money rules this country, not a person or a party.

    Any yoga org that endorses will lose my respect.

    • matthew says:

      "Matthew Remski is now the most dangerous man in yoga."

      Wow. That was so easy. Truth — can I use that as a promo tag-line?

      I'm not going to argue Romney/Obama merits with you. But I will say: religious tolerance does not imply an absence of critique. I can't abide Romney's Yahweh telling him to trash the environment any more than I can abide Ryan's Virgin Mary telling him that he knows what's best for my partner's uterus.

      • Truth says:

        Yes, you can have it. I think it's true. The old breed developed their own brands, you're creating a new dogma. Yoga 2.0, re-framing the sutras, now trying to deliver yoga to the democratic party. Yoga needs it's own super-pac, how about a constitutional admendment getting money out of politics? You've psycho-analyzed people in public and now are lambasting spiritual leaders like williamson outside your enclave.

        I'm pretty sure Romney and his Mormonism have given more to charity than all of the yoga community. Is there any teeth to the critique, or you just repost what the Obama truth team tells you.

        Real teachers help their students learn. You're trying to tell me what to believe. That's why you are dangerous and that's why it hit a nerve.

        • matthew says:

          I'm not telling anyone what to believe, and I never have. I'm opining on how we might act most intelligently in a complex and trying situation.

          • Truth says:

            How is going negative on Romney suppose to be an intelligent Obama endorsement? Vote for Obama, or this guy may get in office. That's not an argument, that's a threat.

            "Here’s my suggested platform, which I think makes sense for the majority of the yoga demographic:" We are campaigning now?

            It's really brave of you to stand up and endorse obama while asking people to link to your blog post. Lets take advantage of this unique political opportunity for a little self-promotion. People can't blame me for endorsing Obama when Romney is so bad.

          • matthew says:

            The post doesn't say: "If you don't vote for Obama, Matthew will make sure Romney wins." That would be a threat.

            It's not a threat but a fact: one of these two men will definitely be in office on Wednesday. I'm saying one would be better than the other. That's how endorsing works.

            The link is a standard part of any writer's bio. If you had your own blog, you'd get your own link, featuring your own name, hometown, professional reputation, etc, publicly known.

  18. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Who's in?

    I'm not.

    Here's why.

    The American War Machine and the American Gulag.

    Reps and Dems, aside from minor quibbling over, say, which countries to bomb, have been virtually indistinguishable in their military budgets and support of the military-industrial complex. There is a difference in style. Reps tend to be, in style, stern realists while Dems, in style, tend to be conciliatory internationalists. That matters in domestic politics but it makes no difference to people being bombed or tortured in foreign countries.

    Reps and Dems are absolutely indistinguishable in their support of incarcerating millions for victimless crimes, the American Gulag. Well, some support it, others just ignore it or rather don't even see it. The war on drugs has not only jailed millions for victimless crimes, it has decimated minority neighborhoods. Yogis get all passionate about relatively minor things like government certification of free choice in marriage and don't even think about our homegrown gulag.

    Obama or Romney is Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. Obama might be more honest, centered, intellectual, and culturally similar to yoga devotees, but that just means we have a nice guy in charge of the War Machine and the Gulag. And the nice guy has exhibited zero interest in dismantling either.

    If you want to make a meaningful if symbolic vote, you can vote against war by voting Stein.

    Or you can vote against both war and the gulag by voting Johnson.

    • matthew says:

      Yogis also get passionate about healthcare, pay equity, renewable energy, gardening on the White House lawn, and women's right to choose.

      Yogi: consider this. Beyond the questions of what a president can and cannot do within 4 years or even 8 given the weight of history, the gears of the global machine and orders of magnitude beyond comprehension, what is the pranic effect of a "more honest, centered, intellectual" presence, broadcast throughout the world in HD? This alone should endorse the man. I'll save my symbolism for poetry.

      • Truth says:

        More honest is laughable. You must get your news solely from the huffington post. Have you never heard of Glenn Greenwald? Obama's lies are so slick you accept them as truth. He sold you. 2008 was an advertising campaign. Make excuses for all the broken promises.

        Centered and intellectual. Damn, we don't need an intellectual as the most powerful man in the world. We need a bumbling idiot to create a real opposition. Obama gets away with too much because the progressives have been silenced. There is no opposition left in america. Tea party has been coopted and Occupy fissiled.

        People like you, the educated liberals don't fucking do anything when a dem is in office. Then all we're left with is the heartland totally mindfucked by fox news. I want Romney as prez and all you fuckers in the streets actually doing something. Protest, form picket lines, civil disobediance, strikes. That's how you build community.

        That's why the corps keep getting away with murder. That's why income disparity is highest it's been since depression. You think raising taxes will change things. It's a rigged game. You got rich off a rigged game, who cares if your taxed more.

        • Timmy_Robins says:

          We already had a bumbling idiot and nothing happened. Remember Seattle 99'? nothing happened then either. Huge protests , totally useless.

      • Mark Ledbetter says:

        Matthew, compared to the war machine and the gulag, the potential govt contribution to healthcare, pay equity, renewable engergy, gardening on the White House lawn, and women's right to choose are trivial. And they're only a small fraction of trivial when you remember the prez cannot decide those things all by himself or get more than a fraction of what he wants, whether he is Obama or Romney. On the other hand, the prez actually CAN make a big and immediate difference on war and gulag, though neither is interested.

        A vote for Obama or Romney is a vote for war and the gulag. No way around it.

        I realize that Yogis in general are much more passionate about things that are part of their world like women's rights, and somewhat passionate about things too obvious to be missed like war. But the gulag is so much bigger than everything on your list all added together. If you or people you know were threatened with jail for a combination of lifestyle and race, you might not be so blase about an Obama vote.

        The pranic effect of putting a nice face on war and gulag could be the opposite of what you think. And symbolism for peace and freedom might do much more for the future if its extended beyond poetry.

        • Scott Smith Miller says:

          Damn Mark,
          I was trying to forget those truths. Seriously. Now I'm back to fretting about my intension to vote for Obama. I've been telling people for the last couple years everything you wrote there. Damn.

        • matthew says:

          Mark — I don't understand how you're conceiving the reach of presidential power. Navigating the constitution, ecology, and universal healthcare aren't under his control, but the tangle of institutionalized racism/incarceration and global militarism is?

          I'm not an expert in presidential heroism, but I think it's limited by way too many factors than I can imagine. A pragmatic vote for Obama is a drop in the bucket towards a saner world, and Tuesday's bucket is looking dry.

          • Mark Ledbetter says:

            Scott, sorry about that bro!

            Matthew, on the "reach of presidential power…"

            For proactive things that require laws, the president's power is quite limited. But the president, ever since Truman made war outside the Constitution in Korea, has the de facto power to make and end wars all by himself. And the president has the power, this time constitutional, to pardon prisoners.

            As commander-in-chief, the president can also start closing foreign military bases.

            One more thing, a bit more complicated because of the override, the president can veto budgets that support the military-industrial complex and standing armies. That, more than the other things, would encounter huge congressional opposition since the complex – intentionally – has components and therefore constituencies in every congressional district in the country. But at least constitutional intent would be behind the president on this and the people would be, too, since this would not be a Rep or a Dem but a president chosen by the people precisely for that purpose.

            Obviously, it's not going to happen this time, thus making the vote "symbolic." But it's a meaningful symbolism that will bolster the peace movement in the future.

            A vote for Obama or Romney, though it is not mere symbolism, is in fact a wasted vote, a simple declaration of preference for style over substance. Vote either way and nothing changes with the war machine or the gulag. Vote Green, and you actually vote against the war machine even if its a lukewarm vote. Vote Libertarian and you vote strongly against both the Machine and the Gulag, two of the few areas where the president can make a meaningful and immediate difference.

          • matthew says:

            Thanks for the clarification, Mark. But I'm still confused. How many electoral cycles would it take before Stein or her grandchild was given the opportunity to wield commander-in-chief powers?

            Here's what I don't get: a meaningful and immediate difference in presidential powers is possible through a symbolic and longterm vote on principle? It's like you're thinking in two different time zones.

          • Truth says:

            You have to follow the playbook of the liberty movement. Start local, take everything that's not tied down. Run for dog catcher. If yoga want's to get political, it's dishonest to only do it at the presidential level. Start endorsing your local candidates. Get involved in local activism. Part of your yoga community should be to hold office.

            Ron Paul never had a chance of winning, but now 5 states are firmly in the paul camp. We've got people running for office all over the country. That's why you support Green party, because you may not win, but it pays dividends. You don't really gain anything by being pragmatic, just ask the progressives.

            You never talk about local politics or local activism. Why are the guys like Todd Akin in office? Because it's only sexy to say yoga the vote during prez election.

          • matthew says:

            I'll repeat from above:

            You don't know anything about me. Promoting civic engagement in local politics is part of my practice. Here's me giving a deposition at Toronto City Hall on the eve of draconian funding cuts to library funding:….

            And when they tried to impose service fees for using public parks:

          • Mark Ledbetter says:

            Matthew: "Here's what I don't get: a meaningful and immediate difference in presidential powers is possible through a symbolic and longterm vote on principle?"

            Mark: "Darn it Matthew, don't confuse me. Let's see… Actually, a meaningful and immediate difference is not possible because that can only be accomplished by someone against war and gulag. Neither potential winner is that. Therefore, our only chance is to make a symbolic and longterm vote on principle."

            How 'bout that. Will that do?

          • matthew says:

            That does make more sense. But the price in my view is to shelve, as I've said, the meaningful and immediate differences made in the next four years of social-economic policy. I'm afraid that a people further demoralized and divided by plutocratic smugness is less rather than more likely to have the vitality to enact the longterm vision we share. I suppose in my heart I always go back to Maslow and the hierarchy of needs. To say yes to something even approaching universal health care removes an incalculable amount of suffering-induced apathy. To take it away further traumatizes the hopes and creativity of everyone Jill Stein needs to be interested in the Green platform.

            Honestly, thank you for the discussion.

          • Mark Ledbetter says:

            My pleasure. Really.

    • greateacher says:

      The votes for minority candidates, though they send a message becoem votes which ar eneeded .. in my opinion, for Obama. I agree that hs is nto ALL some of us want.. but I KNOW if Romney gets elected our economy will tank to a huge depression; we will lose the already dwindling middle class casusing a larger seperation between rich and poor.. giving more power to fewer rich and losing rights of many. Womens rights and helath care for many will be again undermined.

  19. Timmy_Robins says:

    Who wins this election affects not only America but the entire world. The world cant afford 4 or 8 years of Republican rule.

  20. Auki says:


    The obnoxious commenter above that calls himself (or herself) "Truth" is insane to argue for a pathological liar like Romney. It is entirely obvious to anyone with more than half a wit that Romney is incapable of representing facts or truth.

    • Truth says:

      The idea of throwing your vote away on 3rd party is the essence of why we keep making the same mistakes. Ever think about if your living in a real democracy if there are only two parties? What happens when there are no swing-states left.

      • Auki says:

        I don't think we are living in a real democracy. The USA is a Plutocracy: rule by the ultra-rich. As usual we have a moral and civic responsibility to discern the lesser of the two evils and cast our vote accordingly.

        • Truth says:

          I'm a little concerned you equate the support of evil as moral duty. You are doing your duty as a slave. Forgive me for trying to give you the tools of breaking free of your brain chains. Stop being a slave and supporting the system by doing what everyone has done for the last 50 years, voting for the lesser of two evils, the idea that resulted in the Plutocracy we have today.

    • I am not throwing away my vote on a third party. I am CONSCIOUSLY choosing to not endorse the miserable candidates from the two party system. The only way it will change is if and when MORE people start to voice support for third party options. You are playing right into the limitations purposely built into the system by continually voting against a person or voting for someone you don't like because the other option is more evil.

      The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results… I voted third party last election and have been quite satisfied that my vote did not go to support expanded war, increased Patriot Act provisions, and curbing of civil rights. If you are happy supporting those things then more power to you. I got tired of throwing away something so valuable on people so unworthy of my vote.

  21. Timmy_Robins says:

    And then there is the undeniable fact that republicans love mixing politics and religion . That might be business as usual in Arab countries but in the west it shouldnt be tolerated.

  22. Ah the ripe stench of cynicism! "Both the GOP and the DEMS are beholden to the corporate/military/industrial complex and there's no real difference between the two." How ironic that a statement can be both so blandly true and so blindly false! READ THE FUCKING PLATFORMS! And now, with the evidence of the response to Sandy compared to Katrina? This is directly correlated to Bush's gutting of FEMA and Obama reinstating its funding. Just one example of a distinction that is making a huge difference to those impacted by the storm.

    If you read the GOP platform, you'll see how they call Obama out for ignoring the "Defense of Marriage Act." You can bet ole Mormon Moron Romney will see to it that the Act is fully enacted. AND he's vowed to take away the measly aid of Obama's health care 'reform' and to work for the repeal of Roe Vs. Wade and with three supremes in their 70s that's a real possibility if Romney is elected.

    So, get real and hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. If you voted for Obama the first time around expecting more from him, then you only have yourself to blame for drinking the "Audacity" kool-aid! Now, with bitter pragmatic sense, vote for him and then HOLD HIS FEET TO THE FIRE! Continue to work actively for what you really want to see in US politics. But ignoring the election or taking the 'idealistic' route if you live in a swing state is only going to make you feel more self-righteously good about yourself while the elderly, the poor, the immigrants, the uninsured, the gay and the raped are the ones who will pay for your feel-good vibes!

    • Or refuse to settle and be aparty to continued dysfunction which will only change when enough people choose not to settle.

      • Ha! You live in the US, your hands are as filthy as the rest. Don't fool yourself into thinking voting for Jill Stein is some "refusal to be a party to continued dysfunction." If Romney wins, you'll really see some dysfunction and your vote for Stein will be just as causal as if you had voted for Romney.

        Pragmatism in politics is what's needed. Hold your nose, vote for Obama and don't let THAT be your last political act: keep up fighting for your values and even a viable third party if that's what you think is needed. It isn't one option or the other…..

        • Every time I hear that 'hold your nose and vote for ____' , I want to scream. Where else is something so sacred and important as a vote held in such callous contempt. Why is throwing out your principles and beliefs to support something you don't support seen as some kind of noble gesture. Why is it even considered acceptable at all? The two party system is happy people are willing to partake. I'm not. Not anymore.

          For the record, I voted. Not for either of the two party candidates. I will sleep fine at night knowing that my vote did not go to someone who perpetuated war, stripped civil rights, furthered the Patriot Act, etc. in spite of campaign promises not to do so. Just like I have for the last four years. As I watched friends contort their beliefs and principles into apologies and denials just as they had lamented from the other party's supporters for years. I saw both sides aren't so different when it's their 'team' in the White House. They'll act like the pathetic abused spouse coming back for more. The same person they once ridiculed. No thanks.

          • matthew says:

            Pragmatism isn't contempt. To me it feels like a dark and tangled form of compassion. It doesn't feel noble, but existential.

          • Read this and tell me you still think it doesn't matter and both are the same. Do you really want Romney to pick the next Supreme Court judges?

            Actions have consequences and if you live in a swing state and you voted for Stein and Romney wins THIS is the consequence of your action. We're not just talking about the next four years! I AM acting from principle when I hold my nose and vote for someone who has a chance to win and make a difference to this country and culture. Your vote for Stein may make you feel noble, but what difference will it make?

          • From the essay linked to in my comment below. I think this is the principled action to take, rather then the idealistic, selfish absolutist view you seem to hold.

            There are three ways to understand ethical principles: the literalist, the compassionate and the absolutist. Both the extremes of literalism and absolutism forget the truth of suffering. And yeah, the compassionate response often means one's hands get dirty.

            "What will get me to my polling place this year, more than anything else, is this: I believe Barack Obama will nominate Supreme Court Justices who will vote to overturn Citizens United, which wiped out reasonable limits on campaign funding. And Mitt Romney would appoint Supreme Court Justices who would uphold it.

            That's enough for me. By now we've all seen the torrent of corporate money — over 2 billion dollars, we read — pouring into our elections, and the ocean of smears and unaccountable, dishonest attacks that's washing over our airwaves.

            These aren't just an annoyance. And we make a mistake if we see them as just "politics as usual." This Supreme Court — which is treating corporations as if they were actual citizens — has dismantled laws designed to keep money from overwhelming the interests of real citizens. They are putting the interests of corporations above the rights and interests of actual human beings. And things will get worse as long as those with the most money are allowed to dominate our elections.

            The choice of who runs our country won't be put up to a vote. It will increasingly be put up for auction. And individual Americans will see their interests sacrificed to the companies and billionaires who fill Karl Rove's coffers. That's not the kind of democracy I fought to defend in the second world war. In fact, it's not really democracy at all.

            This election isn't just about two candidates. It's about two very different ways of looking at democracy. Governor Romney has named Robert Bork as Chairman of his Justice Advisory Committee, the same Robert Bork who opposed broad protectionism for free speech, questioned the constitutional right to privacy, opposed the integration of public accommodations by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and whose own nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected in a bipartisan 58 to 42 vote.

            The Governor has also said that if elected he will appoint Justices who think like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, all of whom supported Citizens United. President Obama, in contrast has shown us the kind of Justices he'd choose. He's picked two of them: Sonia Sotomayor (who joined Justice Steven's brilliant and inspiring Citizens United dissent) and Elena Kagan, who joined Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer this spring seeking to get the Court to re-examine Citizens United."

  23. […] The Yoga Community Must Shelve Both Idealism and Politeness to Loudly and Publicly Endorse Obama. Ri…. […]

  24. Malcolm says:

    First, let me say that in a Democracy we need to respect the right of everyone to vote their conscience, no matter how despicable we personally find it.

    If people continue to choose the "lesser of two evils", they are still choosing evil. Therefore, if you are going to vote for a candidate, make sure you do it with complete confidence. If you are going to vote for Obama, does so because you think it is right, not "a lesser of two evils".

    Now, Obama has for been a "good" American president in that he has taken to his duties and responsibilities vigorously and has not shirked them. However, we should to understand is that Obama, and the position of any ruler, is worldly. Their job running a state and defending it against its [perceived or otherwise] enemies. This being the case, any ruler is forced to make decisions which will seem, on the face of it, unethical and anti-democratic.

    We would all hope that our rulers were of the caliber of Pasenadi, rather than Ajatasatru. Or at the very least, repentant like Ashoka. However, America is not a country imbued in Dharma culture.

    But since we here are followers of Dharma systems, should our political values be based on the platorms of the GOP and the Democrats?I think not.

    We need to recognize that a well-organized Evangelical Right has driven both Parties, the GOP and the Democrats, very far to the right of where they both were in the 1950's, despite the strident anti-communism of the day.

    So, the question a yogi or yogini ought to ask themselves is, from my perspective, "Which political affiliation is the most consistent with Dharma?"

    I feel there is only one reasonable choice for those who hold Dharma Values: The Green Party.

    US Greens:

    If you hold Dharma as the bedrock of your ethical system, then it is pretty clear that only rational choice consistent with this is voting for Green candidates whenever possible.

    Voting for the Democrat and the Repulican canditates is a voting for this or that vision for American power in the world.

    Voting for and supporting Green candidates is a vote for the whole world, one in which corporate greed is fettered; in which GMO's are severly restricted, in which fossil fuels become obsolete, in which the Northern Hemisphere ceases to exploit the South, in which world security is acheived through equitable sharing of the abundance of world resources and so on.

    So, if you like the status quo, vote for Obama, or Romney, etc. But if you want to see a culture predicated on Dharma values, then vote for Greens.

    • Claudia says:

      Malcolm, I only wish that most of my neighbors and coworkers-not to mention my elected "representatives"-felt and thought the way you do. Life here in Long Island, NY would be
      so much better-because there would truly be hope for the future of our planet and the quality
      of life for all. But I must add that the one big taboo that every human has got to expose right
      this very minute is overpopulation and which is rampant in every nation on earth. Humans frantically put another billion here in just the last 10 years. Why? How can they not perceive how self destructive and stupid that is? How needlessly overreproducing drives up the cost of everything, making our earth sicker and uglier, accelerates global warming, while making the fat cats on Wall Street richer and richer. The Green party and all progressive thinking people need to enlighten their friends and families and colleagues about the horrible dangers of overpopulation and the root causes for this destructive behavior-if we are serious about saving ourselves and our world.

  25. I'm in brother! Sending Shyam Dodge my 2 cents on the subject and will put it up on elephant as well.

  26. heatmort says:

    From one Canadian to another, I'm really proud you wrote this. I've been talking about this to many friends in Canada and they are not seeing or rather understanding just how important it is for Americans to vote…!! Even as a non-American we can still do our part.

    I may not agree with why Mitt should not be in….re: one really big reason is his view on gays. But what many folks may not consider is that Obama did a lot from where he started from.

    There have been, however, several teachers in the US posting their views and even linking to actors (Redford) wrote a piece in the Huff. But sadly as far as I can see often telling people to vote comes across as pushy and bossy.

    Still, I don't think the yoga community should be immune to it. And interestingly enough are the ones who can create change!

    • heatmort says:

      let me revise my statement of one CDN to another….one resident of Ontario to a CDN citizen. 🙂

      still, Canadians know that what goes on in the USA effects us greatly.

  27. Rachel says:

    SO grateful that someone has finally said this out loud. Thank you, Matthew. Thank you. I endorsed:… . And will continue to do so. Keep the fire!

  28. Finally gave the Elephant the $12 I owe it in order to log in and say:


    More pointy remarks reserved for the YogaBrains post coming out Sunday.

  29. Bob says:

    The party of the President controlled all of Congress for two years. They could have done so much more and they didn't. If you are that ineffective with that much control…I don't care about your politics, you are simply a poor leader.

  30. CK MacLeod says:

    My own view is that Yogels ought to support PBO, even though making a public endorsement in a competitive election could be seen as divisively non-yogical. Krishna advises us to do our duty even if unpleasant, and our duty as American citizens is arguably to take part in democratic activities, so that requires taking sides. We just need to take sides in a unifying way, which means by promising to lovingly destroy with remorseless cruelty the sick bastards who oppose us.

  31. Nobel says:

    Hello Matthew!
    Thank you for this wonderful and timely post. I just endorsed Obama on my blog:

  32. Shyam Dodge says:


    YogaBrains will be posting a big endorsement on Sunday with some of our best and brightest.

  33. Sorry4yourdog says:

    We will be handing out endorsement bumper stickers outside the shala after today's practice…Bring your flag and your mats and we can chant 'Om Namah America' in unison.

  34. Guest says:

    What's the next step on this path? An article about why you can't be a good yogi and a Republican? A sign in the window of your yoga studio saying "No conservatives allowed here?" If you want to make arguments for your candidate, I'll listen and carefully consider your points, but when you start telling me that as a member of the yoga community this is what I MUST do–eat, wear, vote, think–that is where our paths must diverge.

    • matthew says:

      These are probably the most interesting and salient questions posted yet. I really don't know.

      As far as "Republican" goes, I would ask, along with Frank Jude Boccio, whether the current Republican platform is in any way coherent with any of the values expressed by any of the Shad Darshanas, Purusharthas, etc. Is it coherent with the yamas and niyamas?

      As far as "conservative" goes, we'd really have to define the term. As a careful approach to change, absolutely there's room. As a doctrine of social exclusion — not so welcome in the studio, I think.

  35. Sorry4yourdog says:

    Secondly, when you live in Canada and talk about changing the electoral landscape with this year's voting, it doesn't seem like someone is speaking from direct experience. I don't know what the weather is like in Benares because I don't live there, so why would I talk about it?

    What I do know is that no political candidate is ever feasible.

    This is because the majority of people do not know how to discern the truth from all of the data that is provided, nor do they have the time to do so either.

    What is important is the transmission of morals to our fellows.

    When I hear people talking about politics in my area, I redirect the conversation toward the infinite self that is in all and how what is really important is treating all with respect and producing intelligent action.

    Basing one's opinion of an appointed "leader" on what other's have told you without any real way of discerning the truth in their underlying motives is foolhardy. Especially when I press others to make the same decision knowing that they don't have the tools either to get real information about the candidates.

    The true, great saints never got involved in politics nor encouraged others to. Possibly because they spent all of their time focused on helping people in very real, practical ways…Not creating a platform out of thin air to talk about systems that don't matter in the dream/eternal.

    • matthew says:

      Dear Sorry — as I've pointed out earlier, I'm a US citizen and have lived half my life in red and blue states. I know the weather.

      But thank you for the rest of your comment: it's the clearest possible iteration of the "etheric-dissociative" posture I tried to describe above.

      Lastly: study your "saints", especially Anandamurthi, more closely. Especially in India, great teaching is most often married to vigorous social justice.

      • Sorry4yourdog says:

        Sorry about not seeing your citizenship card. I thought living in Toronto would classify you as Canadian.

        As far as opportunists go, both candidates share the label. Obama let the world know that Osama had been killed prior to the extraction and utilization of intelligence from computers in the compound. Opportunistic? Yes.

        Etheric dissociative? I can tell you right now if I was on the ground in a country where people sold opium to fund wars, threw acid on anyone, or intentionally kept people uneducated to maintain control over them through an institution labeled as a religion, and was a soldier, I would pull the Arjuna card easily. Etheric dissociative is not my position at all. When you educate someone about their position as the infinite self, they do all of the work by themselves…and I don't have to tell them what to do about anything.

        I just have a problem with mixing yoga and politics. There's something to be said about being able to go somewhere and retreat for an experience not related to what the fuck the world is doing.

        "I call on all yoga news outlets, magazines, blogs and bloggers, including those who publish and post to this site, to use your soapboxes in these last days to do what we haven’t been brave enough to do so far, caught as we have been between transcendent and politeness reflexes: weave our politics and practice into a bright braid of passion"

        Bravery speaks in many forms. Are we not brave enough Matthew?

        • Sorry4yourdog says:

          I study my saints everyday. Is it possible we have different saints that we study for different reasons?

          At any rate, I would like to give you and all others who are trying to make what you believe to be a positive change in the world credit for your efforts. Thank you all for the well-meant intentions.

          Its more than what some others are intending.

    • heatmort says:

      What about Vivekananda, Gandhi, Krishnamurti….these are spiritual warriors and were politically active!

  36. Truth says:

    Ralph Nader: Both Parties, Two Heads of Same Corporate Beast

    Nadar's solution is for 2 percent of the people to make civic engagement and political participation their chief hobby. If we had a fourth of the 15 million bird watchers in America put their energy in watching congress instead, we'd be in great shape.

    If yogis really want to be game changers, enlightened community, etc. Why don't you promote civic engagement in local politics. To me, these endorsements are just veiled self-marketing.

  37. matthew says:

    Okay Truth, this is weird: don't mean to piss in the pool with more "self-marketing", but promoting civic engagement in local politics is part of my practice. Here's me giving a deposition at Toronto City Hall on the eve of draconian funding cuts to library funding:….

    Goes to show you — you really can't make assumptions about folks, can you? There are easier ways of making coin in the yoga world than hanging out on EJ all day debating how we can best engage politically as a culture. We could be leading asana vacays to Costa Rica. Give your cynicism a rest.

    • Truth says:

      Good on you. My argument was more about posts on EJ, than what you personally do in your local community. They seem more skewed to the national in general. Although leading by example is probably the best course. You make a great point about the retreats.

      • matthew says:

        Thanks. I think leading by example is the only course, really, and this makes me realize that a blog conversation can't really show us the full web of each other's lives and efforts. I'm pretty sure we're all doing really good work.

        • Joe Sparks says:

          2 things: Most people can only be encouraged to participate to vote if the encouraging is done on an individual basis. Talk to your friends and family.
          We need to heal from our own internalized oppressive behavior which helps one's effectiveness in social change and helps avoid mistaken strategies based on feelings, provided that one really engages in activity and doesn't settle for talking about it.
          This means taking a sharp, clear ( and patient) stand against sexist, racist, condescending, and invalidating statements and language of all kinds.

  38. […] It was heartening for us to see Matthew Remski further this important dialogue in his most recent Elephant Journal post. In no uncertain terms, he called yoga leadership out on their pervasive apathy and general […]

  39. shyamdodge says:

    6 yogis endorse Obama on YogaBrains:

  40. Truth says:

    I agree with half your thesis, "That the yoga community must shelve both idealism and politeness." Also, I think the conversation about endorsing is more important than the actual endorsement and you should be commended for both facilitating and engaging in this process. But I don't think Yoga communities should be endorsing politicians.

    First of all, your just a yoga teacher. Your not more enlightened, better educated, politically informed, etc. Your endorsement carries no weight for me. To me, your endorsement is just adding to all the political bullshit I'm bombarded with all day. And it makes me not want to go to your class.

    Second, as a student, I don't need my yoga teacher to motivate me to vote or persuade me to vote for one particular person. I need my teacher to help guide me through the psychology of politics. Why are both sides so divided? Why do I feel so negative towards the other side? Why don't yogi's feel the same moral outrage towards both sides, as I do? Is there really anything yogic about this ego-identification process. Ever noticed how all the posts on EJ are anti-Romney, not pro-obama. Like we have to collectively share in this egoization process of casting off all things that don't jive with story of self. This story of what the yoga community is and what values it shares. I don't want my yoga community to be political, I want my yoga community to help me mentally deal with the political process this country goes through. I don't think it's a healthy one, and your endorsements play into it.

    Third, ever try to understand the other side? Maybe the GOP has some good points. There are plenty of women who will vote GOP. White, well educated women, like many in the yoga community. It's lazy to just see these women as unenlightened. What is it of there psychological makeup that they consider conservative issues more prescient that liberal ones. Are we just playing into Identity politics?

    Lastly, don't make the mistake that thinking your students are part of the yoga community. It may be good for a community of yoga teachers to participate in this group endorsement practice, but it could alienate your students, who many view yoga as an escape from political culture.

    So I think yogis and yoga teachers should be politically engaged, you shouldn't be afraid to talk about politics, but this endorsement thing is taking it too far. JMHO

    • matthew says:

      This says a lot:

      "I don't want my yoga community to be political, I want my yoga community to help me mentally deal with the political process this country goes through."

      In what ways is your yoga community apart-from, beyond, above, or removed from its political reality? This is what I'm critiquing as a "dissociative" position.

      It's not like you can go to class and get away from politics. The floor you practice from was made by people paid a fair wage, or not.

      As for the many who "view yoga as an escape from political culture", I understand this as a therapeutic, but temporary necessity, and I say as much in my follow-up:

  41. matthew says:

    Following up on this post, reviewing and analyzing some of the sentiments expressed in the comment thread here:

    Thanks, all, for a really healthy discussion.

  42. Patricia Juarez says:

    It is beyond me that anyone other than the super wealthy would vote for Mitt.
    1. Shemas on the roof says it all. (dog)
    2. How could any one of color vote for him?
    3. Unless you want to reverse Roe v. Wade, why would any female vote for him?
    4. Want to heal the planet? Forget it, Mitt that's hilarious.

  43. Great post! I found this post by Ben Ralston to be quite telling:

  44. […] week, Matthew Remski blogged on Elephant Journal a call for the yoga community to “shelve both idealism and politeness to loudly and publicly […]

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