A response to recent calls for the yoga community and Yoga Journal to boycott Hyatt via WarRetreat.
Jillian and I know there are people who think war is wrong, and that veterans are brain washed automatons.
What they often think of military spouses can be just as bad. We shrug because that’s simply the state of their mind and we don’t let it get in our way. Once in awhile, we can spark a revelation, but by and large to try to do that 24/7 would be a colossal waste of time. We thrive in this teeter-totter-technicolor world.
WarRetreat focuses on helping the men, women and families who have served our nation in combat. There’s an increased openness to try yoga as a means of stress reduction in our community, so it’s not as hard a sell as some would think. But we can’t ignore how much baggage is delivered at the yoga doorstep by well meaning yoga-doers.
Recently a call was put out by It’s All Yoga Baby to boycott Hyatt Hotels, which is in a contractual disagreement over union matters, work conditions, as well as the firing of housekeepers to subcontract them at a lesser rate. The reason for this ire is that Yoga Journal has contracted to have their annual conference at the San Francisco Hyatt.
Regardless of what has happened internally at Hyatt, Yoga Journal has decided not to back out of their contractual agreement and go ahead.
Does this make Yoga Journal anti-union? Should we assume yoga-doers will be pro-union? Does this make either side good or bad? Should everyone quit hunting for cheap rooms at 4-star hotels online pitting one website against another? Should they pay full price instead so higher wages may be paid? Does this mean they shouldn’t stay at that cute non-union trendy boutique hotel because it might pay lower wages and have equally difficult conditions?
To us, the bigger question is: Do we really want to lay that baggage on the yoga doorstep?
WarRetreat is here to help people with bags staggeringly weighted with traumatic experiences. We think it’s unfair to ask them to haul anything more than a request to stretch and breathe. And even with that—one has to go softly.
We choose to let two big corporations work that shit out. This doesn’t mean we don’t care: rather, we accept there are more sides to every story, that our actions lead to imbalance in ways seen and unseen, and not everything will be to our liking. If it were, we probably wouldn’t like it anyway. Traction is only gained when we are uncomfortable.
But what we like is the response of former Army Infantry Officer, now founder of Operation Bootstrap. He’s also a yoga teacher and studio owner in Phoenix. Walrabenstein (who was once called a great XO by one of his men) wrote this in rebuttal to the boycott Hyatt post on the yoga blog, “It’s All Yoga Baby.”
We’ve gone ahead and lifted it, which was shortly posted on his Facebook page, and for which we have his permission to run. Walrabenstein shoots with clean barrel, and his intellectual gun is smokin’ hot. (Though we did smirk when he felt compelled to confirm his compassion for the disenfranchised to It’s All Yoga’s readers. At WarRetreat, we don’t check for passports).
“Dear Yoga Friends,
Let me start out by saying that I do in fact care about the disenfranchised. I do work to see a more just and compassionate world. And if I were in charge of the Yoga Journal conference, I would very likely change venues in support of those who are seeking a fair shake from the global giant Hyatt.
And thus, I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are voicing their disappointment in Yoga Journal for deciding to hold their conference at the San Francisco Hyatt.
But I do so in the name of this opinionated and imperfect character Eric Walrabenstein—not in the name of yoga. Certainly not.
To voice our outrage about Yoga Journal’s decision to on the basis of yoga—or their affiliation with it—is to, frankly, not understand the purpose, or practice, of yoga. And quite colossally so.
Here’s the thing:
Yoga is not about standing up for what’s right, while going to war with what’s wrong.
It’s about transcending right and wrong all together.
Yoga is not about aligning ourselves with those who do good and against those who do not.
It’s about being liberated from the self all together.
Yoga is not about standing up and fixing the problems of the world.
It’s about sitting down and seeing the innate perfection that has always already been.
This war against reality is the ego’s game, not yoga’s—and certainly not your truest self’s.
So, by all means stand up for the causes that you believe in: Rail against injustice, fight for the disenfranchised, champion the good and assault the bad. It is your right, and some would argue your responsibility, to make this world a better place in which to live.
But please don’t drag yoga into your war against God’s perfection.
Yoga is about creating unconditional stillness; yoga is about accessing the perfection of what is; yoga is about recognizing who you truly are—beyond the one filled with outrage and self-righteousness
If you wish to truly do something in the name of yoga, sit, breathe and smile.
Love & blessings…
Kanani Fong is the writerly half of the WarRetreat Blog, run by her and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Teacher Jillian Hunsanger. Kanani is an Army wife, Jillian the partner of a US Marine. Both do their best wherever they go, and remember that everyone is doing their best too.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta
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