July 2, 2010

On Politics, Religion and Yoga.

I’ve been called a socialist, a hippie, and a “radical.”

“I’m not interested in becoming a freedom fighter, or the President of this country or that. What I’m really interested in is teaching yoga.”

I grew up going to church every week, and I read the news headlines every day.

But to be honest, I don’t really follow politics. I have my qualms about organized religion, and I don’t define myself by any particular belief system.

Here’s the thing: it’s not that I don’t care about issues like social justice, or the environment, or whether or not there is a heaven and a hell. I believe these are important topics of discussion that should be considered thoughtfully. However, pointing fingers and applying laws or religious doctrines to solve such deep-seated problems seems like an ineffective solution to me. It appears that humanity itself has reached a point where people have become indifferent to one another and have failed to miss the significance of the fact that essentially, we are all the same.

Ultimately, human beings just want to be happy. I think that the more we continue to define ourselves as “socialists” or “capitalists”, “Christians” or “Muslims”, “environmentalists” or “consumerists”, the more we reinforce the mistaken notion that there is something inherently different about you and I.

I always say, half-jokingly, that yoga is the solution to all of life’s problems. At the most basic level, yoga asana [poses] is a form of physical exercise and a great stress-reliever. It has been demonstrated that the presence of stress plays a significant role in our mental and physical well-being. Too much stress can lead to sickness which manifests itself in many different ways—from insomnia to depression to cancer.

The practice of yoga encourages us to undergo a process of self-examination, quiet our chattering minds, and recognize the light in us which also shines in each and every other human being. Yoga leads us to the realization that the homeless man we pass by on the street each day is just as much our brother as the millionaire CEO in the office building that the homeless man sleeps outside of.

These are the types of simple revelations that make changes—not just at the surface level, but from the very root of our heart center.

Quite frankly, I’m not interested in becoming a freedom fighter, or the President of this country or that. What I’m really interested in is teaching yoga—whether that means leading people through a sun salutation or being love in action.

Everybody has the potential to create positive change. All it takes is the willingness to step onto the mat and begin the exhilarating exploration of the strength that can be found within.

So what are you waiting for?

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