February 22, 2012

Yoga for Our Occupiers. ~ Kayla Quinlan Frawley

Yoga for Occupy now is just one of the ways individuals bring their talent, skill or ability to share in the momentum of the movement.

I had left Las Cruces, New Mexico, to visit home—Minneapolis, Minnesota—where northern progressive liberals made my now hometown of Las Cruces look like a time capsule. It was in Minneapolis where I first taught yoga to the occupiers, mainly to relax, rejuvenate and revive some energy. During that time, the occupiers in downtown had recently put up tents because the weather was significantly getting colder. The police, whom occupiers said were extremely polite and supportive of the occupation downtown, took the tents down the following day. During the time I taught yoga, the tents were the topic of discussion among the General Assembly (GA), meanwhile many other teach-ins were going on at the time. Those who participated in yoga were extremely appreciative and asked when we could do it again.

I came back to Las Cruces, where the occupation started on the 23rd of October with one man. On the 29th of October, a few friends and I headed to El Paso—our neighbor town in Texas—right across the border from Juarez, Mexico, to support our neighbors in their occupation. There was interest in yoga there as well, and the relaxation, little stretching, breathing and little meditating seemed to be very well appreciated. They also asked when more yoga would be offered.

The following Saturday—on the 30th of October—the same few friends and I headed to the Las Cruces Occupy. Bless their souls for being there, having only been a few people who were enthused, tired, and happy to be a part of a national movement that they feel passionate about. Among their passion and tiredness, they were also very appreciative for the yoga they were provided.

There is no magic to this—the point of this article is not to explain ‘yoga at occupation now’ with an approach of ‘we shifted energy’, we ‘helped’ these people, and they ‘needed’ us. This is just one way individuals are helping one another in this movement that promotes solidarity and taking care of one another. This may have nothing to do with me being a yoga instructor—it is just that yoga is what I have to offer and share today.

I had a friend comment in El Paso, ‘we definitely need to get pictures of us doing this’—does that not defeat the point? Can we not just share without documenting it, without making it our status? Of course, I used Facebook as a way to invite people—what other way proves to gain such amount of attention?

Facebook even has been the highway to information on the movement among thousands of people, but using it as a way to promote positive communication and organization with others is different from utilizing it to gain further recognition for individual status.

What I hope comes out of the yoga for occupation project (which, as we have seen, is actually happening around the nation, and is not just one individual’s work, but the work of many) is that it just promotes the importance of taking care of one another and being kind. I hope that it merely promotes sharing with others anything that you may have to offer just in the name of sharing. Supporting those individuals occupying is just one way solidarity is working—individuals caring for other individuals for the greater good of the whole.

As the momentum of this national movement evolves, I have seen—in all three occupations (Minneapolis, El Paso, Las Cruces)—a shift in how people are treating each other with kindness. In Minneapolis, people were asking how the progress was in Las Cruces and gave positive and supportive words to send to the desert. In El Paso, we were greeted by a guy who was running the kitchen, who offered a tent with an air mattress when we arrived. In Las Cruces, a young woman who is a part of the general assembly offered me her car, while others were simply positive.

The idea to bring yoga to an occupation is to practice peace among ourselves.

True peace comes from inner kindness to oneself, from kindness in daily conversation with strangers, and from authentically caring for others on the basis that we all may really know suffering, and because of that knowledge, hope that no one has to experience suffering. Empathy fuels kindness and kindness fuels empathy. In the beginning of the occupation movement, there was discussion on the clarity of the message of the national movement and many people have concluded that ‘we are angry and fed up and the economic situation is just not fair’, whether it be corporate greed, health disparities or the violation of economic human rights, there are dozens and different reasons to be angry right now.

Among the talk of what has come out of the movement, I must say that kindness towards one another seems to have improved. Maybe the slogan ‘we are the 99%’ fuels this feeling of solidarity that resonates within us and manifests kindness. As simple as this may seem, yoga with the occupiers illuminated the power of simply noticing how much we share: pranayama (breath and life force energy). When we see these similarities (that make us living beings), there is more room to be kind to one another. As we all have our own reasons for being part of the 99%, being kind to one another is a good reminder that we are all small entities of something much larger. To really make change, individuality is not as nearly as important as working together as a whole.

In Minneapolis, El Paso and Las Cruces, there was a moment of breathing technique we did where we took conscious breaths while meditating on the idea that many people elsewhere in the world were breathing the exact same way and therefore we really share this breath, this pranayama (breath and life force energy) with many others. The idea gives us a healthy sense of empathy with others; wherein we see ourselves in others and others within ourselves, and thus realize how much we share because we are human. Some of these concepts in yoga are very practical and useful in this international movement of solidarity. In a larger sense, as people empathize more with others, they become kinder to one another, which is something that the 1% seems to lack: real empathy, which may be our distinction.

I hope this article inspires everyone to be kind and to share their talent, ability and skills with others in an effort to find our common ground, and realize that the similarities we share come in more vast quantities than our differences.



Editor: Kate Bartolotta

Kayla Q. Frawley is the eldest offspring of a brilliant young man and a lighthearted youthful woman. She is a proud Minneapolian-Minnesotan who became a desert rat, and is finally returning to the tropics. She is a capoeirista, a dancer, medical anthropology enthusiast, an artist, an activist, a world traveler and a Therapeutic and Vinyasa yoga instructor. She has collaborated on projects involving yoga and performance arts with Las Cruces Girl Scouts, Las Cruces Catholic Schools, Las Cruces Federal Court, New Mexico State University, J.P. Taylor Elementary, Families Youth Incorporated, Alma d’ Arte Charter High School, Mary Open Doors, and Los Amigos International Hostel. She enjoys sharing yoga in exchange for vegetables, occupation and just kindness. Find out what she is up to here.

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